Camino sleeping bags

Source: Camino sleeping bags

Ok..so you are planning for your upcoming Camino, you have bought your backpack, your shoes, and your gear, but you come to the sleeping bag. You have questions! We all do when it comes to sleeping bags, but with all questions come answers. Will I be cold / warm at night? Will it be too heavy in my bag? Will it be easy to wash? I had the same questions and I still do.

However, Linda from Somewhereslowly.com has written a great piece about choosing the right bag. It’s not just down to the weight of the bag as you will read in her blog.

Weekend Watch #25 – Radio Buen Camino

Hi folks and here is another weekend watch for you all..the first of February. My offering to you this week is fairly old in comparison to my other videos but it is high in quality. The uploader has put a massive amount of work into this series. Gunnar Walgraeve, a pilgrim from Holland, has put together a great collection of clips from his time on the French Way. Here is the first clip from St Jean to Zubiri. It is in Dutch, but it is subtitled in English. It brought back great memories of my time climbing the Pyrenees in September 2014. You can browse through the rest of his collection afterwards on his home page. Enjoy!

A great article on the Camino Primitivo

There are so many “Ways” to Santiago de Compostela. From the South, you can walk from Seville on the Via de la Plata or from Lisbon on the Camino Portuguese. From the North, you can walk from Irun, Ferrol, Bilbao or Santander on the Camino del Norte. From the West, your feet can take you from Muxia or Finistere. Or from the East, your Camino can begin in many different points across Europe including St Jean Pied de Port on the Camino Frances. Although, it is a well known phrase that you can start your Camino from the moment you leave your front door!

However, one increasingly popular way is the Camino Primitivo…the Primitive or Original Way. Many pilgrims are veering away from the over-crowded Camino Frances to walk a shorter Camino and still gain a compostela. It is said to be the oldest route and pilgrims use that as a great reason to walk it. The Camino Primitivo starts in Oviedo and works it’s way across western Asturias and Galicia. It is 320 kilometres long and can be walked in two weeks. A caveat however….this Camino is much more challenging than it’s cousin that begins in the Pyrenees, so be prepared.

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So why am I writing about this, you may ask yourself? Well, I just want to share with you an article I stumbled on, written by Peter Murtagh in the Irish Times. Peter and his daughter, Natasha, wrote Buen Camino!, and if you are serious about the Camino, you should give it a read. More recently Peter and his son walked the Camino Primitivo and this article is a journal telling us all how they both got on. Give it a read…maybe you will consider it in the future. I know I will.

Towns Along The Way – “H”

Onwards and upwards in the Camino alphabet we go. We must be near the end! The next letter we meet is H and there are a few. There are a number of towns under this letter; one in France, four in Castilla y Leon, and two in Galicia. Again, please comment if you have stayed in any of these towns. For more in this series, check out my Archive.

Honto / Huntto (map)

7494-134823I have seen many variations in the spelling of this place name, however, this is not so much a town but an area in the Saint Michel region of France. You will pass it within an hour of leaving St. Jean Pied de Port if you choose to walk the Napoleon route. While there are bars and accommodation in Honto (gronze.com), it’s probably best to keep focused on the climb ahead and celebrate when you reach Orrison a further 3km up the road. The road up to Honto is entirely on asphalt but it leaves the road shortly after and gets a lot steeper to Orrison. Enjoy the scenery also as the road gets higher!

Hornillos del Camino (map)

Hornillos is situated 20km from Burgos and is in the meseta region of 800px-Hornillos_del_CaminoSpain. The meseta is known for being flat, with roads lasting long into the distance. The towns are few and far between and often are unremarkable. Hornillos would be one of these unremarkable towns; it seems as if history left it behind. It has plenty of accommodation (gronze.com) however I prefer to stay in Hontanas, a further 10km up the road. The photo gives you an idea of how flat the landscape is, with Hornillos in the background. The picture was taken from Alto del Meseta some 2km away.

Hontanas (map)

2266053Hontanas is also situated in Castilla y Leon and a further 11km from Hornillos del Camino. The name is derived from a number of natural springs (fontanas) that can be found in the locality. If you choose to walk the 31km from Burgos (like I have), don’t let the flat landscape deter you but keep on walking. Hontanas is built in a depression so it is very difficult to spot the town until you are close up. Once you see the church spire pop up in the distance, you can think about your first cerveza! I have stayed in the Municipal albergue at the edge of town on both occasions that I have been here, but there are other albergues (gronze.com). El Puntido is a favourite of many.

Hospital de Órbigo (map)

There are number of towns that I passed through but wished to have stayed for longer. La Faba is one, Estella is two and Hospital de Orbigo is another. Situated between Leon and 2015-05-16 07.12.53Astorga, it is a major stopping point for many pilgrims. The town is home to the Puente de Orbigo, a long stone medieval bridge. There is also so much history behind the bridge and the town. There are just over 1000 people living in Hospital de Orbigo. You have quite a good selection of albergues here also (gronze.com) with Albergue Verde being one I would recommend. On leaving the town, the road splits in two. One takes you along the main road, while the other takes you off road through Villares de Orbigo.

Hospital da Cruz (map)

Hospital da Cruz (or O Hospital in Galician) is a rural hamlet located between Portomarin and Palas de Rei in Galicia. It is just over 80km from Santiago and has just under 50 people living there. The town has a municipal albergue (gronze.com) and a number of bars for a mid morning cerveza or cafe con leche!

Hospital da Condesa (map)

3060_hospital-da-condesaYet another town named Hospital. It’s getting difficult to distinguish between the three! Condesa is located just 6km from O Cebreiro. It has a population of just under 50 and again is a rural based hamlet. There is a municipal albergue (gronze.com) and bars with good reviews. While you pass through, you will notice the Church of San Xoan (Saint Joan in English). From here on, you have a steady ascent to Alto do Poio.

Las Herrerías de Valcarce (map)

And the final town starting with H is Las Herrerias de Valcarce. Las Herrerias is situated las Herreriasbetween Villafranca del Bierzo and O Cebriero. The placename means The Blacksmiths in English. Interesting. The town is right beside the Valcarce river and is the last stop before the road climbs to La Faba. There are about 39 people living here at present. Myself, I haven’t stayed here, preferring to pass through quickly in 2012. On my return in August, I may choose to stay here after walking from Villafranca. The next day I will have the climb plus an amazing sunrise to look forward to. There is an albergue here along with a number of pensions (gronze.com). Shortly after you leave Las Herrerias, you leave the asphalt road to La Faba. It’s a tough climb but it is well well worth it. Enjoy it!

My next post in this series will focus on Itero de la Vega, Linzoáin, Larrasoaña, Lorca, Los Arcos, Logroño, Lédigos and León. See you then!

John Mattingly’s Camino Art

Just a quick post to recommend a site that you all should visit. I’ve updated my Links page to include this, should you miss this post. John Mattingly has a great Facebook page where he uploads his drawings of landscapes from the Camino Frances. He has over 400 members at this stage, but in the last few days he has decided to create a Flickr page to group all these drawings together. At the time of writing, there are over 5o pieces of work. They are awesome!

So go check his Flickr site out here

Weekend Watch #24 – A Camino in Pictures

It’s the weekend again and with that news, I bring you a new video! It’s the 24th of this series. This video was taken in May 2015, when I was on the Camino, but was uploaded to Youtube in the last week or so. It contains photos of a couple’s walk through Navarra from Zubiri to Zizur Menor, through Larrosoana and Pamplona. Enjoy!

In Search of a Sleeping Bag…again!

Well, the time has come to browse through my existing gear and see if it is adequate for an August Camino. August is a tricky month to plan for as you can’t predict the weather in Galicia. One day could give you the brightest of sun and the next could give you a year’s worth of rain. That said, I really enjoy shopping for Camino gear and have started browsing through eBay, Amazon and other retailers to see if I can find any gems. I’ve always been a May peregrino, save for September 2014 when I went up and over the Pyrenees. I brought along a May packing list and was quite happy with it. I was actually too warm and if I was walking for longer, I would have sent some items home.

At present, most of my Camino gear is lying in the bottom drawer of a wardrobe as I don’t wear them for the most part. The last item I have purchased was a Berghaus fleece, which I don’t think I will bring as it is too heavy. Weight means everything on the Camino, you know? So I have ran through the items I own, and apart from items from the pharmacy and footcare, I need to buy the following:

  • A lightweight sleeping bag
  • A 2nd Merino base layer t-shirt
  • And a soft shell wind breaker.

The last two have been answered quite easily and hopefully will be purchased by the end of the week. However, it has taken me quite a while to decide on what sleeping bag I will bring along on my next Camino. The crux of the decision was weight. In 2012, I bought a Tesco own-brand sleeping bag which was low on quality and low on price. It was awful to be honest. It weighed Travelpak1-31.2kg and was a pain to roll back into it’s compression sack each morning.  I used this bag on my 2012 and 2013 Caminos and while I was warm at night and did the job, it was a pain to maintain it. On my 2014 and 2015 Caminos I brought along the Snugpak Travelpak 1 bag, which weighed a much lighter 850g. It was so handy to maintain; it was small and for walking in May, I was always warm at night. However, I chose to leave it behind in Albergue Santamarina in Molinaseca, so my backpack could be a little lighter. Shame, as I liked that.

For my potential 2016 Camino, I have been browsing and with help from L from somewhereslowly.com, I have chosen the Ayacucho Lite 700 bag. I had never heard of the brand until a few days ago, but the bag itself is highly recommended. First of all, it is lightweight at 680g and secondly it packs down well. Some of the negative feedback states that it is not warm enough. However, it does advertise itself as a bag for the summer months. I do intend to bring a long a liner as well if the weather is chilly at night, but the other option is sleeping in the following day’s clothes which I normally do. The Ayacucho bag is also listed in the Independent’s Top Ten Sleeping bags for backpacking so that is high praise indeed.