I tackled the Tankwa Camino. It’s based on the Spanish Camino de Santiago de Compostela – a very famous network of pilgrimage routes in northwestern Spain, all leading to the shrine of St James. It is long and arduous, but not as tough as the Tankwa Camino.
The Tankwa Camino is 256,6km long and walked in 10 days, and was started by Danie and Rhina Pieterse.
What I packed
There’s a lot to take with you – camping equipment, plus breakfast, lunch and drinks for 10 days. You don’t walk with all of this – this is a slackpacking trail – but I also flew to Cape Town from Joburg so everything had to be compact and lightweight.
1. First Ascent Lunar 2-Person Tent
R1 699, firstascent.co.za
The two-door design of the Lunar tent is great for ventilation – wonderful for hot Karoo days. Both doors zip open and there’s a roof mesh too. It was easy for me to put up by myself, even in the wind, and it also has plenty of storage pouches. The lightweight pegs are interesting too – a straight, flat head with three sharp edges designed to puncture the ground with ease. However, you’ll need to bring stronger pegs or rebar for the exceptionally stony Karoo ground. The price is great for this high-quality product.
Also see: 10 tents made for adventure
2. Front Runner Expander Chair
This nifty camping chair features a telescopic design that allows it to fold into an extremely compact unit, which is easy to store and transport. It’s comfortable, but the more heavy-set might find it a little narrow. Constructed with rugged steel, it features a cup holder, small stash pocket and a utility pocket for maps and magazines. However, if you can bring something bigger, do. After 25 kilometres on your feet each day, you want something particularly soft to sit on.
Also see: 5 innovative camping chairs
3. Leisurequip 5-litre foldable bucket
For ten days you have to wash from a bucket and this is the bucket to do it in. It packs flat but stands firmly without sloshing water out mid-bath. It’s also a good size to soak your feet with epsom salts in the afternoons.
Or you can ask one of the kind cooks to give you a hand.
4. SolSave My-Powa Solar Battery Charger
The Solsave My-Powa! Solar power bank is an affordable, rugged device with a 2200mAh capacity – enough to charge a smartphone once. It’s splashproof, dustproof and shock-resistant, with a built-in lantern that I used every evening by hanging it from the top of my tent. I then strapped it to my backpack and charged it during the day.
5. Freeport Basic Gym Towel
I used this compact gym towel everyday. Compact and practical.
6. K-Way Chamonix 850 Eco Sleeping Bag
This sleeping bag weighs in at a mere 850 grams (hence the name) with a comfortable cowl for heat and protection. It’s lightweight and packs up easily when you have to reluctantly climb out of it in the morning.
7. K-Way Sherpa Self-Inflating Mat
This guy was also a breeze to pack away and comfortable to sleep on, but in all honesty it was a little thin for ten days of camping on stony Karoo ground. I was very happy I had brought a yoga mat too, which I used to soften the blow. As the name states, it inflates when the valve is opened but an extra puff of air before closing it again helps to bloat it a little more.
I packed too many clothes and easily could have worn clothes a few days in a row. The best tactic for most hiking trips is to dress in layers: make sure you can strip down to a t-shirt and shorts in the heat of the day, take a lightweight fleece or long sleeve to pull on in the afternoon and early mornings, and be sure to have a waterproof jacket for unexpected showers (emergency dustbin bag will also do the trick). Pack a scarf too – a versatile essential for extra warmth or shielding bare shoulders from the sun. I packed lightweight, UV-protective wicking apparel that was well-ventilated and kept me cool.
1. First Ascent Ladies Kibo Shirt
Designed to keep you cool and to protect you from the suns harmful rays with 30+ UPF fabric I wore this First Ascent Ladies Kibo Shirt often. I also liked the collar – you can pop it up to protect your neck – and the mesh ventilation on the back which keeps it cool.
2. Hi-Tec Rain Forest Shirt
This long-sleeve technical shirt was another great option. With a T-shirt underneath it kept me warm in the early hours and I could easily shed it once things got warmer. The UVP rating of 30+ offers great protection from the sun and the vented back helped keep me cool. The dark colour is also easy to travel with.
3. Salomon Ellipse Aero Hiking Shoes
R1 499, capeunionmart.co.za
I used these Salomon Ellipse for nine days of the Tankwa Camino. The day I swapped and used my running shoes instead, I got blisters. I was very happy with the support, traction, breathability and weight of the shoe, but one shoelace broke during the trip.
Get the September 2015 issue for a thorough review and our guide to finding the right tekkies, socks and support for walking.
4. Capestorm Women’s Voyage Long Sleeve Shirt
A comfortable check shirt that looks good and also has a practical technical side. Meshed vents keep the body cool and sleeves can be rolled up for hotter afternoons. A really nice fit.
5. First Ascent Ladies Hagira Waistcoat
This waistcoat kept me warm, packed up into a small compact package and doubled up as a pillow (wrapped up with my towel and sarong) because I left mine on the plane. This puffer has a special place in my heart.
Also see: The new First Ascent Interconnect System
6. Cape Storm Stride Tights
I alternated between these babies and some technical lightweight shorts from Hi-Tec. They were great for cool mornings and they really make you wanna move. They also wick away moisture and protected my legs from the sun. We were briefed each evening about what the weather would be like the following day so I’d know whether it would be too hot for tights or not.
7. Old Khaki Jenah Long Sleeve Ladies Shirt
This lightweight shirt was great casual wear for afternoons. I liked the tailored feel and even threw it over a short-sleeve shirt on cooler mornings.
8. First Ascent Frontier Hat
This lightweight hat floats, and can be folded flat without using its shape. The UPF 50 fabric sheltered me from UV rays and mesh ventilation along the inner rim of the brim provided excellent breathability. The adjustable cord wraps around the hat, keeping it secure in windy conditions (see exhibit A above).
9. High UV Buff
Your best defence against the sun and dust – I wore this baby every day.
10. Icebreaker Tech-T Lite Short Sleeve Glacier
This lightweight shirt is incredibly comfortable and probably my favourite. Made from Merino wool, it wicks well, is lightweight and feels fresh. The cut is flattering and it didn’t crease – all big travel pros.
What you carry every day
Choose a compact, lightweight backpack with a splash cover (it rained twice on my walk) and a waist strap. The smaller your pack, the less you’ll carry and the easier it’ll be. I used the same K-Way Kilimanjaro pack I took on a two-week trip to Thailand and although it was absolutely fine, I do wish I’d brought something smaller.
Also see: How to buy the right daypack
The essentials you’ll have on your back each day
- Flask for hot water or a hiking gas stove – coffee and tea are the treats you reward yourself with, “Just one more kilometre and I can sit down for a cappuccino.” I used a small 500ml Stanley Flask which kept water hot for all 25km each day. (R464 from campandclimb.co.za).
- Breakfast, lunch and cutlery.
- First-aid kit and medical items to treat blisters that may form on the way (vaseline, mercurochrome, alcohol swabs, needle and thread, plasters).
- Water bladder – this is easier to use than trying to grab your bottle every time you want a sip, plus the weight is well-distributed through the backpack. I used the K-Way 2-litre Bladder (R200 from capeunionmart.co.za) which fit snugly into my bag. It’s treated against a variety of microbes, mould and fungus, and was easy to fill up.
- Fruit. Each morning fresh fruit such as apples, bananas and grapes are laid out at the beginning of your walk.
- Toilet Paper. Self explanatory. Roughly two loo stations are set up along the daily route but these are pretty rustic (a plastic chair with a whole cut out of it and a dustbin bag below).
- Wetwipes, sunscreen, zambuk, sunglasses and a High UV Buff.
- A light scarf was really helpful for chilly mornings and doubled as shade for my arms on hot afternoons. I also packed a sarong to sit on when I took breaks along the road and others even strung clothes along fences to make shade.
- Plastic packets or ziplock bags for rubbish.
- View the full list of recommended Tankwa Camino gear on their website.
What I wish I’d packed
- Bug spray. For some reason, I thought mosquitoes didn’t exist in the Karoo. I was wrong.
- More fresh, but long lasting foods such as tomatoes, snap peas and carrots to snack on.
- Brush and pan for dust in the tent.
- Beach umbrella or similar shaded shelter to sit under when the tent was too hot.
- A bigger and softer mattress – ten days is a long time to sleep on a thin hiking mattress, no matter how comfy.
- Clothes pegs to hang towels and to use to pin up a shade shelter on the walks.
- A pop-up tent. The last thing you want to do after 25 kilometres is put up a tent. Luckily, mine was super easy to erect and I loved the ventilation, but some days I wished I could just throw some fabric in the air and have it magically transform into a bed.
- A hammer to peg my tent.
- Insoles. After three days my knees were eina. Luckily, another kind walker offered me Arnica spray and I popped anti-inflammatories for the rest of the trip to keep me going. But insoles would’ve solved the problem.
The full article was published in the September 2015 issue of Getaway Magazine.