Packing for the camino

I complete packing for our camino trip this morning. We’re doing the last 110km of the Camino Frances (or French way) from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela.

I think I’ve got everything I need, but if I don’t then I’m sure I’ll cope. After all there are shops in Spain, so I can buy anything extra I require.

Most of my gear comes from Mountain Warehouse, which has the benefit of being relatively inexpensive and also offering the large sizes I need.

Here’s all my gear laid out:

  • Phoenix Extreme Backpack from Mountain Warehouse. People say you should invest in a good backpack and have it properly fitted to your body type in a shop, but this cheapish one I got online is fine. I’ve used it a fair bit already, and it’s good and comfortable. It has as 35 litre capacity, well padded shoulder straps, a waist strap, outside compartments to store water bottles, and a waterproof cover.
  • Stride walking shorts and zip-off walking trousers from Mountain Warehouse – both of which are stretchy, lightweight, and quick drying
  • Under Armour wicking underwear – expensive but I got them half price at an outlet mall. They have a six-inch long leg that doesn’t ride up, and helps me avoid any chub-rub at the top of my thighs!
  • 3 x Deuce IsoCool Polo shirts from Mountain Warehouse – lightweight, wicking and with UV protection
  • First aid kit – cheap all-in-one Amazon kit, with added Compeed plasters for any blisters
  • T-shirt and shorts for sleeping from Mountain Warehouse
  • 3 X Merino wool hiking socks by Danish Endurance purchased from Amazon
  • Lightweight rain jacket from Mountain Warehouse
  • Buff
  • Microfibre towel
  • Baseball cap
  • Phone charger with adapter for Spain, and a small powerbank
  • Water bottle and collapsible water container
  • Toiletries in a zip-lock bag – containing miniature-sized sunscreen, deodorant, shave gel, toothpaste, hand sanitiser and vaseline
  • Toothbrush, earplugs and drugs in a zip-lock bag
  • Camino passport from the Camino Society Ireland, and comes with its own protective sleeve
  • Passport – in a plastic bag to protect it from getting wet
  • Walking shoes – Merrell MOAB 2 Ventilator from Great Outdoors
  • Rubber soled sandals – for wearing in the evening after walking to give my feet a rest

Preparation for the Camino

It’s just over 3 weeks until we head off to Spain to walk the last 115km of the ‘French Way’ of the Camino.

As the date approaches fast, I’m getting a bit worried about my physical ability to do this walking. We’re not planning on pushing it too hard on the walk, but we are hoping to do 15-20km a day, but it’s something I’m not used to doing.

Two things have got me obsessed in the last few weeks:

  1. Do I have all the right kit? I’ve been reading loads of ‘Camino Packing Lists’ on the web to make sure I have all the right ‘stuff’ to take with me. And with all of this helpful (if not always consistent) advice online it means that I’ve been obsessing about whether I have the right shoes, the right backpack, and right socks, the right underwear, and so on. My obsession has also manifested itself in large spending sprees buying ‘technical’ sports clothing that I’ve never worn before, including wicking and lightweight t-shirts and shorts!
  2. Can I walk that far? In preparation for going away, I’ve been trying to do a lot more walking than normal. I’m a fairly active person, but my main form of transport every day is cycling rather than walking. As such I’ve been forcing myself to get out and walk a bit more in preparation. For the last couple of weeks I’ve taken to walking in to work twice a week wearing all the gear: the socks, shoes, clothes, and backpack that I plan to use for the Camino. It’s about 7km from my home to the office, which is maybe 40-50% of the distance we’ll be doing each day on the Camino.

The ‘right kit’ obsession manifested itself again today as I spent a good 20 minutes on Amazon checking out all the blister treatment and prevention options. Which then led me to looking at walking socks – even though I already have good ones.

If I’m not careful I’ll bankrupt myself buying walking stuff before I even make it to Spain!

I also need to convince myself to think past the Camino about the rest of the holiday we’ve planned after the walk. So far I haven’t given it a moment’s thought. But the idea is that we’re travelling on to a beach resort near to Barcelona, presumably to lie on the beach and compare our blisters!

Maybe I should also consider this ‘apres walk’ part of the holiday, because no doubt by then I’ll be sick of all the technical walking gear, and I’ll just need a pair of swimming shorts and a couple of t-shirts!

We have this plan to walk the Camino

Ever since I watched the Martin Sheen movie ‘The Way‘, about a man who walks the Camino (or The Way of St James) to Santiago de Compostela, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of walking it myself.

I’m not driven by some deep religious longing to go on a devotional pilgrimage, but rather I’m drawn by the idea of doing something that’s vaguely healthy and might also be a very interesting experience.

There are many different routes that people take, and some of them are as much as 800 km long! I’m not sure I have the time or stamina to do something that long. However it seems to be entirely feasible and a popular option to do the last 100 km in about a week.

The idea is that we would walk this last section into Santiago, and then maybe fly on somewhere afterwards to spend a second week lying on the beach – no doubt tending to my bashed and bruised feet.

Nothing’s booked yet, but we’re thinking of doing it in September. The weather will still be nice (but hopefully not too hot) and it’ll be past the peak holiday season, and so not as expensive.

Initial Preparations

It may be five months until we go, but that doesn’t mean the initial preparations can’t start now.

For me that doesn’t mean practising walking. No, it means starting to obsess about the size of my rucksack!

Do I get a medium-sized one, or a small one? We’re planning to stay in hotels along the route (I didn’t do shared hostel rooms in my youth, so I’m not going to start now), so we don’t need to carry any camping gear or bedding.

So in theory, if I packed light, I could carry everything I need with me. After all, what does a modern-day traveller need these days except for a change of clothes, a smartphone and charger, and a credit card? Actually, maybe a few more things, but I’ll worry about that nearer the time.

If I do decide to bring a lot of stuff then there are services available to transfer bags between hotels on the route, so I won’t need to carry it all if I don’t want to. During the day I could make do with a good pair of shoes and a water bottle, and meet the rest of my stuff at the next hotel.

My mind is also undecided about whether to use walking poles. Some people advocate their use as they can reduce the strain on the legs, while others say they are more of a hindrance than a help.

The problem, I guess, is that there are seemingly hundreds of websites offering camino walking advice to newbies and experienced hikers alike, and it’s difficult to know what to believe when they often contradict each other! Certainly the suggested packing lists can seem quite daunting, and I worry that it might get quite expensive to buy all the specialist gear they recommend.

The Essentials

At the moment I think I probably need new walking shoes. I have some existing ones, but they’re quite cheap and a bit old and battered, and also quite heavy – so I worry my feet might suffer in them over the long distance.

I also think I probably need some proper walking socks. I had a bad experience a couple of years ago walking 26 km in one day and getting huge blisters on both feet, and I think it was entirely down to the socks. They were cotton, and they got sweaty and stayed sweaty and then started rubbing. So good socks are a definite.

I’ll park the decision about the rucksack and walking polls for now, and perhaps obsess about hydration instead. They say you should carry around 2 litres of water with you each day. I don’t like those hydration bladder things, as the whole experience of sucking on the rubber tube to get a drink is just horrible! So I think I might need to invest in a nice water bottle. After all they’re very useful in normal life as well – whereas you’d look a fool walking around the office with a water bladder strapped to your back!

I’m sure there’s a whole load of other stuff that I’m going to need as well, and I think I should start compiling a list. Otherwise I know that I’m going to end up panic-buying high priced outdoor gear at the last minute.

Using taxi hailing apps at Dublin Airport

There’s been some discussion recently about whether taxis should be forced to accept card payments.

When arriving at an airport you would have thought it would be especially important that taxis accept credit and debit cards – but it seems there’s no requirement on the taxis licensed to pick up at Dublin airport to take cards.

Here’s a recent tweet from the Dublin Airport twitter account in response to a question on the matter:

One obvious way to ensure you can pay by card is to book a taxi using one of the hailing apps such as myTaxi. But there doesn’t appear to be anywhere in Dublin Airport for passengers to get picked up by app-hailed taxis.

Only certain pre-approved taxis are allowed to join the official airport taxi rank, and so app-hailed pickups often take place at other random parts of the airport – at the departures drop-off area, at the bus stops, or on some random side-street. The taxis aren’t allowed to wait in these areas, so they circle the airport until their passengers are in position and then swoop in collect them.

I tweeted Dublin Airport to ask them if they had a designated area for pre-booked taxis to pick up passengers, but they never replied to me. I guess their answer would be that they would prefer that taxis park up in the short-term car park, and come into the terminal to collect passengers – but they would say that, because they generate a lot of revenue from their car parks!

Also as a passenger I don’t really want to pay the additional parking fees for my taxi.

So what’s the solution?

Maybe Dublin Airport needs to think about providing a designated area (perhaps where all the buses park up and wait) in the airport for app-hailed taxi pickups – one that allows taxis to wait for a few minutes for their passengers to arrive.

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