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On the 25th July 2015, I set off on what was the biggest adventure of my life so far, walking the 800 km Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela. Before I set off I spent months of researching what to pack for the Camino de Santiago, purchasing must-have items and fretting over my backpack weight limit. To help save you time, money and a great deal of pain, I’ve set out below my packing list for the Camino de Santiago along with some helpful tips and notes on whether I used the items or not!
I have never been particularly great at packing for my trips and holidays. I always overpack and end up taking half of my wardrobe. So when I decided to embark on my 500 miles, 800 km walk on the Camino de Santiago, I realized pretty quickly while doing my research, that I would have to ninja pack my backpack and learn to take the bare minimum while accounting for both rain or shine.
I trawled through a ton of guidebooks, forums, Facebook groups and Youtube videos to find out what the best things to pack for the Camino were, what shoes to wear on the Camino, even down to how many pairs of underwear to pack. Ultimately I ended up overpacking (as per usual) and I paid a price for my mistakes which hopefully this blog post will help you to avoid.
Camino de Santiago Packing List
Rule of Thumb: As a rule of thumb, almost all forums and guidebooks suggest taking no more than 10% of your body weight in your backpack. For me, that means I had 6 kilos to work with. Work out how much 10% is and have this at the forefront of your mind when you begin collecting your necessities and packing your backpack.
Let’s start with the easiest thing first – your documents! All you need to pack for the Camino is your passport and your Credential (Camino Passport). This small book will become one of the most important items to you on your Camino. Without it you won’t be able to stay in the albergues or claim your Compostela certificate at the end of your Camino.
You should get at least one stamp per day which normally comes from the Albergue you stay in that night. There are also stamps available at many of the cafes, churches and pilgrim friendly rest stops along the way. If you walk the last 100 km of the Camino, you are required to get two stamps a day to qualify. This is to avoid giving certificates to those who skipped sections and did not complete the last 100 km on foot.
Top Tip: I highly suggest buying one a plastic envelope to keep your documents in. Not only does it keep everything together, but it also keeps them dry should you get caught in the rain.
Clothes for the Camino
There are literally hundreds of threads on forums about what shoes are best for the Camino as it is a highly debated topic amongst the Camino community. Some say well worn-in trainers are OK, some say just walking shoes and others believe the only pair of shoes you should wear on the Camino are hiking boots.
All I can say is having the correct footwear is essential for you to succeed in your Camino. Whatever you choose, you need to make sure it is comfortable, durable for all weather conditions and waterproof. The weather in Northern Spain can be unpredictable, with downpours of rain during the summer and snow in the winter. While a good proportion of the Camino is on asphalt, you will want a sturdy shoe that can support your ankle for the off-road terrains too.
Top Tip: You need a minimum of 100 hours in your choice of shoes before you even consider them to be “broken in”. Trust me on this one!
I decided to go for the boot option as I have a history of twisting my ankles, so I wanted a boot that would give me full support. It took me quite a while to find the correct boot for me. I tried on various styles and sizes to find one that fitted my feet correctly. I finally decided on an Asolo hiking boot that cost me around $200.
Since your feet swell when they heat up, you will want to buy a shoe that is at least one size bigger than your foot size and make sure you try it on with the correct socks to ensure a snug fit.
The other footwear I took along with me was a simple pair of flip flops to change into in the evenings to allow my feet to breathe and for taking showers etc…
Total = 2 Pairs of Shoes. Boots and Flip Flops.
Camino de Santiago Clothing Packing List (For Summer Months)
Your clothing for the Camino will be different than the normal attire you pack for your beach or city holidays. So when it comes to what to pack for the Camino de Santiago, you should forget about looking glamorous.
The Camino is gruelling and hard and you’re going to want clothing that aids you rather than looking pretty. Wear clothing that is comfortable, doesn’t chafe, is easy to pack, doesn’t require ironing and is quick to dry. Sports clothing or technical clothing from trekking shops falls into this category.
What I packed for the Camino de Santiago:
- 2 x reversible technical t-shirts
- 1 x North Face T-Shirt
- 1 x Royal Robin Linen Shirt (Do not suggest as I never wore)
- 1 x Running shorts
- 1 x North Face Hiking Shorts
- 1 x Long pair of cotton trousers (Lounge/sleepwear)
- 1 x North Face Trousers with zip off bottom (Not essential but was great for chilly early mornings)
- 2 x supportive sports bras
- 2 x Merino wool socks
- 2 x Cotton underwear (I purchased a third on the Camino because one pair was wearing out).
- 1 x Fleece
- 1 x Sun hat
- 1 x Bandana
- 1 x Bikini (Optional)
Along the way I lost my North Face T-Shirt (I presume someone picked it off the washing line) so I purchased a crease proof non iron dress to wear in the afternoon and evenings. This came in useful when I needed to properly wash all my hiking clothing and was a welcomed break from constantly wearing trousers.
A good pair of quality socks will be the make or break of your Camino. For long walks like the Camino, it is important to have a good pair of durable, breathable and comfortable pair of socks that will protect your feet and prevent blisters from forming.
I wore merino wool smart socks during my Camino and I only got two blisters. They were pretty expensive to buy as far as socks go but they were well worth it. They are pretty thick which pads your feet from the impact of walking and they wick away sweat from your feet. Even in 30 degree weather, they were comfortable to wear.
Camino de Santiago Gear Packing List
Walking the Camino doesn’t require any specific specialist equipment and you’ll be surprised at how much you probably already have. I have listed below all the equipment I packed for the Camino but it is entirely up to you what items you think you should take.
I walked the Camino with a 30L Women’s Osprey backpack. It carried everything I needed and came with a quick pull out waterproof cover (bonus I didn’t have to pack a separate one).
It is advised to carry a backpack no bigger than 45 Litres. Any bigger and you risk over packing and filling it with unnecessary weight. I also highly recommend purchasing a backpack with hip straps which help distribute the weight evenly across your back and body.
When I purchased my backpack I also had the sales guy show me the correct way to pack it (heavy stuff at the bottom and quick-grab items at the top) and also how to correctly fit it to my body shape. This made a huge difference on the Camino and I even ended up showing other pilgrims how to fit their backpacks to them because they were carrying them incorrectly.
If you already own a backpack you can walk into any REI store or outdoor shop and ask them to assist you with fitting your backpack. Most will do it for free even if you haven’t purchased anything in store.
Some backpacks already have this built-in (like mine). If not I advise purchasing one to cover your bag should it rain to keep everything dry. I packed a spare one because I thought covering my bag twice would further protect it from the rain. It wasn’t needed as the built-in backpack one was more than sufficient.
Since I travelled in the height of summer, I opted to just take a light sleeping bag liner instead of a whole sleeping bag. Although if you wish to take one, there are plenty of lightweight sleeping bags that weigh under 1 kg for the summer and some that are suitable for the winter too.
The lightweight sleeping liner turned out to be all I really needed. I got felt cold once because I slept in a farmhouse style albergue with thick stone walls so it was much cooler inside but the rest of the trip I was quite comfortable.
You’ll see in the above picture that I took a lightweight bedroll with me. I NEVER used this because I slept in beds the entire Camino. So I donated it to a pilgrim I met who was sleeping outside because I had no use for it.
I would only recommend bringing this if you intend on camping out because even when the albergues were at full capacity, they handed out sleeping mats or mattresses for the floor.
There is no avoiding the rain when you are walking 800 km over the span of a month. At some point, it will rain, and if it doesn’t, you’re extremely lucky. You will need to pack some kind of protective rain coat with a hood or a poncho to keep you dry because walking while wet while make your Camino miserable and uncomfortable.
I packed a plastic poncho for my Camino which was effective but made my sweat underneath and it often stuck to my skin. I highly suggest purchasing a proper breathable laminates or paratex dry fabric.
If you have hiking boots, you may also want to consider taking gaiters to prevent water from entering through the top of your boots.
Great for taking your weight and helping you along some of the steeper parts of the Camino. I got mine from Decathlon for around £20 for both.
Top Tip: The only problem with buying them beforehand is you have to check your bags in as they are an item that can’t go in your hand luggage. Most people either purchase them there or buy a walking stick on arrival into SJPP.
Update: I checked in only my travel poles and they did not arrive at the airport. Therefore I started my walk without them. But I did purchase one stick further into the Camino when my feet became weak to help me in the hillier parts. I highly recommend poles for the ascends and descends if you struggle with hills or have hip or knee pain.
Microfiber Quickdry Towel
I got my microfiber towel also from Paramo. It rolls up into a sack that I can clip onto my backpack and it is quick to dry. I took an additional towel I got from Decathlon because I am a woman and we need multiple towels.
When I did my initial research many suggested this was an unnecessary item to pack. It turned out to be a lifesaver on multiple occasions.
The lights turned off really early in the evening in albergues so the headlamp came in useful when I was going to bed. In the early mornings, it also came in useful because quite often I started walking well before the sunrise so it was useful for finding my clothes, packing and then walking in the darkness.
Water Bottle or Camel Bag
There are plenty of fountains along the way to top up your water bottles or camel bags. I definitely would recommend a water bottle over a camelback because pilgrims I met along the way complained their water was warmed up in the camel bags. You also run the risk of the bag leaking. The water bottle is quick to pull out and fill up and it fitted perfectly in my side pocket.
Controversial object. Some people never travel without one and some people say its unnecessary. I am sure the bottle opener and corkscrew will come in handy if anything else. Again beware that if you take one you will have to send your backpack through checked-in luggage or read further for my travel hack!
Camino de Santiago Toiletries Packing List
This is the second section of my Camino packing list that I spent a lot of time and consideration as well as plenty of dosh! I took the bare minimum with me and no makeup.
- Toiletry Bag (No featured because in the end, I kept everything in a plastic IKEA bag to stop anything from leaking into my backpack)
- Hairbrush (Also not featured but I took a folding small travel brush)
- Toothbrush & Toothpaste
- Lip balm with a high SPF Factor
- Soap Bar & Case (I actually swapped out the hair shampoo and soap for a 3 in one soap bar that could be used for my face, hair and body).
- Deodorant (Not pictured)
- Sunscreen (Because of the size of these bottles I actually checked them in with my hiking poles – both of which never arrived so I purchased a small bottle locally and used it every day!) Not needed in winter months.
- Razor (Not pictured but I took a small travel size one).
- Mosquito repellent
- Voltarin Anti-inflammatory – Not necessary but it came in handy when my knee hurt some days after steep descends.
First Aid Kit
This is an item I found many pilgrims just didn’t think of packing and quite often I handed out supplies (mostly my plasters) to pilgrims with blisters. Every town you walkthrough has a pharmacy so you can easily pick up supplies but having a basic kit with you can be useful. My kit had plasters, a safety pin, some antiseptic wipes, gauze and tape.
Plasters – I have put a special section here just for plasters because you will need them! I purchased 8 packets of Compeed before I left and I used them all during my walk. They are especially useful when you have a blister, as they reduce the pain and prevents anything from rubbing against them by forming a hard layer over them. I also took a small tub of Vaseline which I used for blister prevention every morning. Rub some on areas of your feet where you are prone to get blisters before you start walking in the morning. It greatly reduces chaffing between your socks and boots.
Ear Plugs – You will without a doubt encounter some loud snoring on the Camino if you stay in albergues. Trust me on this, Earplugs are a must.
You don’t need to pack any of these items but every single one came in handy.
- Spare Laces – In case mine snap which has happened in the past. You can just re-lace there and then without having to possibly walk a number of kilometres with undone and lose boots.
- Electrolyte Vitamins – These are in a small tube and they don’t weigh much, but when you’re feeling dehydrated these will literally pick you up and give you the boost you need. I used these every single day and I believe it made a world of difference in energy and hydration levels.
- Spork – I ate on the go and often picked up yoghurts on the way. I used it every deal for almost every meal (when I didn’t eat at albergues).
- Chargers – 1 lead and a plug that charged my phone and camera
- Headphones & iPod Shuffle – So that I can listen to music and zone out on my Camino.
- Guidebook – Most pilgrims purchase this guide. You don’t need to take it but its a great source of reference if you get lost or need to look up where the nearest Albergue is.
- Flashing Light – To be visible at night should I end up walking in the dark. Better to be viable. (Note I used this every morning when I set off early).
- Camera – With mobile phones having such amazing cameras these days you can easily skip taking a camera but I took my small snap and go camera (which in the end I hardly used).
Travel Hack For Items You Can Not Carry On Board
I promised I would let you know my great travel hack to get around taking your hiking poles, sunscreen and pen knife with you on your Camino. I like many others do not like the idea of checking in my backpack. If it doesn’t arrive at your final destination your Camino is ruined before you even start. So I suggest carrying on your backpack (make sure it is still is within airline guidelines for hand luggage) and check-in a postal tube packed with you items that you can not take on board.
Make sure you put your return home address as a label on the tube along with your name. Attach the check-in luggage tag around the tube and send it on its way. The good things with this is that if it doesn’t arrive it is not the end of the world, and you can quickly purchase the items again at your starting location before setting off.
Update: The tube didn’t arrive. I did, however, purchase these items locally at around the same cost I purchased them at home so you could easily skip checking them in and buy them there.
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