Friday, February 06, 2009

Getting my Gear Together...

Getting my gear together is becoming a reality.

I have a good inventory of clothing and footwear from which to build. Those decisions will fall into place nearer to my travel date. I can look at weather forecasts to help me out during those final days. And toiletries are not an issue really.

But there are some decisions/purchases yet to make.

The backpack that will be my constant companion and the monkey on my back. It will surely be a love-hate relationship.

I am currently conditioning myself using an old Osprey I got at a yard sale. I carry 2-3 gallon jugs of water as I slosh along on the morning dog-walk. (See the photo of Miss Zia, my 3-legged walking coach and trainer!)
I am looking at and leaning toward a Gossamer Gear ultralight Miniposa. They raised the prices since last fall so I find myself procrastinating - waiting for a sale.

I need a suitable sleeping bag. April and May weather in the mountains of northern Spain can be erratic and extreme. I vacillate on what I think I need. I am leaning toward a down bag rated for 30 degrees F. I am trying to find something under 2 pounds at a price under $150.

And I wonder how happy I will be encased in a mummy bag? At home I start my nights sleeping under a pile of comforters and then about 3AM, my furnace goes into overdrive. Out pops my left leg. This helps me moderate my temperature. So do I sleep warm or cool? I don't know. Sooo that debate still goes on.

Do I need or want walking sticks? Maybe I will wait until I arrive in Spain to make this choice.

I want to journal and take notes so I need to choose a practical notebook. I am fond of Cambridge spiral bound Business Notebooks - 80 sheets of 9 1/2 X 5 3/8 inch, cheery, yellow graph paper. And a pen or pencil of course.

There are so many beautiful photos taken by pilgrims. I know I will want to take home images to share with friends and family. But cameras mean extra equipment. I don't want to deal with chargers and batteries, film, etc. I need to find a good compromise.

And what about rain gear?

I am NOT taking a phone, nor am I really planning to blog en-route.

I am NOT planning to take any books. It is hard to imagine life without a book close at hand. No maps and guide books either...this is about the process and people. But I wish I could bring my Christian Science text book: Science and Health with Keys to the Scripture. But no.

I never wear a watch, but maybe I should for this trip.

Choices and decisions will unfold. There is no pressure. But during this waiting I get restless and the list-making begins. And when that compulsive-behavior begins, I simply take a deep breath, put the dog on a leash and head out the door for a nice long walk.

Life is good...


Matty said...

As an avid hunter (and consequently a camper) the only advice I would give is that maybe you should try out a 30 degree bag on a 30 degree night if you know some people with some decent ones. The slightest bit of moisture in the air can make 20 degrees uncomfortable even in a -30 bag sometimes. I have a 0 and a -30; one is light and fast and the other warm for 'truck camping' (ie not hiking in).

As to mummy vs square bag... probably just personal preference... I can't really say which I like better.

You've probably already taken all this into account but I figured if I could help at all I probably should.

Compostelle 2008 said...

Hi Virginia,

How I envy you with your pilgrimage in front of you. I finished last July and I still think about it everyday. I strongly urge you to bring a walking stick. I had two light telescopic and lost one coming into Spain. It helped a lot to have it, especially in the mud and going up hills. Bring a small digital camera. Every person I met that did not bring a camera regretted it. You don't need a phone, there a public phones in every town. If you don't bring a book and regret it, there are English books in book stores in Spain. Bring rain gear, either a gortex jacket or a poncho, whatever you are comfortable with. We went through Spain in June and it rained a lot. It was also cold. You are at fairly high altitude.

Access to the web is easy in Spain. Almost all Albergues and pensions have computer access free or for a minimal fee, so if you want to blog, you can. You have probably read lots of blogs, if you want one more, go to ours This is where our trek began in Spain. It is in both English and French.

Have fun preparing! It is part of the fun!

Michèle from Ottawa (Canada)

Virginia said...

I appreciate the feedback. Yes, I am a bit concerned about the sleeping bag...the trade off in price and range of warmth...sigh. I am taking a silk liner and figure I can always wear all my clothes if the night is very warm. And of course, I could acquire a blanket in country, should I need it.

Whatever I end up with, there will be a story no doubt. 8-)

I used to freeze in my flat in Kerch...

Stay tuned...

In Sunny Santa Fe

Compostelle 2008 said...


A lot of the albergues provide blankets. If your sleeping is not warm enough one night, you can always add a blanket. One funny little anecdote, I have heard the silk liners called "meat bags" or in french "sac à viande"!

Michèle from Ottawa (Canada)

Virginia said...

Ha ha ha...meat bags huh!?! My "meat bag" is red - I will look like a sauage I guess! 8-)

Michelle - thanks for the feedback.

I am cherishing these days, but still, eager to get started...

Sipping Coffee on a Saturday AM

CarolineMathieson said...

I have a sleeping bag which has a zip which goes all the way down one side and round the bottom so that I can vary the amount of cool air I get during the night. Like you, I tend to get hotter during the night so I frequently end up waking up uncovered and cold!

I actually found most refuges a bit too hot during the night because you have a room full of warm bodies and often a closed window (The Spanish pilgrims hate to sleep with fresh air but the Germans and Scandinavians love it!)

There are a few refuges such as Logrono and which have high ceilings and are therefore cold at night but most are one or more smaller rooms with low ceilings.

I would not take a sleep liner with you as I tried one of these and felt so constricted during the night that I left it behind the next day.

Virginia said...

Caroline - interesting observation about the cultural differences of fresh air vrs closed windows. In Ukraine (Peace Corps 2005-2007) we lived among people who had a fear of drafts. Sleeping spaces and train cars and other public transportation were sealed up at night particularily. I would awake sweaty and uncomfortable with a dried up nose and throat.

I tend to pile on blankets and open the window a bit, even in coldest weather.

I guess part of being a pilgrim is to be accommodating and flexible, isn't it. But it is also nice to be prepared.

Thanks for the input.

Under the Full Moon in Santa Fe

Timecheck said...

Virginia, how are you going to know the distance to the next food and/or shelter? I've always recommended that as a minimum, English 1st language speakers should carry the current Confraternity of St. James Guide
You don't need a map, but knowing the location of the next or nearest food and/or shelter is important, and there might not be someone available to ask, when you need to know.

Virginia said...

When I travel, I do some home work. I familiarize myself with maps so I know names of villages and approximate distances.

For this adventure, I am making a list of refugios people have recommended.

I also always carry "emergency" snacks (chocolate, nuts, etc) and I frequently consult with others I meet, regarding food and shelter. It gives me an opportunity to interact with people. And of course I will stop for cafe con leche and/or some tinto and a tapa at every opportunity too!

Life is good...

On a Blustery Sunday in Santa Fe

CarolineMathieson said...

Apropos to this, I can recommend the following refuges:-

Maribel Roncal's private refuge in Cizur Menor.

The refuge in the church in Grañon (just after Santa Domingo).

"Quatro Canciones" in Belorado.

The Buddhist refuge in Ruitelan between Villafranca Del Bierzo and O' Cebriero

Virginia said...

Delightful! Yes...I am having fun making a list of possibilities. And when the time comes, Of course I know I will just be happy to have a bed! Thanks Caroline!

Happy Sunday!

Laura said...

I linked here from the Camino forum. I like your posts--all so positive. I looked for lightweight sleeping bags at thrift stores and found one weighing less than 2 pounds. There were no tags, so I never new the brand or how it was rated but it worked out great. I walked The Camino Frances in March/April and it was warm enough for me (I was always in albergues though as there were no crowds--I never slept outside). This is just a suggestion to keep costs down. Since it was so cheap I thought I would dispose of it after but kept it and will use it for Camino Portugues this April. Also, I bought a REI jetpack 30 l. backpack--extremely lightweight (I think 20 ounces). It is quite small but I loved it. They had them on REI the other day for $19.00 but they must have sold out. They must be discontinuing the item as it is no longer available. Maybe if you have an REI store nearby, there would be one on a clearance rack. I don't know if you need/want this much unsolicited advice. You will have a wonderful experience!

Virginia said...

Laura (and all) - I looooove unsolicited advice! Other people think in ways different than I do and open up new doors and windows for me to check out the view out there!

I like that you found your gently-used sleeping bag at a thrift shop. And what a remarkable deal on the perfect pack!

It seems appropriate for a pilgrim to find simple gifts the universe offers. In my experience, things seem to unfold and the right path becomes evident when I quiet internal, mortal voices and listen humbly.

Thanks for the lovely post...I would love to hear more about your adventures on the camino! 8-)

Watching Snow Accumulate in Santa Fe