Was that with or without the Cassis?

On a recent training hike organized by American Pilgrims on the Camino. I asked one young Camino veteran how much her pack weighed. “With or without the Cassis?”,  she replied going on to explain that she’d picked up a bottle of Cassis in a French shop and had visions of sipping it in the evening after her long hikes. Since her pack already weighed a whopping thirty pounds, the young woman managed just one shot of Cassis before giving the heavy glass bottle away to a old Spaniard in the Pyrenees.

Once I decided to do the Camino I went straight to my local REI and began browsing, then I got serious and made a list that included a hair dryer and several changes of clothes. The list shrank over time as my non-negotiable items became negotiable.

My first purchase was a backpack. We’re talking the three bears here because finding the perfect pack isn’t easy and let me tell you, there are lots and lots of backpack bears out there. In the end it was a Gregory Jade 38 that was just right.

Next came the biggest challenge–hiking shoes. Zappo’s is my friend, and as my husband jokes, “It’s a sorry day when UPS doesn’t leave a Zappo’s box on the porch.” I think I’ve finally settled on two pairs of shoes: Keen Amblers for the flat and uphill parts, and Teva hiking sandals for the descents. Two pairs? Well, I’ve got one black toenail that gives me no peace. Skip the lectures–I’ve worked the shoe issue from every angle.

The sleeping bag was a no brainer. LaFuma makes a super lightweight bag that I like. And underneath the bag will be an inflatable sleeping pad for those nights when there’s no room at the inn.

Finding the perfect clothing took time.  Mind you we are talking about one pair of pants, one pair of capri leggings, three tee shirts, one long sleeve shirt and one fleece. Oh, and a smidge of socks and underwear. Having sworn off those ghastly pants with zip-off legs that converted into too-short shorts, I tried lots of options that didn’t work. Turns out, Mountain Hardwear sells zip-off pants with slender legs that become capris, and they actually look quite nice. So, I’ve got capris for hiking during the day and black slacks for all the fine dining that won’t be happening in the evening. Never say never.

The other items came over time. Walking sticks, shampoo bar (yes, bar!) towel, pillow, clothesline. I’ve got all the stuff I need and little in the way of frivolous extras. And that hair dryer? It’s staying home.

I’ve weighed everything right down to the last ounce and made tough decisions about what stays and goes. My pack weighs fourteen pounds.

I think I’ll skip the Cassis, but maybe after walking a couple hundred miles I’ll feel strong enough for a small bottle of Sambuca. See What’s in her backpack.