Although I love planning and making lists, I’ve made several mistakes during my Camino planning and I hope listing them will help others avoid them. Here they are in roughly chronological order. (Check back often, as this list will likely grow!)
Storing Gear in the Heat
For various reasons, I’ve had to store my camping gear in a hot attics / storage units over the years. Turns out, this is a bad thing. (In my defense, it wasn’t by choice and although I knew it was probably bad, I just didn’t realize how bad.)
Much of my water-resistant gear now suffers from “hydrolysis.” This is when the fabric’s interior laminate melts into a nasty, scaly, rubbery, sticky, “dust.” I tried to clean it up, but to little avail. The best I could do after 20 mins of brushing the easiest-to-scrub area only got rid of some of the more noticeable grossness, but the fabric was still seriously tacky to the touch.
My wife thinks she can sew a nylon sack into the main compartment of my backpack to get me a few more trips. Either that or I’ll just use a large compactor bag as a first layer stuff sack.
The good news is that none of this was specifically Camino gear, but I had planned to use some of it for training. Bummer.
Buying the Wrong Shoes from the Wrong Store
I knew going in that I probably was not going to use the Hi-Tech trail shoes I got from Bass Pro Shop on the Camino, but they were on a good sale and I thought I’d just see how I liked trail shoes compared to regular shoes. While not a completely stupid idea, I did three things wrong that made the purchase into a legit Fail.
First, I bought the shoes without reviewing them and suffered the exact problem everyone else complains about – the fit sucks. I even exchanged the first pair to go up a size, assuming they’d break in. By the time I realized they were not going to, I had worn them to the point where they could not be returned. So now I have this nearly-new pair of shoes I may never wear again, and I’m out $50 that could have gone toward something I’d actually take on the Camino.
Which brings me to my second mistake. My thinking at the time was that I didn’t want to lose a lot of money on an experiment, so if I liked trail shoes in general, then I’d get better ones later. The problem, of course, is that my experience with these shoes wouldn’t give me much data for what the “better” ones would be like.
My third and biggest mistake was not knowing about REI ‘s excellent return / exchange policy. While stores like Bass Pro Shop and Fleet Feet have a fairly generous 60 days “no questions asked” policy (which I also did not know about and exceeded), REI understands that you can’t tell in the store how shoes will work on the trail, and they give you a full year to try their products to make sure you get the right thing.
Speaking of REI . . .
Forgetting My REI Membership
So here’s a funny story.
I finally decided to bite the bullet and get an REI membership. $20 for a lifetime – smoking deal! I got on the website, filled out all the forms, made it all the way to the very last page of the cart and the process failed. It said my browser didn’t have cookies enabled (which is not true, but whatever).
So I tried again on another browser. Same thing. Sighing, I activated REI’s customer service chat. After our little chat, they said I had to call in!
So in a fit of completely justified rage I called REI. Then, the operator had the unmitigated gall to suggest that maybe I had a membership already. WHAT??? I mean – did I really sound stupid enough to have bought a membership and simply forgotten? Like, maybe in 2012? Really? Oh. Yeah, um – could you just read me the membership number . . . thanks.
Happily, this one did not actually cost me – but speaking of forgetting purchases . . .
Foregoing a Complete Gear Inventory
I’ve been buying camping and backpacking gear on and off since my late 20’s and I’ve accumulated about a trunk’s worth that’s been following me around in various storage locales ever since. Between trades, sales, purchases, losses, etc. the collection has changed regularly, and (surprisingly for me) I have not kept a list.
I mistakenly assumed I knew all my gear relevant to the Camino. Thus, after spending $60 on some (excellent) Marmot rain pants, I discovered I already had a decent, never used pair in my camping gear. They’re several years old but it near perfect shape.
Thankfully REI has a great return policy, because it would have been a waste of funds otherwise.