SO YOU WANT TO WALK A CAMINO, EH?
Oh my god. Are you seriously thinking about doing this? Holy moly!
Below, I’ve given a very brief summary of what I packed during my experience walking the Camino Frances last year (~900km over 33 days). I’ve included some tips and tricks that I learned along the way, and of course, these are just my opinions. There are countless others online, from blog posts like this one and this one to YouTube videos to advertising to Google. I encourage you to do your own research and make your own decisions (except about the earplugs. Get those!). Anyway, here’s what I packed last time and what I would do this time.
Oh, overall, your backpack should weigh no more than 15% of your body weight. That’s a target I learned on the last trip, and I think it’s a good approach to aim for. So, if you weigh 150lbs, your pack and all the gear on your back should weigh about 22 pounds MAXIMUM. This is a target, not an ideal, but it’ll give you some kind of numbers to shoot for. Obviously, the less you bring, and the lighter you carry, the better. FOR SURE. 100%.
Things you will definitely need:
Earplugs: Yes, I’m putting this first. We will be sleeping in large rooms with many beds and many tired strangers, some of whom will drink too much wine and snore louder than you ever thought possible. Bring them. Also, I recommend you invest in the silicone ones, not the regular ones which won’t work well. The silicone ones are AMAZING, and worth every penny, especially when you’re lying in bed and struggling for some shuteye. I don’t know this brand, but something like these ones.
A backpack: I use this one, and I LOVE the size of it (48L), which is perfect for doing the Camino. Osprey makes great gear, but the most important thing with backpacks is that they fit YOU comfortably. I actually ended up getting a cheaper pack than planned simply because this one fit me like a glove. Go to a store and try them on before you buy one online. I’m serious. Also, you’ll want a way to make sure you’re waterproof, so inquire about a rain covering if you need one (see below for more on rain gear…)
A journal and a pen: We’re going to be doing lots of writing and thinking and learning and you’re going to want to write it all down. So, yeah. Bring these. It’ll also be a fantastic souvenir/time capsule to read through in a couple years.
Your passport, with valid expiration dates: Just saying. This is essential.
A towel. I didn’t see anyone else doing this, but I used a sarong, and found it worked SO good. It’s light, dries quickly, and can also be used for other things. I’ll do this again. Oh, if you have a travel towel, that’ll be good too.
Toiletries: I found that having several Ziploc bags of different sizes was amazing. I put a few things in the gallon-sized bags (deodorant, soap, etc…), and then smaller stuff in smaller bags (painkillers, ChapStick, ointments, etc…). It was super easy to organize and very efficient when you’re trying to find things, especially at night. Also, to clarify, you’re not going to be on an isolated island in the middle of nowhere so you should be able to get access to most everything you’ll need. HOWEVER, don’t expect it, and it’s MUCH better/easier to be prepared, rather than trying to figure out how to say ‘pharmacy’ in Portuguese while the rest of the group is on their way to another town.
Essentials like toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, razor, etc…
Personal medicine, ointments, gels, creams, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, whatever…
Sunscreen, because the sun is the sun and you’ll be spending a lot of time under it.
First aid kit, with band-aids, vitamins, painkillers (I took so many of these last year that I started calling them ‘vitamins’), etc…
Blister treatment, including a safety pin, just in case (There’s a company in Europe called Compeed that has insanely good quality stuff like this. For whatever reason, you can’t get it in the USA. However, everyone was talking about it and using it over there. Feet are the main topic of conversation on most days, and you’re going to be spending a LOT of time on your feet. Best to be prepared for whatever may happen, but prevention is the best medicine which takes me to...)
A small jar of Vaseline (I read that marathon runners smother their feet in this stuff before races and I did it every morning during the first week last year. It prevents friction, and lack of friction prevents blisters)
Clothes. Look, you’re going to want to pack more than you need. Don’t do that. You’re going to tell yourself, “Oh, just two more shirts and maybe my hair dryer, that’ll be fine,” but don’t do that. As a reminder, you are going to carry EVERYTHING ON YOUR BACK EVERY DAY. After the first hour, you’ll be cursing that extra shirt and hair dryer, guaranteed. I promise, once you’re walking for about two days straight, you will not care about fashion or wearing the same stuff again. Nobody else will care about what you wear either.
Shoes: This is really important. You’re going to want to have good shoes that you have already broken in, not new ones off the shelf that you’ve never worn. You’re going to be living in these things for weeks, and doing lots of walking, obviously. If you don’t already have good shoes, go to a store, talk to a professional, and try a few pairs on.
Sandals. Taking your shoes off each day is one of the best things you will ever do. Having some sandals to wear around afterwards is pure bliss. Do it.
Socks: This is REALLY important. I was told these ones were the best around, and they didn’t disappoint. They’re expensive, but they come with a lifetime guarantee so they’ll probably be the last hiking socks you’ll ever buy. I took three pairs, and found I could wash 1-2 every other day and be okay.
Shirts: I brought two workout type shirts, e.g. Lululemon, as they’re super light, easy to wash and they dry quick. And a spare or two for evenings.
Shorts: I took two pairs of athletic shorts last time and it was fine. I’ll do the same again. Lots of women I saw wore yoga tights, so that’s an option too.
Warm stuff: It depends on the climate/weather, of course, but I brought a wool jumper like this one. I also brought a beanie, and thin wool gloves for chilly mornings. And I brought a lightweight thermal and a jacket too. I found it much easier to layer, as it’s tricky to manage your temperature whilst walking. Sometimes you go up a hill and overheat, and then five minutes later you’re cold again. However, I walked in May last time, so might not need any of this stuff this time. Check the weather…
Rain gear: I mean, look, there’s a chance you’ll walk in the rain for hours so it’s probably best to be prepared for that. A few friends of mine had good rain jackets and a covering for their backpacks like this one and that seemed to work. Lots of others had these, and they always looked SO damn happy with themselves that I’ve been thinking of investing in one like this. I used a $3 poncho and it was shocking and hilarious, but I don’t want to do that again! No way. Though I might if the rain isn’t forecast so who really knows…
A hat: Bring one. Because sun is hot and rain is wet.
Pajamas, because you need something to sleep in.
Water bottle. Um, yeah, you’re going to need one of these.
An evening outfit. I brought a pair of jeans (again, maybe not needed for the climate/season) and a separate t-shirt or two. After you walk all day, then take a shower, it feels great to slip into something clean and comfortable.
Other stuff you should consider:
Phone and charger: I used this every day, taking photos, making notes, recording video…
A kindle or a book: This is optional, but if you feel like carrying it 200km, by all means! I brought a small thin book last time and will consider it again.
Earphones, if you want to listen to music or make a phone call and don’t want others to hear.
Eye mask. Sometimes, in community spaces, the lights are on, or maybe your bed is near a window and it’s too bright, or whatever. Masks are amazing, and you’ll be lights out in no time.
Pillow case: I didn’t do this last year, but I will this time. I just feel like it’ll be super luxurious to have a soft, personal pillow case of my own instead of resting on the pillow that hundreds of people have used before me. Bring a long one, as some pillows are the bigger variety.
A sleeping bag. Some didn’t have these, and relied/hoped on getting one each night in the hostel, but I don’t recommend that approach. Get yourself a lightweight, easy-to-use-and-pack sleeping bag and you’ll be set. Note the size/weight/warmth, but something like this. Combine this with your own pillow case and earplugs and eye mask, and you’re in great shape and ready to sleep anywhere!
A silk liner. I didn’t travel with one, but others loved theirs. Try something like this.
I think that’s it. Maybe?
Oh, you’re going to want to train for this. Walk up hills. Walk far. Build up to walking 20km whilst wearing your pack. Your future self will honor and thank you greatly.
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