Packing for a long journey…

The group that I am walking the Camino de Santiago with are taking the easy road. We are not carrying our possessions on our backs while walking. We will only be carrying day packs, with the major portion of our luggage being sent ahead. But early in the planning process I was considering the long version of the pilgrimage and pondered how do I pack? I read several books on walking the Camino, all of which came with packing advice. Some of it relatively normal, some extreme. Some that I could easily adapt to, and some that will not be happening. Ever.

Now I travel quite a bit. Packing is something that I consider myself relatively good at doing. I can pack for up to a four day trip using only my day pack, which my brother calls the magic bag because I can get so much into it. For longer stays and further distances, I have a rolling duffle into which I believe I can stuff almost anything. Anything even includes an empty second bag, should I go crazy on the overseas purchases. But the thought of potentially having to carry what would amount to my rolling duffle on my back made me cringe, literally.

So how to make adjustments that are practical but not to extreme? First, I have switched from my rolling duffle to a real, very serious backpack. All manner of strappies and do-dahs on it. It is a massive pack, 70L (it holds 70 liters of stuff). Now in defense of my pack size, you get a pack based on the length of your torso from the base of your neck to your hips. Surprisingly, in that measurement I seem to be a little longer than average. So in women’s packs I would have to get a much bigger pack, say a 90 to fit. I am not sure I own 90 liters of stuff I want to carry around. And my examination of a 60 liter pack revealed that I could manage nicely, but my acquistion of new stuff would be limited. So 70L was a compromise. I used it this past summer on a three week excursion, in which I had to pack for two different climates (beach and mountains) and two different purposes (work and play). It did very well.

Second, to fill the pack I am gradually shifting to clothing that does not weigh very much. Cottons are being phased out, along with most woolens. It is becoming a microfiber kind of world. The new fabrics combine light weight and warmth, so they are efficient and practical. This has been a bit of adventure for me, because at full price these types of clothing are expensive. I have been scouring the sale racks and resale shops, and doing nicely. That also makes it much easier to leave them behind, should I want to swap out room in my pack.

Third, packing for such a journey makes you think twice about what you bring along, examining the entire need vs. want issue. My favorite book that I have found on this topic is entitled To walk far, carry less. Which also may be the best title for a book about how we go through life. When we are carrying all sorts of things, be they real or imagined, they weigh us down, slowing us to a crawl or even making it impossible to move. Learning that our physical possessions have an impact is a real and present part of this preparation, and not only for the Camino, but for living.


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