Footloose, Fancy-Free…Fashionable?

Yeah...no.

Yeah…no.

Here’s a confession: I have no clue what to wear on The Camino. Sure, I know the basics, like sturdy boots, a warm, waterproof jacket, breathable shirts, convertible pants/shorts, and thick wool socks, but I’ve never purchased any serious outdoorsy gear. Hiking and camping aren’t really huge pastimes here in New Orleans, and the last time I went on a “hike” I lived in Chicago, wore sneakers, and brought along a couple of bottles of wine for the journey. With pretty much zero experience and a seemingly endless array of different Camino forums and camping websites, option paralysis has already taken hold. When it comes to putting together my all-star list of perfect pilgrimage duds, I’m feeling pretty lost.

My rational side tells me that this is all a bit of a gamble, and that I should try my best to not get bogged down in the details. Things that matter: weight, waterproofing, temperature control, long term comfort, injury prevention. Things that don’t matter: color, attractiveness, current trends.

In the end, I’ll probably make some sacrifices on both sides of the coin. For instance, I know I won’t be comfortable wearing a dark jacket. What if I fall down a cliff and the rescue team can’t see me? So I’ll be looking for a combination of performance and obnoxious color – preferably magenta, since it makes me happy. I’m also thinking of trying to find minimalist hiking boots, which will probably come across as a tad trendy to most people. However, I love walking in minimalist shoes, and my hips and back feel a lot better since I stopped using shoes with extraneous cushioning, so in that case trend and performance are on equal ground.

Socks, as small a purchase as they are, are one of the most important choices I’ll have to make. Blisters can slow you down, or even end your pilgrimage, and I am notoriously prone to blisters on the tops of my toes and backs of my heels. There are methods to avoid this, like rubbing Vicks Vaporub on your feet each day before donning socks, but your choice of socks is still key to preventing foot injury on the trail.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten as of now, other than discovering that there are about a million and one choices for everything on my list, and all of them have pros and cons. In the end, I’m going to have to start trying things out, one at a time. I’m going to probably spring for boots and pack first, so I can practice and wear them (and myself) in. Everything else will have to happen a piece at a time, so I guess I’d better get started comparing reviews, huh?

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Your Backpack Is A Portable Laundry Line: Washing Clothes on the Camino

CroatianLaundry

Laundry on a line in Split, Croatia; photo by Anna Harris (2012).

One of the things I’ll have to get used to while walking the Camino is wearing the same thing, day after day. It’s advised that your pack only be about 10% of your body weight, which currently puts my pack’s ideal weight at about 15 lbs. I plan on hiking as lightly as possible, which should mean two changes of clothes, max.

As you might imagine, wearing the same thing every day is not only boring, but also potentially stinky, especially when you’re walking between 15 and 20 miles per day. From what I’ve been reading, there are opportunities to wash and dry clothing in machines once a week or so. In some cases, it’s even possible to have your laundry done for you. However, it seems that many people end up hand washing essential pieces in the afternoon after a day’s walk, then hanging them out to dry on a laundry line at their alburgue (a type of hostel along the Camino). Another option is to hang smaller wet clothes, like socks, on the back of your backpack as you walk the next day.

I hate washing clothes. Even with the modern convenience of a washer and dryer in my apartment, I still put off washing clothes until I’ve run out of all of my favorite t-shirts. More than just washing clothes, I especially hate hand washing clothes. I like soaping and rinsing them, but I really dislike wringing them out. When I was a girl, still living at home, one of my chores was to do all of the laundry, even when our washing machine died and this meant washing everyone’s clothes by hand. It’s just not something I ever want to do again, and I try to avoid buying delicate clothing as a result.

As lame as it may sound, I think this might be a small issue on the trip. Will I just deal with it, and hand wash when needed? Probably. Or will I hold out until the last minute, desperately hoping to run into a washing machine in the next town over? Well, there’s a good chance I might do this for awhile, too. One way or the other, it’s sure to be an adventure.

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How To Clean Sweaty Bikram Clothes

When I first started doing Bikram yoga a couple of years ago, I was amazed at how much I could sweat. I remember the first time I noticed that my shins were sweating, and being simultaneously scared and amused. Before that moment, I thought sweat was pretty much confined to armpits, backs, and foreheads. What a surprise for me to see it coming from everywhere, soaking through my clothes and towel. Walking home from class, sweat dripping with every step, I don’t think I had ever appreciated the lovely Chicago late summer breeze so much.

As time went by, I got used to sweating, and grew to love it. I went to a pretty strict studio, and wasn’t allowed to wipe or scratch if sweat was tickling me somewhere. Part of practice is the stillness, and true stillness means learning to breathe through small discomforts, just let them go. I do pretty well at this part of class, actually. I’ve gotten pretty good at letting things go, and this has translated into my everyday life, as well.

Except when it comes to stinky yoga clothes!

I learned early on that sweaty yoga clothes and towels do not behave as normal laundry does. It stinks, it grows stuff, it’s the height of gross. You think you have it clean, then all of a sudden you catch a whiff of wtf-is-embedded-in-my-clothes?!?!? It drives me crazy. It essentially ruined my stillness for some time before I finally learned how to handle it efficiently. It’s been a while since I was a complete headcase when it came to getting my sweaty clothes clean, but I can still remember the frenzy. If you’ve never soaked through everything you’re wearing, PLUS a thick towel, put them in a plastic grocery bag to get them home, then had to actually empty the bag out in the sink to get rid of excess moisture, you’re not going to get the ‘crazy’ that comes along with doing truly sweaty laundry. It was a relief to get past that point and on with the show.

Lately at my new studio, however, I’ve overheard a number of people talking about battling sweat smells and stains in yoga clothes. I’ve been sharing my not-so-secret secret with as many people as possible, but it seemed like a good idea to just write a blog post about my method. This is a very simple and economical fix, too. No need for expensive sports detergents or any crazy multi-step programs – just a couple of additions to your typical laundry routine will do you a world of good.

You’ll need:

laundry-detergent

1. Laundry Detergent – whatever you’d like to use. I’ve been using All with Oxi-Active, because it’s what The Man brought home after his last grocery expedition. I’d have preferred Vaska (I’m crazy about lavender, and being biodegradable doesn’t hurt), but being out of a job soon, it’s best to conserve cash for a little while. Speaking of, if you can stand visiting their page, those crazy Duggars have a DIY liquid laundry detergent recipe that looks like it might be a good sweat-fighter, too.

Borax

Click through to learn more about using Borax in your home.

2. Borax (1/2 cup) – I’ve recently discovered that not many of my friends had heard of this miracle product. Borax is actually a mineral, with the largest commercial mines being in California and Turkey. It comes in a box, and can be found in the laundry section in most larger grocery stores, as well as box stores like Walmart and Target, and online at Amazon. It’s normally in the section with the fabric softeners and ‘extras,’ not with the detergents, themselves. It’s cheap, at around $4 for a normal-sized box ($11 for a larger version), and can be used to clean just about anything. It’s also a lot safer than many typical household cleaners, so I’ve heard of people using Borax and vinegar as exclusive household cleaning products in homes with new babies or allergy sufferers.

White Vinegar

3. White Vinegar (1/2 cup to 1 cup) – Oh yeah. This stuff is another miracle worker, and don’t worry – your clothes will not smell tangy when you’re through. It took a few loads of laundry for me to convince The Man that using vinegar could be beneficial to our clothing, but it does wonders to soften clothes and help kill off any remaining bacteria that are holding on to those gooey Bikram smells. Best of all, it’s cheap, cheap, cheap, and you don’t need to buy a brand name vinegar to get the job done right. Click through the image for more tips on using vinegar in your home.

The best part of all of these items is that they can be used in either a top loading or front loading washer. If you’re using a conventional washing machine – add the Borax and vinegar when you add the detergent, all at the same time. When we had a conventional machine, I would start filling the machine, give it a minute to get an inch or two of water, then add the detergent, 1/2 cup of Borax, and between 1/2 cup and 1 cup of vinegar, drop the top and let a little more water flow in and mix things up before adding the clothes. If you’re using a front loading (HE) machine – put the detergent in the detergent cup, then add in the 1/2 cup of Borax right on top of that, and put the vinegar in the cup where the fabric softener is supposed to go.

Typically, I try to throw my clothes and towel in the wash as soon as I get home, and then I wash them with cold water and the above products. If I’ve had to let my clothes wait for a few hours or even until the next day, I rinse them in the sink, then let them dry on a towel rack or other spot, and put them in the laundry with the new batch of sweaty gear the next day. When it’s been a day or more, I wash my laundry with warm water, unless something smells particularly ripe, in which case I go ahead and use hot. I also find that towels sometimes still end up getting moldy, in which case I end up double washing them, with a soak, in hot water, and add up to a cup of Borax and put some vinegar straight on the moldy spot in the towel before throwing it in the wash.

Do you use another method to clean your dirty yoga gear? Any secrets, tips or tricks to share? Please do so we can all benefit!