I have never been particularly great at packing for my trips and holidays. I always over pack and end up taking half of my wardrobe and never even pulling it out of the suitcase while on holiday. So when I decided to embark on my 500 mile, 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.
In fact, whether you’re a good packer or not, most people who decide to walk the Camino have some kind of problem when it comes to packing. It can be from what backpack size to take, to what socks to wear and how many pairs of underwear to pack. It takes a lot of research and man hours to come up with a list of what to pack for the Camino de Santiago, so to make it easier, I have put together a list of what I am taking on my Camino that may help you when it comes to packing for your own adventure.
Rule of Thumb: As a rule of thumb, almost all forums and guidebooks suggest taking no more then 10% of your body weight in your backpack. For me that means I had 5 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.
Your clothing for the Camino will be different than the normal attires 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 grueling and hard and you’re going to want clothing that aids you rather than looking pretty. I am leaving behind all my jewelry, make up and hair products and simply packing the bare necessities.
Paramo is a company that both myself and my partner have been using for many years when it comes to technical outdoor clothing. I am taking two reversible technical t-shirts that I purchased from their store in Covent Garden in London. While I have used them for sports and bike trips, they are also very useful for hiking and walking, offering a breathable, lightweight and fast drying fabric that is ideal for travelling. Its unique reversible quality allows you to fine tune your comfort whilst keeping dry. Its smooth face keeps you cool in hot temperatures while its honeycomb side traps in the warm air in between the shirt and your body while effectively drawing sweat and water away from your body which is great in cooler conditions.
I also highly endorse Paramo as I value its company ethics and their endeavour to continually develop environmentally friendly products and support social programs in the country of manufacture.
In addition I am also taking one pair of North Face hiking shorts that are durable and lightweight, as well as a pair of running shorts and a pair of North Face Long Pants that I will use when travelling to and from the Camino as well as using them to walk in as the bottom half zips off, so it’s a two-in one!
Of course I have also packed a lightweight fleece for chillier evenings, a sun hat with a wide brim to keep the sun off my face and neck and non Camino clothing such as a bikini (in case there happens to be a swimming pool!) and a cotton short for travelling in. As for my undies, I have two pairs of socks, two sports bras and two pairs of undies…wear one wash one type thing…
Total = 3 T-Shirts, 2 Shorts, 1 Pair of Trousers/Shorts, 1 Fleece, 2 Pairs of Underwear, 2 Pairs of Socks, 2 sports bras and a Hat and Bandanna. PLUS (not necessities: one bikini, and one cotton shirt)
I can not stress enough how important having the correct footwear is! This is one section of your packing and pre Camino preparation you should not skip or skimp over! There is a lot of debate about what type of shoe to wear. Some people swear by open airy sandals, some prefer well worn in trainers while others swear by a good hiking boot. Whatever you choose, you need to make sure its 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 by 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.
I am also taking a pair of flipflops to change into in the evenings to allow my feet to breathe and for taking showers etc…
Total = 2 Pairs of Shoes. Boots and FlipFlops.
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 am bringing but it is entirely up to you what items you think you should take.
Backpack Osprey 30 Litre – A backpack to carry all your things in. A bag no more than 45 litres is advised. Any bigger and you risk over packing and filling it with unnecessary weight.
Hiking Poles – 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. Only problem with buying them before hand 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. Read further for my travel hack to avoid checking in your backpack!
Sleeping Mat – Not an essential item but it may come in useful should you find yourself sleeping on the floor.
Sleeping Bag/Sleeping Liner – Since I am travelling in the height of summer, I am opting 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 1kg for the summer and some that are suitable for the winter too.
Microfiber 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 dry.
Head Torch – Again not essential but it maybe useful for early morning risers and walking in the evenings. Although I advise – please do not use inside the dorms as it really annoys people who are trying to sleep.
Backpack Cover – Some backpacks already have this built in. If not I advise purchasing one to cover your bag should it rain to keep everything dry.
Water Bottle & Camel Bag – There are plenty of fountains along the way to top up your water bottles and Camel Bags. I am taking a two litre Camel Bag that fits inside my backpack as well as an additional steel water bottle as an extra. They can be reused for the entire Camino, which saves buying bottles of water that are plastic and damage the environment.
Penknife – Controversial object. Some people never travel without one and some people say its unnecessary. I am sure the bottle opener and cork screw 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!
Poncho – Decide whether you prefer to take a lightweight waterproof shell jacket or a cheap roll up poncho. Either way you should carry something that you can wear should it rain or down pour. The disadvantage of a poncho is you tend to sweat far more than in a jacket.
This is the second section of my packing list that I spent a lot of time and consideration as well as plenty of dosh! All past pilgrims have cried about blisters so I spent a pretty penny on buying 8 packs of blister Compeeds to take with me. On top of that I have a mini first aid kit complete with additional plasters, antiseptic wipes and gazes to bandage feet or toes.
An definite item to pack is EAR PLUGS! You will most likely be sleeping in dorms so these will be invaluable to you. Don’t forget them.
I don’t expect to be bitten very much by mosquitoes but the bites are dead annoying if you get bitten. I am taking a stick with me to put on as well as a travel band that should warn them off. You don’t have to take these and you can probably buy them on The Way if you do start getting eaten. On the note of skin, you may also find it useful to pack a bottle of sun screen if you are travelling in the summer months, and apply and reapply often, preferably every time you stop to rest.
Lastly I am also packing a small tube of Voltarin which is an anti-inflammatory gel that will be my best friend. It’s great for sore muscles, swollen ankles and stiff joints. A lot of pilgrims swear by this stuff, so in my opinion its worth its weight in gold. Another item worth taking is a tub of Vasaline to rub on your feet to stop your socks and boots rubbing and or a Compeed stick to put on hot spots before they turn into blisters.
Must Haves Summary: Compeed or Second Skin, Ear Plugs, Sun Screen and Vaseline. Remember, if you forget anything there are plenty of pharmacies on the way.
I have packed some extra items that you may or may not seem necessary, although a few items have a purpose.
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 kilometers 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.
Plastic Wallet – To keep my pilgrim passport and important document safe, together and protected against water.
Spork – I plan on eating breakfast and lunch and the other 5 times a day snack on the go, so having a tool such as a spork will come in handy.
iPad – Since I am a blogger I will be taking my iPad to document events on the way but obviously this isn’t an item you need to take.
Chargers – Various leads and a charging point to charge all of my electricals with just one plug.
GoPro – Again not an essential item but I am taking it to film during my Camino.
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 visable at night should I end up walking in the dark. Better to be viable.
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, sun screen 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 its 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.
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.
So that is my complete packing list. To follow along on my Camino adventure over the next five weeks make sure to follow me on Twitter @A_wanderluster, on Facebook at The Wandering Wanderluster and on Instagram @wanderingwanderluster
Look forward to sharing my experiences with you!