Equipping pilgrims and hikers, a booming market in Haute-Loire

Equipping pilgrims and hikers, a booming market in Haute-Loire
Equipping pilgrims and hikers, a booming market in Haute-Loire

Hiking in Haute-Loire is a market that is in full swing in May, particularly with pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela. More and more numerous but also younger hikers, who are more and more demanding in terms of equipment.

In this rainy month of May, wearing their backpack, walking stick and, of course, the essential poncho, they are easily recognizable. The range of walkers, whether from Compostelle or Stevenson, has evolved over the years with increasingly high-end equipment. “You have to look at all the features of the backpack, whether at the handles, at the hips, the ventilation of the back, with mesh, without mesh…”, explains Valentine, saleswoman in an equipment store, Alternativ Shop.

For shoes too, we are a long way from wooden soles and skin slippers, with which we wonder how anyone could cover the 1,515 km of the Santiago de Compostela route. “The best seller is an Ultra Raptor model, high or low, with the GoreTex membrane, a double sole with studs and good cushioning in the sole,” advises Valentine. Departing from Puy-en-Velay, La boutique du Pèlerin also has its bestsellers, small last-minute purchases that can make all the difference, according to saleswoman Marie-Brigitte: “It’s probably the rain cape!” I have different models, some are already preformed for the backpack, with large openings for the poncho-shaped head. You have to be well equipped because you can have any weather. »

But often, it’s once on the journey that you make the difference between good and less good preparation… “Cape, K-way, bag protector, good shoes, rain pants are necessary! » explains Quentin, a far-sighted walker. Victoria, also a walker, was the victim of a disappointment: “I just realized that my K-Way isn’t waterproof, but it’s quite warm so it’s bearable. » Small errors which are the business of the specialized boutiques of Saugues, second stage of the journey. It is often here that we become aware of the discomfort of a pair of shoes and its consequences, explains Delphine to Alle Chaussures: “It’s the wrong shoes, the wrong backpack, the wrong clothes… A lot of people have foot problems. They leave their shoes with us and leave with new shoes.” With more than 30,000 walkers per year, a constantly increasing figure, and a rejuvenation of pilgrims, the hiking business in Haute-Loire still has a bright future ahead of it.

-Comments collected by Laurent Cluzel for France 3 Auvergne

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