Fortunately for me and my poor back, the one aspect of my ill-prepared trip I did some research for was what to include in my packing list for El Camino de Santiago. The idea of carrying everything I needed for eight days of serious trekking was daunting, so I took to the internet and did some homework.
Here’s what worked and what didn’t work in packing for the Camino de Santiago:
Image Credit: Tanya Hart (Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette)
When I decided to walk the Camino, I knew I would have to buy a new backpack. Having never done any major camping or hiking before, I didn’t have any bag up to the task. At first, I thought I’d just buy something cheap from Decathlon upon returning to Spain.
But then the heavens opened, and I was blessed with gorgeous Kyte 36 backpack by Osprey.
Yes, my dad was kind enough to purchase me the backpack as a gift along with a hydration bladder. I was and still am obsessed. Here’s why I chose this backpack for the Camino:
- Designed specifically for a woman’s body
- Super lightweight
- Zippered sleeping bag compartment
- Integrated rain cover
- Lots of pockets
I’m 5 feet 6 inches tall (171 cm) and 130 pounds (62 kg), and I purchased the S/M backpack. It fit me perfectly. Osprey also carries an XS/S in this backpack.
I saw a lot of backpacks on the Camino, but personally, I could never use anything bigger than a 36-liter backpack. I walked eight days, but I believe this same backpack would serve a thru-hiking pilgrim well.
I debated almost all summer about my Camino footwear. I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted. Boots? Tennis shoes? Something in between? In the end, my mom offered me a pair of hiking boots she bought and used on a trip to Switzerland several years ago. The boots have leather uppers and are Italian-made. I wore them for a few short hikes this summer, and they felt good, so I went for it.
The jury is still out on whether these particular hiking boots were the proper footwear for my journey. I mean, they got me to Finisterre, so I want to say yes. On the other hand, in all my days of walking, I didn’t see any other pilgrims with similar footwear.
From my observations, the majority of pilgrims wore crossover hiking shoes like these. My boots might have been a bit of an overkill for the Camino.
I’m ashamed to write this, but I’ve always made fun of people who wear zip-off pants. You know the all-weather pants with all the zippers that can be long pants or capris or shorts? Yeah, I’ve gotten quite a few laughs about those over the years. They just seemed ridiculous. Like you seriously can’t just pack a pair of pants AND a pair of pants?!
Well, all those zip-off pants people got the last laugh. Two days into carrying my pack, I wished I had a pair if just to make my backpack an ounce lighter!
Here’s a list of the clothes I packed for the Camino de Santiago in September:
- 2 short sleeved dry fit shirts
- 1 long sleeved UV blocker button-up shirt
- 1 zip-up hoodie
- 3 pairs of running short
- 1 pair of sweatpants
- 1 light rain jacket
- 1 light dress
- 2 sports bras
- 2 pairs of underwear
- 2 pairs of mid-calf hiking socks
- 1 pair of hiking boots
- 1 pair of sandals
- 1 UV blocker cap
Ugh, this list made my back ache just typing it. I wish I would have bit the bullet and bought a pair of those not-so-ridiculous-now zip-off pants. If I’d done that, I could have gone without one pair of running shorts and the sweatpants. I also definitely didn’t need the sweatshirt, although it was nice to have it when I was relaxing in the evenings. The long sleeved shirt and rain jacket were sufficient. The light dress is optional. I spent a day in La Coruña at the end of the trip and wanted to have something to wear around the city.
Of course, packing for the Camino de Santiago is more than just shoving clothes into a backpack. You need other stuff too! Be careful though because “additional items” is how your backpack really starts to get heavy.
Here’s what I definitely recommend packing for the Camino:
- 1 quick-dry towel – Municipal albergues don’t have towels for pilgrims, but some privates do.
- Sleeping bag – Even in September, something lightweight will suffice.
- Earplugs – You will be sleeping in rooms with lots of other people, some who snore.
- Ziplock bags – Bring several different sizes to keep your stuff dry and organized.
- iPhone and iPad – Keep family and friends updated as well as yourself entertained in the evenings.
- Chargers and headphones – Duhhhhh.
Here’s what I packed for the Camino but didn’t need:
- Sunglasses – Never wore mine because my section of the Camino was pretty shaded.
- Flashlight – My iPhone flashlight was superior, so my pocket flashlight was deadweight.
- Lock – None of the municipal albergues I stayed in had lockers, so never used it.
- Scrubba bag with detergent packet – Nifty Christmas gift from my sister that I used a few times, but all albergues have laundry machines which you can use for 3 euros or so.
Other Camino Packing Tips
Packing for the Camino de Santiago is definitely something you should research and take seriously. With that being said, only stress out to a certain extent. This is supposed to be fun, remember? Keep in mind you’re not trekking through the Amazon. You’re hiking across northern Spain. Along the way, you’ll be passing through small towns and, occasionally, large cities. If you forget something, you’ll be able to buy it somewhere.
- Toiletries – Keep these to an absolute minimum! Ladies, leave the makeup at home! If you can find an all-in-one shampoo, face wash and body wash, bring it. I recommend castile soap.
- First-aid kit – My walking partner had some band aids which proved useful for some blisters, but there are lots of pharmacies if the need arises.
- Trekking poles – To bring or not to bring? Probably the most personal decision of the Camino. Personally opted not to use them, but for those uncomfortable with steep downhills, it’s something to consider.
Have you ever walked the Camino de Santiago? Share your packing tips in the comments!