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Luggage Transfer Correos

Pack Weight and Other Impediments

Bob Howard

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2016
Frances 2018
Ok, I fully expect this to be controversial, and it arises from the current forum thread about pack weight.

First, my premise. For those of us who have previously walked the Camino, and especially longtime backpackers/hikers, I think we have a duty to dispense straightforward, unvarnished advice. Now, if you are a veteran Pilgrim or backpacker, you know what you can do, and what constitutes comfort in terms of pack weight. I'm speaking now of the neophyte who is undertaking the Camino and it is the first time that person has walked an extended distance, and carried a pack. That is the person who is in most need of sound advice.

When I read responses to newbies questions about pack weight, I can't help but notice most of them are of the "just do what works for you" genre. Sorry, that's not good enough. The newbies don't know what works. So, when they hear about the so-called 10% of body weight "rule", that probably sounds reasonable. But it's not. And here's where I imagine I am going to get hammered: No one, irrespective of your years of Camino/hiking/backpacking experience or physical condition needs to or should carry more than 15 lbs/7kgs--12 lbs is closer to the ideal in my rather opinionated view. A few more pounds on any given day I suppose is not a big deal, but extra pounds daily over the course of 4-6 weeks is a big deal. And while I can't prove this point with data, my years of wilderness backpacking and my two recent Caminos tell me that the weight on your back is directly correlated to your ability and likelihood of completing the trek. Most veteran backpackers will have some formula where they have heard about the effect of each additional lb on your legs (mostly from the knee down) and feet. The sheer force that causes blisters or the strain on our knees, lower legs and feet is magnified by every pound on our backs.

I live in the mountains at about 8000 feet elevation. Most of the serious backpackers I know have their kit down to about 9 lbs exclusive of water and food. And, that, of course, includes cooking gear, tent, pad and sleeping bag--three of those four things are not required on the Camino. A sleeping bag in not necessary in the summer months, although having one might make you feel better, but from June through September it's just not needed. So, if serious long distance thru hikers have their basic kit down around 10 lbs, it seems like Camino Pilgrims could approach that weight. On a side note, I will avoid talking about the over-abundance of caution regarding carrying water. I read on this forum regularly about people carrying two liters! Two liters weight is 4.5 lbs. Yes, there are a couple days when there is a dearth of bars and one might be 10 miles between water. But 95% of the time, it's one village/bar after another. But this water thing is not the point of my post. I will just say that inasmuch as on the Camino we are walking through a man-made landscape with it's attendant commerce, this idea of constantly being "hydrated" necessitating carrying water, is in my I'm sure to be controversial experience way overdone. Now, of course, there are exceptions. On a scorching day, more water will be required I suppose, but overall there is simply no need to carry 2-4 lbs of water. It just ain't necessary. If our feet and knees could talk, they would probably tell us that.

It has been heartening to see that over the last few years on the forum, trail shoes/trainers/running shoes have pretty much displaced conventional hiking boots, which is another topic some of our veteran members have successfully weighed in on. But, what we put on our feet is so personal and unique to the specific body, that the "whatever works for you" approach is probably right. If you have comfortable shoes that you know from experience will work, well that's good enough. But pack weight is a different story. Again, and blast away at me for my seemingly dogmatic opinions, but I'll say it again--no one needs to or should carry more than 15 lbs, and getting it down to 12 should be the goal.

To make my earlier point about unvarnished advice, the opinions I have expressed here derive from almost 50 years of wildnerness backpacking, and, most recently, the Camino. By the way, Camino walking/trekking has totally replaced wilderness backpacking for me. To paraphrase the words of the great Native American and Warrior Chief Joseph, "never no more shall I sleep in the ground, even in a tent."

Finally, these comments relate specifically to advising brand new Pilgrims without previous backpacking experience. For those experienced on this forum, and there are many, you already know what your limitations are, and you pack accordingly.

Ok, I am prepared to accept incoming fire regarding this post.
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
no one needs to or should carry more than 15 lbs, and getting it down to 12 should be the goal.
these comments relate specifically to advising brand new Pilgrims without previous backpacking experience.
I'd particularly agree with these two statements together. If a first-timer asked for my advice, that is what I would say, even including the "should". To an experienced hiker/walker (who wouldn't be asking for my advice anyway) I'd remove the "should." If my advice was not requested (or welcome) I would try not to say anything. People posting here are usually asking for advice.

I will join you on the firing line if you dare to start a post about hydration.
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
2019 Biarritz-Pamplona-Lourdes
2018 Aragon/Frances/Finis
2018 Operation Sabre
2018 Marin Ramble
Your argument is valid with some added notes:

I think economics plays into pack weight, though, and should be considered when comparing the average first-time hiker versus a seasoned long-range hiker.

Tech fabrics, ultralight backpacks, and so on are worthy investments but not likely ones for newbies. As a result, the same number of items (2 shirts, 2 pants, etc) will end up heavier for a less-wealthy person especially when we are discussing such a limited overall kit.

Additionally, physical size also weighs into the situation. The pants/shirt/socks of a 6 foot tall, 235lb person will simply weigh more than that of a 5 foot, 110lb person (yes, me and my wife!). If we packed the identical types and numbers of clothing items, my gear weighs in 3x heavier.

Again, your basic premise is fine: pack light (and then unpack and repack again but even lighter!), but I’d refrain from using ANY specific weight recommendation since it IS dependent upon the person carrying it.

(FYI: I spent 23 years at a job carrying 35lb+ packs on my back but my Camino bag weighs in at 15lbs before water/snacks, so I get what you are saying...)
 

Bob Howard

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2016
Frances 2018
I'd particularly agree with these two statements together. If a first-timer asked for my advice, that is what I would say, even including the "should". To an experienced hiker/walker (who wouldn't be asking for my advice anyway) I'd remove the "should." If my advice was not requested (or welcome) I would try not to say anything. People posting here are usually asking for advice.

I will join you on the firing line if you dare to start a post about hydration.
And I was thinking I was alone in the world in my opinion that it's possible to walk a few miles without carrying or drinking water.
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
2019 Biarritz-Pamplona-Lourdes
2018 Aragon/Frances/Finis
2018 Operation Sabre
2018 Marin Ramble
When asked, I suggest specific items and quantities (2 pairs of pants, rain jacket, sleepsack, etc) and not a specific weight. By limiting numbers, weight is also decreased.

The key, though, is getting that pack on their back and having them walk some hills for hours on end. It astounds me that so many folks have never actually hiked with their fully-loaded bag before they step off the train onto their Camino! 😱
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/?/Invierno ('19)
Ok, I am prepared to accept incoming fire regarding this post.
🤣

This is a thought-provoking thread, Bob. Thank you for starting it.
I agree and disagree - and totally agree with your recommenation to offer specific advice.
But if there's one thing we should all stop doing here, it's dispensing one-size-fits-all advice, because people and situations differ.
For example:
I read on this forum regularly about people carrying two liters!
That's me. And I often drink all of it. Water is an essential, so maybe you don't need it, but others might.
And:
No one, irrespective of your years of Camino/hiking/backpacking experience or physical condition needs to or should carry more than 15 lbs/7kgs--12 lbs is closer to the ideal in my rather opinionated view
Sorry, but just...no.
Different seasons, different circumstances, different clothes, different conditions.
Winter/spring versus summer.
Some people may be able to afford special lightweight clothes and equipment. But not everyone can. Some folks are small and some are big. And some people wear heavier clothes because they are following religoius conventions.
So please don't put us all in the same basket, and then cause new pilgrims with heavier packs to feel that they're doing something wrong if they don't for some reason conform to an arbitrary standard.
 

Dorpie

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago to Finisterre to Muxia 2013
Camino Frances May 2015
Camino Frances July 2017
Hi @Bob Howard

I'm pretty much with you on the pack weight thing, even as a pretty massive 120kg guy my dry pack weight in fair weather is around 7kg and that's with a couple of luxuries thrown in.

On the water however I disagree. I sweat, on a hot day I sweat a lot! and can easily drink six litres over a long walk. Good hydration correlates with joint lubrication and so rather than relieving your joints by carrying insufficient water you may actually be damaging them. Also it's not as if it's a weight you're carrying all the time, it does reduce as you go along. Now you make your point that apart from a few exceptions the Frances is strewn with water sources but as we're talking specifically about advice to newbies that's kind of an irrelevance.

Obviously given my bulk I'm a bit of an outlier but I just don't think it's good advice to make a blanket statement that two litres of water is too much.

Thanks for putting your head above the parapet to be shot at, it's good to discuss these things.

Rob.
 

Laliibeans

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2014)
Going to have to disagree, too. Most of my experience is multi-day hiking in Australia, so that's what my gear is well, geared for. I wear boots to prevent snake bites and I always take at least two litres of water because I drink it and come from a place where water can be scarce. I'm not going to buy a whole new kit just on the off-chance I can afford to go to Europe every couple of years, I'm taking what I know.

My sister and I had a lot of people make negative comments about our packs when we last walked the camino and it was incredibly rude and judgemental. Why anyone else needs to judge others at all or feel that their experience trumps other peoples (who may be just as, or more, experienced than they are) is beyond me. They also had no idea what our packs actually weighed, they just thought they'd give their opinion regardless.

I'll always advise people to keep their pack-weight down, but next time I'm walking I'm tempted to bring along photos of my weightlifting achievements to stick to the foreheads of those who want to share their opinions. I'm very comfortable with what I carried when I walked, if I'd been less experienced and worried about other peoples rules I would have spent a lot of time stressing over not taking things I actually needed (remembering also that there might be items women need to carry that men don't have to consider, and the same goes for people with medical requirements), and I also would have been stressed by how insurmountable the cost of ultra-light gear would have been, too. The best advice you can give is for people to do some serious test runs with their pack on.
 

Bob Howard

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2016
Frances 2018
Ok, I'm going to stick my head a little father above the parapet. Of course there are individual variations, and the seasonal issue counts. But I would guesstimate that 99% of fist time Pilgrims walk May-September. So, seasonal clothing would have a minor effect. I didn't say this in the initial post, but assorted replies incline me to observe that whether you weigh 100 lbs or 250 lbs, and absent having to carry medical devices, a 15 lb pack should be the maximum for every first timer on the Camino. Now, of course a bigger person can carry more weight. But just because they can, is that a reason to do it? Probably a reason to keep pack weight at minimum for the 250 pounder inasmuch as that person's feet and knees are going to be pounded, so to speak, by their body weight as well as the pack. Regarding the economics of going light, I get that. There's an old saw among hardcore backpackers that if you buy the best lightweight gear, you could easily spend $40-50 on each ounce saved. But that is true hyper-light packing. Technical lightweight fast drying apparel can be had for about the same price as its street counterpart. And, of course, the pack itself. There are great 2 lb +/- packs from Osprey, Gregory and others--assuming about a 35L pack size. And, now I will really enter dangerous territory on the parapet, and hang by my fingernails as I say "A 35L pack is big enough for everyone, irrespective of body weight. Maybe you could push it to 40L, but bigger than that is just not necessary. Again, I know this sounds dogmatic, but I'm not aiming these thoughts at the Camino veterans, but rather to that excited but inexperienced Pilgrim-in-Waiting.
 

Bob Howard

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2016
Frances 2018
Going to have to disagree, too. Most of my experience is multi-day hiking in Australia, so that's what my gear is well, geared for. I wear boots to prevent snake bites and I always take at least two litres of water because I drink it and come from a place where water can be scarce. I'm not going to buy a whole new kit just on the off-chance I can afford to go to Europe every couple of years, I'm taking what I know.

My sister and I had a lot of people make negative comments about our packs when we last walked the camino and it was incredibly rude and judgemental. Why anyone else needs to judge others at all or feel that their experience trumps other peoples (who may be just as, or more, experienced than they are) is beyond me. They also had no idea what our packs actually weighed, they just thought they'd give their opinion regardless.

I'll always advise people to keep their pack-weight down, but next time I'm walking I'm tempted to bring along photos of my weightlifting achievements to stick to the foreheads of those who want to share their opinions. I'm very comfortable with what I carried when I walked, if I'd been less experienced and worried about other peoples rules I would have spent a lot of time stressing over not taking things I actually needed (remembering also that there might be items women need to carry that men don't have to consider, and the same goes for people with medical requirements), and I also would have been stressed by how insurmountable the cost of ultra-light gear would have been, too. The best advice you can give is for people to do some serious test runs with their pack on.

Hello, Lalibeans. I have tried to make it clear that my comments have to do with advising the neophyte. You are obviously an experienced outdoorsman, and you know what works. And you have a history of carrying your gear without discomfort or pain. My whole point in this has not been not to change the mind or presume to offer advice to experienced backpackers--I started this thread after reading the posts in the other pack weight thread that was started by an an inexperience prospective Pilgrim. By the way, do you use one of those front and back Arn packs? I saw one on my 2016 Camino, and I was fascinated by it.
 

tomnorth

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015); Fall (2020) I hope
I think the best advice to give a newbie is to get your pack weight down as much as you can, eliminating fluff, redundancies, and just-in-case items, and then to take several long hikes with your pack at that weight to see how comfortable it is and how your feet fair. I’ve gone through my pack list with a fine toothed comb. I’m a photographer, so I bring my DSLR fitted with one small lens. Without the camera and accessories, my pack weight is 18.3 lbs/8.2 kg. With the camera and accessories, my pack weight is 22 lbs/10 kg. The items I’d have to remove to get my pack weight down much farther pretty much all have to do with my getting a good night’s sleep (e.g. sleeping bag). I handled this much weight just fine on my first Camino as a newbie, and the Osprey Stratus 36l pack I use fits me perfectly.
 
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Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
No one, irrespective of your years of Camino/hiking/backpacking experience or physical condition needs to or should carry more than 15 lbs/7kgs--12 lbs is closer to the ideal in my rather opinionated view.
I find that an astonishingly sweeping statement. Is it really possible to assert that no one can ever have genuine specific personal needs which demand a larger pack weight? Specialist medical equipment perhaps? Or as @VNwalking points out the possibility of social and religious conventions to observe.

On a side note, I will avoid talking about the over-abundance of caution regarding carrying water. I read on this forum regularly about people carrying two liters! Two liters weight is 4.5 lbs. Yes, there are a couple days when there is a dearth of bars and one might be 10 miles between water. But 95% of the time, it's one village/bar after another.
You seem to be making another sweeping assumption: that "the Camino" and "the Camino Frances" are one and the same. It is probably true that many people are overly anxious about the availability of water on the CF. But as someone who walked the Via de la Plata not so long ago I passed two memorials within a km or so of each other to pilgrims who died in heat and hydration related incidents on a stage in which water is often unavailable for nearly 30km and summer temperatures are sometimes in excess of 40C. And later on that journey I spent a night sleeping only a few metres from another spot where a young man in his 40s died through heat exposure and dehydration a few months later. It is most unwise to make categorical statements about the Caminos and what others may or may not need based on limited personal experience of one of the many possible routes.
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
2019 Biarritz-Pamplona-Lourdes
2018 Aragon/Frances/Finis
2018 Operation Sabre
2018 Marin Ramble
By the way, “seasonal” in Northern Spain includes 1.3 METERS of snow over some mountain passes and more than a few centimeters on Cebreiro, Leon, Burgos,...and it’s almost May! Not saying you have to bring a sled and a dog team, but it’s still cold enough on several routes through May that foregoing cold weather gear in the hopes of making a magical weight number would be foolish.
E3FF35EB-D915-4FB5-8C1C-CF791FDE09BF.jpeg
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
@Bob Howard, would it be impertinent to ask that you reveal your height and weight? I am interested because I find most of the posts like yours are made by people who are (a) close to average in height and weight than those of us who might be taller, heavier or both; and (b) often display little understanding of the multiplicity of factors that are going to affect pack weight, one's own walking weight being but one of them. Although, in deference to your experience, that latter observation might not be true in your case.
Also, given that extensive experience, I wonder if you would care to share with us your fluid consumption rates under different walking conditions?
First, my premise. For those of us who have previously walked the Camino, and especially longtime backpackers/hikers, I think we have a duty to dispense straightforward, unvarnished advice.
This is the one thing in your post that I completely agree with.
No one, irrespective of your years of Camino/hiking/backpacking experience or physical condition needs to or should carry more than 15 lbs/7kgs--12 lbs is closer to the ideal in my rather opinionated view.
The one thing I agree with you here is that this is an opinionated view, and should be treated as such.
I will just say that inasmuch as on the Camino we are walking through a man-made landscape with it's attendant commerce, this idea of constantly being "hydrated" necessitating carrying water, is in my I'm sure to be controversial experience way overdone.
When I did some internet based research on water consumption some years ago, I found that on the Camino Frances, nearly 40% of the time, the distance to the next village is greater than 5 km, and of those, nearly 25% of distances are more than 10 km. I walk at best at about 4.5 km/h, and on a hot day my body uses about 700 ml/hr. A lot of the time, I wouldn't need to be carrying more than a litre if I wanted to take the time in each village to find a font and fill up at it. But there is clearly a significant amount of the time that I will need to be carrying more. I don't make detailed calculations here, I fill up a 2 li water bladder and accept that there might be times even that will be marginal. If you are interested, the posts on this are here and here.
 
Just to concur that your advice on how much water to carry is specific to the Camino Frances - along the Norte and Primitivo there are far fewer guaranteed sources of water while temperatures can frequently go above 30C even in May and September - a dangerous combination - so I carry at least 2L and sometimes 4L of water

But your advice to carry less rather than more is correct - and such advice comes from seeing people that are struggling with over-heavy rucksacks - since most on their second camino will carry less than on their first camino and Bob is trying to pass on that wisdom to first-time pilgrims
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
@Bradypus In @Bob Howard 's defence this is a specifically Camino Frances thread so bringing in VdlP seems a little unfair.
Thank you - I had failed to spot that the thread was posted in the "Camino Frances" section. But as @Bob Howard consistently refers generically to "the Camino" rather than the "Camino Frances" in particular in his posts I will let my comments stand as they are for the moment.
 
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dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
@Bradypus In @Bob Howard 's defence this is a specifically Camino Frances thread so bringing in VdlP seems a little unfair.
@Dorpie, I think there are stretches of the CF where the conditions would be similar to those raised by @Bradypus. I think it is always a risk, not just in summer but clearly heightened then. See my post above for some links to discussion on this issue from a few years ago.
 

Dorpie

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago to Finisterre to Muxia 2013
Camino Frances May 2015
Camino Frances July 2017
@dougfitz and @Bradypus Having run out of water and been on the brink of heatstroke on the path into Hontanas, despite a 2.5 litre bladder, I concur that this is an issue on the CF. I was merely pointing out that if we are to beat @Bob Howard with a stick it should at least be the right stick and not one to be found on the roadside of another camino ;)
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
I was merely pointing out that if we are to beat @Bob Howard with a stick it should at least be the right stick and not one to be found on the roadside of another camino ;)
@Dorpie, methinks the only stick being wielded in this thread is the one @Bob Howard took to us (generally) in his rather strident initial post.
 

Hilarious

Hilarious
Camino(s) past & future
Planning stage Camino Frances from SJPdP (Sept. 2019)
As a complete newbie to the Camino (starting from SJPdP) in mid September I am grateful for all the advice and opinions I have read here. I have been walking with my loaded pack for about the last 12 months. Something I wouldn’t have thought of before this forum. I am not a seasoned hiker! I have almost worn out my first pair of Salomons X-Ultras (1 size larger than I normally wear - something else I have learned here). Have worked up from 20kms per week to between 70-80kms with 22 kms being my longest walk so far. Found a few hills/steep flights of stairs to walk and always carry 1.5 litres of water. It’s very humid where I live in Australia so you sweat buckets. I haven’t weighed my pack yet but will be endeavouring to keep as light as I can. Due to you guys I have always looked at the weight of hiking clothes I have purchased to ensure I am not carrying unnecessary bulk. Just keep your opinions and feedback coming I say!
 

Laliibeans

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2014)
Hello, Lalibeans. I have tried to make it clear that my comments have to do with advising the neophyte. You are obviously an experienced outdoorsman, and you know what works. And you have a history of carrying your gear without discomfort or pain. My whole point in this has not been not to change the mind or presume to offer advice to experienced backpackers--I started this thread after reading the posts in the other pack weight thread that was started by an an inexperience prospective Pilgrim. By the way, do you use one of those front and back Arn packs? I saw one on my 2016 Camino, and I was fascinated by it.
I realise your advice is geared towards newbies, but I'm not sure it's helpful to give such strict numbers when it's likely to cause some anxiety and possibly take some of the enjoyment out of it because of that kind of pressure. There has to be leeway for personal preferences, and also leeway for people to learn what suits them. Back when I started hiking I was a 48kg 13 year old, and in those days trying to stick to the 10% rule meant available packs were virtually all I could carry, with some water and nothing else. I was disheartened enough to not go on the first few hikes and ended up leaving the scout group because of things like that. It took me a long time to rediscover the fun of hiking on my own and part of that was figuring out what worked and what didn't.

Regarding the Arn packs, I haven't tried one, I have a feeling my anatomy wouldn't really be very comfortable with them!
 

Bob Howard

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2016
Frances 2018
@Bob Howard, would it be impertinent to ask that you reveal your height and weight? I am interested because I find most of the posts like yours are made by people who are (a) close to average in height and weight than those of us who might be taller, heavier or both; and (b) often display little understanding of the multiplicity of factors that are going to affect pack weight, one's own walking weight being but one of them. Although, in deference to your experience, that latter observation might not be true in your case.
Also, given that extensive experience, I wonder if you would care to share with us your fluid consumption rates under different walking conditions?

This is the one thing in your post that I completely agree with.

The one thing I agree with you here is that this is an opinionated view, and should be treated as such.

When I did some internet based research on water consumption some years ago, I found that on the Camino Frances, nearly 40% of the time, the distance to the next village is greater than 5 km, and of those, nearly 25% of distances are more than 10 km. I walk at best at about 4.5 km/h, and on a hot day my body uses about 700 ml/hr. A lot of the time, I wouldn't need to be carrying more than a litre if I wanted to take the time in each village to find a font and fill up at it. But there is clearly a significant amount of the time that I will need to be carrying more. I don't make detailed calculations here, I fill up a 2 liter water bladder and accept that there might be times even that will be marginal. If you are interested, the posts on this are here and here.
Dougfitz, I am 6' and weigh 195 lbs. As to fluid consumption, on the Camino Frances I carried a small plastic bottle (8 oz) that I would periodically sip from between bars or fountains. I walked in June in both 2016 and 2018, and there were some hot days. I tended to drink a lot of water in the morning before departing, and then simply stopped along the way for more water as well as other drinks, especially Coca-Cola's which I actually despise and never drink. Except on the Camino. They just taste so damn good there. And, yes, I do get that there is a multiplicity of factors regarding pack weight, which is why I tend to hover around the 12-15 lb goal. I fully acknowledge that all this is just my opinion, and based solely on my experience and observations. I knew this would cause a stir. But after my early wilderness days of hauling a 45 lb Kelty external frame pack with 30 days of freeze dried food for extended hikes in the Sierra Nevada, I have embraced going light--not with the zeal of ultra-light thru hikers--but simply as a practical matter. Even carrying 15 lbs, I can feel the effect/force of that weight on my foot fall. Again, as I think I have repeatedly stated, the idea was to simply provide more specific guidance to those who become enchanted with the idea of an extended Camino walk, but without previous backpacking experience. Although bodies are built in a range of structures and physical conditioning varies greatly among Pilgrims, there are some fundamental principles--fundamental principles which lead me to believe that 95% of those walking the Camino Frances would benefit with a pack weight of 15 lbs or less. And to complete my suicide leap from the parapet . . . well, as is pointed out, it's just my opinion.
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
I swore to step away from this debate, but am compelled to come back... 😒
  • I am happy to recommend a general pack weight to inexperienced people who ask. Anyone who does silly things with my advice is, well, doing silly things. The consequences of them getting it wrong are not likely to be catastrophic, and my suggestion of a number of kg (or range) could be helpful to them.
  • I think it is simply rude to embarrass people by unsolicited criticism or comment on the size of their backpacks, or their clothes, or their hairstyles, or other choices that affect no one else.
Most importantly...
  • I would never make a recommendation on how much water a person should carry, except that they should know their bodies, be aware of the conditions, and be sure to take enough water. I am a fairly low water consumer, myself, bodies can be very very different in their needs. There are many unsupported truisms and cliches in the media about the need for water and hydration. I really dislike this misinformation and tend to point it out when it happens. However, the consequences of getting the amount of water wrong can be very serious or fatal, so I would not recommend an amount to anyone. They need to assess the information themselves, as adults, and make the decision.
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
I would never make a recommendation on how much water a person should carry, except that they should know their bodies, be aware of the conditions, and be sure to take enough water... They need to assess the information themselves, as adults, and make the decision.
@C clearly, nailed it! All we need now is a few Adults on the Caminos ;)
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Ch. d'Arles: Oloron Ste Marie to Aragones; Frances (2016); V.d.l.P.; Sanabres (2017)
I would never make a recommendation on how much water a person should carry, except that they should know their bodies, be aware of the conditions, and be sure to take enough water. I am a fairly low water consumer, myself, bodies can be very very different in their needs. There are many unsupported truisms and cliches in the media about the need for water and hydration. I really dislike this misinformation and tend to point it out when it happens. However, the consequences of getting the amount of water wrong can be very serious or fatal, so I would not recommend an amount to anyone.
@C clearly
I might agree with you, but this thread is about giving advice to newcomers who ask for it. I would suggest that to refuse to suggest what would likely be an adequate water supply for persons walking their first camino when you know that taking the wrong amount might be fatal is perhaps not very helpful. If they have never walked a distance in the heat or run out of water, they might not know, or might assume that they never need to drink more than they expect to be thirsty for. Coupled with an emphasis on a light weight pack, this could put them in a dangerous position. I know of what I speak. On my last two caminos I was significantly dehydrated, to the point where medical treatment for the effects of dehydration was needed. This year I am planning to walk again. So I went to a thread about the Madrid recently, to ask those who had walked it how available water was when they walked that route. The results were reassuring. But I have decided to carry two litres of water, to drink 250 ml. every half hour, even when I am not thirsty, to refill my water bottles whenever I can, and to fill myself up with water first thing in the morning. I hope that this level of planning will be adequate. I only wish I could plan for toilet facilities along the route. If I had the information available, I would refer questioners about adequate water to a graph suggesting adequate water for persons of a particular age or weight in conditions of heat or exertion, but I wonder if there are just too many variables to be precise. If a new pilgrim asked me, I think I would answer to carry two or three litres, according to your size and what you think you might need when exercising in hot weather and to adjust this amount up or down as you gained further experience, but not with the assumption that the fountains on the route would be working, as they might be out of commission (this happened to me on the Aragones.) People are asking us because they want to know, so we cannot assume that they already do or have some idea how they could figure this out themselves.
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
I would suggest that to refuse to suggest what would likely be an adequate water supply
Yes, I wouldn't refuse to discuss it. But I don't think I could confidently "recommend" that another person carry what I do, as it seems to be less than what many people say they need.
not with the assumption that the fountains on the route would be working
I agree that this should not be assumed, and it is dangerous to assume on long/hot stages.
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
@Albertagirl I might agree with you, but all advice is dangerous even when given in good heart. I'm minded of the sad death of Leah Betts who died from hyponatremia having followed well meant advice from Government sources to drink lots of water if consuming MDMA.
Excessive water consumption is as deleterious to the corpus as dehydration. @C clearly's post says anyone stepping out of their known environments should "should know their bodies, be aware of the conditions, and be sure to take enough water".

A Litre of water weighs a Kilogram, thats a given, and that weight, multiplied by two or three is a heavy burden in addition to Rucksack, spare Knickers and toothpaste. I have been astonished, time and again, to observe Pilgrims arrive at a water source, empty their Litre bottles of warm, stale, water: re-fill and walk on. Without even pausing for a drink.

I like your plan for the Madrid. I'll drink a Litre, at least, in the morning before I even start walking (after all I'll have spent most of the night getting up every few hours to pee). I'll set off with a couple of full bladders, if you follow my gist, but I won't drink till I'm thirsty or I find that next source. Then I'll drink, re-fill and venture again. Yes, there are stretches, even on the Camino Frances, where you may need to walk 2 hours without a source of fresh water and there are Caminos where I'll take local advice and carry more than that Litre but they are rare, rare places. Even in the Sahel we've only carried 3 Litres per person per day and that was for all purposes.

Ach, what do I know. I'm just a pilgrim
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Ch. d'Arles: Oloron Ste Marie to Aragones; Frances (2016); V.d.l.P.; Sanabres (2017)
I think that there may be an assumption that people need only drink water when they are thirsty. From what I have heard, this is not accurate, and it certainly is not so in my case. I have never actually run out of water, although I have run short, But generally I have become dehydrated when not really thirsty and with some water in my bottles. I believe that this is more common with older persons and I had no problem with dehydration when I was younger. That this happened with me on two caminos in sequence has made me much more careful than in the past. I do not wish to contradict anyone, but I think it would be kind to suggest that pilgrims assure their supply of water and drink adequately, as I believe that dehydration is much more common than hyponatremia, certainly on the pilgrim routes. Probably I should also be thinking about carrying salts, to ensure that I have adequate minerals etc. in the water which I drink.
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
@Albertagirl you are right in that many in the early stages of dehydration do not feel thirsty, much as many heading in to hypo-thermic shock will start to shed clothing because they feel over-heated. And you are right that that hyponatremia is a rare presentation in this modern age but I've encountered two, happily non-lethal, instances. Not on Camino but in inexperienced hiking groups. On both occasions the sufferers were accused of inebriation. Electrolyte depletion from excessive sweating and excessive hydration is also a threat to health but these are all relatively rare manifestations - even on the Meseta in August thankfully.

Not sure how a didactic post about pack-weight got to hydration debate that could go that way too

(Edit: can't find the "blush" emoji - maybe I should :0))
 

Helen1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
London to Santiago (2014)
Narbonne to Oloron (2015)
Camino Portugues (2016)
Sentier Cathar (2017)
My sister and I had a lot of people make negative comments about our packs when we last walked the camino and it was incredibly rude and judgemental. Why anyone else needs to judge others at all or feel that their experience trumps other peoples (who may be just as, or more, experienced than they are) is beyond me. They also had no idea what our packs actually weighed, they just thought they'd give their opinion regardless.
Very true. I've experienced this myself and although people's comments are often well intentioned it's tiring to be constantly on the receiving end of comments like this. My rebellious streak makes me inclined to carry something outrageously huge and unnecessary to just upset these people even more should I ever walk a CF again :).

Walking from Sarria to Santiago over 7-10 days is very different to walking for a month+. If you're going for a week I would keep it light but I wouldn't stress about weight too much. If you're walking for longer then, as you say, weight becomes more important.

As a women who sleeps cold I'm not sure about the sleeping bag advice. It's the one thing where I took the forum advice rather than trusting my own judgement and it didn't work for me. I'm sure your advice is right for most men but many women need a bit more warmth. Even in August I was quite happy with my sleeping bag.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
Dougfitz, I am 6' and weigh 195 lbs. As to fluid consumption, on the Camino Frances I carried a small plastic bottle (8 oz) that I would periodically sip from between bars or fountains. I walked in June in both 2016 and 2018, and there were some hot days. I tended to drink a lot of water in the morning before departing, and then simply stopped along the way for more water as well as other drinks, especially Coca-Cola's which I actually despise and never drink. Except on the Camino. They just taste so damn good there. And, yes, I do get that there is a multiplicity of factors regarding pack weight, which is why I tend to hover around the 12-15 lb goal. I fully acknowledge that all this is just my opinion, and based solely on my experience and observations. I knew this would cause a stir. But after my early wilderness days of hauling a 45 lb Kelty external frame pack with 30 days of freeze dried food for extended hikes in the Sierra Nevada, I have embraced going light--not with the zeal of ultra-light thru hikers--but simply as a practical matter. Even carrying 15 lbs, I can feel the effect/force of that weight on my foot fall. Again, as I think I have repeatedly stated, the idea was to simply provide more specific guidance to those who become enchanted with the idea of an extended Camino walk, but without previous backpacking experience. Although bodies are built in a range of structures and physical conditioning varies greatly among Pilgrims, there are some fundamental principles--fundamental principles which lead me to believe that 95% of those walking the Camino Frances would benefit with a pack weight of 15 lbs or less. And to complete my suicide leap from the parapet . . . well, as is pointed out, it's just my opinion.
@Bob Howard, thank you very much for this. I have tried to reverse engineer your advice for a 12 lb load against the pack volume calculation from The Complete Walker IV (an online version is available here). I can discuss the details of doing this, but suffice to say that I could only get to make this work by using the most extreme settings for Resilience (sleeps naked on bedrock, hikes barefoot, eats small animals raw) gear type (ultralight) and season (summer). It is marginal in spring/autumn, but could just work. I don't think that this is representative of pilgrims generally, let alone the first-timers you appear to be targeting with your advice. I would also suggest that expecting first-timers to invest heavily in ultralight gear, rather than make sufficient lightweight gear purchases to manage their first walk, is unrealistic.

On staying re-hydrated, I had expected that you might have either measured your total fluid consumption or had a reasonable idea what volume you consumed daily. I know that when I have taken the time to take simple measures of starting and ending weight, in activity consumption, etc that when walking in warm conditions I need 700-1000 ml for each walking hour.

I recently confirmed this while doing a longer walk with a friend. Daytime temperatures ranged from about 10 degC in the morning to maximums in the mid 20s. My consumption was pretty regular with about 500 ml/hour during the day with the remainder consumed in the morning and evening. Our longest day was 10 hours, covered by carrying just under 3 li at the start of the day and collecting 1.8 li from a cache we had established beforehand. For shorter days we had established caches/water points at our daily end points. Of course, this is nothing like the conditions of the Camino, but is one way of dealing with walking in rural Australia.

While I know people who, like you, don't drink much during the walking day, they also have substantial fluid intakes, mainly in the evening. I cannot do that, and prefer to sip regularly enough to avoid feeling thirsty. That can be a bit hit and miss, but the approach is generally consistent with good hydration practice. I don't think one should be moving too far from that when giving advice on staying hydrated.

Doug

ps the description of resilience is the one used by Fletcher and Rawlins in The Complete Walker IV, not something I created for literary effect.
 
Last edited:

Bob Howard

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2016
Frances 2018
@Bob Howard, thank you very much for this. I have tried to reverse engineer your advice for a 12 lb load against the pack volume calculation from The Complete Walker IV (an online version is available here). I can discuss the details of doing this, but suffice to say that I could only get to make this work by using the most extreme settings for Resilience (sleeps naked on bedrock, hikes barefoot, eats small animals raw) gear type (ultralight) and season (summer). It is marginal in spring/autumn, but could just work. I don't think that this is representative of pilgrims generally, let alone the first-timers you appear to be targeting with your advice. I would also suggest that expecting first-timers to invest heavily in ultralight gear, rather than make sufficient lightweight gear purchases to manage their first walk, is unrealistic.

On staying re-hydrated, I had expected that you might have either measured your total fluid consumption or had a reasonable idea what volume you consumed daily. I know that when I have taken the time to take simple measures of starting and ending weight, in activity consumption, etc that when walking in warm conditions I need 700-1000 ml for each walking hour.

I recently confirmed this while doing a longer walk with a friend. Daytime temperatures ranged from about 10 degC in the morning to maximums in the mid 20s. My consumption was pretty regular with about 500 ml/hour during the day with the remainder consumed in the morning and evening. Our longest day was 10 hours, covered by carrying just under 3 li at the start of the day and collecting 1.8 li from a cache we had established beforehand. For shorter days we had established caches/water points at our daily end points. Of course, this is nothing like the conditions of the Camino, but is one way of dealing with walking in rural Australia.

While I know people who, like you, don't drink much during the walking day, they also have substantial fluid intakes, mainly in the evening. I cannot do that, and prefer to sip regularly enough to avoid feeling thirsty. That can be a bit hit and miss, but it is generally consistent with good hydration practice. I don't think one should be moving too far from that when giving advice on staying hydrated.

Doug

ps the description of resilience is the one used by Fletcher and Rawlins in The Complete Walker IV, not something I have created for literary effect.

Well, you've caused me to think about how much I actually drink during the day. I would imagine it is the equivalent of two+ liters over a 5-6 hour walking period. Inasmuch as I tend to stop for a drink or snack 6-10 times during the walk, it subjectively feels like I am always sipping on something. Also, I tend to leave early (6:00-6:30) and get in to the next overnight burg between 1:00 and 2:00. I drink a lot of water in the morning, and probably drink a liter between arrival and sleeping. So, I don't think I'm drinking significantly less than the average Pilgrim-- I'm just not carrying much. Regarding dehydration, I definitely monitor it on wilderness trips. Urination frequency and color, as you probably know, is a good indication of hydration vs. dehydration. I guess my overall point is that maybe these ultra-light wildnerness hikers know something we don't. Going light means going faster and longer. But more importantly to me, it means walking in comfort. By the way, I haven't quite reached the 12 lb goal myself. Last summer, I think I was at 14 lbs. 1.5 lbs of that was a good pair of closed toed hiking sandals--a splurge I suppose, but I like having a backup walking shoe for the evening of course but also for those times when the feet just need to be free. Also, I carry an iPad mini in addition to a phone, so there's another 11 oz for the iPad. So, I could get down to 7 kgs without the hiking sandals and iPad, but those are two things I like and want. Last June, walking between Roncevalles and Zubiri I caught up with a woman who was obviously struggling. She was carrying what appeared to be about a 60-70 liter pack, although it was not full. Hanging off the back of the pack among assorted danglements were her hiking boots--high top conventional hiking boots. She was barely 5 miles into her Camino when she had to switch to alternative footwear, which, in her case, was flip-flops. The pain and stress in her countenance as she realized there was already a serious problem on the first day was palpable, and heart-breaking. Just from the feel, I think her pack weight was about 25 lbs. I offered to trade packs with her, and we would exchange them in Zubiri. She had a lot of pride, and determination, and was determined to carryon without assistance. I did not see her in Zubiri, or for the rest of the Camino. Hopefully, she simply adjusted her walking to a pace that worked for her, and, presumably, weeded out some of her pack contents. Although I might seem strident and opinionated here, out in the field I would not presume to critique another's gear. I am pretty good with blister treatment, and I carry a comprehenive blister kit, and occasionally offer to help with blisters. But it seems to me that this is a place--here on the forum--where newbies can explore, and where we can express our opinions freely. Again, all of you that have commented are experienced hikers, trekkers, backpackers or repeat Camino Pilgrims. You know what you doing.

It seems to that the one place we could provide meaningful input to an inexperienced about to be newly minted pilgrim is to offer some guidance regarding the two most important pieces of gear that will have a direct effect on whether the one reaches Santiago--shoes and pack.
 

Dorpie

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago to Finisterre to Muxia 2013
Camino Frances May 2015
Camino Frances July 2017
It seems to that the one place we could provide meaningful input to an inexperienced about to be newly minted pilgrim is to offer some guidance regarding the two most important pieces of gear that will have a direct effect on whether the one reaches Santiago--shoes and pack.
Great. Now all we need to do is find two pilgrims who agree on what that advice should be ;)
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
Great. Now all we need to do is find two pilgrims who agree on what that advice should be ;)
That's one of the biggest problems with asking practical questions on a forum like this. Ask a seemingly innocuous question about something as elementary as footwear and you can have dozens of conflicting answers. Most of them probably quite sensible in themselves and reflecting the personal experience of the person who has replied. So how does the genuinely inexperienced and undecided questioner choose from all this contradictory mass of words? I tend not to respond to requests for recommendations of specific models of equipment, packing lists and suggestions for daily stages on a route precisely because I know that my own choices are often atypical and that others with less experience might regret following my lead. I would certainly not presume to make any grand unequivocal pronouncement that because I have chosen one particular option and found it works then all others can and should do likewise.
 

Gabe_Way

Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'm starting CF from SPDP on May 5th, 2019
(Walking)
My sister and I had a lot of people make negative comments about our packs when we last walked the camino and it was incredibly rude and judgemental. Why anyone else needs to judge others at all or feel that their experience trumps other peoples (who may be just as, or more, experienced than they are) is beyond me. They also had no idea what our packs actually weighed, they just thought they'd give their opinion regardless.
And didn't you girls respond accordingly? Like for example: 'Mind your damn business?' and so on...
 

stevelm1

Recovering Perigrino
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Sep-Oct 2015, I plan to walk the Camino Portuguese in Sep 2019.
I carried 35 pounds with water. On average I carried 2 liters of water but had a 3 L bladder that I filled to the top only one day (the 17 K stretch after Carrion. Why did I carry so much weight? I had a tablet (I captured over 70000 words on the walk) and a bunch of medical supplies that I could not get along the way. I trained for 10 months for that weight and had no problem carrying it. To make a blanket statement of how much one should carry does not take into account circumstances that may not be within your experience. Whatever weight you end up carrying you should train for it. That is the secret, not the weight itself.
 
I haven't been on the Camino but done several thousand miles hiking some of the worlds best trails.
Although I started out with fairly lightweight gear, however I have honed down to a base weight of around 6kg; that is including a shelter (TarpTent Notch), sleeping gear etc but not counting food and water; with three days of that I am around 9kg. I weigh around 65 kg.
Think very carefully when buying gear, buy cheap buy twice is so true.
I have never heard anyone say I do wish I had carried more.
I also think I know which pack a Newbie would pick before starting a hike given the option of two packs in front of them; one weighing 10kg another 20kg.
A good fitting pack for your body is essential. I use ZPacks ArcBlast 21.3 oz, but mine is about 30oz as I have added hip belt pockets and shoulder strap pockets - for ease of access for a water bottle, suncream, first aid kit, poop kit, mini toiletries package.
 

Laliibeans

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2014)
And didn't you girls respond accordingly? Like for example: 'Mind your damn business?' and so on...
We generally tried to give a polite "We know what we're doing, thanks." Most people were okay with it but I wish I could shake the memory of a particularly snarky pilgrim office volunteer. It was not a kind send off and still irks me years later!
 

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