Camino training hike 3 and Altus poncho review

Everyone has been asking me when I see them—at work, socially, my family—how’s the training going?

It’s going!

Training hike 3

Distance: 5.55 miles
Pack weight: 5lbs

A peregrina friend sent me her Altus poncho to borrow for my upcoming Camino. The morning of my third training hike, I saw the threatening clouds and drizzle and was excited to test it out! (Only in Oregon are we excited about this kind of weather!)

Honestly, I’ve been kicking myself since April 2013, when I passed up the opportunity to purchase an Altus in Saint Jean Pied de Port. They’re part-poncho, part-raincoat with sleeves, but not sold outside of Europe. In fact, today they’re not available at all because they’re not made anymore. When my peregrina friend offered to lend me hers to use in Spain, I was tickled!

As soon as I arrived at the park, got my pack on, and the poncho situated, this happened.

Keizer Rapids Park

The sky cleared.

Even with only a slight mist, the wind was strong. Ponchos are notoriously billowy, so I was curious to see how it responded in the wind.

2016-01-29 08.50.20

The hood has tiny clips allowing for adjustment of fit. The wrist sleeves are elastic. The zipper was surprisingly tiny–maybe to keep out water? There’s a protective flap over the zipper with velcro closure to keep out the rain. My favorite part is the back which works like a wedding-gown bustle. Snap it up, and it’s short when you’re around town. Unsnap the three fasteners, and it’s longer and pouchy to fit over your backpack.

Like a floating bright blue cloud, I passed three women with five small dogs. One quipped, “The rain won’t get you today!”

The earthworm game

After a night of rain, the paved footpath had thousands of tiny earthworms all over it. They reminded me of the little snails on the Camino path every morning. I hated stepping on them, so I turned it into a game. At my walking speed, I stared at the ground as they “sped” by placing my foot so I wouldn’t squish one.

This nightcrawler was so huge (I wear a size 11 shoe), he insisted we take a selfie together.

2016-01-29 08.59.56

It’s amazing how your mind can wander as you walk. Seeing this sign along the road into the park made me recall my early driving days in high school.

bump ahead sign

“Bump ahead!” yelled my impish, slightly younger-than-me brother.

The yell was followed by a shove to my forehead, bumping the back of my skull into the car’s headrest. “Hey!!” I replied in protest.

“Sign says ‘Bump a head,’ so I did!”

A grin. Do all siblings mildly torture each other this way?

Back to the poncho again

After 20 minutes, I was hot. I was afraid that would happen. The Altus has no side or pocket vents, no tiny armpit holes to let out the warmth the body produces while exercising. After 40 minutes, I took a short rest. When I took off the Altus, I discovered the chest and shoulder area drenched with condensation.

My first reaction was disappointment. I really wanted to use this poncho, so lovingly shared by a friend. There’s just no way to hike for hours with this much moisture inside. My next reaction was profound remorse: I had steered my friend toward purchasing this jacket for her own Camino. (I’m so sorry, Sarah!)

The danger in non-ventilating rain gear is hypothermia. All that condensation makes your clothes wet, makes you wet, and can lower your body temperature—especially if the air is cool, if it’s windy, or if you need to rest, sodden, for any reason. Wet and cold are not a good combination.

The problem is that the better your rain gear vents body heat and dampness, the chances of getting rain under the protective barrier increase.

So, I’m back to the drawing board. I do have my original Camino poncho, the model that leaked and is on the heavy side. If I can tape the leaky seams, it could work. It’s not ideal, though.

The other idea I keep tossing around came from a convincing article I read about hiking with a lightweight umbrella. A reflective parsol takes the place of rain gear, eliminates the need for a hat, allows for complete ventilation, and protects against sun (portable shade!). The average price is about the same as a decent lightweight poncho or rain suit. The down side is that legs can get wet, but that’s true with ponchos too.

So rain gear is on the agenda again.

In the meantime, I walked my longest training distance yet five and a half miles, and felt really good. No funky knees, no soreness the day after, just a touch of stiffness in my right foot toward the end. I’m averaging fifteen minutes per mile too, which is about right for me.

2016-01-29 09.15.37

More hikes are in the plans!

Do you have a good rain gear solution? I’d love to hear about it!

8 thoughts on “Camino training hike 3 and Altus poncho review

  1. Hi Jen,

    I have a ultra light poncho I bought for my Camino. I will bring it on Friday and you can try it out. If it works for you, you are welcome to borrow it for your Camino. It worked for me, with a caveat that my arms got a bit wet. I didn’t care though. In fact, I unzipped the armpits and let my arms come out the armhole to be in the rain/air. Helped keep me from getting too hot.

    Where do you want to meet tomorrow?

    Buen dia, Nancy

    On Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 9:38 AM, Jens Journey – Camino de Santiago 2013 & 2016 wrote:

    > jenniferhofmann posted: “Everyone has been asking me when I see them—at > work, socially, my family—how’s the training going? It’s going! Training > hike 3 Distance: 5.55 miles Pack weight: 5lbs A peregrina friend sent me > her Altus poncho to borrow for my upcoming Camino. Th” >

    1. Thank you so much for the poncho-lending, Nancy! It’s working really well so far–now I need to hike in the rain! Perhaps I can entice you!

  2. I used both an umbrella and a poncho and was glad to have both. I used them a lot! You can certainly borrow my poncho if you’d like. I’m still using my umbrella in bad weather, though. It’s a rainshed brand from Portland.

  3. Beautiful photos, and yes, I found the ponchos to be hot used my raincoat more with a cheap plastic poncho thrown over it all when it was really raining (left poncho behind for someone else). Purchased an umbrella, but did not bring it wish I would have. Met a hiking guide from Germany on the Camino and that is what he had. Next one perhaps. However, in the end I think whatever we decide upon will be fine, for when it pours there is just no way around some discomfort and perhaps that is what we are suppose to experience in that moment.

    1. Exactly. I’m in total trust when I’m not obsessing about this one piece of gear. I guess the Divine asks us to prepare in our own little way, and then we must surrender to the weather, the blessings, and the lessons that await–umbrella or no! 🙂

  4. I thought I read – maybe on the APOC Facebook page – that you were going to review the packa. Have you had a chance to try it out?

    1. Hi Chris! I have tested it and the post should be up soon. Despite living in the PNW, the rain hasn’t been cooperating with my hiking schedule! 🙂 It is promising, but if a friend weren’t offering to lend it to me, I’m not sure it would be worth the price.

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