Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sweat the Small Stuff!

In today's world of self-discovery, self-actualization and self-help there's a recurring theme of, "don't sweat the small stuff". If I've learned anything researching the Camino, it's that, when it comes to packing for the Camino, it's definitely time to sweat the small stuff. The advice is to be ruthless. If something isn't mult-functional, it doesn't go. My personal packing method has always run more towards the 'just in case' method of "I'll take that, and that, and that."

No one has ever accused me of being 'fashion forward' so the clothes part of this ruthless restriction isn't too worrisome. I'm comfortable with a 'uniform' approach to fashion and I use the term 'uniform' quite literally. If I find something that fits and that I feel I look okay in, I will wear it time and again. For the Camino I've laid out: one pair each of long pants, capris and shorts, 3 pairs of socks, one long sleeve tops, two short sleeve, a hoodie, a fleece and a rain jacket. Throw in underwear, a bandana, mitts and a hat and I'm good to go.

The problem really is the 'small stuff'; the camera, camera case, journal, Spanish dictionary, guidebook, map, glasses, sunglasses, toilet paper, earplugs, water bottle, telephone, flip flops, flashlight, soap and/or shampoo, sunscreen, towel, clothesline, and the list goes on and on.

With some things, there's no compromise. Flip flops for the shower are a necessity; leggings are good for warmth under hiking pants, for sleepwear or for 'loungewear' in the refugios at night; walking sandals to relieve sore feet after a day in heavy hiking boots are considered well worth the extra weight and you need that vaseline and mefix or duct tape to prevent blistered feet. For family nostalgia, we're taking our kids well-worn, well-washed, hardly-weigh-anything old pillowcases. We'll stuff them with clothes and use them as pillows. I have Courtney's "Rainbow Dreams to You" and Dayton has Jordan's "Go Get 'Em' hockey pillowcase.

Apparently, there's no place for vanity on the Camino so no hairdryer, no curling iron, no makeup. Okay, slight ammendment here, I am taking lipstick, eyebrow pencil and mascara - for the evenings. I refuse to go six weeks without eyebrows.

And then there's the stuff that would be really, really nice to have - just in case. Umbrella, poncho, sleeping bag liner, my insulated tea mug, protein bars, razor, mirror, body lotion, iPod. AAAAAAArgh. And how can I go 47 days without reading my novels, doing crossword puzzles and sudokos? Really how much could they really weigh?

Weight: that's the issue. I've never had to carry anything except my camera, lunch and water bottle on any of our other hiking trips and, to be honest, Dayton carried at least half of that. The rule of thumb advice is to carry only 10% of your body weight. Ergo I have 30 days to gain 52 pounds. I've already decided to let Dayton carry my one-pound sleeping bag. By the way, that one-pound sleeping bag that actually weighs one and a half pounds. False advertising, like me saying I weigh 92lbs or that I'm around 53 years old.

So right now an entire bedroom is full of our clothes and hiking gear and all that small stuff. Medical aids have filled an entire plastic grocery tub and another is full of maps and guidebooks. Obviously, it will take a few practice 30km hikes to encourage us to embrace that 'be ruthless' concept.

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