Final Gear List and Post-Camino Review
Note -- we are not sponsored by anyone, so we're not biased in any way. If we choose to bring something, then that means we honestly enjoy that particular product. We're not being paid to feature anything and we're not accepting free gear. 5/8/2013 EDIT: We did win some HikeGoo in a raffle just before we left for Spain. The good fellows at FootKinetics are not paying me to write a review -- what you read below is my honest opinion.
Also note -- I'm carrying most of what's listed below. It's important the girls carry no more than 10% of their body weight -- I don't want any stressed joints or injured spines! Sage's full pack weighs six pounds. It contains her sleeping bag, headwear, mittens/gloves, and all her socks. Alex's full pack weighs seven pounds and contains her sleeping bag, headwear, mittens/gloves, all her socks, her watercolor pencils, and paper. I'm carrying everything else and my pack will weigh 21 pounds at the most (without food or water), which is less than 15% of my body weight. Usually, my pack will weigh less, as the girls and I will probably wear all our layers more often than not.
Clothing marked with an asterisk (*) can be seen in our book trailer.
There will be stores here and there along The Way, so I'll have opportunities to buy different gear/clothing/boots/shoes if something's not working. Also, there will be no need for a tent since we'll use the Spanish albergues.
5/8/2013 EDIT: If you are hiking during the warmer months of the year, then substitute the two pairs of base layers and one set of short sleeves/shorts with one pair of base layers and two sets of short sleeves/shorts.
Sage, age 7 (she'll turn 8 on the Camino)
Long-sleeve/legged base layers -- two pairs of Polarmax. The girls have worn Polarmax for four years; those layers have survived everything the girls have thrown at them. Why change brands now?
POST CAMINO REVIEW: The Polarmax base layers kept Sage (and Alex) warm and they held up well throughout our forty-six days from SJPP to Finisterre. There were small holes here and there in the pants by the end of our Camino, but that's understandable given she wore those bottom layers almost constantly (day and night). The tops and bottoms are quick-dry, odor-control clothing...two thumbs up.
Short sleeve shirt -- one Nike-brand synthetic. Hugh bought this for Sage last spring and she enjoys wearing it.
POST CAMINO REVIEW: The Nike-brand synthetic shirt kept Sage cool during our few days of hot (to us) weather. The fabric dried quickly and it rarely smelled of sweat. Two thumbs up -- though, honestly, you could bring any synthetic shirt that wicks...it doesn't have to be made by Nike.
Hiking Shorts -- one pair of boy's swimming trunks, size 4T. I know, that doesn't make any sense, but they fit well on Sage, they dry quickly, and my daughter likes them. That's good enough for me.
POST CAMINO REVIEW: The swimming shorts were awesome. They kept Sage cool and they dried quickly after being washed. Men's swimming trunks that look like shorts might be the way to go if you want to wear something comfortable, cool, and quick-drying on hot days.
Fleece top -- Polartex Rugged Bear pink polyester sweatshirt.* We've had this for a year; it still does the job.
POST CAMINO REVEIW: The fleece kept Sage warm. Any fleece (not cotton!) will work. You'll need an insulating layer, even in the summer...the nights can get cool at the higher elevations along the Camino, and it's always good to have something to keep you warm in the event of an accident.
Rainproof/windproof outer shells -- REI rain pants, North Face rain jacket (blue, Alex is wearing this in our book trailer).
POST CAMINO REVIEW: The outer shells did the trick -- they kept the rain off our skin and the windchill away from our bones.
Socks -- Three pairs of her favorite SmartWool socks.
POST-CAMINO REVIEW: The socks worked well. Only two small blisters on the top of Sage's toes during the entire Camino. We used HikeGoo and Vaseline every morning before putting on the socks...more on that below.
Shoes/boots/sandals -- This might sound crazy, but I'm going to bring three pairs of footwear for Sage. Of the three of us, she's the only one who's ever had a problem with blisters and she is incredibly picky about what she puts on her feet. Therefore, she'll have the following with her and she'll switch back and forth according to the weather, the temperature, and her mood -- Sorel boots, Skecher's Shape-Up tennis shoes, and Teva sandals.
By the way, I just -- as in just now, five minutes ago -- learned about the fuss surrounding Skechers' Shape-Ups. We bought Sage's pair at a discount store for $10. We were shopping for tennis shoes last fall and she must have tried on every pair in the store -- she's very picky! She settled on these because, according to her, they're super-comfortable and she feels she can "run a hundred miles" in them. So I bought them, and she happily wore them all last fall. I see no reason why I shouldn't take them with us on the Camino. Just wanted to put that out there -- I'd no idea of the controversy behind the shoes....and, truth be told, I find it all quite silly. I don't care about the supposed toning benefits, and I don't care if some folks find the shoes ugly. My daughter loves the way these shoes feel on her feet, so they're coming with us.
POST CAMINO REVIEW: Sage walked in her Skecher's Shape-Up tennis shoes for forty-one of the forty-six days. She wore them in thick mud and through cold rain, she wore them on dry dirt and hard pavement. She wore them on cool days and hot days. She loved them. They held up well -- in fact, they look exactly the same as they did before we left for the Camino. Well, almost. They used to be white with pink sparkly decorations...now they're gray with faded decorations. There are no tears or holes, though. These shoes kept Sage comfortable and, as noted above, she received only two tiny blisters on the tops of her toes during her entire Camino.
The Tevas came in handy during the afternoons, after we finished walking for the day. Sage would take off her tennis shoes and socks and spend the rest of the day in her Tevas. The Tevas were lightweight and easy to carry. They're still in excellent shape and Sage will use them throughout the summer.
The Sorels...the only reason I brought them was because of all the snow close to and in the Pyrenees. I was glad Sage had them during those first few days...those things are tough and they'll keep a kid's feet warm down to -40 degrees F...however, after those first few snow-filled days, Sage wore her tennis shoes and the Sorels went into my backpack and stayed there...I could have mailed those boots home after day five. Instead, I lugged the extra weight across Spain. The only reason to bring something as hardcore and heavy as Sorels is if there is serious snow along part of the route. For us, there was....but I don't know why I decided to keep them with us after those first few days....could have sent them home and spared my back.
Headwear/gloves -- Polartec yellow fleece hat.* North Face fleece gloves, REI waterproof mittens. Columbia Sportswear fleece balaclava.*
POST CAMINO REVIEW: The hat and both pairs of gloves were used often. The balaclava was used only as we walked from Valcarlos to Roncesvalles. There was a snowstorm that day and we walked through heavy and cold precipitation. Would I pack a balaclava for the girls again? Probably. It's a lightweight piece of clothing that makes walking through wind, rain, and snow a little easier. Better to have one and not use it than not have one and really wish you did.
Sleeping bag -- Lafuma X1000 (30 degrees F). We've had our Lafumas forever. They've gone with us on every camping, backpacking, and highpointing trip we've ever taken. They're lightweight, comfortable, and warm enough for the Camino. No need to switch brands.
POST CAMINO REVIEW: Lafumas are great and ours performed well, but there was truly no need for the sleeping bags; the albergues had heat and blankets. The only exception to this that we know of is Roncesvalles. There are no blankets in that albergue...however, if one wants to save on weight, one can book a room at the neighboring Hotel Roncesvalles and skip the monastery experience. I know that monastery is steeped in history and tradition, but it might be worth staying in a hotel for that one evening so you don't have to lug around a sleeping bag during your entire Camino. Instead of the bag, bring a mummy sack or lightweight travel sheet. You can always wear your fleece and hat to bed if necessary.
Note: if you're walking your Camino during winter, then you should definitely bring a sleeping bag. Your choices of albergues will be slim and the ones that are open may or may not have heat. From mid-March on, however, you can leave the sleeping bag at home. All the albergues we stayed in had blankets and 99% of them also had heat.
Sage's backpack: Osprey Zip 25. Great pack. Just the right size for my daughters.
POST-CAMINO REVIEW: This pack was comfortable and it fit Sage (and Alex) well. It held her sleeping bag, hat, balaclava, two pairs of gloves, extra socks, headlamp, drawing paper, pens, rain cover, small stuffed animal, and various odds and ends she picked up along the way.
Misc. -- Headlamp, compass, chapstick, emergency whistle. iPod.
POST-CAMINO REVIEW: We never used our headlamps, since all the albergues have electric lights. Still, one should always have a headlamp in one's pack just in case one gets caught outside after dark. Also, depending on what time of year you're on your Camino, the sun might rise relatively late in the morning. We never had to use our compass either...still, it's best to always have one, just in case. Same goes for the emergency whistle. The chapstick, however, was essential. Constant exposure to the elements equals dry lips. iPod -- YES! -- I'm so glad the girls brought their iPods! They used them to take pictures and create videos of their trip. Easy to use, lightweight, and excellent for picture-taking.
Alex, age 10
Long sleeve/legged base layers -- two pairs of Polarmax.
Short sleeve shirt -- one blue synthetic, can't remember which brand (the tag's gone).
Hiking Shorts -- Alex is incredibly picky when it comes to shorts and I've given up trying to find something for her. Last year, I took some scissors to some old long-legged Polarmax base layers, so I suspect that's what I'm going to do this year as well.
Fleece top -- North Face polyester sweatshirt.
Rainproof/windproof outer shells -- REI rain pants, North Face rain jacket.
Socks -- Alex insists on bringing the same pink Wigwam hiking socks she's been wearing since she was five years old. They're full of holes and thin as paper. However, she's worn them on every single hike she's ever been on -- that's four and a half years of almost weekly hiking, well over 200 mountains big and small, over a thousand miles of rough and rocky trails. I'm surprised they haven't completely fallen apart. The socks are now too small for her, I don't see how they keep her feet warm, and you can practically see through them...but she's never gotten a blister and she likes them. Whatever works, I guess. That being said, I'm bringing two extra pairs of Wigwams for her, just in case. I mean, seriously -- if hiking day after day after day over almost 500 miles doesn't finally do these socks in, then I don't know what will.
POST-CAMINO REVIEW: Those socks held up! One of them has a hole in the heel and they're both threadbare, but they did the job.
Boots/sandals -- Merrell Polar Mid Strap Waterproof Boots. The girls have hiked in Merrell hiking boots for over 4 years -- however, Alex has never tried this particular (insulated) style. Alex will break these in before we leave for Spain. Many Camino veterans say the insulation won't be needed, but the temperatures and weather during March and April will be unpredictable and Alex's feet tend to get cold easily. These boots seem to be a nice compromise between her hard-core Sorels and her normal hiking boots. If Alex's feet do become too warm, then she can wear her Keen Newport H2 Sandals (with or without socks).
POST-CAMINO REVIEW: The Merrells worked well, though I would choose an uninsulated brand for summer wear. For March/April, the Polar Mid Straps were perfect. The boots kept Alex's feet warm and dry, and they were lightweight and easy to carry. Alex hiked about half her Camino in those Merrells.
During warm weather and in the afternoons at the albergues, Alex wore her Keen Newport H2 Sandals. They were comfortable -- Alex hiked more than a few 15+ mile days in a row in them. During her Camino, Alex switched back and forth between these sandals and her boots. The Keens held up well and they should last her through the summer...they look the same right now as they did out-of-the-box.
Headwear/gloves -- blue Marmot hat.* North Face fleece gloves, Burton waterproof mittens, Smartwool balaclava.*
Sleeping bag -- Lafuma X1000 (30 degrees F).
Alex's backpack: Osprey Zip 25. She was going to use her REI Comet...until she tried it on yesterday and found that it no longer fits. Two weeks ago, it fit just fine...now it doesn't. I've told her she's not allowed to grow any more until we return from the Camino. She now has a brand new Osprey, same as Sage's.
Misc. -- Headlamp, compass, chapstick, emergency whistle.
Extras: Professional watercolor pencils and paper. Alex loves to draw and wants to create some art while she's hiking the Camino. iPod.
POST-CAMINO REVIEW: Very glad we brought the pencils; Alex used them every day. She drew while she was waiting for dinner, she drew in the albergues, she drew in the morning before we left, etc. iPod was a definite plus for photo-taking and video-making.
Trish (me, age 42)
Pants and shorts -- Three pairs total. One pair of Polarmax base-layer long-legged pants, mid-weight. One pair of ancient synthetic hiking pants that I've cut down to shorts. These are so old that I can't remember what brand they are and the tag is long-gone. One pair of knee-length Spandex pants* (don't laugh, I hike in these all the time and they're super-comfy).
Tops -- two long-sleeved, synthetic tops that are so old I can't remember where I bought them. Tags are long-gone and the logos are faded. They still do the job though, and they weigh next to nothing. One short-sleeve North Face, extremely light hiking shirt.
Two no-sleeve hiking dresses -- sports bras are built-in. I bought one of these dresses in Colorado two and a half years ago and have worn it at least three times a week ever since. Light-weight, synthetic material, doesn't wrinkle, dries quickly, reversible. Tag is long-gone and I can't remember who makes it. Love it, though. The other dress is made by EMS and is built for hiking*.
Fleece top -- lightweight North Face polyester fleece jacket.
Rainproof/windproof outer shells -- Lightweight REI rain pants, orange REI technical Event softshell jacket.*
POST-CAMINO REVIEW: All my clothes worked well. Remember -- wicking, synthetic base layers, insulating fleece, and wind/water-proof top and bottom layers. Nothing has to be fancy or expensive. The material is what matters, not the brand.
Socks -- three pairs of SmartWool, two pairs of nylon liners.
POST-CAMINO REVIEW: Love my SmartWools -- I pulled them right over my feet after applying HikeGoo or Vaseline (see below). Never used the liners....should have left those at home.
Footwear -- Hedgehog GTX XCR III. I've no experience with these shoes, but they were on sale at a local store and they came highly recommended. I'll break them in before we leave. They will have to do for cold weather and warm weather, as I'm trying to keep my backpack weight manageable. For albergues and town-walking -- my ancient Crocs.
POST-CAMINO REVIEW: The Hedgehogs performed very well. I wore them in knee-deep snow, torrential rain, blazing sun, and thick mud. I wore them on dirt trails, rocks, and pavement. After forty-six days of continuous, hard-core use, there are no holes or tears; they're still waterproof and they're still comfortable. I plan on using them in the Whites all summer (and out west if and when we highpoint this year).
That being said, I did develop a bunion on my right foot. HOWEVER, I cannot be sure the shoe had anything to do with this. My right leg overcompensates for my weaker left (I have circulation problems on one side of my body), so I put more weight on my right foot than I do my left. Throughout the Camino, my right leg ached while my left leg felt perfectly fine. The bunion, therefore, might have everything to do with my putting unequal pressure and weight on that one foot and nothing to do with the shoes I was wearing.
My trusty and ancient Crocs were awesome. Love my Crocs. Just the thing to slip into after a long day's hike.
Headwear and gloves -- Seirus balaclava/facemask combo. Just the balaclava part would do, but this is what I currently own, and I don't want to buy a new balaclava. $10 wool hat. Don't know what brand it is as there's no tag. Got it on sale somewhere. Wool gloves, ancient, probably bought at REI, can't remember. Outdoor Research waterproof/windproof gloves. I use these in the winter when I'm hiking above treeline here in the Whites. They might be overkill...may end up mailing them home at some point.
POST-CAMINO GEAR REVIEW: I never used my balaclava, hat, or Outdoor Research gloves. During the first few days of our Camino, when we were walking in and through snow, I could have used the balaclava/hat/gloves, but I never felt like taking them out of my pack...so, being from New Hampshire, I just sucked it up and dealt with the weather. I used my ancient wool gloves a handful of times in the early mornings throughout the Camino. I'm glad I brought all that winter head- and hand-gear, though....better to have those lightweight articles and not need them then need them and not have them.
Sleeping bag -- Lafuma X1000 (30 degrees F).
Backpack -- I WAS going to bring my old North Face Terra 40. However, I've decided to bring my larger Ariel 75 instead. I most likely will never need to fill this pack while on the Camino .. BUT ... I must allow for the possibility that one of the girls may need a break along The Way...perhaps there will be an injury or a backache, who knows. I want to have enough space in my pack to carry items from the girls' packs if needed.
POST-CAMINO REVIEW: Only use a backpack this big if you're carrying clothes and gear for multiple people. This pack was appropriate for me, since I was carrying all clothing, lotions/medications, jackets, and extra footwear for three people. Had I been on my own, I would have brought a pack less than half this size.
Misc -- Headlamp. Compass. Chapstick. Camping soap (good for washing clothes and ourselves). Toothpaste, toothbrushes. International plug, charger for my phone/camera. Three wide-mouth, 1 L Nalgene bottles. Three small hiking towels. Small First-Aid kit. Clothes line with plastic clothespins. Sunblock, face lotion. Three chemical body warmers and three pairs of chemical hand warmers. Three waterproof pack covers. Vaseline or other chemical lotion to protect feet from blisters. Emergency whistle. iPad Mini.
POST-CAMINO REVIEW: Never used the headlamp or compass, but all good hikers should pack those items regardless. Chapstick was used daily. Camping soap was used for washing clothes and ourselves...when we ran out, I substituted the soap with normal shampoo. Toothpaste, toothbrushes, international plug, and the charger for my iPad mini were used every day. I only used one of my Nalgenes (the girls carried their own, smaller versions). The hiking towels were a necessity. Never used my First-Aid kit but I'm glad I had it regardless. Clothes line was completely unnecessary since every albergue has lines or racks. Sunblock and waterproof pack covers were necessary and used often. Chemical body warmers, chemical hand warmers, and emergency whistle were never used, but I'm glad I had them for just-in-case scenarios.
HikeGoo was used daily until we ran out. HikeGoo is a white scented cream you put on your feet every morning. Pull your hiking socks on right over the cream. The cream absorbs into your skin and into the fibers of the sock as you hike. The cream is designed to reduce friction and minimize the formation of blisters. When you pull off your socks later in the day, your feet look and feel wonderful and your socks are dry and scented (rarely need to wash them). Love HikeGoo. We switched to Vaseline when the HikeGoo was gone...Vaseline works too, but not as well as HikeGoo (also, Vaseline smells funky).
The iPad mini -- yes yes yes. I'm so glad I invested in this wonderful piece of equipment! Lightweight, small, and slim enough to fit into my waist/fanny belt. Easy to use, tons of applications...this thing is a modern miracle. I used free Wifi (available in most Camino locations) to blog, check email and weather reports, search the internet, etc. I also used it to take photos and videos. One can download books, movies, and games for entertainment purposes if one needs to rest the body for a day or two. The iPad mini is an excellent invention and I used it constantly (I took over 2500 photos).