The ticket is purchased. Oh the feeling of going back and forth, deciding on a date, picking a flight with the least connections and layovers. The hand pauses above the return key, and with a single stroke, your Camino is set in time. So now what? How can you possibly wait for such an exciting event? Well, now you can focus on preparing for this journey.
Before I proceed, I have to give credit to all the reading that I have done on the American Friends On the Camino (APOC) Facebook site, and the essential forum: caminodesantiago.me. It was from these two websites that my questions were posted and patiently answered. I’m sure at this point you have these bookmarked on your computer. If not, become a paying member for both sites (fees are very small, but help to support the Camino: worth it).
One of the first things that you need to do is to go to your local (favorite) sporting goods store. I used REI, as they have a fantastic return policy if you are a member of their store. They measured me for a pack, and I needed a 17 inch range. Luckily, I had a pack that my nephew outgrew. He used it as a boy scout. It is an Osprey JIB 35 Liter pack. The frame was just the right size for my back. The hip belt is adjustable, and it has a pocket for a hydration bag. I bought a 3 L. Platypus bag, with a hose that will run down my shoulder strap. Hydration is essential, and I don’t want to fiddle with a water bottle. I don’t have to fill it all the way up, but across a few stretches of the Meseta, there are few places to get water, so I wanted to have the ability to pack it. It was highly recommended to keep your pack under 45 L. Make sure that it has a light-weight frame to transfer the weight to your hips. You pack should weigh (loaded) 10% of your body weight. Yep.
Boots versus trail runners: a huge battle on the forum sites. What do you need? Trail runners are lighter, but boots offer stability and help on uneven ground, mud, and weak ankles. I have had an issue with my right ankle, and have to have a boot that supports it, so it wasn’t an option for me. What time of year are you going? Spring and Fall can get muddy, but Summer is hot; so lightweight or even hearty sandals (Keen or Tevas) have been used by some for the entire trip! You should pack another pair of shoes to wear after you are finished hiking (in the Albergues or around the village), most pack sandals.
Speaking of feet: it seems to be the consensus that vaseline slathered on before the socks are put on will help keep blisters at bay. Take in mind, this is all my reading: I have no experience walking 10 miles a day. I’ll let you know after I walk in June how it went, but I plan on using Vaseline. Socks: some use a thin, panty-hose first, and then a hiking sock. I purchased a sock called SOX that is supposed to support the foot for those suffering Plantar Fasciitis. I’m just walking in these. I’ll let you know how that works! Luckily, I will hit Pamplona early in my hike and can restock my socks if they don’t work out. Get fitted for your boots and start breaking them in. Wear them around the house, to the store, out to walk the dog, and of course when you begin to train. You can find the thread on boots on the websites that I mentioned. I have Keen Targhee II Mid Hiking Boot. They have a great heel hug and wide toe base (and my orthodics fit in them).
Shoes – pack – socks – route to train on.
Route to train. Those younger folk are probably already fit enough, but it is a good plan to begin a training regiment 4-6 months out. I have trained for marathons, so I know to build up slowly. If you aren’t active now:
Week 1 & 2: Walk for 30 min. a day (distance doesn’t matter)
Week 3 & 4: Walk a mile on flat ground (track at high school) (time doesn’t matter)
Months 2-3: Build to 2 miles a day, with maybe a 3 mile on Sat. or Sun.
Months 4-5: 3 miles a day with a 5 mile hike on weekend (wear a pack weighing 10% of body weight on weekend. Learn to adjust pack.)
A month before you go: Walk with pack if you can 4-5 miles a day and a 10 mile on the week before you leave. Watch for blisters (catch hotspots early and treat with wool: more later).
This is what I’m planning on doing. Right now, I’m leaving in 124 days (4 months & 4 days). I have been side lined by a Plantar Fasciitis issue that I’m going to physical therapy for. Next discussion: what goes in my pack.