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Swimming in Norte and sleeping bag question. Sept 2019

Bamboo

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte (2019)
I’m planning on walking the Camino del Norte/primitivo starting in Irun in the first week of September this year.

I have a couple of questions (and lots of sub questions) I’m hoping someone could help me with:

  1. do I need a sleeping bag/quilt? (apologies I know this comes up a lot and I’ve pretty much resigned myself to carrying one as I’m a cold sleeper but thought I’d ask anyway as I haven’t seen any threads about question two).
  2. do I need bathers/swimmers and if so, how do you manage the change? (I’m a woman).
  • is it safe to swim in the sea (I’ll be travelling alone). I.e are there strong currents/lots of people swimming/lifeguards, etc?
  • apart from the sea, are there any pools in allergues/in town along the way? Should I bring goggles to do laps? Would I even want to do them after hours of walking? (I should add that I love lap swimming in a pool and find it very relaxing)
  • would it be warm enough to swim in autumn?

Thanking everyone in advance!
 

peregrino_tom

Member
Camino(s) past & future
.
Bamboo, I'd like to comment a bit on the sea swimming.
Firstly, about whether the sea will be warm enough: I think this will depend much on where you are from. For an English person like me, late September will be warm for sea swimming. But if you are from southern California you may have a different perspective.
Is it safe? Yes, if you apply some common-sense and are sensible in situations that are unfamiliar to you.
Typically the few surfing beaches will probably have a rip current and I'd avoid these (like the east beach at San Sebastian) - but there are very few of these anyway. You might see some lifeguards at the most popular beaches, but the high season will be over by then so don't expect them. Observe warning signs! And obviously even if you are a strong swimmer, it's not a good idea to go far out when you don't know anything about the local currents and other possible dangers. If you find an empty beach it'd be prudent to recruit a camino buddy to join you or sit on the beach while you swim.
Otherwise I'd say, enjoy the sea swimming for what it is and accept that swimming lengths and substantial distances are likely to be impractical.
Worth thinking about how much you want your camino to focus on this - the camino doesn't always hug the coast and there are some sections that are miles away from it, especially in the Basque country. And, at the western end, you have some places where the E9 coastal path meanders along the coast adding lots of extra km to your walking but rewarding you with great coast and swimming opportunities. I have to pick out Playa de Porcia just after La Caridad where we swam at the river mouth, sheltered by a sandy spit, with shoals of fish just out of touching reach. And a few km further on after Tapia there are 4 or 5 swimming beaches before you reach Ribadeo (I only had time to swim in one of these..). Going back to earlier in the walk, just after Ribadasella was particularly nice too but I think the albergue at La Isla is closed now (it was a short walk from the beach).
So you could choose to be like (a more positive version of) Burt Lancaster in The Swimmer and swim your way to Santiago (or Ribadeo at least)...
And it'd be great to have your report back to the forum on what you found.
In terms of changing into your swimming gear - one woman I met years ago made a sleep-bag liner with draw strings at the top and it was able to fully open/close at the other end. When getting dressed in the dormitory she stood up with it drawn together around her neck with the lower end open and then did all her changing underneath. You could use/make something like this to have a dual purpose - changing on the beach and as a sleep-bag liner at night..
Cheers, tom
 

Liz Drew

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 Coastal Portuguese
2018 Via de la Plata
(2019) del Norte
Bamboo, I live in Queensland (sub tropic area of Australia) and am spoilt by the warm Pacific Ocean, however, I will be starting in Irun around September 5th this year and will be swimming- perhaps not for long but I will definitely get in the water. I swam in the Atlantic (freezing) when I did the Portugues coastal September 2016.
Perhaps I will see you and we can swim together?
 

Jan_D

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones (2011)
Frances (2012)
Norte (2013, 2014)
Hospitalera (2014)
Portugues (2017)
Hi Bamboo,

1. The age-old sleeping bag vs. liner question. You'll hear lots of different opinions on this, and they are just that: opinions! Most of the albergues have blankets if you get cold, but not all of them (and the don't question when last they were washed). I'm also a "cold sleeper" and I like the creature comfort of having my own bag to snuggle up into at the end of a long day. But it's a very personal choice.

2. I've found that, while I like the idea, it's not always that practical to swim when you're in the middle of a stage. On the odd occasion when you are walking along a beach (most of the time you're on a cliff above the sea), there's nowhere to get changed, and then you've got to get your wet and sandy body back into your walking gear. You can have a good swim in the sea during a rest day - when you can join all the tourists on the beach like a "normal" person (i.e. not changing inside a sleeping bag, with your toes wrapped in band-aids and trying to pretend your underwear is a really bikini...ha ha)

p.s. there are a couple of nudist beaches on the Norte. The one that comes to mind is the Playa de la Vega just after Ribadesella. The nudist section is right at the end of the beach, so most pilgrims don't see it. One of my most memorable experiences on the Norte was the time I spent "going native" on this beach ;)
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
I use a silk liner and a tiny down blanket that I can tuck inside when I need extra warmth. Together they weigh about 14 ounces/400 grams.
 

spursfan

Veteran Member
Well since the locals will still be on their holidays, swimming and surfing along that coast, then you should be fine

More likely to be too warm than too cold so the sleeping bag liner should be fine certainly for the beginning of September - though depends how long you are going to be walking into September and/or October

My silk liner weighs some 140g
 
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
Hi Bamboo,

1. The age-old sleeping bag vs. liner question. You'll hear lots of different opinions on this, and they are just that: opinions! Most of the albergues have blankets if you get cold, but not all of them (and the don't question when last they were washed). I'm also a "cold sleeper" and I like the creature comfort of having my own bag to snuggle up into at the end of a long day. But it's a very personal choice.

2. I've found that, while I like the idea, it's not always that practical to swim when you're in the middle of a stage. On the odd occasion when you are walking along a beach (most of the time you're on a cliff above the sea), there's nowhere to get changed, and then you've got to get your wet and sandy body back into your walking gear. You can have a good swim in the sea during a rest day - when you can join all the tourists on the beach like a "normal" person (i.e. not changing inside a sleeping bag, with your toes wrapped in band-aids and trying to pretend your underwear is a really bikini...ha ha)

p.s. there are a couple of nudist beaches on the Norte. The one that comes to mind is the Playa de la Vega just after Ribadesella. The nudist section is right at the end of the beach, so most pilgrims don't see it. One of my most memorable experiences on the Norte was the time I spent "going native" on this beach ;)

I'm a liner person, as it takes up much less space and as I found that most albergues were very warm at night, with bodies merrily radiating heat.

As far as swimming goes, you need to be very careful as the currents along the northern coast are very strong indeed. I am a maniacal swimmer, but I never went out beyond my depth, and I preferred beaches which were inlets (such as the Playa de Silencio between Soto de Luiña and Cadavedo), or when the water was very calm indeed. Peregino_tom's comments are very sensible. Many beaches were not lifeguarded. I know of no albergues along the del Norte which have pools, but many if not all municipalities have excellent pools and shame Canadian towns for the excellence of their facilities-- you will have to check each one for their hours. Ask about the polideportivo and the piscinas. Just checking quickly, you will find one in Irun, Gernika, dozens in Bilbao, Laredo, and so forth. My wild guess is that staff will be very helpful and welcoming to pilgrims but I would love to hear a first-hand account.

As far as changing goes, I have observed people changing in and out of their swimming gear on the beach, or besides their vehicles, and this is accepted. Indeed, nobody seems to notice them, unless their under-towel contortions cause them to topple over. Spanish beaches often have fresh-water showers. I recall meeting a posse of male and female off-duty Guardia Civil getting in and out of wetsuits without a care in the world-- we had a good talk about pilgrim security along the route and what they were doing to support it.

As well as Playa de la Vega, there are recognized naturist beaches along the Norte at Zarautz, Ballota, Torimbia (between Llanes and Naves) and Meixota west of Tapia (and even in the middle of San Sebastian!!), so those who are comfortable in doing so, can emulate Jan D at a number of spots. Many beaches have an accepted naturist area at the far end, and the Spanish appear to accept this without a qualm. I have met German and Slovak pilgrims who took advantage of the beach just below the albergues in Tapia and La Isla, and other beach users didn't seem to notice. The Civil Guards mentioned above told me that there is no illegality in Spain for au naturel beach use but one should be sensitive to others.

PS- I have looked at my notes, and there are public changing rooms on the beach at Ribadesella and at Salinas near Aviles.
 
Last edited:

Bamboo

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte (2019)
Wow thanks to everyone for taking the time to provide such comprehensive and thoughtful responses!

Seems like there will be plenty of swimming opportunities on the beach and in pools along the way! I’ll definitely look into all the recommended beach options and I seriously like the idea of scheduling rest days by the sea. I’m planning on taking about 40 days so I’ll have plenty of time to stop and have a dip. 😁

So it looks like I’ll be bringing my bathers and perhaps I’ll seek out a Costco down quilt - just need to wait for them to be back in stock in Melbourne, Australia. I have plans to cut it down to a third And snap lock the bottom of it to my liner. For $30 it’s worth a try!

Given there are no pools at albergues on the Norte I think I’ll leave the goggles at home and just buy one at the pools if I end up having the time and inclination to do some lap swimming.

Liz, ill likely start on the 1st or 2nd of September but will be taking my time so I wouldn’t be surprised if we do meet along The Way somewhere! 😆
 

Bales

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sept 2019
Wow thanks to everyone for taking the time to provide such comprehensive and thoughtful responses!

Seems like there will be plenty of swimming opportunities on the beach and in pools along the way! I’ll definitely look into all the recommended beach options and I seriously like the idea of scheduling rest days by the sea. I’m planning on taking about 40 days so I’ll have plenty of time to stop and have a dip. 😁

So it looks like I’ll be bringing my bathers and perhaps I’ll seek out a Costco down quilt - just need to wait for them to be back in stock in Melbourne, Australia. I have plans to cut it down to a third And snap lock the bottom of it to my liner. For $30 it’s worth a try!

Given there are no pools at albergues on the Norte I think I’ll leave the goggles at home and just buy one at the pools if I end up having the time and inclination to do some lap swimming.

Liz, ill likely start on the 1st or 2nd of September but will be taking my time so I wouldn’t be surprised if we do meet along The Way somewhere! 😆
Hi Bamboo - girlfriend and I hope to start 1st Sept as well - I am living in Melbourne - see you out there
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte Sept 2013
Camino del Norte Sept 2014
Camino del Norte 2015,16,17,18
See you out there - Less than seven months away now! 😁
Hi there. I have done plenty of swimming on El Norte taking precautions as described above. I have usually walked in Sept and silk liner is fine and saves weight and bulk in your pack . Buen Camino
 

Rondimc

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Future (2017)
I’m planning on walking the Camino del Norte/primitivo starting in Irun in the first week of September this year.

I have a couple of questions (and lots of sub questions) I’m hoping someone could help me with:

  1. do I need a sleeping bag/quilt? (apologies I know this comes up a lot and I’ve pretty much resigned myself to carrying one as I’m a cold sleeper but thought I’d ask anyway as I haven’t seen any threads about question two).
  2. do I need bathers/swimmers and if so, how do you manage the change? (I’m a woman).

  • is it safe to swim in the sea (I’ll be travelling alone). I.e are there strong currents/lots of people swimming/lifeguards, etc?
  • apart from the sea, are there any pools in allergues/in town along the way? Should I bring goggles to do laps? Would I even want to do them after hours of walking? (I should add that I love lap swimming in a pool and find it very relaxing)
  • would it be warm enough to swim in autumn?
Thanking everyone in advance!
We walked the Camino del Norte in Sept and part of August 2017. It was typical weather that year I think, and we enjoyed swimming and wading in the sea at several spots. Often it was a wade from one of the many beautiful beaches, refreshing both spirit and legs. At some of the towns we stayed at after a day of walking, we would change into swim suits and play in the water, Salinas comes to mind ( forever and beautifully ). We did not worry about rip tides.. The water was comfortable, but we are Canadians, so any water you do not have to chop up is fine with us.

We did not find any Albergues with pools, and I would be surprised if there are any. You may find pools at some of the higher end hotels if you want to treat yourself.

Hope this helps and Bueno Camino!
 

Meg Worland

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2014
Camino Frances 2016
Finisterre 2016
Camino Frances (Apr-May 2019)
My dilemma regarding sleeping bag or not might be solved if I knew just which albergues supply blankets. Does anyone have a list of these? Perhaps a list of those which do NOT supply blankets might be shorter.
 

messa777

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Future: Mid - late September
I’m planning on walking the Camino del Norte/primitivo starting in Irun in the first week of September this year.

I have a couple of questions (and lots of sub questions) I’m hoping someone could help me with:

  1. do I need a sleeping bag/quilt? (apologies I know this comes up a lot and I’ve pretty much resigned myself to carrying one as I’m a cold sleeper but thought I’d ask anyway as I haven’t seen any threads about question two).
  2. do I need bathers/swimmers and if so, how do you manage the change? (I’m a woman).
  • is it safe to swim in the sea (I’ll be travelling alone). I.e are there strong currents/lots of people swimming/lifeguards, etc?
  • apart from the sea, are there any pools in allergues/in town along the way? Should I bring goggles to do laps? Would I even want to do them after hours of walking? (I should add that I love lap swimming in a pool and find it very relaxing)
  • would it be warm enough to swim in autumn?

Thanking everyone in advance!

Hi @Bamboo I've been tossing up the sleeping bag question myself. I have a decently lightweight and fairly compact one, but intend on only using a carry-on suitcase for 2 weeks walking + 3-4 weeks European travel. Every bit of space counts and am unsure what to do.

I plan to start in Oviedo on 17th September. If you're passing through, maybe we'll meet on the track?
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
Hi @trecile may I ask what your down blanket is? Your set up is enviably light!
I have this blanket from Montbell, it's just big enough to cover me.

A less expensive alternative is a down blanket from Costco - cut in half. The Costco blankets are a seasonal item, and usually start showing up in stores around September.
 

Bamboo

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte (2019)
Hi @Bamboo I've been tossing up the sleeping bag question myself. I have a decently lightweight and fairly compact one, but intend on only using a carry-on suitcase for 2 weeks walking + 3-4 weeks European travel. Every bit of space counts and am unsure what to do.

I plan to start in Oviedo on 17th September. If you're passing through, maybe we'll meet on the track?
Hi Messa - look forward to bumping into you on the Camino!

In regards to the sleeping bag, I’ve been on the lookout for a Costco quilt to have the same setup as trecile but they aren’t in stock yet so I ended up making my own down blanket last weekend by buying some lining fabric and recycling an old down quilt. It ended up being 136x100cm, 312g. Having tried it in my silk liner, in hindsight I wish I’d made it about 5cm longer and 10 cms wider but I’m just being picky. It was fun to make but super messy so I’ve decided not to make another one - if the Costco blankets come into stock, I’ll get one and cut it down to size as trecile suggests, otherwise it’s what I’ll go with. I’ll post a photo- my sewing’s not straight but I think it’ll do. 😁
7B5289FA-A9C1-414D-983E-C1311C1AF2DC.jpeg
 

messa777

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Future: Mid - late September
I have this blanket from Montbell, it's just big enough to cover me.

A less expensive alternative is a down blanket from Costco - cut in half. The Costco blankets are a seasonal item, and usually start showing up in stores around September.

@trecile Ah yes, thanks for the reminder. I had been meaning to look out for that. Though lightweight, my Aegismax down sleeping bag still weighs more than your blanket and liner combined...

@Bamboo Last year when I called Costco (Australia), they said they usually stock it just before winter. So it should be out now. I plan to get myself one and try some mods too...'try' being the operative word, as I haven't used a sewing machine since Yr 8 Home Ec class :p
Thanks for the tips about length and width... I'll keep that in mine as I cut mine down to size. I may even try the length similar to the Montbell 146cm x 100cm (or slightly wider as you've mentioned).
Also, I may follow some YouTube vlogs I've seen of modding this quilt, where people have taken out the vertical seams (so that it has horizontal baffles), pushed the down to one side before cutting it down in order to create more loft and a warmer quilt. Fingers crossed for this project!
 

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