Gearing Up For The Camino
Our experience on the Camino de Santiago was transformative, healing, holy, and cathartic. It was what I needed, and it happened exactly when I needed it. As I mentioned in a previous blog, the Camino started calling me in 2011. Truthfully, my entire life's journey led me to to it.
Before setting out, I knew we would need some gear. We had heard about a guy at the Atlanta REI store that taught a class about the Camino named "Camino Fred". After calling the store and finding out the class schedule, the guys and I added the date to our calendar and trekked up to Atlanta to see what we could learn from Fred.
We arrived a few minutes late, but quickly found a seat in the class being held in the back stockroom. Fred had cleverly placed the yellow flechas (yellow arrows) through the store directing us toward the class. The guys and I were oblivious to the fact that they were there until Fred pointed them out. Some pilgrims we were! The yellow flechas are one of the guide markers that lead us along the trail of the Camino.
Fred referred to his class as a "Camino Anxiety Reduction Class". We were captivated by hearing Fred's experience and wisdom on the path ahead of us. He was very detailed in providing packing lists, albergue etiquette, and what to expect on a day to day basis. At the end of the training session, we got to experience some Camino food like tortilla (an eggy/potato staple dish along the Camino, Santiago cake, and a few other tasty treats. Fred's class was by far the best two hour time investment possible for getting us mentally ready.
We returned with Dawn to that REI store on a Saturday not long after the class to take on the shopping for the trip. Using the knowledge from Fred's class, and some helpful tips from our friend Father Kevin (an experienced Camino pilgrim), we went through the store selecting our hiking outfits (2 each), our packs, and most importantly, socks and shoes. I will post my Camino packing list here in the near future. By the time we were fully outfitted, our shopping cart was overflowing. Outfitting three pilgrims from the ground up was not an inexpensive venture. My wife Dawn was very gracious and generous to be our executive sponsor for this trip, with gear costs soaring towards $2,200 (remember, that was for 3 pilgrims fully outfitted). That being said, the staff at REI know what they are doing. We spent money on the key things that make a difference on the trail. You want your clothes to be lightweight, and made out of material that dries QUICKLY because you are had washing laundry and hanging out out to dry late in the afternoon. The staff there fitted us for the best packs that suited each of our needs based on our frames and comfort.
During the class, Fred gave us his strong recommendation for a sock combination. I took it to heart and chose that recommendation for myself. It is important to note that after traveling 400 miles across Spain, and hundreds of miles before and after, I (Praise God) haven't experienced a single blister (yet).
If you are being called to walk the Camino, I highly encourage you to contact your local REI to find a Camino Class. I believe strongly that you will find it to be a great place to learn, prepare, and spend your money!