Camino 2015 Equipment Review

Our post-hike reviews are below the individual descriptions of the equipment we brought with us for Camino 2015.

See also, 2013 Equipment Review 

Clothing From the Ground Up

Boots |

Hi-Tec Eurotrek Waterproof Walking Boots
Hi-Tec Eurotrek Waterproof Walking Boots

ALAN: I really liked my Quechua boots from 2013, but I wore them out before we even began planning the 2015 Camino and that particular model has been discontinued by Decathlon. My US size 13/ European size 48 feet make boot shopping a bit more difficult, so for our 2015 Camino I will be using Hi-Tec Eurotrek Waterproof  Walking Boots.  I’ve had good luck with Hi-Tec uniform boots in the past, so I am giving them a try for this trek. I wanted to stay with a more traditional boot and its ankle support rather than walking shoes.

These boot worked out well for me.  Only one small blister the entire trek!  They never leaked water in the rain. The only downside is that these boots are basically finished after the 900 km we hiked.  That probably has more to do with the way I walk and wear the heels out unevenly than the quality of the boots.  I would get these again.

Mueller 44547 Ankle Stabilizer
Mueller 44547 Ankle Stabilizer

For additional ankle support I added a Mueller 44547 Ankle Stabilizer with figure eight straps and internal nylon stays to my left foot. I’ve sprained my ankles numerous times in the past and on the 2013 Camino so I wanted the security of some extra support.  The stabilizer was great. It was thin enough not to rub and cause blisters, but gave granted some firm support and comfort I appreciated.

Forclaz 500 Novadry – Brown Hiking Boot by Quechua
Forclaz 500 Novadry – Brown Hiking Boot by Quechua

TRACY: I love my Quechua Forclaz 500 Novadry Hiking Boots, they have over 1000 kilometers of Camino and, other than replacing the laces once, they are still in great shape. I will definitely be bringing these for Camino 2015 as they are well broken-in and extremely comfortable.

I love these boots, but now after 3 Camino treks in three years they are starting to look a little ragged. Alan mentioned more than once  that I may need to replace them. I can’t say how sad that makes me.

 – Socks |

Chaussette Forclaz 500 High Hiking Socks by Quechua (From Decathlon Catalog)
ALAN: Four pairs, Quechua Chaussette Forclaz 500 High Hiking Socks.  I was very skeptical of “High Tech” socks, but I wanted fast drying and moisture wicking socks and for Camino 2013 I figured “It can’t hurt.”  I realized early on in 2013 that these socks were a great call. They were comfortable, wicked moisture well, and dried quickly. This trip is “all about taking care of your feet” so I see no reason to mess with a winning combination.
Again these socks were comfortable, dried fast, and worth the extra cost.
Forclaz 500 High Socks, Hiking Socks, Light Grey/Green by Quechua
Forclaz 500 High Socks, Hiking Socks, Light Grey/Green by Quechua (from catalog)
Quechua Forclaz High 100 Hiking Socks (from the Decathlon catalog)
Quechua Forclaz High 100 Hiking Socks (from catalog)

TRACY: I still love my Quechua Forclaz 500 High Hiking Socks, but decided to invest in some new ones. I selected the Quechua Forclaz High 100 Hiking Socks but the truth is I just love the ones I have so I plan to bring two of each. The old aren’t showing too much wear — even after two treks on the Camino — so I think they’ll be fine for this trip. 

I rarely wore the Forclaz 100 socks. They did not have the same comfort level as the Forclaz 500 series. They are thicker and warmer which was not needed this trip. We didn’t have a lot of cold days!

– Underwear |  

ALAN: Staying with my “wear one, wash one” approach I’ll be carrying two pairs of the same quick-drying underwear from Decathlon that I brought on Camino 2013. The Kalenji brand offers a synthetic fabric that is fast drying and moisture wicking.  

The underwear was good, but with the rain we had on Camino 2015 I did wish I had three pairs rather than just two.

TRACY: I am also staying with my Kalenji brand underwear. They were great on Camino 2013, usually one of the first things to dry. For sports bras this year, I found a couple at the local market that offer great support and quick-dry, moisture wicking capability and come in brighter colors to make them easy to identity on a clothesline. Most of my clothing choices have to do with comfort, fit, quick-dry capability and the ability to quickly identify which stuff is mine on overstuffed clotheslines at the albergue. 

Still a great article of clothing. Would definitely bring them again in the future.

– Pants |  

Quechua Forclaz 100 Modul Pants
Quechua Forclaz 100 Modul Pants

ALAN: For Camino 2015 I am again using two pairs of fast-drying, lightweight Quechua Forclaz 100 Modul Pants with zip-off legs.  We are planning to use our “Wear one, Wash one” method again: 1.) After arriving at the albergue at the end of the day  I take a shower and put on my clean pants, 2.) next I wash and dry the morning’s dirty pair and pack them in my backpack to be ready to go in the morning, 3.) I go to dinner and sleep in my clean pants, and 4.) I start hiking the next morning in in the same evening pants and repeat the process at the next albergue.

Worked as well this time as on Camino 2013.  Great pants.

Mountain Warehouse 4 Way Womens Stretch Convertible Trousers (from catalog)
Mountain Warehouse 4 Way Womens Stretch Convertible Trousers (from catalog)

TRACY: The McKinley hiking pants I used in 2013 and 2014 have seen a fair amount of wear, plus a bit of damage from a fall. It was time to look for new hiking pants and wanted to stay with a convertible style as I often overheat and like to remove the legs of the pants. I found a great pair online that also offer a stretch fabric for comfort, the 4-Way Women’s Stretch Convertible Trousers from Mountain Warehouse. I liked them so much I ordered a second pair.

Alas, these pants did not hold up as well as I had hoped. The material pilled badly and they took twice as long to dry as the McKinley brand I wore on my first two Caminos. They were very comfortable, but not worth the extra line-drying time.

Belt |

F.11 TDU Belt (5.11 Tactical Catalog)
F.11 TDU Belt
(5.11 Tactical Catalog)

ALAN: I’ll be staying the the lightweight 5.11 Tactical TDU nylon webbing belt – 1 1/2″ with Plastic Buckle.  Simple, lightweight, flat profile under my backpack’s waist belt.  Unlike a leather belt, this belt is fast drying if it gets wet.  From LA Police Gear.

Simple, functional, fast-drying.

– Shirts |

Quechua TechFRESH 100 T-shirt (Decathlon 2015 Catalog)
Quechua TechFRESH 100 T-shirt
(Decathlon 2015 Catalog)
Quechua T-shirt TechFRESH 100 (Decathlon 2015 Catalog)
Quechua TechFRESH 100 T-shirt
(Decathlon 2015 Catalog)
ALAN: Alternating between two Quechua TechFRESH 100 T-shirt worked great in 2013 and for Camino 2015 I am staying with using two of the short sleeve TechFRESH t-shirts and continuing our “Wear one, Wash one” laundry system.  I went with new shirts with different colors for 2015 (for fun and to help differentiate Camino photos.) Decathlon has upgraded the TechFRESH line with improved underarm and back mesh for venting heat.  
Great product!  The improved shirts are better than the previous models.  Fast-drying after a wash and I appreciated the extra venting on warm days.
Quechua Forclaz 100 vented tank (from Decathlon catalog)
Quechua Forclaz 100 vented tank (from Decathlon catalog)
Quechua Forclaz 100 vented tank (from Decathlon catalog)
Quechua Forclaz 100 vented tank (from Decathlon catalog)

TRACY: For Camino 2015 I opted for the Quechua Forclaz 100 vented trek tanks. They are vented on the sides and the back and are lightweight, quick dry and moisture wicking, plus the colors will be a nice change for this years’ photos. The weight difference between these two and the two I brought in 2013 is quite significant, as we found out in 2013, every ounce counts when you’re carrying it all day long!

These tops were great! They were very comfortable and dried faster than expected. I highly recommend them!

– Bandana |  

ALAN: On Camino 2013 I brought along two bandanas, mainly intended to protect my neck on sunny days because all my shirts were collar-less. On the 2015 Camino I’m bring just one bandana, as I was always able to wash it in the evening laundry and it was dry by morning. Minuscule weight savings, but why bring an extra item I don’t need?  

Simple neck protection and helpful when Tracy over-heated with sun stroke and I needed to cool her down with a wet compress.

– Rain Jackets |

Quechua Rain Vest Forclaz 100 (Decathlon Catalog)
Quechua Rain Vest Forclaz 100
(Decathlon Catalog)

ALAN: My biggest indulgence for Camino 2015 is a new rain jacket, a Quechua Rain Vest Forclaz 100 from Decathlon. Absolutely nothing was wrong with my previous rain jacket, I’ve worn it quite a bit after the 2013 Camino.  But I was always envious of Tracy’s more comfortable and flexible jacket and the new jackets comes with the three tangible improvements of 1.) being lighter, 2.) the ability to roll into a smaller bundle, and 3.) the rain hood (which I never used in 2013 because of my waterproof Tilley hat) can be rolled neatly away into its collar. My original jacket’s hood didn’t store and I worried about it becoming a “bucket” hanging unused on the back of my jacket and flapping in the wind. Like my previous rain jacket, this one has “breathable” fabric and underarm zippers to vent heat and attempt to minimize perspiration. Because of the increased comfort of the jacket I elected to not carry a long sleeve shirt like I brought on the Camino in 2013 and to use this jacket any time I want long sleeves.

Loved this jacket!  Great in the rain. I did use it any time I needed long sleeves. I made a lot of use of the front and underarm zippers to adjust temperature.  I even used the jacket as a cover in my bunk when it was too warm to be inside the sleeping bag.

Domyos Crewneck Sweatshirt (Decathlon Catalog)
Domyos Crewneck Sweatshirt
(Decathlon Catalog)

Tracy and I made a decision to start the Camino with as light of backpacks as possible. If the weather turned cold along the trek we would stop and pick up an extra layer along the way.  The temperature did drop and raining as we entered Carrión de los Condes.  Wet and chilly we located a Camino equipment store in town that had Domyos sweatshirts from Decathlon on the shelf (they apparently bought them for €6.00 and were selling them for €10.00.  A bargain for us!)  While not exactly fashionable, the sweatshirts were functional, warm, and were made with a dry-drying polyester pile that was warm even when wet. The store stocked the extra large sizes that fit me. The proprietress even kind enough to cut the tags off so we could put the sweatshirts on under our rain jackets and wear them out the door.

Forclaz 300 Men's hiking jacket, Blue/Red by Quechua
Forclaz 300 Men’s hiking jacket, Blue/Red by Quechua

 TRACY: Though I still don’t like the color, my Quechua Forclaz 500 Men’s Hiking Jacket is so perfect for hiking in inclement weather that I just can’t bring myself to part with it. The vented sleeves are great to help with heat. That seems to be my biggest problem while hiking — I get hot fast and can’t seem to cool off. The material keeps water out even in a downpour — which I personally field tested in 2013. It dries super fast and when I’m not wearing it, rolls up small so it doesn’t take a lot of space in my pack. This is a must-have item for the unpredictable Camino weather.

I still hate the color, but cannot say enough about the quality of this jacket. I can only hope that one year the company will come up with a color that I like!

Hats |

Alan wearing Tilley T5MO Hat
Alan wearing Tilley T5MO Hat

ALAN: You couldn’t pry my Tilley T5MO hat away from me with a twelve-foot crowbar. Love that hat!  I really did wear it on the 2013 Camino trail each and everyday.  Great in the sun, great in the rain.  The firm brim protects my ears and neck from the sun unlike a “ball cap” style hat.

Again I worn this hat everyday.  Great sun protection, great protection with all the rain we had on this trek.

TMH5 Mash-Up Hat by Tilley
TMH5 Mash-Up Hat by Tilley

TRACY: I am not really a hat person, but there are no words to describe how much I love my Tilley TMH5 Mash-Up Hat. It is made using recycled yarns from hemp and organic cotton fabrics, each one has an array of different colors woven into it making each unique. One of my favorite things about it is the velcro pocket inside that makes a great place to store an extra hair tie, so that I always have one available to put up my hair when wearing the hat. I purchased it slightly larger than I needed to accommodate my hair which is always pulled back when I’m hiking. 

Still love this hat!

On Person |

Ray-Ban New Wayfarers
Ray-Ban New Wayfarers
Seiko "Black Monster" Wristwatch
Seiko “Black Monster” Wristwatch

ALAN: I have a new pair of Ray-Ban New Wayfarer sunglasses with a fresh prescription for the trip. I swap between my regular prescription eyeglasses and the sunglasses into in a hard case as the conditions warrants.  On the 2013 Camino, absent rainstorms,  I wore my sunglasses almost non-stop in the daytime. There is a lot of bright light out walking the Camino for hours at a time, UV protection is a must.

I wore this sunglasses any day it wasn’t raining.  Great for keeping the glare down.

My Seiko “Black Monster” watch with a lightweight NATO-style Monkey Swag 5 ring Zulu Strap was a “bomb proof” item in 2013 and will make the trip again in 2015. The “Black Monster” dive watch is waterproof, “tool watch” tough, self-winding (with no battery that might need replacing), has extremely bright lume that is readable all night long, and has a day and date indicator. The day-date function is especially helpful as it’s easy to lose track of the calendar in the low-tech world of the Camino. While some pilgrims enjoy finding a natural rhythm on the Camino away from watches and the structure of time in the “real world,” I like knowing when a train or bus will arrive, being able to estimate our arrival at an albergue, the time a restaurant starts serving the pilgrim meal, how soon is sunup, and whether it is Sunday since many businesses and sights in Spain are closed on the Sabbath. All of that said, there is a time-date-calendar on the iPod I am already bringing and a $10 digital watch would also perform the same functions. I’m just “of a generation” that wear and like good wristwatches.

I love the lume on this watch, it was readable all night long.  I like the solid weight and easy to read dial.

Orao Sunglasses (from Decathlon catalog)
Orao Gavarnie Sunglasses – Brown (from Decathlon catalog)

TRACY: I never leave the house without a pair of sunglasses. Camino 2013, was very hard on my sunglasses. They came back to France beaten and scratched and were quickly tossed into the trash. For Camino 2015 I opted for a pair of the Orao Gavarnie Brown CAT3 sunglasses. They offer 100% UV protection, filter out harmful blue light and UV rays that are more intense in the mountains and are built for mid- and high-mountain activities. I also really liked that they were nice and dark which is perfect for me while I’m hiking in the bright sun as my eyes tend to be light sensitive. The best part is that they were only 5 Euro from Decathlon so I won’t feel guilty if I beat them up again.

Sunglasses were not a successful item for me this trip. I accidentally left these glasses in Sarria. We found another pair later that day, but they broke. I picked up a third pair in Santiago, but they just didn’t work as well and steamed up every time I got hot and sweaty. Once we returned home, I went back to Decathlon and picked up another pair.

– Fitness Trackers |

Mi Band by Xiaomi

Alan purchased us a couple of the Mi Bands by Xiaomi for this trek. They are a very basic fitness trackers from China that monitor sleep and steps (which it calculates to distance). They are dust proof and water resistant up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. The bands sync through bluetooth with our iPods so we can get a basic idea of how many steps and how much sleep we’ve gotten each day. The bands are rubber and the battery life in the 30 day range. Though not as accurate as their more expensive counterparts such as FitBit or Jawbone, at $14.99 we won’t feel bad if anything happens to them. We’ve been wearing them for a couple of months and find that they are light weight, comfortable and do not snag on things. The biggest benefit is that the battery life is extraordinary, mine went 50+ days before needing to recharge, Alan’s lasted nearly 60 days.

I never had to charge my battery. The battery life on these things is truly amazing. The only downside is that the steps are based on arm movement. The trekking poles made the accuracy unreliable. But as a silent alarm for getting up in the morning, they were awesome!

I really liked the silent alarm on the Mi Band and using it training before the Camino.  However, like Tracy, using trekking poles totally disrupted the accuracy of the the Mi Band and grossly under-measured the distances we walked.

– Trekking Poles |

Quechua Antishock Trekking Poles 500
Quechua Antishock Trekking Poles 500

ALAN: For Camino 2015 I replaced my previous, two section Black Diamond Syncline Trekking Poles with a new pair of more compact, three-section trekking poles, Quechua Forclaz 500 Antishock Bâton Trekking Poles. Nothing was wrong with my previous Black Diamond poles, they were very sturdy and well designed, except that they only collapsed to 86 cm (34 inches) compared to 70 cm (27 inches.) It was amazing how awkward 16 cm (7 inches) of poles sticking up past the top of my backpack would hang-up on every doorway, luggage rack, and stairway I would try to walk through. Tracy, who had to witnessed me snag myself repeatedly on obstructions, encouraged me to go ahead and replace my previous trekking poles with something more compact.  I added to the new poles, like in 2013, Quechua Nordic Hiking tips for extra grip, to protect the floors of businesses and historic sites, and to muffle the annoying scraping of the regular metal tip.

I do not like nor wanted the “anti-shock” feature, I prefer the poles to be rigid without any “give.” But being 6’04,” I selected these poles for their maximum length up to 140 cm after I learned the “anti-shock” feature can be deactivated.  I normally set my trekking poles at of length of 130 cm, but I like adding the extra 10 cm of reach when walking a long, steep downhill stretch. I had never used trekking poles before Camino 2013, but I am now the biggest advocate. I appreciate the extra balance the poles offer (I am amazingly clumsy) and I believe it is true when they say the proper use of trekking poles will reduce your perceived backpack weight by 25%.

I love my trekking poles.  I used them every day on the trail and cannot even guess how many times they prevented an injury by helping me keep my balance. (Yes, I am that clumsy.)  The new poles that collapsed smaller was well worth it when taking the bus and train.

Forclaz 500 Light Soft Blue/White by Quechua
Forclaz 500 Light Soft Blue/White by Quechua
Domyos fingerless gloves (from Decathlon catalog)
Domyos fingerless gloves (from Decathlon catalog)

TRACY: While I considered purchasing new poles with cork grips I opted to keep the Quechua Forclaz 500 Light poles, I love the tri-section collapsing mechanism that allows these poles to fold down small enough to store outside the pack without getting caught on anything. I did opt to pick up a pair of Domyos fingerless gloves to help me keep my grip if it gets hot. I did take a tumble on Camino 2013 when I got to the base of a hill and was thankful that my hands did not slip and that the Nordic Hiking Tips stopped my fall from becoming an embarrassing slide across the rocks. As I do tend to be clumsy, I figured I would rather be safe than sorry and will wear my gloves this year. I think the addition of the Nordic Hiking Tips really made a difference last year, so I’ll be definitely using them again this year. Another incentive for using the poles is that my hands don’t swell as much during the day. 

Didn’t really need the fingerless gloves, but the few days I wore them, they worked great. As with my other two treks, the poles with the Nordic tips were awesome.

Our Packs

– Backpacks |

Backpack Forclaz 40 Air Quechua (Decathlon Catalog)
Backpack Forclaz 40 Air Quechua
(Decathlon Catalog)

ALAN: Staying with a winning backpack system system from the Camino 2013, the Quechua Forclaz 40 Air.  We wanted to travel as light as possible and wanted smaller backpacks to enforce the limits of what we could carry with us. However, with being 6’04” I wanted a bag with sufficient length to let me use the hip belt to help carry some of the weight.  With the 40 Air I achieved those goals with having 41 litres of capacity,  3.5 pounds (1550 grams) total weight. The “Air” in the description refer to the pack’s mesh back that allows extra air flow and cooling. A rain cover is supplied to keep the bag’s contents dry.  

I love my backpack and it performed well for me again.  Its a solid, well-made pack with a great suspension and cooling system.  On Day One Tracy and I were caught in a thunder and lightning storm and the wind was so strong it ripped the rain cover off my pack as we crossed over the Pyrénées Mountains on the Napoleon Route from Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles.  The pack was still water-resistant and kept the contents fairly dry. I replaced the rain cover the next day at a Camino shop in Zubiri for €12.00.  (It’s Spain, not Antartica. If makes no sense to carry lots of extra gear “just in case” because you really can get replacement item along the way and in albergue “lost and found” boxes.)

Quechua Forclaz EasyFit 50 Women’s Hiking Backpack (from catalog)

TRACY: My old Forclaz 30 Air Hiking Backpack by Quechua was perfect for both my 2013 and 2014 treks across Spain. The pack had a 30 litre volume, weighed just 2.3 pounds (empty) and had the most amazing ventilated cooling system. While I still like the Forclaz 30, for our 2015 trek I decided to upgrade. I wanted to be able to carry all of my own gear. In 2013, Alan had to carry most of our hygiene items as I was unable to carry more weight. In 2014, I had a 12 litre daypack that I picked up in Roncesvalles that held all of my hygiene stuff, journal, cards, etc. But it didn’t fit inside the pack. I fastened it to the outside, but it left my pack out of balance. For Camino 2015, I wanted to be able to carry everything inside the pack to keep the pack balanced nicely and protected from wet weather. We went to the Decathlon in Perpignan and I tried on a variety of packs, I didn’t like the fit of Quechua’s new 40 litre pack. I decided on the Forclaz EasyFit 50 Litre Hiking Backpack over the 40 litre air for comfort. I would rather have a perfect fit with some extra room than one that is the perfect size but doesn’t fit well, even if it does weigh 1 1/2 pounds more than my old one. 

I had great success with the pack. The weight balance was tricky the first few days, but once I found the right packing structure, it was practically weight-less. Worth every penny!

– Sleeping Bags |

Quechua Sac de Couchage Rando 15°C Light XL
Quechua Sac de Couchage Rando 15°C Light XL

We both decided to stay with a proven item from Camino 2013. The Quechua Sac de Couchage Rando 15°C Light XL. There is tons of debate in online Camino forums as to whether to bring a sleeping bag, or just a sleeping bag liner, or simply use blankets provided at some albergues. Tracy and I selected these light sleeping bags with matching left and right zippers that allows us to zip the bags together or use separately for Camino 2013 and they were great. The lightweight sleeping bags have a 60 degree F. (15 degree C) comfort rating and weigh about 1.7 pounds (760 grams) each.  The cinch sack allows this sleeping bag to collapse to a very small 8″ tall x 5″ diameter so it takes very little space compared to traditional sleeping bags. From Decathlon.

These are still one of the best options on the market here in France. Light weight, warm, easy to pack and super compact.

I was happy with our lightweight sleeping bags.  Plenty warm on our trek.

– Sandals |
Teva Tanza Sandals (Teva Catalog)
Teva Tanza Sandals
(Teva Catalog)

ALAN: Buddha help me! This is where I made certain I would not suffer like I did in 2013!  I made a grave error and brought the cheapest sandals I found expecting to only wear them at the albergue.  What I found after a day’s had hiking is I needed the arch support of serious “after hike” footwear. We didn’t realize that we would often want to sightsee, go to a restaurant, explore a town, but we wanted to rest our feet from our boots. For Camino 2015 I purchased online a pair of men’s Teva Tanza sports sandals with its solid nylon shank and footbed for solid arch support.  If I wasn’t able to find good sport sandals I would be carrying a pair of running shoes.  For me, it is worth the extra weight of sport sandals or running shoes to have to have comfortable and supportive ‘end of the day” footwear for Camino 2015.

Yes!!! Loved these well-made sport sandals.  Made the end of the day a pleasure compared to Camino 2013.  The solid arch support was a blessing after the cheap sandals I previously used.  

Chiruca Sandals (from catalog)
Chiruca Sandals (from catalog)

TRACY: On Camino 2013, I made a huge mistake when it came to end of the day footwear. Not realizing the importance of a well made sandal, I originally started with a basic pair of flipflops. By the time we reached Carrion de los Condes, I was having some real problems. Thankfully we found a sports store and I purchased these Chiruca sport sandals. The arch support made so much difference that I rarely had foot problems the rest of the trek. Though I still love a cute pair of flip-flops, they just don’t cut it for 800 kilometers of hiking.

I had a couple of blisters but absolutely no foot pain on this trip. Having great post-hike footwear is one of the most essential items I can recommend. 

– Cameras  |

iPod 5 with charger, protective case, and leash.
iPod 5 with charger, protective case, and leash.

ALAN: Damn, I really am a “camera guy,” I can’t believe I’m doing this. In 2013, it was difficult for me not to bring the DSLR on the  Camino. Afterwards we found we took the majority of our 2013 Camino photos with an iPhone rather than the compact cameras we brought. So for Camino 2015, I am going to continue with my efforts toward minimalism and just bring my iPod 5 with build-in camera, its charger with “2 pin” European plug, ULAK protective case, and My Bunjee “leash” as my total camera gear. Traveling “fast and light” is Tracy and my retirement motto, so I am going the next step with leaving Canon DSLR, Olympus PEN camera, and waterproof Olympus TG-820 at home. The iPod will double as a “palm top” computer and a wifi communication device to share our progress on Facebook. I will be using the Google Photo app to back-up my photos while en route.

The iPod camera and the Google Photo app worked great for me.  There were times I missed a “real” camera, but I liked the simplicityof the iPod as camera and palm-top computer. I really liked Tracy’s idea of the Bungee leash to prevent dropping the iPod. (Did I mention I’m clumsy?)

Nikon AW100 camera
Nikon AW100 camera

TRACY: In addition to the iPod Touch 5 with it’s sleek new charger and the new Bunjee “leash” and after much deliberation, I have decided to also bring along my small Nikon Coolpix AW100 waterproof/shockproof camera and six memory cards. Alan picked up a smaller, lighter charger and two extra batteries (bringing the total to five). The final decision was made when we both realized that the iPod camera is fine but doesn’t do well in low light. The AW100 has a “museum” mode that I really love in my big Nikon. It takes a pretty decent photo even in extremely low light. The one thing we both wished we had last time was a few more photos of the interiors of churches we visited.

I did not like the Bunjee leash for my iPod. Though the iPod 5 and Nikon camera both performed admirably. I did like the option to take a few more interior photos with the Nikon. Though I’m still torn as to whether or not it was worth the extra weight for the camera, the batteries, charger and SD cards. In the future, I’d opt for less weight.

Other Essentials |

A Pilgrim's Guide To The Camino de Santiago, St. Jean - Roncesvalles - Santiago (2015 Edition) and A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino Finisterre, Santiago - Finisterre - Muxia by John Brierley guidebooks and Streamlight Stylus Pro LED Flashlight
A Pilgrim’s Guide To The Camino de Santiago, St. Jean – Roncesvalles – Santiago (2015 Edition) and A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino Finisterre, Santiago – Finisterre – Muxia by John Brierley guidebooks and Streamlight Stylus Pro LED Flashlight
A Village to Village Guide to Hiking the Camino De Santiago- Camino Frances- St Jean - Santiago - Finisterre by Anna Dintaman and David Landis
A Village to Village Guide to Hiking the Camino De Santiago- Camino Frances- St Jean – Santiago – Finisterre by Anna Dintaman and David Landis

ALAN:  The Streamlight Stylus Pro LED Flashlight from Police Gear. A 5.3″ x .6″ (134 x 15 mm) mini flashlight weighting 1.64 oz (46.9 g) with 48 lumens output and 6.25 hours runtime powered by two “AAA” alkaline batteries. On Camino 2013, Tracy and I never found a  flashlight to be really necessary, but having one was genuinely helpful a few times in 2013 and at 1.64 ounces I’m going to “be prepared” and bring it along once more.

Useful the couple of times we needed a light.  Worth the security of having the 1.64 ounces (46.9 grams) light in the early morning trail.

ALAN:  A Pilgrim’s Guide To The Camino de Santiago, St. Jean – Roncesvalles – Santiago (2015 Edition) and A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino Finisterre, Santiago – Finisterre – Muxia by John Brierley. Very comprehensive English language Camino guides with directions, maps, history, advice, and even spiritual insights. In 2013, we used this book to set up our next days hike, to make notes, to find our way through the larger cities, but most often to find out how many kilometers to the next town with an albergue. For Camino 2015 we are adding A Village to Village Guide to Hiking the Camino De Santiago: Camino Frances: St Jean – Santiago – Finisterre by Anna Dintaman and David Landis a new 2014 Camino guidebook which Tracy saw on her 2014 Camino with her aunt.  It has different organization, explanation of history, topographical style maps, and sometimes additions and omissions of albergues and hotels along the way. (Whether albergues are open or closed is a “moving target. So much so that the Pilgrims’ Office in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port hands out a list of the most recent albergue informatiion.)  While the Brierley book would suffice, we like the added history and culture commentary and having as much travel information as we can, so I accepted the additional 12 ounces (3/4 pound – 340 grams) of the Dintaman-Landis guide for a total of  26 ounces (1.6 pounds – 747 grams) of guidebooks. The nicest feature of the new book is the listing of amenities at an albergue, things like washers/dryers and wifi. Books are heavy, so a decision to carry 1.6 pounds of guidebooks while I am reducing my clothing from 4 socks to three, jettisoning a long sleeve shirt, going to a water bladder, getting a lighter raincoat, using shampoo bars, and using my iPod camera as my sole camera is a reflection of the value we place on the guidebooks.  

We believe a good Camino guide is invaluable. There is always discussions in the Camino Forums about whether or not any guidebook is even needed on the well-marked Camiño Francés trails. That’s a reasonable consideration since our guidebooks weight more than one and a half pounds in backpacks we are trying to keep under twenty pounds. There is a wonderfully concise Camino Frances’ “pdf” guide with less than a dozen pages that can be downloaded at  to save weight and space over carrying a guidebook. On previous Caminos we met people without guidebooks, to either save weight or “we were told we wouldn’t need one.” Those people were always at a disadvantage to planning their nest day’s route and we met several pilgrims who mistakenly took a wrong branch of the trail or didn’t know where next albergue might be. There are other guidebooks out there, but Tracy and I like the annually updated John Brierley’s guides, with all their quirks, so these will be our guidebooks for Camino 2015, (stripped of the surplus “pre-trip planning pages.”)

Having two guides was certainly not necessary, not we enjoyed having the added informations when planning or exploring a town. Tracy said if the A Village to Village Guide

Geonaute On-Night 50 Headlamp
Geonaute On-Night 50 Headlamp

Tracy and I are trying something new for Camino 2015.  We are each bringing an inexpensive (€5.00) Geonaute On-Night 50 Headlamp (17 lumens, 15 meters range, 120 grams weight) for a single morning’s use on the first day of the Camino when we climb the Napoleon Pass over the Pyrenees Mountains from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles.  This day’s distance is 25.1 km (15.6 miles), but the guidebook adjusts that distance to 32 km because of the 1,390 meters (4,560 feet) accrued climb.  Our intention is to leave our hotel on the morning of Day One at 5:00 am (2 1/2 hours before the 7:28 sunrise) and take advantage of the paved surface out of Saint-Jean to Orisson while hiking with headlamps.  Normally, we start hiking in the early dusk when the morning twilight allows us enough visibility to safely walk, about a half-hour before sunrise.  But Day One is a challenging first day on the Camino and we wanted to get a couple of extra hours in the cool early morning.  It will also be two days after the full moon with moonrise at 9:25 pm the night before and moonset not until 9:24 am.  Between the 17 lumens headlamps (not a lot of light), paved roads, and a (hopefully) clear sky with a nearly full moon, we hope to get a head-start for our first day. Once in Roncesvalles we intend to leave the headlamps on the “free to a good home” table of abandoned surplus equipment left by pilgrims who realized they overpacked after hiking over the Pyrenees.

For the one day that I used this, it worked great. I left mine in Roncesvalles as planned and did not have need of it again for the trip.

Worked well for the purpose we planned for it and never missed it after I donated it to the “free to a good home” box at the albergue.

– Kiara’s Camino Collar |

TRACY: I carry this everywhere we travel. I put it together for her when we were planning our first Camino. We lost her before our start date so I carried it on my pack while on Camino 2013, and again for Camino 2014 and Turin in 2015. It’s become something of a talisman for my travels and I will find the perfect place on my new pack for it.

Lots of compliments, as always, on my mini shell. Makes me smile!

– Water storage |

Platypus Hoser 2 liter water bladder (Decathlon Catalog)
Platypus Hoser 2 liter water bladder
(Decathlon Catalog)
ALAN:  Tracy has become such an advocate for the bladder-style hydration system, I decided to retired my “old school” stainless steel Kleen Kanteen water bottle and go with Cascade Design’s Platypus Hoser 2 litre water bladder.  My pack already has an internal pocket, hanger, and opening for a bladder system and in making the change I am more than halving the weight (102 grams for the Platypus verses 227 grams for the Kleen Kanteen) and more than doubling the potential capacity (2 litres for the Platypus compared to .8 liter for the Kleen Kanteen.)  While I plan to normally “fill up” only to the one liter mark on a regular day, I now have the option for carrying up to 2 litres on days with long stretches between water fonts.
After a couple of days to create new habits of filling and using the Platypus, I am a convert to using hydration systems. I liked being able to sip constantly while on the trail.  The only issues with the Platypus Hoser was 1.) the small filler location is difficult to fill in shallow sinks and 2.) the “bite valve” has a tendency to seep and siphon if left in a low position when the back is laid down.  I solved the siphon problem with looping the valve up to the strap and laying the pack down “straps up.”
Sea to Summit - Collapsible X-Cup (Decathlon Catalog)
Sea to Summit – Collapsible X-Cup
(Decathlon Catalog)

I slipped a Sea to Summit – Collapsible X-Cup into my backpack at the last minute thinking it would give me an option to drink from village fountain I passed rather than exclusively using my hydration system.  I originally thought this would be a worthless gadget I would discard quickly, but it actually turned out to be a useful tool that folded away flat in a pocket and weighted only 1.6 ounces (45 grams.)

Forclaz 2L Water Bladder by Quechua

TRACY: It took a while to get used to the bladder, but I really loved having instant and easy access to water. The Forclaz 2L Water Bladder by Quechua holds a full 2 liters and easily slips into the front pocket of my backpack so that nothing inside the pack got wet. I tend to need a lot more water than Alan when were hiking so the two litre capacity is perfect for me. The large fill hole makes it easy to refill even in the smallest sinks.

This may be the one item that I never want to get rid of. The wide fill hole makes filling so easy and less messy. The click-to-close mouthpiece keeps the bladder from leaking while traveling by train or bus. I added a clip at the top to hold it secure inside my pack and that seemed to be the best option. While it did pick up a little condensation in the heat the special pocket in the pack kept everything from getting wet.

Knife and cutting board |

Knife, Case, and Cutting Board
Knife, Case, and Cutting Board

ALAN: During Camino 2013, we carried an extremely sharp Cutco Paring Knife and small, thin nylon cutting board that served as our kitchen counter and shared plate for Tracy and my picnic lunches of sausage, salami, cheese, bread, and fruit. We intend to prepare more picnic lunches and perhaps a few dinners as well for Camino 2015 so these 130 grams (4.5 ounces) of cookware will be invaluable. (Chorizo can be tough to cut.) For safety we stored the knife in a full-size toothbrush holder that keeps the knife in a safe, clean, and contained space.

Always a useful set of tools for picnic lunches and dinners.

Small pack and organizers |

eBags packing cube and Maxpedition Aftermath Compact Toiletries Bag
eBags packing cube and Maxpedition Aftermath Compact Toiletries Bag

ALAN: Tracy and I both used lightweight eBags packing cubes to consolidate and  organize items inside our backpacks.  The eBags are made of see-through mesh and rip-stop nylon. I am also using a Maxpedition Aftermath Compact Toiletries Bag to keep all my shower and hygiene items in one place. These bags are about 10′ x 8′ x 4″ and they stack inside our backpacks well.  No shifting of weight in your backpack and it’s easy to pack quickly without worrying that something was forgotten in the dim albergue light.

Pilgrims were envious of our quick packing and organization with the packing cubes.  We received several compliments and questions about how to pack so fast.  The Maxpedition Aftermath bag was great for trips to the shower room. Everything I needed in one convenient place and I liked the bag’s hook to put the bag in a dry location.. The only criticism is that it is very heavy duty and there are lighter Dopp kit bags with a similar design available.

Pocket Bag Foldaway Backpack by Newfeel (from Decathlon catalog)
Pocket Bag Foldaway Backpack by Newfeel (from Decathlon catalog)

TRACY: For Camino 2013 I didn’t bother to bring anything to store my mini-wallet, cash, or phone for post-hike activities, during Camino 2014 I came across a 12 litre Black Diamond Bullet Backpack that was perfect to hold phone, wallet, etc. for the end of the hike jaunts through a city. Left at one of the “I’m not carrying this 500 miles” donation tables in Roncesvalles I used it for my toiletries, journal, pens, glasses, wallet, phone. Basically everything I’d need when done hiking for the day. For Camino 2015, I picked the Pocket Bag Foldaway Backpack by Newfeel, a nylon version of my 2014 “end of day bag.” It’s much lighter and will still hold everything I need for post-hike activities.

Big win with this little bag. For post-hike activities, it was perfect. I carried my things as well as some of Alan’s. Upon our return, Alan picked one up from Decathlon. Super lightweight and very portable, it’s an easy thing to stuff into a back pocket in case you need it.

I wish I had bought one of these compact bags for my sunglasses, journal, and guides. 

Personal Items:

Passport, Camino credencial, cash, credit cards
Passport, Camino credencial, cash, credit cards

– Passport, Camino credencial, cash, credit cards |

ALAN: It was easy to purchase our Camino credentials in Saint Jean Peid-de-Port, so pre-purchasing a credential isn’t necessary. While our non “Chip and Pin” ATM cards and American Express cards worked well on Camino 2013 and we have upgraded all of our credit and debit smarts to “smart cards” with chips for Camino 2015. I carry my cards and cash in a nylon wallet in the zipper pocket of my pants so it is always with me as we travel.

– Rosary |

ALAN: It’s a very well traveled Rosary that will be returning to Santiago de Compostela.

– Toothbrush, toothpaste, anti-perspirant, disposable razor, nail clippers, comb and brush |

Items such as toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and such are easily replenished as we go through big towns. Oftentimes, even in small towns and some albergues have mini-markets with travel bottles of all necessary hygiene items.

Didn’t need to replenish much, but it was easy to find items when we did!

– Shampoos, soaps, conditioner |

J.R.Liggetts Shampoo Bar
J.R.Liggetts Shampoo Bar

ALAN: On Camino 2013, I used one of the Lush brand shampoo bars and really didn’t care for it, afterwards I said that if I were to do it again I’d skip the shampoo bar. Alright, I’m going eat my words and try a shampoo bar again for Camino 2015.  I like the idea of a compact package and not carrying the surplus water in a shampoo bottle. On this trek I will be trying J.R.Liggetts Shampoo Bar and hoping to have better luck than with the Lush product.

The J.R.Liggetts Shampoo Bar are much better for me than the Lush bars were during the 2013 Camino.  I brought two bars and still had half of the second bar with me when I returned from the Camino.  I used it for both Shampoo and body wash.  Great lather and the two bars fit in a standard plastic soap box.

Brazilliant Shampoo Bar by Lush (from catalog)
Brazilliant Shampoo Bar by Lush (from catalog)
Jungle Conditioner bar by Lush (from catalog)
Jungle Conditioner bar by Lush (from catalog)
Tins for Lush bars (from catalog)
Tins for Lush bars (from catalog)

TRACY: I really liked the Lush shampoo bar that I had with me on Camino 2013, but Lush doesn’t have the Irresistible Bliss shampoo bar, but I found one called Brizillant that will do the trick, I ordered three this time. I am also bringing along three of Lush’s Jungle conditioner bars as well. To help them last this time I also purchased two of the small metal tins. 

Loved the shampoo bar. The tin kept them drier and I only needed two of them for the entire trip. Unfortunately, the conditioner bars were a bomb. My hair is too thick, too curly, too tangled, too something . . . it just didn’t work for me.

– Sun block |

Garnier - Ambre Solaire Bébé à L'ombre Sun Block
Garnier – Ambre Solaire Bébé à L’ombre Sun Block

ALAN: Sun block is an essential to have hiking the Camino. The Spanish sun is bright, especially on the Meseta.  I used sun block nearly everyday while on Camino 2013, and using the sunblock and wearing a hat I had no sunburns at all. I like the cream based Garnier – Ambre Solaire Bébé à L’ombre sun block with a SPF 50 with both UVA and UVB protection.  The handy 50 ml size tube should be enough for the entire trip and being a children’s sun block it has the bonus of no scent or extra ingredients.

Hawaiian Tropic Spray Sunblock with 20 SPF
Hawaiian Tropic Spray Sunblock with 20 SPF
Nivea Creme in flat tin
Nivea Creme in flat tin

TRACY: I have a spray sunblock by Hawaiian Tropic as well as a tin of the intensive Nivea cream that will be making the trip with me. On Camino 2013 it seemed that my feet did so much better if I gave them a quick massage with the intensive lotion before going to bed. Foot care is so extremely important while hiking the Camino that even the extra bit of weight will be well worth it in the long run.

The sunblock worked just fine. The Nivea cream is amazing. I did get a couple of blisters, but as they started to heal and dry the cream kept them from becoming badly calloused. 

The Garnier – Ambre Solaire Bébé à L’ombre sun block for kids had too much of what I guess is zinc oxide. It left a “clown make-up” residue on my face, smudge on clothes, and didn’t apply evenly. I replaced it quickly with an adult SPF 50 Hawaiian Topics cream.

– First aid kit with blister treatments, antiseptic, anti-diarrhea, pain pills, and lip balm |

We learned while on Camino 2013 that Compeed blister bandages are amazing and a MUST carry.  The pain killers we had with us in 2013 were very much appreciated, by others as well as ourselves. We never had call to use the anti-diarrhea meds, but better safe than sorry. Alan prefers a chapstick-style lip balm, where Tracy prefers her Carmex.

Used everything in the kit this trip! Glad we had them with us. We did have to restock the ibuprofen, but that’s why we call it “Camino Candy.”

– Safety pins |

So many fine uses, as safety pins, for popping blisters, and serving as clothes pins. For Camino 2015 we’ll bring twice as many safety pins as we think we may need. They were especially useful as clothes pins.

Did you know that there are varying grades of safety pins? We sure didn’t. The ones we picked up from a stall at the Saturday Market were not the same quality as the ones we purchased two years ago. They worked, but we lost a couple because they bent while trying to use them. Who knew! We’ll be sure to get good quality ones in the future!

Safety pins – high quality safety pen – are a great Camino tool.  The best for “clothes pins.”

– Toilet Paper |

This was a good call for 2013 and will be an essential for 2015 as well. Amazing how often an albergue’s rest room would run out, especially the women’s restrooms.

Yep, still a good call!

You never know when a cafe or albergue’s restroom may be out of toilet paper.

Notebooks and Pens |

Rhodia Rhodiarama Pocket Webnotebook
Rhodia Rhodiarama Pocket Webnotebook

ALAN: I’m carrying an orange Rhodia Rhodiarama Pocket Webnotebooks with two pens for my journal.  The notebook is 9.5 x 14.0 cm (3 ½ x 5 ½”) with 192 lined pages and weighs 5 ounces (144 grams.) I intend to make comprehensive notes so I can write detailed blog posts of our experiences on the trail after we return. The notebook is very similar to the Moleskine notebook I used on the previous Camino. I’m making a point of bringing two pens since in 2013 since I lost one along the way.

Worked great.

Firefly Journal
Firefly Journal

TRACY: In 2013 and 2014, I brought along mini Moleskine ruled notebooks, but Alan found me a beautiful journal for our 2015 trek at a local book store. I was only planning to bring one pen with refills but I remembered that I lost my pen near the end of the hike in 2013, so I picked up a backup as well while at the book store that uses the same refill cartridges.

The journal worked okay but the leather strap holding it closed did not survive intact. Not meant for rugged use and being shoved into a backpack everyday!

– Travel towels |

Serviette randonnée Quechua
Quechua Hiking Towel

The Quechua Serviettes randonnée is compact just 50″ x 16.5″ (120 cm x 42 cm), 3.7 ounce (106 grams), and is a fast drying, microfiber towel. Nothing better for utility and saving space and weight.

“A towel, [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.” ~Douglas Adams, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I think if we do this again, I’ll bring the larger one. The hiking size just doesn’t dry my hair as much as it should.

The small travel towel is fine for me.  Love how quickly they would dry.


Additional items not previously mentioned

– Laundry Soap Sheets |

We stumbled into these at the grocery store in Carcassonne before Camino 2013, sheets of laundry soap that were lightweight and stored easily in my backpack, they worked well and dissolved instantly. For 2015, we found another packet at the Casino Supermarket in Perpignan, not only did they work incredibly well, they also freshened everything in the pack with a light lavender scent. It’s funny that we got so excited to find these soap sheets, but both of us loved how easy they were to use and the scent is refreshing, especially in an albergue with lots of smelly boots!

The laundry sheets are amazing. Everything smelled fresh the entire trip. Had a couple of people comment that we always smelled good! Albergue life can be a bit smelly, it’s not a compliment you hear often on the Camino!

– Organization Cubes | 

In 2013, Tracy used our old travel organization cubes from – nylon mesh bags to contain our gear in an organized way. It made life so much easier – in a crowded dimly light albergue dormitory the idea that “everything has a place and everything in it’s place” so you never forgot anything. These worked so well that we’ll be bringing them along for this trip as well. They do not add too much additional weight, but were great at keeping everything organized while in the albergues and also kept things from shifting around inside our packs.

These were still the best option for keeping everything organized. We met four ladies from South Africa and after staying in the same albergues a couple of nights, Elaine finally asked what our secret was for getting moving so fast in the mornings. I told her it was having everything organized and showed her the packing cubes. She’s a year-round hiker and she loved the idea. She had noticed that while it was taking everyone in excess of 30 minutes to get packed in the mornings, it was only taking us about 5 minutes.

Alan's backpack
Alan’s backpack
Alan's hiking gear
Alan’s hiking gear

Alan’s backpack at departure weighed in at 19.8 pounds (8.98 kilograms)

My goal for Camino 2015 was a backpack under 20 pounds. I’ve attempted to reduce several items (the long sleeve shirt, one pair of underwear, one pair of socks, one bandana, compact camera with batteries and charger, reverting to a lighter hydration system rather than metal water bottle, shampoo bars rather than liquid shampoo, lighter rain jacket) and adding only an additional guide book and a headlight for use on the first day only.

Tracy's backpack
Tracy’s backpack
Tracy's hiking gear.
Tracy’s hiking gear.

Tracy’s backpack weighed in at 20.0 pounds (9.07 kilograms)

My goal for Camino 2015 was  pack under 20 pounds — pretty close — it would be nice to have it at the 15 pound range again, but I’m determined to carry all of my own stuff this time!

The weight was more than my 2013 hike, but with the addition of the new backpack, it didn’t feel any heavier. Having the right equipment and not a lot of extra “just in case” items really makes the difference.

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