Gear list

I am writing this on February 21, 2024. We are approaching the new hiking spring. That means, the Camino Frances against the tide, early in the year when the tide hopefully hasn't gotten going yet. Then crossing the Pyrenees lengthwise, via the GR11. From there through France, toward Italy. Across the Alps, Rome, Assisi, Venice, and back across the Alps. Then across Switzerland and Austria, France and Germany, back to Belgium.

In the first entries of the 2023 blog, I talked about the cancer, and the equipment. I think I'll alternate a bit. I'll start the 2024 blog with the equipment, and the cancer.

Stage planner

The GR10 on the French side of the Pyrenees, and the GR11 I will do on the Spanish side, are made to reach high altitude about daily, but also return to an altitude between 1500 and 2000 meters where it may often be much more pleasant to pitch the tent. By the way, for enthusiasts, between those two paths there is the HRP, Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne, which rarely returns to a less barren altitude.

I hike without a guidebook. I learned in 2023 that somehow I fill the whole day with walking and just don't get around to consulting such a thing and making a decent plan for the day. Besides, a travel guide on paper is a lot of extra weight, and a digital version is a hassle with small print on a mini screen, hard to marry to a navigation app.

But on the other hand, I don't want to run into a situation where I leave in the afternoon unknowingly on a 40 kilometer stretch above 2000 meters in harsh conditions and then have avoidable problems at night. This is rather important because I am going through the Pyrenees very early in the year, earlier than usually recommended.

That's why I created a stage planner for myself. The thing is more or less an app that runs offline on my cell phone. I say 'more or less' because my cell phone is an iPhone and I don't feel like paying Apple for all kinds of registrations, so it became an html/css/javascript construction that I smuggled into my phone as an offline web page. Offline, so I don't need a data connection.

The thing tracks my distances over the last 7 days, and averages from that. It uses that to predict the day ahead, and also gives me feedback on what the day has already been. And most importantly, it gives me an altitude profile for the upcoming leg of the trip, which I hope will help me plan my night well when I'm in the mountains.

Tent

In 2023, I hiked with a bivy. That's more or less a bag around your sleeping bag. The advantage of such a bivy is that it takes up very little space and fits everywhere unseen. The disadvantage is that it's not that practical. You need minutes to crawl in or out. Sitting upright to cough is not an option. You're lying there knowing that a curious or hungry boar can react to you faster than the other way around. And if it rains in the morning, you have no place to make yourself a cup of coffee that is half outside but still very much sheltered. With a bivy, you go directly from your sleeping bag in the rain. Oh and, that sleeping bag, in that situation, was compressed in several places by the weight of the wet bivy on top of it, and thus not very useful anymore.

The advantage outweighs all, here in Flanders and perhaps in other places with a high population density. But in southern Europe there are more trees per human being, and more square footage. So people are more tolerant. Maybe I have a bit of a distorted view because I was on a pilgrimage in 2023, but already from the north of France I got a different feeling about wild camping. When people have room and are used to hearing and seeing nature that is a lot more interesting then the neighbour's mug, you feel like people can just leave each other alone. If for miles around you only see hills and rapeseed fields, you're almost guaranteed that that one other hiker who passes by in the next hour or so will rather hike on than call the police because you put up your tent.

Maybe it wasn't justified and I was only imagining things, but once in Spain I even laid my sleeping bag on a bench or on the ground in a little park next to a bus station in the middle of the inhabited world. I didn't feel that people would take offence, and I didn't ever get into trouble doing this. It is almost unimaginable in Flanders, but even if someone puts up a tent there in a forest at night, there is just a tent in a forest and no one else takes it personally.

In those circumstances, the advantage of a bivy is not that important. And I think travelling in a tent is probably much more comfortable. I chose the Nemo Hornet Elite Osmo 1P. Groundsheet included, it weighs just under a kilogram. Apart from that white color, it seems perfect, but I haven't tested it yet.

Clothes

I kept my Icebreaker merino wool base layer, and replaced all polywhatever top layers with Icebreaker gear. I chose the RAB Neutrino Pro down jacket, which is nice and warm.

Shoes

I plan to hike in the VivoBarefoot Primus Trail III All Weather FG.

I have very high hopes for that shoe... It's basically the same shoe from 2023, but made from water tight fabric. I'm not going to have soaking wet feet whenever I merely step through wet grass for twenty yards which in 2023 made the hike a lot more difficult because days of cold wet feet on the trail is quite something.

That's kind of the main difference from my 2023 short gear list. Most importantly, I expect much increased travel comfort from my tent and shoes.

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