Backpack Review: Osprey Sirrus Women’s 24

You may have seen my recent Camino Backpack Trail Test. I have tried many packs from REI over the last few months on my quest for a Camino backpack, but finally found one that is just right!

Update, July 2016: It was just right for my short Camino, but read my Backpack Review After the Camino for my thoughts about why I am sizing up for my longer Camino next year.

The Osprey Sirrus Women’s 24 Pack


Yes, this is half the size of the REI Traverse, but I won’t need 48 liter capacity on a short (10 day) Camino in late May.  I intend to pack extremely light because the Camino provides all the heavy stuff along the way, such as shelter, a bed, food, water, and plenty of pilgrim resources should I need something.  I am refining my packing list and will include that in a “Will it fit?” test later.  For now, I want to share what I like about the Osprey Sirrusfor she’s a real beauty with a smart design.

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Camino Backpack Trail Test: REI Traverse

This is a follow up review of the REI Traverse backpack I tried during my quest for a Camino backpack. I had ordered around ten different packs from REI and have taken full advantage of their return policy. I immediately returned the packs that didn’t fit, or those that had the top entry drawstring instead of a zip panel opening. The Traverse seemed like a potential keeper, especially when I compared  it to others, but I had to test it out to be sure.  I first tried this backpack on a 4-mile walk around Lake Merritt with 18 pounds of dumbbells and pillows packed inside.  I tested it again on a 5-mile trail hike on a hot day in the Oakland hills. Below is the video:
REI Traverse Backpack Trail Test

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Planning Part 7: What inspired me to want to walk the Camino

This is where it gets personal

The Camino is calling and I must answer. I have been attracted to Spain since a backpack trip in 1992 that concluded with a month in Sevilla, where I lived with a family while taking Spanish language courses.  Since then, I have been to Spain four times (see favorite places in Spain, so far).

Pilgrims at the cathedral in Santiago

Pilgrims on October 8, 2014 on a drizzly morning in Santiago. Click photo to enlarge. Know any of them?

The most recent visit was last October on a Trafalgar tour of northern Spain with my mom on our annual mother-daughter trip. I didn’t know much about the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage until this trip. We stayed in some of the towns that are along the way, and toured the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. We saw pilgrims of all ages with backpacks, looking both exhausted and elated in the cathedral, cafés and the pilgrim office. Continue reading

Camino Backpack Gear Review: REI Stoke vs. Traverse

In my quest for a Camino backpack, I recently tried nine different styles at the REI store in Berkeley, CA. In this video, I compare two styles: REI Stoke 29 and REI Traverse 48.

YouTube Video: REI Backpack Comparison: Stoke 29 vs. Traverse 48

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The Quest for a Camino Backpack

Two weeks ago I started researching backpacks that would be good for walking the Camino. I was going to wait until the end of the year to buy a backpack, or put one on my Christmas wish list, for I have been a very good girl this year.  However, now that I have a date set for my first Camino in May 2016, I am anxious to do practice hikes to test the gear that I’ll take.

I love a good deal, so I checked out the REI Outlet website first and ordered four backpacks to be delivered to the Berkeley store. I figured I can try these packs out on-site and also get measured and fitted by the expert staff.  The day I went to REI for pickup was also the day they had their members only used gear sale outside in the parking lot. What perfect timing! When I arrived around 8:40 am, there was already a long line, so I waited half-an-hour with other deal seekers.

photo 1(1)    REI Berkeley Used Gear Sale

REI Berkeley Used Gear Sale on August 8, 2015

When it was finally my turn to enter the sale, I was hoping that one of those pricey Osprey or Gregory brand backpacks I’ve been curious about would magically appear in the piles of backpacks I rummaged through.  While I did see a few of these brands along with many more types of backpacks, I didn’t have a clue what size I really needed.  I asked an REI attendant about sizes and he did a quick measurement from my hip to my shoulder.  He said my torso was 15″ so that would be between an Extra Small or Small  in women’s backpacks sizes.  What?!? I was stunned. I am 5’5″ and XS has never been on a label in my wardrobe! He said when it comes to backpacks, it’s not about height, it’s about the length of the torso. He too was surprised when he learned that he should use a men’s Medium size backpack even though he is 6’3″. I thanked him and started my search for a S or XS backback on the tables.  Slightly dismayed, and tired of looking through the piles,  I moved inside the store, empty handed.  At least I had a good caffeine buzz, thanks to Allegro Coffee Roasters and Whole Foods for their tent with free coffee and pastry for the early risers at the garage sale.

I picked up my order of backpacks at REI Customer Service, and headed over to the camping department.  I found a guy nicknamed “Zoo” who took a more accurate measurement with a nifty Osprey tool. He noted that my torso is actually 16.5″ which is still considered XS or S.  Zoo helped me try out these four backpacks I ordered from the outlet: Continue reading

Planning Part 6: Training and packing for the Camino

Training and packing for the Camino

The final steps of Camino preparation are to train and pack. For any long-distance walking trip, it is essential to train by taking practice hikes with your gear based on your goals of average kilometers per day. For example, if you plan to hike the Pyrenees stage, which is mostly strenuous, you will want to do practice hikes averaging 12 – 16 kilometers per day in similar mountainous terrain. For route stages that are more level such as the Meseta, you should practice with longer day hikes of 25 to 30 kilometers per day. Make sure the shoes that you bring on your Camino are comfortable and already broken-in. Hiking boots that are above the ankle provide the best support, but running shoes may be an option if you are used to hiking with them. Feet may swell a shoe size on long distance hikes—buy accordingly.1

When it comes to packing for the Camino, carry only essential items in a lightweight backpack, so that you will be able to walk long distances without putting extra strain on your body. Although some first-time pilgrims might be tempted to pack emergency “just in case” items, they should keep in mind that Spain is a first-world country and provisions along the routes are plentiful. It is highly recommended to select and pack gear so that your backpack weighs 10% of your total body weight.

Sound impossible? I thought so too. Here’s what I’ve learned. Limit clothing to just two pairs of each item: one outfit that you wear and one clean set to change into. Hand-washing facilities and drying lines are common in albergues and some even offer washing machines and dryers. At the end of each day, most pilgrims hand-wash their undergarments, socks and shirts and hang them to dry overnight. If the climate is cold, rainy or damp, clothing might not air dry completely, but the clean change of clothes will be ready for the next day’s walk.

Fortunately, a great variety of lightweight, quick-drying clothing has become widely available at most sporting good and travel stores. The basic items you pack should be customized as needed. For example, you might opt for a sleeping sack instead of a sleeping bag if you travel in the warmer months. Or you might bring walking poles or find a walking stick in the forest to help distribute your weight as you walk.

My Camino Packing List, Part 2: Gear and Accessories

My Camino Packing List, Part 2: Gear and Accessories

The concept of packing light with just the minimal essentials might prove to be the biggest psychological challenge for many people. Some pilgrims start out by packing way too much, making their daily walks uncomfortable. Pilgrims can always lighten their load along the way by donating unnecessary items in the albergues or mailing heavy items to Santiago where they can be picked up at the end of the journey. Ironically, when pilgrims understand that lightening the load lifts a heavy burden, both literally and figuratively, they might just realize they don’t need all the “stuff” they accumulate in their homes. I have found in my research that all sources and pilgrims agree, the Camino provides.

Peregrinos, do you stick to the 10% weight limit?  Digame in the comments below.

PS. Here’s a video that I found amusing and helpful about packing for the Camino.
Packing list review / Revisão da mochila para o Camino de Santiago (4:45 minutes)

If you know of other helpful Camino videos or resources that should be included on The Camino Provides, please email me at

Up next: What inspired me to want to walk the Camino? – Part 7 and final post of this series.


1. Alcorn, Susan. Camino Chronicles: Walking to Santiago. Oakland: Shepherd Canyon Books. 2006. Print.