Thursday, February 09, 2012

WEIGHT WATCHERS - FOR BACKPACKS

Travel light ......don’t take too much stuff.........your backpack should not weigh more than 10 – 15% of your bodyweight……. a too heavy backpack will spoil your pilgrimage .....

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
We all hear this, over and over again, at workshops, on Forums, in Guidebooks and from experienced pilgrims. But it just doesn’t sink in and we end up with stuff hanging outside the backpack.
How on earth can you travel for 4 – 6 weeks with only 3 pairs of knickers? How can you manage with only 2 pairs of shorts – come on!
2 T-shirts, 1 long sleeve shirt, 1 warm jacket, a raincoat and no pajamas – give me a break! What do I sleep in? What do I wear when we go out to a restaurant?
(** See answers at the end of this post.)
What about when I come out of the showers – surely a light sarong can’t weigh much, or a little black jacket, or a flimsy nightdress? Surely an extra two pairs of lacy panties weigh nothing at all and an extra bra or two can’t overload the backpack? If I take those lightweight, two-in-one trousers – that will give me an extra pair of long trousers and a pair of shorts – clever me! (Wrong!  If you dirty the shorts you can't wear the bottoms anyway!)
If I take these trousers I could slip in a pair of lightweight matching shoes to wear in the evenings. After all, I can’t go out with boots, or flip-flop sandals. And so on, and so on, and so on.
Don't be fooled
EVERYTHING WEIGHS SOMETHING.And, when you add all those somethings up, you find that instead of a 7kg pack, you have a 12kg pack: and, if you start off with a 12kg pack – before adding water, food and perhaps a guide book – your pack will grow to 15kgs, and then you WILL be in trouble. Put your backpack on Weight-Watchers or a Weigh-Less program. Treat it like an overweight friend who you will have to carry for 800km. Weigh it empty and weigh EVERYTHING that goes into it's mouth!
So, the first thing you need to buy is a good digital scale that will weigh grams and articles up to 5kg and take it shopping with you. Weigh everything you buy and if one t-shirt weighs less than another, buy the lighter one: remember - every ounce, every gram - counts.

Start off by weighing your friend - does your pack weigh too much to begin with? 1kg to 2kg is too heavy.  Because most backpacks are made for people who climb mountains, or go on long camping trips they are made of heavy duty, rip-proof fabrics to cater for stoves, cooking gear, tents, pins and food. Some have facilities for snow hooks and poles. They invariably have inner frames to help stabilize the loaded pack and they come with wide, padded hip belts to take the weight off the shoulders and onto the hips.

Most backpacking websites will tell you that you don't need any of this reinforcing if you intend carrying less than 8kg of 'soft' contents, consisting mainly of clothing. Unfortunately, few outdoor centres have even heard of the camino and when they hear "... I'm going on an 800km hike..." they will obviously try to sell you a heavyweight, sturdy, endurance model that probably weighs up to 2kg empty. Don't buy it!!

Most backpacks that are sold in the outdoor shops today are of the "internal frame" variety. This means that there are metal strips embedded in the backpack on the side which will be next to your back to help make the pack more rigid and therefore more comfortable to wear. These strips can be bent so that the pack fits more snugly against the body.
If you keep your pack weight down to under 10kg you don't need an internal frame.
New generation backpacks are made with ultra-lightweight, rip-stop fabrics with features like thermarest backing for comfort and rigidity, detachable hip belts, shoulder pockets to stuff with socks or camping towels for extra padding and so on.
EG: The Gossamer Gear Murmur ultralight pack is for loads of 9 kg (20 lbs) or less and for trips of 1,000 miles/50 trail days or less. It sports a webbing only hip belt, is a one size fits most pack and weighs in at a paltry 212g (7.5 oz) fully loaded with all its features. The Murmur has side pockets, side compression straps, a pad holder pocket, an adjustable sternum strap and a minimal hydration bladder shelf. http://www.gossamergear.com/cgi-bin/gossamergear/Murmur

Or you could try my pack - the OMM 32L - that weighs 575g lean weight and 77gg with all fixtures: http://www.theomm.com/ClassicMarathon32L.htmlThis pack can do it all and it is the one I use for all my long distance walks. It's been on the top of Everest and on a major new route in Peru. And of course help people win numerous marathons. It has the Lean-weight chassis system for a comfortable and stable carry. It's covered in mesh pouches for extra storage (big enough for a helmet) and has zipped waist band pockets. Compression straps give a stable carry when your not fully loaded. This bag can be used for any sport where a rucksack is required.

If you prefer something a little more substantial, the GoLite range have packs like the GoLite Gust or Golite Jam that weighs as little as 570g (1lb 4oz)

It is a good idea to try on several backpacks before choosing one to purchase. And remember, packs have different torso lengths so if you have a short torso, don't buy a pack that hangs down below your butt!  If in doubt, take along an experienced backpacker to help you with your choice. (Don't buy a backpack that is too large for you with the idea that you might at some time need the extra capacity.)

What about clothing?
Make a list based on experienced pilgrims' list and stick to it - no extras! These days you are spoiled for choice. Even chain stores like Mr. Price Sports stock ultralight underwear, shirts and shorts made of wicking fabrics that wick the sweat away from the body. They wash well and dry quickly. Weigh the clothing - you might have a choice of 2 pairs of shorts, or trousers, don't buy on colour preference - buy the pair that weighs less.
If you are a short person and the t-shirts are all mid-thigh in length, cut a few inches of the bottom of the shirt. Cut off the labels - they'll only irritate you while you walk and you'll lose a few more ounces by removing them! Every gram/ounce counts!

If you are walking in summer, you won't need a -10oC sleeping bag that weighs over 1kg (2.2lbs). Try the 460g OMM mummy
http://www.theomm.com/Mummery05ssl.html or you could buy a sleeping bag liner instead. Silk liners weigh about 200g and a polyester liner only a few grams more. (Most pilgrim refuges have blankets so you won't freeze.) If it is very cold, wear all your clothes to keep warm.

If you are walking in colder months, wool against the skin is better than cotton.  Dress in layers.  See a packlist on my post 'Walking in Winter'.

Toiletries: Take sample or hotel sizes bottles of shampoo/soap/toothpaste etc: Spain is a first world country with more Farmacias than bottle stores! You can top up all your toiletries along the way. Take a large lightweight camp towel: 8 plastic pegs and a few mesh laundry bags.
Medication: Take tablets out of the boxes and pack them in small zip-lock bags.

Remember, if you intend taking your backpack into the cabin when you fly, it will have to comply with weight and dimension restrictions.To read more about the advantages of ultra-light backpacking, visit this site:  http://www.the-ultralight-site.com/backpacking.html

PS:
* You wear one - wash one - wear one - wash one... day after day after day!
* If you buy shorts with built in undies you won't need more than 2 extra panties to wear with the long trousers.
* You sleep in the clothes you are going to wear the next day.
* You wear your boots or sandals to the restaurant - like all the other pilgrims do.
* You wear the same long trousers and jacket to every restaurant you go to.

When you get to Finisterre you might want to burn the lot - just like the medieval pilgrims did!

Buen Camino!


My Packing List for mid-May to end of September


PACKING FOR THE CAMINO



ITEMS
NO
IN the pack
Wear & Carry
OMM 32L Backpack
1
600

Dry Bag
1
127

Sea to Summit day pack
1
71

Sleeping bag liner
1
192

Small Pillow (optional)
1
144

Staff
1

300 
Hi Tec Shoes
1

728
Gaiters & spare shoe laces
1

83
Croc sandals
1
182

1000-mile socks
3
202
101
Short sleeve shirts
2
95
95
Long sleeve fleece pullover
1
168

Long sleeve fleece with zip
1

177
Shorts - quick dry
2
96
98
Long lightweight  trousers
1
133

Parachute jacket & trousers
1
162

Backpack Raincoat - ALTUS
1
460

Panties
3
76
38
Bras
2
33
33
chiffon shrug & black top
1
136

Hat & peak
1

94
Sun Screen
2
64
 27
Waist Bag & small change purse
1

 182
Glasses & Case
1
12

Camera/Case & lanyard
1

 273
Head lamp
1
98

Credencial
1

 20
Maps & Guide
1
111
70
Money
1

65
Spanish Dictionary
1

48
Notebook & pen
1

27
Passport
1

42
Toiletries bag – soap, shampoo
1
169

Camp towel
1
150

1/2 toilet roll
1
38

Laundry Bag, 8 pegs, soap
1
157

5 mesh laundry bags
1
100

Cup, immersion heater, plug
1
247

Plasters, Arnica, Tea tree oil
1
298

Fist Aid items
1
244

2 X 500ml bottles
2

 65
Plate & cutlery
1
73

Sitting Plastic
1
30



4677
2557








11 comments:

  1. Great blog - inspiring, informative and practical advice also most valuable.

    I plan to walk from Le Puy to Santiago de Compostela in 2009. I'm 60, speak no French or Spanish and plan to walk the Camino solo.

    Any comment about this idea?

    Thanks

    Mere

    ReplyDelete
  2. I say bravo - you go girl!!
    Join a Forum - get advice from other peregrinas who have walked solo from Le Puy. One lady on the Pilgrimage-to-Santiago Forum has just returned and will have lots of advice for you. Her name if Maggie and she has a blog at:
    http://kiwinomad06.blogspot.com/
    http://www.pilgrimage-to-santiago.com/

    You have taken the first step Mere!
    Pilgrim hugs,
    Sil

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for your encouragement - I will most definitely get onto Maggie and the forum. Appreciate the tip muchly. I am rather a novice at the social media/online community contact, although my children all tell me I should have a blog. I can see I definitely will need one when I am on the trail!

    I will continue to read your posts with interest Sil, and will drop you a message from time to time if I may?

    All the best

    Mere

    ReplyDelete
  4. You can email me any time.
    Here is my email address (with spaces to confuse the Spam brigade!)
    sillydoll @ gmail . com

    Sil

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Sil ( I've read so many of your comments on the Pilgrim forum I feel like I know you!). I have been browsing AMAWALKER most of this day after receiving your "buen camino" and T. Merton quote on my blog
    Thanks for all the info you provide us wannabees...
    A la vida!
    John from Ottawa

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sil, nice website! The link for your packing list does not seem to work, this is what I copied:


    /Back%20Pack%20list%20for%20the%20Camino.xls

    But, as I've said, it doesn't work.

    Walking the Camino in May, and need to start buying gear now.
    Thanks

    Anna

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anna, thanks for letting me know. I'll try to fix the link this evening.
    Sil

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anonymous2:14 pm

    Thank you very much for posting all these info. here. I did the French Camino in 2005 and I learned the hard way. Took too much with me and on my first day I had to ship a lot of things to Santiago which I picked up after my arrival there, but I was very lucky! People still take too much. My second Camino was only 6 days and I bought a smaller backpack for that trip!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous2:31 pm

    Great advise! I'm going to Tibet on May and I hope I can pack the right things for that trip. I'll be backpacking in the mountains with a very small group, no fancy hotels for about 12 days. I did the French Camino in 2005 but this will be complitly different. I'm concern about the weather and the high altitud. Any advise? Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  11. My friend John did the Annapurna Circuit last year - he was 78 years old. This year he is going to do Machu Pichu.
    He took a very small backpack - no more than he carries when on the Camino. His advice - listen to the guides, rest often, drink a lot, don't race! Good luck!

    ReplyDelete