I have to preface this with a little soul-searching and hand-wringing. There is something not quite right about spending a lot of money on expensive kit for a pilgrimage. However, neither of my old pairs of boots will get me 2000km and more. Further, my chances of making it all the way will be greatly increased by carrying the lightest of packs. Experience has taught me that I dehydrate abnormally quickly (that is to say – I sweat more than most people I know, even in cold weather). Thus I need to be able to carry a great deal of water, especially where there is little chance of replenishing supplies. A litre of water weighs 1 kilogram, and I need to carry at least three litres, more in the heat of Italy, and that adds hugely to the load on knees and feet.
So, to mitigate this, I have just ordered an ultra-light backpack from the USA. This is the ZPack Arc Haul, which is nearly 2kg lighter than the rucksack I used for my first two Caminos, and 1kg lighter than the one I have used in the past 18 months. The frame is carbon fibre (not good in thunderstorms, though!).
Last September I finally figured out, while on a five-day walk in Spain, that one really doesn’t need much more for two or three months than for five days. So I shall pack light, but I shall need my sleeping bag, and I’ll take a foam mat in case I have to sleep on a floor (it has been known), and for rest-stops during the day…always good to sit on something: it’s easy to pick up tics when sitting on the ground.
The Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome has just devised a new logo, which will eventually be made into a badge – alas, too late for me, I think. I’ll try to create one of my own, or buy one from the Associazione Europea delle Vie Francigene.
The Confraternity’s AGM will be in London on 5 March, and it will be exciting to meet with those who are also planning this pilgrimage, and those who have already made it. Already I have contact with members of the Facebook VF Group, and the Via Francigena forum online. These are pleasant foretastes of the companionship and friendships which are formed over these distances, for – as in life – we are all heading the same way.