Question #5 – “What gear & clothing should I pack, and how should I pack it, and my food reserves?”

If you’ve read this page, you already know just about everything you need to know about what personal gear & clothing to bring.

In this post, let’s concentrate on how to pack your clothing, tent, sleeping bag, food reserves, etc.

But first there’s an important point we need to make clear from the get-go:

There is a 30 lbs. maximum one-only luggage-bag limit — which does not include separate sacks for tent and sleeping bag.

Pilgrims bringing more than the essentials listed on this page in one bag must arrange to transport their extra baggage themselves, or leave it in their vehicles.

Please be considerate of the pilgrim-volunteers who have to lift, load, haul and unload hundreds of large bags, bivouac to bivouac for you and all the pilgrims.

And keep in mind that no one makes pilgrimage alone. Sharing belongings is commonplace among pilgrims.

So, how does one optimally pack gear and clothing on pilgrimage?

The key to the answer is to bear in mind that it’s a pilgrimage, not a vacation or an hike. Simplicity is the byword.

So is penance. But not the kind anyone has to look for. In other words, if you keep your needs simple, anticipating the penances that inevitably come, you will find the pilgrimage much more fulfilling.

Take it from the veteran-pilgrims. After about ten minutes on the road, and the exhilarating fear that you really have left (practically) everything behind to follow Christ, you will realize that you need very little besides Christ and His divine aid — which more than often comes in the form of fellow pilgrims.

So pack ‘light’, and ‘smart’.

Each pilgrim is responsible to keep dry all his own gear, but especially sleeping bag & personal clothing — even inside his larger bag — by wrapping such gear etc. in water-proof packing throughout the pilgrimage.

When it rains, it has been known to pour.

1. Try packing your clothes & personal items this way:

Place each day’s clothing in three separate, large, white plastic ‘trash’ bags. Write the words “day-1”, “day-2” etc. in very large black letters on each bag, making each bag easy to identify in the dark. Include in each bag a towel and wash-cloth for showering, and night clothes (unless you plan to wear the next day’s clothing in your sleeping bag).

Keep your toiletries also in a water-proof bag, nearby, easy to find.

Include an extra bag or sack for dirty cloths, or use the empty bag of the previous day.

It is best to apply a water-proofing spray to the outside of the the one large piece of permitted luggage. A super-sized duffel bag is usually better than traveling luggage.

Remember: it’s dark — very dark — when you wake up and go to sleep. So the less you pack, and the smarter you pack it, will afford you more time to pay attention to the important things: foremost prayer at holy Mass, breakfast (!), prayer & charity on the road, supper (!) and prayer at night.

2. Try packing your personal gear — tent, sleeping bag & ground mat — this way:

If possible, stuff your sleeping bag in the one large piece of permitted luggage/duffel bag, inside its own water-proof sack. If it does not fit, be sure to store it in its own water-proof sack, secured against opening during transport.

Do the same for your ground mat and tent.

Be sure to identify each of the above items as belonging to you. An indelible marker with your name is probably easiest.

If you don’t have a personal tent, or cannot afford to buy or rent one, please ask a friend or relative to loan one to you. If you still cannot acquire one, don’t worry: no one has ever been left out in the cold — or ‘turned away from the inn’. (That’s part of what we mean by “no one makes pilgrimage alone”.)

In any event, make sure your tent is functional, before you come to pilgrimage. In other words, take it outside and test its functionality, by setting it up.

3. Try packing your food reserves this way:

Place each day’s three cold meals inside three small, separate ‘zip-lock’ freezer bags. Write on each bag, “breakfast, day-1”, “lunch, day-2”, etc. If you need more than a quart-sized bag for each meal (per person), you’re probably packing too much food.

Then place the three meals of each day in three larger, gallon-sized ‘zip-lock’ bags, each labeled “day-1”, “day-2”, etc.

Place all three days’ meals in a larger bag, stored inside the one large piece of luggage permitted.

For an overview of what to expect by way of food provided by organizers and dispositions at each bivouac, see this webpage.

There are probably better ways to pack, but these should help, or inspire better ideas.

Read the FAQs online for more information.

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