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Extra Precautions - For the Frances in Winter?

Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2022)
I was prompted to ask, as I saw this wonderful photo.



I often wonder what a Winter Camino might be like.
Whilst I don't 'enjoy' the cold that much, I was brought up in the UK and lived there till age 40.
The winter of 81 was fun. I recall it got to minus 20C!

Obviously the right clothing is important, more and thicker layers. Better sleeping bag, gaiters etc.
And some have spoken of using boot spikes/cleats, which makes a lot of sense.

But being a bit of a 'planner' mixed with some limited winter hiking experience in the Lake District, my thoughts turn to the 'what ifs'...... And being able to cope with emergencies when no one else is around.

For those mid Winter Pilgrims, do you carry things like:
  1. An Emergency bag / shelter of some kind?
  2. The means to make hot food/drinks?
Shelter and hot food in case of being 'stuck' somewhere I think would be on my list.
 
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean May/June 2017. Plans to walk Porto 2020
G'Day Robo. Some years back I had the good fortune to stay with Meridth (MS Platt) and she related an adventure of arriving at Foncebadon in Jan/Feb with light snow falling. By the time she finished her coffee and snack the snow was really heavy. They were evacuated by the police or army 4 days later. I think there are some other posts of winter on the Frances (SY did a good blog some years back). Cheers
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
I am looking at the picture with the snow. It might be a little bit more than what we received in Calgary today. I could sort out from my gear whatever I would need to walk in weather like that. But considering that I have it at home eight or nine months of the year, I think that I can do without on camino.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2022)
I am looking at the picture with the snow. It might be a little bit more than what we received in Calgary today. I could sort out from my gear whatever I would need to walk in weather like that. But considering that I have it at home eight or nine months of the year, I think that I can do without on camino.
I might have to find some cold weather to practice in!
I'm finding it cold in Sydney today. So much so, I had to put socks on! (Haven't worn socks in weeks)
It's a chilly 19C :eek:

If I got out on a trail at -10C with an Icy wind, I might suddenly remember why I moved from the UK! :oops:
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Robo,
I am the Meridth (MS Platt) !! referred to above by Saint Mike. During my salad days I often walked the CF in winter. In a few minutes I will add below several refernces for your cold weather research.

Stay safe and Happy research,
 
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mspath

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
To further your research re Walking in Winter see these earlier recent threads filled with useful links and tips.

https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/logrono-to-burgos-in-january.50991/

https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/november-december-cf.50932/

https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/walking-the-camino-in-december-january.37261/

Sillydoll who is a Forum member has in her blog compiled encyclopedic information on Winter Walking.
http://amawalker.blogspot.fr/2009/10/walking-in-winter.html?m=1

Twice during winter caminos I have sat out true blizzards; in Villafranca Montes de Oca, February 25, 26, 2006 and Foncebadón, March 5,6, 2009. Even late November 2012 the climb up to O Cebreiro was packed with snow. You can see the snow and read my blog accounts of these three memorable storms here. http://mermore.blogspot.fr/p/memories.html
Luckily open albergues offered welcoming shelter, heat and companionship.

Most of us who walk in late autumn and winter wear and carry lightweight but warm layers which can easily be added or removed while walking. Each pilgrim develops a favorite combo. Scan the Forum's Equipment topic http://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/forums/equipment-questions.30/
to see a multitude of varied approaches. Here's mine
http://mermore.blogspot.fr/p/kit-and-tips.html

Remember winter is a great time to walk, but you must be PREPARED!

Happy planning, stay safe and Buen camino!
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2022)
Remember winter is a great time to walk, but you must be PREPARED!

Happy planning, stay safe and Buen camino!
Lots of great reading, many thanks.
I get the be prepared bit! Hence my questions.
Been caught in white outs on mountain tops a couple of times! Not fun.
Only thing was to hunker down in a shelter and wait it out...or walk off the edge of something.....
 

Isca-camigo

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Various ones.
Hi Robo

I take 2 X baselayers( merino) lightweight which I use for walking, in the evening and sleeping in.
2 x fleeces, I usually use one for walking and another for the evening. Fleeces can become a bit smelly but through trial and error I now have two which seem to keep the smell away bit longer than usual. These have varying warmth qualities so can alternate.
Two trousers, one for walking which is usually water resistant and has internal fleece lining. The other trousers are for the evenings, they are more lightwieht but can be used for walking if the conditions are right.
1 X merino leggings which I use for sleeping in and if it's really cold in the Albergues in the evenings
3 X pairs of hiking socks, on my previous Camino I had two waterproof and 1 normal winter sock, all have merino content , I may go to one set of water proofs for next Camino + I have 2 sets of liners, one of which is a thermal liner. The socks all have varying thermal properties so I can mix and match as the weather dictates.
I don't use a usual waterproof coat, i take a directional lining coat such as those made by Paramo. I took a coat made by Cioch, the Glammaig, on my last Camino, it uses Paramo materials but is made under licence, it served me well under extreme conditions on several occasions . I pick them over conventional waterproofs because when I have used Goretex and membranes I have wetted out through body vapour not being able to escape and have being left feeling very cold..Paramo materials can also have spectacular fails and need experience of them before using for several weeks in a Winter Camino.
1 X waterproof fleece lined beanie. I had one on my last Camino which turned out to be perfect, I lost it on return to the UK but will buy a similar one again
1 waterproof overtrousers,
1 pair of waterproof gloves, yours hands definitely need some protection if icy rain is coming down and you are using hiking sticks.
1 neck gaiter, a warm one to avoid your neck getting chilled. I can't use the one size fits all because they usually feel like they are choking me, but did find one which fitted me for my last Camino.
3 X hiking underwear. I chaff but this underwear completely stops it but they take a long time to dry after washing so I take 3 sets in winter

I felt all my gear served me well on my last Camino but still thought it could be changed for the better,I may get rid of the fleece legged trousers, the waterproof overtrousers and the merino leggings,and instead get two winter hiking leggings and shorts which are waterproof. They will hopefully carry less weight and I can use them for walking and sleeping.
Other things I may change is to go from a sleeping duvet back to a sleeping bag, the duvet is perfect in summer but I realised last winter I wanted to be wrapped up in a sleeping bag, however if I sleep in hotels on my next Camino it doesn't really matter.
 

psheehan

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF, CPo, CdN, CPr, F, CS, CV, CI, VdlP, CS, CA
I was prompted to ask, as I saw this wonderful photo.



I often wonder what a Winter Camino might be like.
Whilst I don't 'enjoy' the cold that much, I was brought up in the UK and lived there till age 40.
The winter of 81 was fun. I recall it got to minus 20C!

Obviously the right clothing is important, more and thicker layers. Better sleeping bag, gaiters etc.
And some have spoken of using boot spikes/cleats, which makes a lot of sense.

But being a bit of a 'planner' mixed with some limited winter hiking experience in the Lake District, my thoughts turn to the 'what ifs'...... And being able to cope with emergencies when no one else is around.

For those mid Winter Pilgrims, do you carry things like:
  1. An Emergency bag / shelter of some kind?
  2. The means to make hot food/drinks?
Shelter and hot food in case of being 'stuck' somewhere I think would be on my list.
Hi Robo,

Thanks for commenting on my photo. Winter walking on the Camino is wonderful. I loved the days with snow on the ground and the sun shining. As long as you have the right walking gear and flexibility in your schedule it can be a great experience.
 

Isca-camigo

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Various ones.
What I forgot to add is I have an emergency thermal sheet if for whatever reason I do become wet or cold, it only weighs about 200gms and doesn't take up much space in my bag.
 
D

Deleted member 67185

Guest
Stuff to include for cold weather wear and preparation is fairly straightforward and not really complicated. As has been pointed out, the strategy of layering is a biggie in cool and cold weather. There are great suggestions on how to achieve this.

Just as important, however, are strategies for controlling exertion levels to minimize perspiration.

An important principle is: You never dress with the amount of clothing needed to keep you warm at the start of walking or hiking... you wear the amount of clothing needed to keep you warm 10 minutes after you start walking.

In cold weather, or even cool weather, one needs to do what is necessary to prevent overheating and sweat. That includes how fast a pace one is moving as part of one's total level of exertion, as well as how much clothing one is wearing, and how much air circulation one is able to maintain.

It does not take long, with any layering amount, to saturate clothing with sweat. THAT is when the danger of hypothermia, and at the very least a chilly discomfort will begin to take its toll. If saturation or wetness happens, the only recourse is to change into dry clothing. Since there is usually a limited amount of clothing carried in a backpack, it is essential to adopt strategies to control sweating. Keep in mind that the material of your layers will also determine the effect to you from the above scenario. Focus on clothing made from merino wool or specialized synthetics. These will allow the garment to remain somewhat insulative even though saturated with sweat. Cottons and cotton blends are a menace and can accelerate a hypothermic condition.

Strategies include those mentioned above:
  • Limit layers of clothing to only that which is needed when full exertion is achieved. :) For those who just can't suck it up for a few minutes when first starting to walk, wear only layers which can be quickly and easily removed. For instance, adding a poncho will add about a 15 degree F advantage to existing layers. It allows for good air circulation. As you warm up during the first 10 minutes of your walk, the poncho is easily removed and stashed into a side pocket of your pack.
  • Move as slow as you need to, within reason, to keep perspiration to a minimum. This may also mean stopping to allow your body to cool down. Even with a single, lightweight layer, some folks walking under load will tend to over-heat. Keep monitoring yourself.
  • Keep an insulative layer, like a puffy down jacket or vest, near at hand so that if you are wetting-out while walking, you can put it on quickly when you stop for a break. Keep it in an outside pocket or on top of the other contents in your pack. A light puffy jacket or mid-weight fleece or a down vest works well here. The key is to keep this layer dry and to use it as a last resort when at rest. If this strategy is needed, do not continue walking until you have been able to stop sweating and you can achieve some level of dryness to your clothes.
In the above scenario, you may actually become warmer by removing your saturated layers so that you only have on your dry insulative layer. Dig out a towel and dry off excess sweat as best you can. Wring out your other layers and let them start to dry. If you have a second shirt, put it on. Hang your wet things from your pack so that they can dry. After you have cooled down, and with your dry layer and your insulative layer on, walk slowly to avoid re-heating. You will make progress down the path, stay warm, while letting your wet layers become dry. The real goal at this point is to dry your layers, not achieve distance.
  • Do not discount the amount of added warmth a light scarf or bandanna or a buff will bring as it insulates your neck. Wearing one can make wearing less layers very comfortable. It will also be a good first line of defense against overheating and excess sweating by the ability to remove it, thus allowing the neck to act as a radiator in helping to shed body heat.
  • Yes, the type of headgear worn makes a big difference in one's body's heat loss or retention. A hat that works well for sun is not going to be the best choice for cold weather. Wool is king, as it is far less impacted by sweat affecting its inuslative properties than most other materials. And even though wool weighs more than other types of insulation, you do not need a heavy cap of wool to keep you warm. Wool is also far more breathable than many materials which aids in heat control.
As with neck wear, a wool cap can be easily removed to assist with cooling the body to prevent overheating.

Much of the above is what I have used when mountain climbing at high altitudes. Patience and light, multiple layers is the key to preventing hypothermia when being active outdoors.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2022)
Some good reminders there @davebugg ! Makes me realise it is probably 30+ years since I walked in cold weather.......one forgets stuff...

The 'rules' are starting to come back to me now. Like avoiding sweating. And hats! I recall that 30% of body heat is lost through the head..
 

ranthr

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C Frances 2005, 2007
Le Puy en Velay -SdC 2009
Via de la Plata 2011
gr 653 from Oloron to Puente la Reina 2012
Gr65 from le Puy to Figeac 2013
Irun to Santander 2013
Porto to SdC 2014
Astorga to SdC 2015
I have for several years been thinking about a winter camino, but like @Albertagirl I walk in snow at home for at least 7-8 ¨months a year.
May now, but still a lot of snow to walk in.
A wintercamino for me would be to avoid the snow for some weeks, but I have walked the camino in late autumn and the cold nights in albergues or hostels have until now kept me off the colder months. More weight to carry for an old woman like me to keep warm at nights.
 

Marbe2

Active member
Camino(s) past & future
2015 SJPD to Burgos
2017 Leon to Santiago
Pamplona to Santiago Mar. 2018
Burgos - SCDC (Oct 18)
We did a Winter Camino starting in February in 2018. We used several layers of Patagonia light weight long sleeve wicker shirts, I Had oN polyester Pagagonia, lite weight layer base and a pair of champion, polyester sweat pants, No gaiters, normal socks and Vasque hikng shoes (not boots). There were no baggage services, so we traveled lite. Most of the clothes we had, we wore, and rinsed out daily. We carried an extra shirt, underware. and sleeping clothes. We had rain geat which doubled for a windbreaker..and needed often. One day there was a head wind of 75kms..relentless on out way to Foncebadon....and that day we had snow, and hail.
Another day we were delayed in Puenta la Reina....no buses, no taxis..hung out in a bar for over 6 hours.. sudden storm dumped 12 nches.

We were advised to stay off the trails in certain areas because the snow was too deep, so we stayed on the roads. Leaving Foncebadon, the roads were a sheet of ice. It took 1.5 hours to gingerly walk to Cruz de Fiero...then the truck finally came and treated the road. The trails had too mch snow to walk on.

When we approached Ocebriero, we were told that the trail was passable. Once we left La Faba the snow soon was almost up to our knees. We finally made it to La Escuela,...took us a long time...we rested, ate, changed shirts, and warmed up up...and then we walked the cyclist road which had been plowed.

There are not a lot of places open between the major stops. Also, even if a place is listed as being open, if the weather gets bad you can not count on bars or albergues to be open. So call ahead the morning you plan to go.
 
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mark connolly

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
sept 2016 CF
sept 2017 Lourdes to SJPDP via Piemonte
SJPDP to SDC via CF
2019 CF (God willing)
Bring sunscreen! Just got back from my winter camino on the CF from SJPdP to SDC from Jan 21 to Feb 24. The average temp was 50F. With that being said, I would advise to err on the side of caution and expect the worst. Obviously pay attention to those above who are recommending what to bring, prepare, etc.

Good luck.

Mark
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
I've only walked on the tail end of winter— early March. Logistically, don't count on things being open even relatively late in the winter. I learned that the hard way in 2015 when there was nowhere open for food between Zubiri and the outskirts of Pamplona. It was a hungry day, and I learned the hard way to carry a few snacks 'just in case.'

In late winter, you can get snow, sleet, or rain, not to mention relatively warm sunny days. Sometimes all of that in one day.

So I can only reiterate the importance developing a decent system of layering that works for you — as well as never walking out the door with too many layers:
who walk in late autumn and winter wear and carry lightweight but warm layers which can easily be added or removed while walking.
An important principle is: You never dress with the amount of clothing needed to keep you warm at the start of walking or hiking... you wear the amount of clothing needed to keep yo⁷u warm 10 minutes after you start walking.
I recall that 30% of body heat is lost through the head..
Quite a bit of heat is also lost in exposed hands or wrists. So for me, one of the most important items in my cold weather walking kit are merino gloves and an old pair of wool hiking socks with the feet cut out that I use as wrist warmers. Gloves are especially important early in the day, but at some point they get too warm. This is when those wrist warmers come into their own!

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Camino(s) past & future
cf (2), de la plata, cp. (2003 -2018)
Lots of great reading, many thanks.
I get the be prepared bit! Hence my questions.
Been caught in white outs on mountain tops a couple of times! Not fun.
Only thing was to hunker down in a shelter and wait it out...or walk off the edge of something.....
This brings back memories of my mountain rescue days big time! I have been in a few white outs and scared myself shitless! :) And as for the walking off edges, I did that too! Methinks I thought I was more lost than the lost I was looking for! Gear is all important so yes, take care and walk soft.

The malingerer.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2022)
This brings back memories of my mountain rescue days big time! I have been in a few white outs and scared myself shitless! :) And as for the walking off edges, I did that too! Methinks I thought I was more lost than the lost I was looking for! Gear is all important so yes, take care and walk soft.

The malingerer.
I can remember, many many years ago, doing an Outward Bound course in the UK (Lake District). It's a bit like the Scouts on Steroids! (think they still exist) I was 16.

We had to camp out alone for 3 days, hike endless hills, cold showers every morning..... Good Camino training really!

But the White Outs?...........I Digress........

Because of the time of year, my course was designated a Summer Course. However we all know what the weather in mountainous areas can be like!

So on this 'Summer' course, we did........Ice climbing (with those ice pick things and crampons) building snow holes, and thankfully 'self arresting' on a slope using ice axes.

That's how we got down off the mountain in one of the white outs!

I wonder what fun stuff they did on the Winter Course! :eek:

Wrestling Polar Bears? :rolleyes:
 

Dromengro

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP - Leon 1984
Frances (2021)
No. Sweaty blistered feet. Gaiters.
Modern neoprene lined wellies do not make your feet sweat or give you blisters any more than any other footwear. I don't suffer from sweaty feet but I find they sweat more in goretex or lined leather boots and trail runners. I wear mine almost all the time ( not in the house tho) as they are the most practical for where I live, and are also the most comfortable footwear for road walking.

A tip for those who do have sweaty feet, a couple of tea bags in your footwear overnight will make them fresh for the morning. Just remember not to use them to make a cuppa. :)
 

Barbara

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, Norte (twice)and Primitivo, Sureste, In France From home Tours and Vézelay, also Le Puy.
That's interesting. Personally I have never found a comfortable pair in any material. Each to their own....
 

NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
@Dromengro
Teabags in footwear overnight ... I’ve not heard this before! Does this also help remove moisture?
 

Dromengro

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP - Leon 1984
Frances (2021)
@Dromengro
Teabags in footwear overnight ... I’ve not heard this before! Does this also help remove moisture?
I don't know about moisture but it does absorb the smell. I didn't think it would work, but we had a family friend who was staying with us who has the problem of smelly footwear and it worked great, a lot better than the charcoal bag inserts or charcoal insoles, bicarb, foot powder or anything else he tried. You can just keep re-using the same ones.
Perfect for pilgrims, lightweight, cheap, available everywhere, and easily replaced.

Nah! think of the stench!
Modern lined insulated wellies do not smell, or at least not any more than other footwear. Maybe if it's really hot they might but I wear mine even in the summer ( O.K I live Scotland where it doesn't go above 20C ) but not had a problem. I think trailrunners are the worst especially cheaper ones, I've not met anyone whose trainers don't smell if worn regularly.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
Well, that took me down a nice rabbit hole! Found some neoprene lined Muck boot/shoes that look fabulous. Dreaming of a winter Camino next Australian summer. It won't happen for me (summer is family time) but it was fun looking.
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
Well, that took me down a nice rabbit hole! Found some neoprene lined Muck boot/shoes that look fabulous. Dreaming of a winter Camino next Australian summer. It won't happen for me (summer is family time) but it was fun looking.
I didn't recognize your photo in your new body. (I'll get used to it).
 

Thornley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances x 2 , Norte x 2 , Le Puy x 3 , Portuguese x 2,
Mont St Michel , Primitivo .
I often wonder what a Winter Camino might be like.
Robo ,
I'm going nowhere in winter unless the sun is in the sky above me.🙏🙏🙏
 
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Malachiuri

CaminoTranquilo
Camino(s) past & future
St Jean to Burgos '17
St Jean to Fisterra '18
St Jean to Astorga '20
COVID CAMINO!
Norte '21
Just having done a shortened(Thanks Covid!) winter Camino starting January 5, I would say many have given great advise on clothing and such.

The one thing I wish I had changed from my usual Camino gear is a larger backpack. I usually get away with a 40 litre day pack. Just adding a couple of things, ultralight puffer coat and an emergency bivy sack, my pack was at maximum capacity volume wise.

This was a problem when it came time to throw extra food in my pack for the stages. While I was prepared for severely reduced services, I was not ready for day after day where there was no place for food for 20+ kms. A slightly larger pack would have made carrying supplies a whoooooole lot more convenient.

The other thing I bought in Burgos that I now consider a wet season Camino essential is a good stiff plastic bristle brush to clean your footwear with. I cut the handle off mine to make it easier to pack and it turned out to be my best friend. The mud in winter was extremely rough to deal with. Every step was heavier than normal and my boots took a beating. Cleaning them every night made a world of difference.

I wish you the best of luck, I enjoyed my winter Camino, but not sure if it would be my first choice of a time.
 

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