Monday, July 20, 2015

A few comments on gear, now that we're home

Hello, everyone.

I found that I'd learned a lot about packing, and packing up in the morning, last year when I didn't think I was learning anything. I had certainly felt like I knew nothing at all! But this year, when we rolled out in the morning, the whole experience was better.

Last year, every time I needed the toothbrush, or the hairbrush, or to do my feet in the morning, it was an entire archeological dig to find what I needed, and then an entire project to get it all back into the pack. Usually followed by another dig and replacement session. There were morning where I just wanted to cry, it was so discouraging.

This year was different. We didn't have nearly the amount of unpacking and repacking, and we got out efficiently in the morning most of the time.

I had made a bag (8"x 8") just for medical things and secured it to the inside of the pack near the opening, so the Bufferin or the sewing kit were easy to find. The bag was mesh fabric, with a zipper closure, and had a strap with a snap to attach it near the top of the pack. There was a separate bag for bedtime supplies that came out as a whole and went back as a whole. This eventually was in another sturdy plastic store bag, but the basic system worked well.

Last year's sewing kit of a small plastic tube with thread and needles and the eyeglasses screwdriver, combined with a small scissors in its own bag, was replaced with a needle book type kit with a piece of felt to hold the needles and straight pins, a rubber band arrangement next to the needles for the screwdriver, and a card tucked behind the scissors case that held chunks of thread in various colors. The needle book worked out very well and fit nicely into a Ziplock bag for travel.

The entire shoe and sock setup was new, and the bright orange paracord laces were only the outside bit. I had new insoles in my old boots (Dr. Scholls Gel Work Insole for women) and 4 pairs of Injinji liner socks. The plan was to wear the Injinji under another sock, to prevent rubbing. That proved to take up too much space in the boot, and I ended up wearing the Injinji alone almost every day. They did wonders to prevent toe blisters. And even though I was now wearing a fairly thin hiking sock, there wasn't a lot of slipping around. The feet and the gel insole took up enough space to make it not be a problem. Next time I go shopping for hiking boots, though, I'm going to take insole and socks with me and try on the whole kit and caboodle at once in the store.

Making a shirt with a mesh back insert
I had fiddled around with scrap fabrics in my workroom and made an orange shirt with a mesh back and reflective piping. It would have been perfect, except that the thin orange fabric was moisture resistant, and so it was best suited to wearing in the evening.

The clothes rapidly ended up inside a sturdy plastic back from some store or another, and that proved to be a great idea. The clean-clothes bag could be pulled up to the top for access and then put back as a unit.

The walking sticks went, but they were never actually used for balance while walking. Instead, they were used to keep stray dogs away from our legs. One of the tiny villages outside Alviazere had 7 aggressive stray dogs in a pack, and we were very vigorous at waving the walking sticks! The dogs kept their distance. When we got to Santiago, we packed the sticks into the inside of the pack so they wouldn't be a problem walking in crowded places.

The sun hats were great, again, but by the time we came home they desperately needed a trip through the washing machine. They also provided comedy relief to people who saw us, apparently--this an unexpected bonus since we got them to keep from having sunburn on our heads.

The rain ponchos we used last year went again, but we should have sprayed them with some more water-resistance. Also, sadly, the stuff sack for mine jumped out of a pocket while we were walking through the outskirts of Coimbra, never to be seen again. (Now replaced by an orange stuff sack from shirt scraps of the nylon trilobal stuff. It's slippery. It would be a perfect stuff sack if it had a cord lock! Instead it has a slip knot on the draw string to hold the back mostly closed.)

We had no sleeping bags, having chosen to take only the Cocoon liners and a fleece to use if needed. The fleece came in handy as a second pillow if one wanted to read in bed, and after I fell and got a big bruise, as a warm cover to keep the healing going strong.

The plastic sporks came in very handy--no arguments about getting a yogurt to eat later, because the spouse was perfectly aware that, yes, we had spoons.

I used up the tiny bottle of travel laundry soap (it was a machine washing type, but if used in small doses worked fine in sinks) and ended up buying the smallest container of dish soap we could find. I could have used a partial-bar sized chunk of Zote, but didn't have one. The 10 foot piece of paracord and the clothespins came in handy. We made impromptu clotheslines inside bathrooms more than once.

We had packed warm clothes but rarely needed them. We wore tee shirts most of the time because this was the year that the Camino Portugues was hot. DH had a Duluth Trading Company Armachillo shirt that worked out very well for him. I had my old Columbia fishing shirt which was fine.

Shorts--oh the shorts. Oh, the chafing at first on the sweaty trail. Later on either the skin adapted or the heat wasn't quite as bad as the first three days of walking. I had also brought a pair of capri-length lycra type leggings. When the chafing was awful, I walked in them for a few days. It was chafing free, but had other problems. The leggings were too tight around the knee--maybe the calves were getting larger?--and made the joint sore. Eventually I tossed them. Lesson learned: be very careful about fit with the Lycra stuff.