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The Well Prepared Hiker- Brenda’s Choice

By | Miles for Makena | No Comments

AIRCONTACT LITE SYSTEM BACK SYSTEM’s Choice:  The Deuter, Aircontact Lite 35 + 10 SL

Like Ken said, we have back packs for everything for a day hike, camping, traveling and but none of them very light and made for this kind of adventure.  At first we both agreed on the OSPRY Exos 38. But, it just didn’t feel like the right fit for me so I did some more researching on the Camino Blogs and read up on this one!

Deuter manufacturer’s back packs that are athletic and adapted specifically for women. They were made by women, for women. They feature a shorter adjustable back length, narrower should harness, and conical shaped hip belt tailored to the female form.  It’s light in weight (3 lbs., 8 oz.), ergonomically fit, has a nice modern design and I am anticipating a great backpack for me.  This particular back pack is not as light as others we looked at and even than the one that Ken bought ( 1 lb., 6 oz. heavier) but I think it’s going to be better for me purely because of the fit and level of comfortableness I anticipate (fingers crossed). 

And NO I didn’t pick it because it looks pretty and comes with a flower.  I guess this also means that I’m going to have to really watch bringing much of anything and what I do bring better be VERY LIGHT.  I’m told by my partner, each man for himself when it comes to carrying.

Once I put this on, the most immediate thing I noticed is how comfortable the back supporting system is made.  It’s the AIRCONTACT LITE BACK SYSTEM.  I am not kidding, women – you will feel it as soon as you put it on.  The anatomic profiled x-frame transfers weight on the hips. Now that is one thing I have plenty of (HIPS) so that is going to work very well for me.  The crossed aluminum stays create a flexible frame and it’s easy for my body to move.  As with most backpacks, there is a VariQuick system that allows an easy, quick adjustment to the individual back length and shoulder straps for extra stability.  Take a look at the back of this ladies and gents!!!!

Other cool features, a detachable zipped lid compartment with 2 pockets for valuables (that just might be for my snacks) that can be transformed to a day pack. There is an H2O pocket and fixation for the Streamer hydration bladder and an opening for the drink tube (I’ll just use a water bottle). 

This is kind of unique I think – there is an SOS Label – which gives us tips on what to do in an emergency.  I betcha’ though that it doesn’t say what to do if you lost your spouse on the trail!!  And guess what there is what they call a Stretch Compartment where you can put all your sweaty clothes!

Can’t wait to share with you all the items that will be packed into here and figure what I’m going to have to eliminate to keep it under or at 10 pounds. Since the back pack itself weighs almost 4 pounds that is going to be a real challenge!  ………



El Camino de Santiago – The Well Prepared Hiker

By | Miles for Makena | No Comments



We want to start by discussing our backpack selections which seems, in turn, to demand an explanation of what we desired in our backpack and how needs were determined.


Between us we probably own over a dozen backpacks (mostly meJ) but when undertaking this hike we had to take into consideration variations which we haven’t faced in the past.


Previously all our hikes have included leaving from “home base” and returning to the same place; kinda makes it easy to leave the heavy stuff behind and just come back to it at the end of the hike…this time there is no plan to return to our starting point! This means EVERTHING we need for the trip has to come with us AND stay with us!




We had 3 HUGE concerns; what did we NEED, what would it weigh and how much space would it take (volume of the backpack).


These concerns were the driving force in every item we decided to carry and what we decided to carry it in.


Almost a year ago we began assembling a list of items that were absolutely essential, how much space the essentials would require and determining how much would they weigh. We read endless articles on the trail, watched what seems like billions of hours of YouTube videos, read numerous books and attended lectures from those who have gone before us.


We took a couple of things VERY seriously; foot care first and foremost. Almost everything we read and viewed had horror stories of people who, early on in the hike, suffered from horrible, almost debilitating blisters, we decided that we needed to avoid this at all costs.


At the end we decided that it would be prudent to begin the process of assembling items and then, later  in the process to select the backpack we would use. It seemed obvious that the proper backpack would be critical, but how to select a backpack before you knew for sure what the weight and volume of the “stuff” in it would be was a challenge, I am gonna show you the backpack but first, how did we determine the size?


It started with dozens of trips to REI and hours on Initially this was focused on FEET, what kind shoes? Socks? Sock liners? Material? Foot powder? Blister preventatives? Remedies? Were some of the things we researched. Once we settled on our initial (some things changed during the planning process) footwear and foot care items we felt comfortable moving on to other important items.


Every item of clothing we intended to carry was evaluated in every way we knew how. From socks, to underwear, pants, layers for warmth, rain wear, hats, everything. We wanted to know things like “would the fabric wick moisture quickly?” Would the material chaff? How often would it need to be washed? How long would it take to dry? WHAT DID IT WEIGH? Weight, weight, weight. It seemed like every item we spoke about came back around to WEIGHT!


As the selection progressed we decided that, since we might be hiking as much as 15 miles day we wanted to keep total weight on our back in the 8 to 12 pound range with 8-10 being optimal. This being the case every ounce was taken into consideration.


As a man who loves the kitchen I am in possession of a Polder digital kitchen scale that measures to the 1/10th of an ounce and this tool was used to excess.


I am probably the only person in my social circle that knows my ExOfficio underwear weighs 2.4 oz and that a weeks worth of disposable ear plugs weighs 0.3 oz! I know that a converter from European power to U.S. weighs 0.7 oz and that a small shaker of “Gold Bond” foot powder weighs 1.5 oz and if I take the powder out of the shaker and put it in a baggie it only weighs 1.1 oz; yep watching, literally, every ounce.


 As the process progressed we began to accumulate clothing, accessories and toiletries which gave us a good idea of what size backpack we would need to comfortably hold it all.


Brenda will explain her backpack choice and how it was determined, but for me the choice was easy.


Esprey Exos 38



After looking at all the backpacks we already had, ordering, trying and returning mulptiple backpacks I decided the Osprey Exos 38 was right for me.

At 38 liters many consider this pack to be a “Day Pack”, for me (after looking at all my gear laying out on the dining room table) it seems like just the right pack for a 10 pound total and, at 2.19 pounds it met my desired weight while including the bells and whistles of many much heavier packs.


This backpack comes with large main compartment that includes a hydration pocket and a drawstring, moisture resistant seal and a flap jacket to protect the contents from rain and the elements.


In addition there is a zippered compartment in the flap jacket and a large exterior pocket both of which allow access to items you might need at a moments notice. Stow and go Trekking Pole carriers and lots of clips give you everything you need on the back side for the kind of hiking we intend.



One of the most attractive features of this backpack is the “AirSpeed” Suspension system that keeps the back of the pack off your back (a lot of “ack” sounds in that sentence) and includes a mesh so the backpack breathes and is still properly supported so the weight of the contents won’t pull you backwards, I have honestly never had a pack that could accomplish this; it’s awesome.


Of course all chest and should straps are adjustable and the shoulder straps include one small pocket each for your protein bar or cell phone or min-lite!


I actually ordered one of last years models because it includes additional pockets on the waist band that are amazing large considering their location. Overall a great backpack and it weighs in at on 2.19 pounds.


Although I am still deciding which trekking poles I am carrying what jacket and shower shoes  I intend to pack,  this pack with all the other items I know I will carry comes in at a total of LESS THAN 8 POUNDS!


Keep following the blog and as we hike the El Camino and I will update on all the reasons my decision turn out to be WRONG J!




More from Brenda about her backpack (she decided against the Exos; check out her blog and see why she made a great decision)









The El Camino de Santiago- the Blog Begins

By | Miles for Makena


Thanks for taking an interest in our “Miles for Makena” efforts, it’s truly a worthy cause and Ken and I are excited to help raise money for the “Makena Kids”.

We have received LOTS of questions about our 100 mile hike along the El Camino de Santiago and although many of them included a phrase like “100 miles, REALLY!!!” many also wanted information about preparation, equipment, lodging and the history of the trail; we thought we could start our first post by addressing some of these questions and continue posting as we complete our preparation and through our travel to Spain and, of course, the daily posts we anticipate during the hike itself.

About the El Camino de Santiago

We were first hiking through Cinque Terre in Italy when met Stacie, a young lady who had just completed the 500 mile trek along the El Camino. As she spoke about the hike, the history, the countryside, the towns and villages and, most of all, the people (both on the trail and in the villages) we became enamored with the idea of hiking the trail ourselves.

After discussing the trip at length we began to read up on the history of trail and knowing the story of Saint James the Greater and how the trail came to be one of the worlds most popular pilgrimage trails, we decided we had to make the trip.

Saint James the Greater

Saint James the Greater was thought to be a cousin of Jesus and was a fisherman by trade who worked with his brother John, his partner Simon and his father. Initially followers of John the Baptist, both John and James left their fishing trade when Jesus called upon James to be “a fisher of men”. James remained a disciple until Jesus was crucified by the Romans.

After the crucifixion James traveled the Iberian Peninsula continuing the work of Jesus until he returned to Judea where he was beheaded by King Herod (as told in Acts 12 of the New Testament).

The remains of James the Greater were taken to the Iberian Peninsula, where he had spent so much time spreading the word of Jesus, where they are said to be buried in Santiago de Compostela.

Saint James the Greater is regarded as the patron of pilgrims because subsequent to his own pilgrimage back to Judea he was executed. In addition he is thought to have helped the Christians defeat the Moors in Spain and is therefore, also, the Patron Saint of Spain.

Initially Ken and I planned on hiking the full 500 miles from St. Jean in France to Santiago de Compostela this year but business and life got in the way, L.

Our Trail

From our home near Austin TX we will start with a flight from Austin Newark NJ then on to Madrid where we will arrive on October 18th and take public transportation for the 6 hour bus trip to El Cebreiro, our starting point.

Since we have reservations in Malaga for the week from November 3rd through the 10th we have about 2 weeks to hike the towns and villages between Cebreiro and Santiago de Compostela; we intend to use every moment of it to enjoy the journey. Depending on the weather and our desire to spend more time in the scenic, historic towns and villages we will be in Santiago de Compostela in 7 to 10 days and might travel the additional 50 or so miles to FinisTerre (“the end of the Earth”) the westernmost town in Spain on the Atlantic Ocean.

As you can see from the graphic of one section of the trip, in a 36 km day we pass through 15 population centers, only 2 of which have populations between 500 and 2000; the rest represent what the trip is made of, spending our days traveling through dozens of villages, the vast majority of which have populations under 500!

Thankfully there are Albergue’s (public hospice) all along the route and, being the off season, we anticipate being able to find lodging in almost any town where we wish to spend the night.