Preparing to hike the Camino de Santiago? Find out what to bring and what to leave at home with this essential Camino packing list for women!
To be honest, I hated my first Camino. But, I think if I’d found a Camino packing list for women as detailed as the one you just clicked on, I’d have felt a lot differently!
The items you do and don’t decide to put in your backpack can make or break your Camino (trust me, I learned the hard way). If you’re a female pilgrim planning on walking the Camino, keep reading for the ultimate Camino packing list for women!
Even if you’re not a woman, all pilgrims will find these Camino de Santiago packing tips helpful. After reading this post, you will know the:
- Best shoes for walking the Camino de Santiago
- Most important factor when choosing the right clothing for the Camino
- Best backpack for the Camino
- Important items you need inside your pack
- What NOT to pack for the Camino de Santiago
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What is the Camino de Santiago?
The Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James, is a network of pathways across Spain. The Camino begins wherever a pilgrim leaves their doorstep and ends in Santiago de Compostela, where tradition state the first martyred apostle is buried. During the Middle Ages, it became an important pilgrimage for Christians.
Since the mid-1980s, the Camino has experienced a resurgence in popularity. In 2017, over 300,000 pilgrims made their way to Santiago de Compostela. Most travel by foot, but others elect to go by bicycle or on horseback.
Many people want to know what the most popular Camino route is & that distinction goes to the Camino Frances. The French Way starts in Saint-Jean-de-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees and extends across Spain to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.
It takes most people about four weeks to complete the almost 500 miles (781 km) of the Camino Frances.
Other routes are the Camino del Norte, Camino Primitivo and Camino Portugués (just to name a few). The specific Camino route you choose is your own personal preference. There is no “real Camino” & this packing list will serve you for whichever route calls to you.
What should I pack for the Camino?
In October 2019, I walked from Porto, Portugal, to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, following the Camino Portugués (Portuguese Way). It was my second Camino (having walked the last 100 km of the French Way in September 2016), and I’m proud to say I finally understand what I should pack for the Camino.
Knowing what you need (and, perhaps more importantly, what you DON’T need) for a 200-plus mile hike is vital to your success.
In this post, you’ll find a complete Camino de Santiago packing list geared toward female hikers. But even if you’re not a woman, the tips in this post will teach you how to pack light for the Camino.
Best women’s backpack for the Camino
I’ve now walked two Caminos with my trusty Osprey backpack, and I don’t think I’ll ever trade it in for anything else. Regardless of what season or how long you’re walking on the Camino, I see no need for a backpack larger than 36 liters.
Osprey Kyte 36 Women’s Hiking Backpack
Packing light on the Camino begins with the right-sized backpack. I think the best women’s backpack for the Camino is the Osprey Kyte 36 women’s hiking backpack. With anything bigger than 36 liters, you’ll be tempted to overpack.
Because the Camino is a well-supported hike (meaning you’re frequently passing through towns and villages where you can sleep and eat), there is no need to pack a lot of supplies. Ideally, your fully-loaded Camino backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10-15% of your body weight.
If you’re hiking during summer months (or at least warmer weather), you should start with a Camino backpack that weighs 3 pounds (1.5 kg) or less. The Osprey Kyte 36 weighs 2.76 pounds (1.25 kg).
Additional features I love about the Osprey Kyte 36 are:
- Padded hip belt with zipper pockets for easy to reach storage
- Comfortable shoulder straps
- Integrated removable rain cover
- Zippered sleeping bag compartment
Some of my fellow pilgrims on the Camino carried small cross body bags or fanny packs for items such as their wallet and cell phone. However, I found the storage options (particular the hip belt pockets) of the Osprey Kyte 36 to more than suffice.
Do you need a sleeping bag for the Camino?
If you plan on sleeping in albergues (pilgrim hostels), you absolutely need a sleeping bag for the Camino.
However, the type of sleeping bag you choose will depend on the weather forecast. Take a look at the predicted nighttime temperatures and pack the lightest possible sleeping bag.
For example, if you’re walking the Camino in the summer, you might be able to get away with just a sleeping sack. But, in the fall or winter, you’ll need to pay more attention to the recommended degrees for your sleeping bag.
When I walked the Portuguese Way in October, I was comfortable most nights with a sleeping bag good for 0°C. If anything, I was too warm in some of the larger albergues where packed dormitories meant warmer temperatures.
Sleeping Bag Liner vs. Sleeping Bag for the Camino
Some pilgrims hiking during the summer months opt to pack a sleeping bag liner instead of a full sleeping bag. If you’re really committed to packing as light as possible and you know you don’t get cold at night, a silk sleeping bag liner is the way to go.
If I were walking the Camino during the summer months, I would likely test out this sleeping bag liner.
Are bed bugs a problem on the Camino?
I wish I could say it’s not an issue, but it is. Bed bugs are a problem on the Camino.
Many pilgrims are scared to stay in Camino de Santiago albergues for the fear of getting bed bugs. However, just because you avoid staying in albergues doesn’t mean you won’t get them.
In this guide to staying in albergues on the Camino, learn how to identify a bed bug infestation.
Some pilgrims swear by bed bug spray or using a sleeping bag liner, but personally, I don’t think either works. Rather than trusting a spray or liner, the best way to avoid bed bugs on the Camino is to learn how to identify a bed bug infestation.
Clothing Camino de Santiago Packing List Items
Do yourself a favor and abandon any ideas you have about staying clean on the Camino. If you’re serious about packing light, then you need to accept the fact you’re going to be a little grungy.
Some blogs talk about washing your clothes in the sink or packing a Scrubba bag to help you do laundry each night, but in my experience, I was too exhausted from walking all day to worry about anything beyond a quick shower, a hot meal and falling into bed.
That’s not to say I never did laundry on the Camino. When I stayed at an albergue with a washing machine and dryer, I took advantage of it. Otherwise, I wore the same clothes day after day. I know that sounds gross, but everyone’s a little stinky, so no one is going to call you out.
The specific needs of your Camino may vary slightly depending on the time of the year you’re walking. If you’re walking during the late fall or early spring, it’s essential that you’re prepared for bad weather. Regardless of whether you’re walking during warmer months or cooler months, this Camino packing list has everything you need.
The most important factor when choosing the right clothing for the Camino is the material. Good quality items come at an extra cost, but when you’re using the same gear day after day, the last thing you want is for that gear to give out on you.
Hiking shoes (trail runners)
I think the main reason I hated my first Camino was because I was wearing the wrong footwear. Learn from my mistakes and DON’T wear hiking boots. Instead of a pair of boots, opt for something like what I wore for my second Camino: Altra Women’s Torin 4 Road Running Shoe. I loved the zero-drop design, and they kept my feet dry for a lot longer than I thought possible for a sneaker.
You might be tempted to buy “waterproof” footwear but just know nothing (aside from galoshes, I suppose) will keep your feet completely dry when you’re walking in a downpour for seven hours. So, don’t forgo a comfortable pair of hiking shoes or trail runners for what are most likely false promises.
My walking companion, Vanessa, brought these super comfy Birkenstock slip-ons, and I was seriously jealous the entire trip. I recommend slides like these rather than thong flip-flops because they are more comfortable to wear with socks which is much cozier for hanging out in the albergue.
Toe socks (2 pairs)
The right clothing for the Camino starts with the right socks. I didn’t have a single blister this Camino, and I’m giving the credit to these Injinji socks. They look a little weird, but your feet will thank you.
Merino wool hiking socks (2 pairs of socks)
I’m a big proponent of the two-sock method for preventing blisters and maximizing comfort. Each day, after covering my feet in vaseline, I put on these Balega socks over my Injini toe socks.
Merino wool is the best choice because wool is it is breathable and dries quickly. Plus, wool has antimicrobial properties which means it won’t get as smelly as fast as synthetic fabrics.
Leggings (2 pairs)
I prefer full-length leggings and recommend getting some with side pockets. You can never have too many pockets!
Hiking shirts (2)
There are a lot of options out there, but make sure you get shirts that are comfortable and breathable. Because you’re wearing the same clothes day after day, look for something that dries quickly. A little built-in SPF is nice too.
Merino wool long-sleeve shirt
The key to packing light on the Camino is layering. Waking up at sunrise to walk can mean chilly temperatures in the early mornings, so having something with long sleeves to wear over your t-shirt and under your jacket is important.
This merino wool long-sleeve shirt comes in a bunch of different colors. Merino wool is worth the extra cost because no material does a better job of adapting to your body temperature and wicking sweat.
Sports bras (1-2)
Most of the women I met along the Camino packed two sports bras and alternated them each day. Personally, I packed one sports bra and hung it up each night to dry out.
Regular bra or bralette (1)
I don’t like wearing a sports bra unless I’m doing a sport, so instead of a second sports bra to alternate/wear in the evenings, I packed a regular bra. Since you’re mostly just relaxing around the albergue, a bralette could be a good option as well.
Rain jacket with hood
Especially if you’re walking the Camino during the early spring or late fall, you need to be prepared for rainy days.
Like with the shoes, no jacket is 100% waterproof, but read reviews to see how long you can reasonably expect something to keep you dry in the rain. Look for a waterproof jacket that can roll up into its own hood for easy packing like this one from North Face.
Baseball caps or hats with a drawstring are great options. A hat that keeps blowing off your head is no good to you.
Evening wear/sleep clothes (shorts or long pants)
Personally, I don’t like sleeping in leggings, so I packed a pair of shorts for sleeping. On top, I’d wear whichever of my hiking shirts was clean. My post-shower/evening wear doubled as my pajamas. If you do the Camino during colder months, I would swap out the shorts for long pants.
Toiletries for Female’s Camino de Santiago Packing List
For both men and women packing for the Camino de Santiago, your toiletries are an opportunity to lighten your load.
Something I see in a lot of Camino packing lists is the desire to be prepared for anything. While that’s a nice sentiment, it often leads to over-packing and, in reality, is unnecessary. The following are important things to bring on the Camino, but try to only pack small quantities with the plan to restock when you pass through larger cities.
- 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner
- Cleansing towelettes
- To be honest, you’ll usually be too tired to actually wash your face.
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Diva cup
- Because tampons are soooo 2019!
- I attribute my blister-free Camino to covering my feet in Vaseline every morning. You can also apply it anywhere you feel a chafe coming on (sports bra band, should straps, hip belt, etc.).
- Hair ties
- Hand sanitizer
- Lip balm
Walking the Camino is not backcountry camping. You’ll be passing through towns and cities on a daily basis, which means you can pick up anything you’ve run out of or realize you need.
Instead of trying to bring all the shampoo and soap you think you’ll need for the duration of the Camino, pack trial-size products and buy replacements from a pharmacy or grocery store when you run out.
More Essential Items for Your Camino Packing List
You can purchase a local SIM card when you arrive in Spain OR (and this option is much easier) use the Airalo app to buy an eSIM. The code “EMILY9681” will get you $3 off your first purchase. Airalo is safe to use, and with data packs for 200+ countries and regions, it’s a total game changer.
You need data so you can check in with the outside world, find out how close the next albergue is & to use your phone as a music player.
If, like most pilgrims, you’re into getting an early start, you’ll want something reflective for your backpack. Some sections of the Portuguese Way were straight-up highway, and wearing reflective gear would have made me a lot more comfortable.
You’ll look ridiculous but so does everyone else. A poncho is,hands down, the most effective rain gear.
These two items won’t take up a lot of room and have a myriad of uses. I probably used at least one safety pin every day for one thing or another on the Camino
Ear plugs & eye mask
If you’re going to actually sleep in a municipal albergue, these two Camino packing list items are essential. Block out snoring pilgrims and be able to go to sleep even if the dormitory lights are still on.
Quick dry towel
I like to have a towel big enough that I can actually wrap up in it post-shower.
Don’t feel the need to pack an entire first aid kit. Just bring enough supplies to make it until you’re able to get to a pharmacy. For blisters, I prefer adhesive tape over traditional band-aids. Compeed is also really popular on the Camino.
Toilet paper or tissues
Is it just me, or do you never seem to have toilet paper or tissues when you need it?! Keep a few sheets in a dry spot inside your pack just in case.
An absolute must-have item for the Camino, I stored all my clothes in one giant Ziploc bag and my travel pillow in another. I like to think of them as a broke girl’s packing cubes! In addition to keeping me organized, the Ziploc bags kept all my clothes dry despite a torrential downpour that soaked through my backpack’s rain cover.
Shade yo’ eyes from the sun.
You’ll need this to charge your phone!
Important Things to Consider Packing for the Camino de Santiago
While I won’t go as far as to say you absolutely MUST pack the following items, I will say they could prove very helpful should you have the extra room in your backpack.
In my ultimate list of things to know before walking the Camino de Santiago, I talk about the importance of nonessential essentials.
I know how absolutely ridiculous this sounds, and believe me, I almost laughed out loud when Vanessa told me she’d packed a hairdryer. But, I’m glad I didn’t because we ended up using it A TON—specifically to dry our sneakers and other gear. We were the envy of the albergues!
If you’re like me and getting a good night’s sleep depends on having a decent pillow, I recommend bringing your own because albergue pillows are—how do I put this?— SHIT! I have my eye on this compression pillow for my next Camino.
Collapsible Tupperware container
Again, this is something I would have never thought to bring, but Vanessa opened my eyes to all its uses. For anyone doing the Camino on a budget, eating leftovers will save you money.
I’ve done two Caminos now without a headlamp which is why I have it down as an extra. I’ve gotten by using the flashlight on my phone, but I won’t lie: a headlamp would be a whole lot easier.
Journal & pen
Even when you’re dog tired, take a few minutes each day to write. The Camino will be one of the greatest adventures of your life, and you’ll want to remember it. But, if you really don’t want to carry one, you could just make notes in your phone.
These reusable rubber twist ties are perfect for everything from organizing cords to hooking items to the outside of your backpack.
Things You Don’t Need to Pack for the Camino de Santiago
If you’ve made it this far, you know I’m all about packing light on the Camino. In my opinion, there’s a direct correlation between how heavy your backpack is and how miserable you are on the Camino.
Understanding I have your best interest in mind, don’t be alarmed when I’ve deliberately left off some items other Camino de Santiago packing lists for females deem essential.
I’m sure there are people who will want to fight me on this one, but I really don’t think they’re necessary. I think they can certainly help you, but for the Portuguese Way and the last 100 km of the French Way, the terrain did not require them.
Unless you actually know how to use trekking poles to counter the impact on your knees, I don’t think they are worth the extra weight.
That’s right I don’t wear underwear under my leggings. It’s just one more thing to wash, and I am NOT about that.
“Nice” evening wear clothes
You may be thinking out want some “nice” clothes for when you’re out celebrating in Santiago de Compostela, but they’re not worth the weight in your backpack. All the other pilgrims will be wearing their Camino clothes, so just embrace it.
Water sanitizing pills
The water in Spain is fine to drink. The water in Portugal is fine to drink. You will never need to get water from a stream or river.
Because you’re passing through towns so frequently, a 1-liter water bottle is sufficient. You can bring a reusable bottle from home or just buy a liter of bottled water from the grocery store and keep refilling it at bars, albergues or from public water fountains the entire trip (that’s what I did).
If you really have to, pack a tube of mascara (I did), but leave the rest at home.
Trust me: One backpack is more than enough for the Camino. For bringing back food from grocery stores, I would just purchase a reusable grocery bag on the spot rather than carrying an extra day pack.
Physical guide books or maps
The Camino is incredibly well marked, so you shouldn’t need to refer to maps while on the trail. I recommend purchasing digital copies of any guide books you think you might want to reference. Hardcore paperback fans should rip out any sections they think they might want from the guide books.
During my two Caminos, I never referenced guide books while actually walking (just to do research during the preparation phase).
A money belt isn’t as inconspicuous as you think (always having to lift up your shirt or pull your waistband away from your body before you can pay for anything). Instead, bring a small coin purse and store it in one of the pockets on the hip belt of your backpack.
Looking for more about the Camino? Don’t miss these posts!
- How to Prepare for the Camino de Santiago Like a Pro
- 25 Essential Camino de Santiago Hiking Tips
- The Cost of Walking the Camino de Santiago
Printable Camino de Santiago Packing List for Female Pilgrims
Now, I know that was a lot to throw at you, so to help you prepare and stay organized, I’ve put together a printable Camino packing list for women.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Camino
In this section, I’m answering commonly asked questions about the Camino de Santiago. If you have a question about any of the gear on this packing list or walking the Camino de Santiago as a woman, please feel free to leave a comment below.
Is the Camino safe for women?
Yes, the Camino is safe for women! I walked the Portuguese Way “solo” and felt completely safe the entire time.
I say “solo” because, especially if you are walking a popular route during a popular time of year, you’re never really alone. One of the reasons the Camino is so popular is because it’s such a social hike. Part of the magic of the Camino is meeting fellow pilgrims and finding your Camino family.
What size backpack for Camino women?
The most important thing when choosing a choosing a backpack for the Camino is finding one with a light base weight. Women should aim for a backpack with a starting weight of less than 3 pounds.
Even with everything inside of your pack, the total weight of your backpack shouldn’t exceed 10-15% of your body weight.
The best size backpack for Camino women is between 30-40 L. After much research and trail testing, I’m confident the best Camino backpack is the Osprey Kyte 36L.
With a 36 litre pack, you have adequate space for all your essential items but not enough space that you’re tempted to overpack.
You can scroll up to the “best backpack” section at the top of this post to read more about why the Osprey Kyte 36 is the best Camino backpack for women.
Where do people go to the bathroom on the Camino?
As you walk the Camino, you’re passing through lots of small towns and even some larger cities. There are many cafes, restaurants and bars where you can pop in for a quick bathroom break.
However, if you go into a restaurant, bar or cafe along the Camino to use the bathroom, plan on at least buying a coffee.
Especially on the most popular Camino routes, you rarely (if ever) have to walk more than a few miles to find a bathroom.
How fit do you need to be to walk the Camino?
Rest assured that you don’t need years of walking experience or a high degree of physical fitness to walk the Camino and enjoy it. Every year, people of all ages and fitness levels successfully complete the Camino.
This post is packed with tips for how to prepare for the Camino de Santiago.
The most important thing to do leading up to your Camino is take at least one walk with a fully-loaded backpack wearing your trail runners or hiking shoes. The more long distance day hikes you’re able to do the better.
Doing so will give you a good idea of what to expect on the actual Camino and how much additional training you should do ahead of time to prepare.
As long as your doctor doesn’t have any objections, the only thing you need to successfully complete the Camino de Santiago is a good attitude.
The Ultimate Camino Packing List for Women
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