In every blog devoted to the Camino de Santiago, and even once out walking, there are four big questions up for discussion. Here is my opinion on those four hot topics!
- Walking Poles – should you carry walking sticks? Yes! I would especially recommend it if starting in Saint Jean Pier-de-Port. If starting later on the trail then it is not as critical but still helpful. If you are not checking your pack then just plan to buy your walking pole(s) in country. I did not have a walking poles but I did find a sturdy stick on my second day which I used frequently for the rest of my pilgrimage.
- Boots vs Sandals – Boots! Again, especially if starting in SJPP and walking over the Pyrenees. But even later on the trail where the elevation gain is minimal, the combined stress of dozens of 50 meter hills can take its toll on your ankles and knees. I needed the support. And while I was glad I had sandals at the end of a long day, I needed boots for walking.
- Carry or transfer your pack – I carried my pack for the first four days and loved the simplicity of knowing everything I needed was with me. However, once I experimented with one of the many companies that will transfer your pack for only 5 euro, I never looked back. The process was so incredibly easy, made my days much more enjoyable and I was able to cover significantly more mileage. When I return I want to be able to carry my pack for 20+ kilometers a day, but not actually do it.
- Advance Reservations – It depends. This is probably the most controversial of the four items. Many seem to feel it takes away from the true experience if you book ahead. However, on the flip side, I saw many people stressed out and it became a race to get to town in order to find a place to stay. I liked to walk longer in the day and would not have been able to walk as late if I did not have a reservation. I felt it allowed me to enjoy my day and live in the moment without having to hurry and get to town. However, I often missed out on some really great lodgings because I had booked already. And three times I had booked someplace farther from the center of town than I realized which resulted in me walking more than I needed to. One such incident resulted in an extra 3 kms off the Camino (in the rain). So really, I think this is up to you. Just don’t judge those that decide differently than you!