I ventured into one of the local outdoors stores here today to start doing some research on the kind of gear I will need for the Camino. Half an hour later, I bolted out the door in a cold sweat. Who knew there was so much to choose from and how was I ever going to figure out what was right for me?? Then again, my cold sweat could have simply been because I wasn’t wearing the proper breathable ‘Microporous PTFE laminate banded to a face fabric’ gear!

But take jackets for example.  There’s hard shell or softshell. There’s waterproof or water resistant. Or windproof. Or fleece. There’s 3-ply or 2-play or even 2.5-ply. There’s Entrant DT or Entrant EV or Entrant Dermizax or just Entrant. There’s Polartec Powershield light or Polartec Powershield high loft. There’s GORE-TEX, Schoeller dryskin, Cordura, Lycra, Coolmax, polymide, polyester, nylon ripstop, Windstopper or N2S. There’s sewn-through or quilted, offset quilted, baffled or triple-layer. It goes on and on.

You want a backpack? How do you feel about ReCurve suspension, HDPE framesheet, AirScape back panels, Bioform CM hip belts, dual density foam or dual peripheral rods?

Hiking boots? Apart from heavy or light, make sure you consider Seamsmart, biosmart, trail radius regrind soles and synergy heel systems.

I didn’t even get to things like sleeping bags, socks or underwear.

When Joe and I hiked the Annapurnas in the 1980s, it was simple (not the hiking mind you; the purchasing of gear). We bought backpacks (way too heavy by today’s standards…do you know today you can buy packs that weigh less than 600 grams?), leather hiking boots (they cut up my feet and I ended up walking most of the way in sneakers and flip flops), MEC sleeping bags that we still use today and Therma-rests (again, still in use). The rest was just whatever was in our closets – cotton t-shirts (cotton is a no-no for hikers since it takes way too long to dry), a pair of pants (again, cotton), down vests and a couple of skirts for me and shorts for Joe. 

Today you have to have a PhD to even understand what the labels say!

5 thoughts on “Bafflegab

  1. And that goes double for me. I wouldn’t even be able to find the store! I bet the pilgrims didn’t have any of this stuff. Mind you, they were probably fit and weather-hardy to begin with. How about a shurpa. Maybe you should start a trend of having a Spanish/French shurpa.


  2. Michael will tell you to skip the hiking boots unless you’re doing some serious bouldering. As you discovered on your last trip, running shoes are much better. AND they’re lighter.

    Come to think of it, if you can convince Michael to go shopping with you, he’s great at picking out outdoor gear. No nonsense about all the materials — it’s all about finding something that fits you properly and is comfortable. Seriously, e-mail him. (He’ll hate me for it, but you will love it.)


  3. Cathy and I were in to Coast Mtn on Saturday just to see what it was like. I decided that maybe a new set of snowshoes was in order, but it just got too complicated (and that’s one of the simplest product lines to figure out!).


  4. years ago i decided to hike the chilkoot and had nothing for gear, and i totally understand how you can feel overwhelmed in the stores!! but here is what i learned

    -get a lightweight wind/water PROOF coat
    -get lightweight but warm fleece
    -get smartwool socks
    -get a women’s backpack with an adjustable INTERNAL frame that doesn’t look harder to operate than the space shuttle
    -get the quick dry clothes–they’ll be worth it when you’re wet and want to get dry fast
    -get a waterproof back pack cover (I learned that one the hard way)
    -use your sleeping bags/therma rests if they’re still comfortable
    -most importantly–whatever shoes you decide to use–break them in!!


  5. I sympathize! I’m stuck in the early ’90s when it comes to gear and “performance” clothing but it works just fine for me. So how did you manage to remember all those tech terms? Very impressive!


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