My mantra is always travel light – but not so extreme as a friend who drilled holes in his toothbrush handle to save weight! – Andy Hill
After years of walking with real ‘Drongo’ beano hats I purchased at great expense a wide-brimmed Tilley Air-Flo hat. It is very comfortable and does what it needs to do. The occasional serious heat encountered when walking in Spain needs a hat and this vented version does seem to keep the pate cool!
A Rohan Vital Zip which is fantastically warm and yet light and quick drying. Essential on cold or wet evenings and doubles up as a pillow cover at night.
Two fantastic Rohan Polo shirts – again very old but indestructible. Somehow they feel too heavy for the heat but they are very good at getting sweat away from the body and that extra warmth in the mornings is very welcome on the early starts – Spain can be chilly. The shirts are easy to wash and can be wrung out as hard as I can manage without stretching or ripping. Also take one normal shirt for the evenings.
Devotee of Rohan Bags shorts and now on my third pair. Very light and comfortable to wear and so quick drying. I am a particular fan of all the pockets – maybe I am a bit of a control freak, but I always put the same things in the same pocket so I know how to get hold of them without shuffling through each pocket.
After reading the shorts section above you will not be surprised to hear that I was a hardened Rohan Bags fan. Two pairs of Bags accompanied me across France and the first bit of Spain but now I use On-Track Cargo trousers – just as comfortable, almost as quick drying and more usable pockets!
Used to take two pairs of Rohan Cool Silver Trunks but this year I also took a pair of the Ultra Silver Trunks. Such an improvement, almost no pack weight or size and instant drying and so comfortable. I will be getting more of these.
After boots, the most important items. I was a great fan of the ‘inner and outer sock’ system. I took two pairs of the thin Bridgedale CoolMax inner socks with two pairs of their Endurance Trekker outers. A good system which may ensure steaming hot feet but it does seem to reduce (but sadly not eliminate) the occurrence of blisters.
Very old Brasher Hillmaster leather boots. Old because for years I could not get on with them but finally broke them in and now they are great friends. I ditched the insoles and substitute them with full Sorbothane liners – excellent!
A Rohan Cloudcover Jacket which is ultra-light and crucially windproof. There are days when it is not raining but very windy or cool in the early morning and this shell is perfect. It packs to nothing and is an addition to this year’s gear which I wore, at least in the early morning, almost every day.
Again the emphasis was on effectiveness at the smallest pack size and weight. After all sorts of trials I am very happy with my Berghaus PacLite Shell waterproof. It has all of the features of full mountain waterproofs but with a very small pack size and weight and it works! – it keeps the rain out and does seem to breathe a little.
I wish I could say the same about my succession of supposedly waterproof over-trousers. I have tried many of these and I was quite content with a very light pair until a 4-hour thunder-storm this year in Spain which proved that waterproof they were not!
Karrimor 50 litre which must be over 20 years old. It has been stitched a few times and suffered a severe mouse attack in the loft. Everyone I know has a love-hate relationship with their rucksack but this one is just the right size and so comfortable with its wide hip belt allowing the weight to be taken off the shoulders. I bought a new Karrimor a few years ago but I still walk with this old one – enough said!
My treasured antler-topped, wooden stick. Made by a friend Clive Smith out of holly wood about 1inch in diameter and 3 feet long. The deer antler on top acts as the crook in the thumb post and has an old sixpenny piece mounted in the cut-off end of the antler.
Makes the walking so comfortable (I know that walking with two sticks is far more sensible but I can’t bring myself to look like I’m skiing!) and it is also useful for prodding snakes and fighting off attacking dogs and turkeys.
Literally the lightest (1.5 kilos), and cheapest sleeping bag I could find. I figured this was Spain after all but there have been nights where I have had to put some clothes back on as it was a little chilly.
A small and magic Lifeventure travel towel which does not seem capable of drying my acres of flesh but it is marvellous.
Travel wash and line
I buy ordinary Superdrug Travel wash which seems to cope quite well with cold water washings of my sweat-soaked and dusty walking clobber. Quick-drying is very desirable but I have been known to put on almost dry clothes the next day to ‘body dry’ them better a cold and clammy ten minutes than put them back into the sack to go smelly. I always wash out that day’s set of gear each night as I cannot bare to put on the unwashed stuff in the morning (not that other pilgrims are the same – I have seen clothes literally ‘standing up’ against a wall as they have dried in their own sweat, to be put on like that the next morning).
The washing line is a very nice bit of kit as it does not need pegs. It is simply two inter-twined elastic cables which ‘pinch’ the wet clothes to hang them up – very neat.
I always carry a basic Silva compass, just in case! I have rarely had to use it in anger as the Camino is so well route-marked. However in France it did come in useful and none more so than trying to find the route again after straying off it at the end of the day to find the night’s digs.
A tiny multi-tool with scissors, pliers, screw-drivers, etc. I always use it.
Needle and thread
Great for the obvious repairs but also for the messy business of blister-popping.
I carry two, 2 litre plastic lemonade bottles for water. They have always stood up to the rough treatment they get on the trip and are light, at least before each being filled with 2 kilos of water!
I make day-bags up of my own mixture from the local health-food shop. Crystalised ginger, chocolate raisins, nuts and seeds provide a very welcome treat and supply of energy whilst walking.
Of course my Passport but also my Credencial or Pilgrim’s Passport. This is stamped each night at the refuges/digs and is essential to stay in the digs along the Way.
A very small set of bandages plus suntan lotion, antiseptic cream and E45 for rubbing into my long-suffering feet.
I always take a single book which I have wanted to read but struggled with back at home. It always manages to be read and previous titles enjoyed have been Catch 22, The Return of the Native and The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. (Less enjoyable was Graham Greene’s Heart of the Matter).
This is an older man talking but he still carries keepsakes with him on his Camino travels. First is a small Tau Cross made out of olive wood and one of these was given to me by a very good friend on the Camino. It is linked to St. Francis of Assisi and is also said to protect the traveller.
Second is a tiny plastic boot from a Christmas Cracker given to me by my younger daughter Jenny. It’s daft but I always carry it when on a long-distance walk.
The third set of items are perhaps the most precious. These are little notes hidden in my gear by my lovely wife before I leave home and I have the great pleasure of finding them as the walk progresses. Some are quite sharp, saying things such as ‘Why am I married to such a mad walker?’ but others are so nice that I think that she must still love me; although goodness knows why?
Fourthly, of course, is the Scallop Shell attached to the back of my rucksack. This is the emblem of the Pilgrimages in Spain and is to be found on most walkers along the Way.