Packing lessons learned from walking the Via Francigena
I had to eliminate 6 pounds from it to get it down to 13 pounds— a tenth of my body weight.
So if you weigh 130 pounds, your pack shouldn’t be more than 13 pounds (in Kilos, a person weighing 59 kilos, should have a pack that doesn’t weigh more than 5.9 kilos.)
When you’re packing at home, remember to account for water. When you’re on the walk, you should be filling a camel back every morning. (There are days when there are no places to refill water.)
If you carry for example 2 liters of water, you’re carrying over 4 pounds in water.
If you are tall and muscular then one tenth of your body weight will come out at a much higher number than for people like me who are relatively small. This means for the small person it’s very challenging to carry all you need and keep it to only a tenth of your weight. For example, I was able to allow myself only 1 oz of shampoo for 40 days.
Crucial things you need to know
Cotton doesn’t dry. You don’t wan your hiking shirts, your socks, or your underwear to be cotton. The only thing that can be cotton is your evening/sleeping shirt. Materials like Merino wool, Nylon and Lycra should be used. These materials are quick drying, breathable, and light.
The right shoes are essential
I don’t think you need high hiking boots unless you’re going over the Gran San Bernardo Pass. Low cut day-hikers are OK otherwise. But be sure they have thick soles and be sure they are waterproof.
I do not recommend trail runners. You need something more substantial than a trail-runner for carrying a light load over mixed terrain. There are a lot of what are called “white roads” on the Via Francigena, which are rocky, and thiner soled shoes do not provide enough of a barrier.
Don’t rely on a waterproof spray for non-water proof shoes. This has never worked in my experience.
Fit: To be sure you are getting the right size/fit, go to REI or similar outdoor gear store and get your feet measured.
Here are some examples of women’s waterproof low cut hiking boots.
You want a small to mid-size light weight pack such as the Gorilla 40, or one of the smaller sized Arc Blast packs. The pack I used is by GoLite, a Boulder Colorado company that apparently has gone out of business. If you can find a GoLite one, they are ultra light, usually about a pound, 14 ounces.
An Umbrella is actually something to consider
A light weight umbrella may seem like a luxury, but it can fend off heat stroke and keep you from being soaked to the bone. It can lower your water needs and it gives you something to pee behind. But it’s totally awkward to carry one while hiking, especially if you use trekking poles. But now a German company has made a hands free one.
Diva Cups and Pee Rags
If you are on your moon you need a Diva Cup. Trust me.
Pee Rags: Without reinventing the wheel I’ll pass you to some good hiker chicks who’ve covered the topic:
This list is geared toward a woman, who aims to walk any time between early June and late September:
1 synthetic long sleeve layering shirt
1 coolmax sports bra-top
2 lightweight coolmax hiking t-shirts
1 pair hiking pants that zip off into shorts
1 pair nylon shorts
1 pair capri lightweight pants for evening
1 cotton t-shirt for evening and sleeping
1 light rain shell pants
1 light rain jacket
1 sunhat & sunglasses
1 pair day hiker shoes
1 pair Keens or other sturdy sandals
4 pair hiking socks
4 pair quick drying women’s hiking underwear
Miscellaneous & gadgets:
hands free umbrella (something to consider)
passport & pilgrim “passport”
route and accommodation info in your phone
unlocked cell phone + charger and adapter (get Italian SIM in your phone upon arrival)
lightweight sleeping bag
rain cover for pack
headlamp + extra AAA batteries
protein powder and/or protein nuggets (because breakfasts of protein don’t exit in Italy)
camelback bladder + one Nalgene bottle
potable aqua tablets
any prescriptions necessary
1 travel towel
4 sheets moleskin & 4 blister pads
Newskin liquid bandage .3oz
Tiger balm pain relief patches
hand sanitizer 2 oz
bug spray 2 oz
small army knife
light weight toothbrush & 2.7 oz toothpaste
hand lotion 1 oz
face cream 1 oz
sun block 3 oz
Dr. Bronner’s soap 4 oz
shampoo 1 oz
deodorant .5 oz
Let me know if you have questions, or if you’ve done a long distance hike and brought an item that you found indispensable, please share it!