T-4 Weeks: On Packing and Minimalism

Camino Gear

Camino Gear

I leave in four weeks from today! Which means I’m starting to have apprehensive feelings, so I’m placating them by hyper organizing my gear and scrutinizing my pack weight-don’t worry I’m not about to cut my toothbrush in half, which theoretically, people do. And admittedly, I’m getting sick of training. I love hiking, but because access is limited I have to hike around the city, which gets old really fast. And I don’t want to burn out hiking-wise before even starting. Luckily, the two weeks prior to departure are about tapering, so I have full muscle recovery before setting out. So only two more weeks of wandering around the city. 

Common wisdom for packing for this hike is to keep your pack weight at around 10% of your body weight. But for me that means keeping it below 6kg before water. Which is possible, as my current pack is 7.5kg with about 1.5kg of “extra” things I don’t technically need, like hydration tablets, a camera (other than my iphone) and an iPad mini, plus a few little things that add up. What’s an extra 1.5kg? I really don’t know, though I can tell you when my bag hits 8.5kg (which it will with water) I really start to feel it, but anything under 7kg I don’t really notice. I’m not in the extreme camp where my pack could prevent me from making the trip at all, but the weight could impact the enjoyable factor.

Of course, there’s a life metaphor to find here, the extra luxuries I feel I “need” add burden to my life. In this case, in the literal sense, directly on my back. And the question is, are these luxuries worth the extra cost (physical) of having them? A lot of people who do this trek (and carry their pack themselves) often site finding at the end, they realize how little they need in real life, and purge the excess from their lives (and their backpacks along the way). Which, I’d venture to say is something a lot of people could benefit from. I had the same aha! moment after living in Tanzania, which set my life on a path of trying to find a minimalism that that works for me. Extreme minimalism doesn’t really work with my tendency to get bored with my wardrobe. But what I’ve discovered is, I don’t like owning many possessions. Many, of course, being subjective. For me, it’s essentially a 600 sq. foot apartment with two people worth of stuff. But what I do own, I care a lot about. If it’s going to take up precious space, it needs to be worth it. Which is probably best, because as it is I seem to have expensive taste, so not accumulating is also essential for my bank account. I’m a full-fledged Kool-Aide drinker of the konmari method. I might eye-roll at some of the phrases (I don’t know that my flip-flops I take to hostels for the shower “spark joy”), but I certainly love how pretty my perfectly arranged drawers are. I love that our apartment has zero clutter, that we can move everything we own in one day, that we don’t have to spend much money because of our stuff (more space, insurance, etc). The ramifications are of course huge over the course of a lifetime, living small and with few things that you take care of, instead of amassing things, which need more space, which costs more to maintain changes cost of living. Of course everyone is different, and for some minimalism might cause emotional distress, being surrounded by physical memories being a great comfort or joy. But for me, the freedom from clutter and lack of attachment burden greatly improve my life, physically and psychologically.

So I feel like I’ve learned that great-life lesson of unburdening oneself, and found good balance at that. And yet, I can’t seem to remove those extras from my bag. Even though I know the potential consequences. I’ve got regular packing down to an art, where I almost never check, but never want for anything for any length of trip. And perhaps feel a slight sense of smugness easily navigating cobblestones with my light bag while others struggle with their giant heavy suitcases. Not that I should probably admit that. But, I’m proud of my packing skills. So it is a bit frustrating I can’t seem to find that sweet spot. They say not to pack for “what-ifs,” on this trip, you’ll be in Europe, not the wilds of Borneo. If you need bandaids you can just buy them. And it’s a good lesson in not worrying, and trusting things will work out. And truly, in terms of travel, beyond the obvious due diligence, everything has always worked out, even when we were woefully unprepared. So, I’m not bringing too much in that regard (aside from rain gear, blister prevention/treatment and medication). I’m curious how this trip will impact my view of minimalism, if at all. If I’ll do what they say everyone does and ship a bunch of things home. Or donate them, or throw them away. I’d prefer to strike the ideal balance straight away, and maybe I’ll be perfectly fine with this pack weight, but oh does a sub 6kg pack look like a glorious challenge.

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