The last time I was going on a long hike, it was five days and I had a guide. Sure, it was the Grand Canyon (which is in itself sort of epic), but it was only five days, and I had a guide. Okay, if something went wrong you were going to have to be evacuated by helicopter (again, epic), but still, only five days, and a guide. And a concrete packing list. And a pre-meet the night before we hit the trail to go over our gear and pare it down to nothing but the exact essentials.

I spent four months on an elliptical machine and walking up and down a hill to get ready. I was so scared. It was my first solo vacation and there was a pretty high chance that I was going to chicken out at the very last second. In fact, when the bus to the plane from Vegas to the Grand Canyon forgot to pick me up (this happens to me more than you’d think is reasonable), I felt both panic and relief. Still, I was definitely in the best shape of my life. And someone was going to hold my hand all the way down the canyon and all the way back up.

Flash forward 10 years. I’ve been laid out for the past 10 days with a very well timed and completely debilitating sinus cold. Every person I interacted with at work got sick (call me Typhoid Kerry), it was such a powerful virus. I am coming off a pretty wretched shoulder injury which has forced me out of the gym (well timed, frankly, with that cold). And I’m planning a five week hike with no guide. Oh, and it’s in a couple of months. And there’s no guide. And no packing list. And I am totally not in the shape of my life.

No worries, though. Because today I took stock. I’m actually a lot better prepared than I thought I was. My guidebook came in the mail this week (the 2012 edition, woot!). It reminded me gently that I need to bring a sleeping bag. Huh. Right. I don’t know how, but I totally forgot that. I bopped back onto the Camino bulletin board (the Camino version of a guide) and it told me that sometimes they have SNOW in northern Spain in May (wtf!), which means I actually need a sleeping bag, not just a liner.

Why should you care about this? I’ll tell you why. I don’t actually own a sleeping bag. I’ve been borrowing my brother’s for over a decade. I think I’ve used it more than he has, actually. I’ve definitely laundered it more than he has. And I’m conscious that a sleeping bag takes up a lot of space. And they can be quite heavy. And the ones that aren’t heavy and big can be expensive. And the goal of this trip is not really to spend a ton of money, cause I did that in New York.

You know what I do own? A backpack. An amazing backpack. A backpack that, when I bought it in 2002, was so expensive my Dad asked me if it came with its own Sherpa. (It was over $300, or more than my airfare or the guided portion of the trip inside the Grand Canyon.) I remember that backpack and freaking out about it because the hip belt was tight and I had it cinched up as tight as I could handle it. Anyway, it’s a traditional top loading backpacking backpack, with a hydration reservoir and all that goodness. It’s a woman’s bag, which means it has a slightly different shoulder construction and the like to fit our different body shape.

I couldn’t remember what size it was, and disregarded it for this trip because if the hip belt was too tight in 2002, there’s no way it’s gonna fit now. So I bought a small bag, oddly the one that I had in high school and university, that was recommended for this trip. I did a practice packing job and was a bit worried about food and water. And then, then I was reminded about the need for the sleeping bag.

The small bag is 30L. The sleeping bag is 2L. Generally speaking I’m going to carry about 1.5 L of water at any given time. My clothing is not small, and I need to carry a full change of clothing, plus a fleece, a rain poncho, a long sleeved shirt, extra socks, toiletries, a first aid kit, a camp towel (which is tiny), laundry line and pegs, two chargers (iPod and Kindle), a kindle and a guidebook, and a pair of flip flops (for hiking shoe relief). And food.

I gotta tell you, food was a lot easier to figure out for the Grand Canyon. Five days was five freeze dried meals and lots of cliff bars. Five weeks is a whole other story. The bulletin board says I’m going to be eating in restaurants and on the trail. I’m going to need to buy my breakfast the day before, and probably my lunch, and carry them with me on the trail. So, I’m going to need to carry about 2000 calories with me, probably in the form of bread, sausage, cheese, and fruit. These are not small food items.

Do you see my dilemma? I have a small backpack that fits everything, except for maybe the food and water. It’s tough to tell that until I actually put food in there. Freaking out this morning, I went down to my incredibly dusty storage area (thank you, drywall dust) and got out my “sport bin” and looked at my Grand Canyon backpack. I have nothing to lose, I said to myself. It still has the luggage tag on it. Might as well put that sucker on and see if you can do up the hip belt, right?

It fits. In fact, it fits perfectly. I didn’t even have to adjust the hip belt. Boom. Just clicked right into place. So, either I’m the exactly same size I was the last time I wore it, or I loosened it before I took it off (which I can’t see why I would do, as there’s totally no point). So, I have a beautiful, perfectly adjusted backpack that I could use for the Camino.

Except? It’s too big. It’s a 60L pack. It’s a SIXTY LITRE PACK!!! And it weighs five times as much as the 30L pack.

Too much of a good thing? Can you have too much of a good thing? Am I really going to overpack just because the pack is bigger? I mean, the packing list is set. Just because the pack is bigger doesn’t mean I’m bringing more stuff. It just means it’s in a better bag. Right? Right?

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