There are so many lists of what to pack for the Camino. Blog posts about what to leave out. Facebook comments about products what people swear by.
What it comes down to is NEED.
What do you need on a daily basis? This is not the time to pack for ‘just in case’ or even the “I want to have…” scenario. When you walk 800km, you want only what you needwith you. Everything else is just weight. 800km is a long way to carry something you may or may not use. Every single thing in your backpack must be with the intent of using it every single day. The ONLY exception is wet weather gear.
After my first Camino, when I walked from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela, April-May of 2018, I weighed my backpack before I started walking. It weighed about 8.5kg. Over 2kg of that was my backpack, which was an important lesson for when I planned on walking the Camino a second time. Because there would be a second time (in April 2019).
By the time I finished my first Camino, a solo adventure, my backpack was down to 7kg. Now 1.5kg doesn’t sound that much, but believe me, that weight makes a huge difference.
Things came out of my backpack by the time I got to Pamplona, 65km into my Camino wander. Things like extra layers I thought I would need. An extra fleece jumper (sweater) and extra foot protection I thought I’d need that was completely over the top. And the additional beanie I thought I’d need, not realizing that I had a buff and a wool beanie in my pack already.
From Pamplona onwards, I bought only what I needed for a few days. Those were items like additional band-aids or Compeed, which is what I used for foot care. When I brought trail snacks, it was only enough for a few days.
I am a curvaceous traveller.
At the beginning of my solo walk, I was between a size 16-18. That is just a little larger than the ‘average’ size in today’s world.
Yet, I struggled to find the gear I needed for a long-distance walk. Apparently, clothiers believe that women who need ‘work out gear’ are all ‘gym junkies’ and wear a size 10 – or less. (I can go on, but you can read more about my opinion on that matter if you click here.)
I was appalled at the limited options for pants and waterproof gear, especially with the more popular labels going only to a size 12, or 14 at best. So, I struggled. But I have found, since walking my first Camino, items I would need that are better suited, for my second Camino. The first wander I was wearing a men’s Goretex jacket because it was the only thing I could find and it swam on me everywhere, but my hips.
Wear what’s comfortable.
Just because you are walking 800km, doesn’t mean you have to wear lycra, spandex or polyester. What you need is comfortable and lightweight. Something that washes well and dries fast.
Merino is great for that. So is, despite what people will say, lightweight cotton. If you’re using strong deodorant and not walking at the speed of sound, cotton is fine as long as it doesn’t chaffe you and it dries quickly.
Please note the links below are affiliate links, taking you towhere I purchased these items.
What Backpack Do I Recommend?
I used a different backpack on my solo wander. It was too heavy. I have done a lot of research and tried a lot of backpacks. When you have boobs and hips, it makes things a bit challenging and options limiting.
A popular choice is Osprey but I found the brand did not work for me AT ALL. The straps dug into my neck.
But I went with the Aarn backpack. It’s comfortable and it moves with me, which is amazing. The great thing about Aarn are the balance bags, but again, as a woman with curves, they don’t work for me. I can’t see my feet. They stood out too far. But the backpack itself is comfortable and fits everything I need (below) easily.
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Do You Need Trekking Poles?
Yep, you need these. They will save your knees, relieving about 20% of the pressure from them. They will save your ass on hills, both on the scent and descent. Trust me on that. I almost fell down a mountain if it weren’t for my walking poles.
TIP: Don’t buy your walking poles before you get to Spain. Many airlines won’t allow you to put them into your backpack if you are carrying your backpack on.
If you are beginning in Saint Jean Pied de Port, you can buy them at the shop across from the Pilgrim office. Buy rubber feet that are wide and also buy some replacements as they will wear through.
I have poles that have a cork handle, which helps absorb the sweat of your hands as you walk. Once you’ve used poles, you will find, when you don’t use them, how much they become a part of your walk. I LOVE my walking poles.
- Merrell Moab 2
Find shoes that fit YOU. You need to be sure your shoes are comfortable. Your shoes will make or break your walk. If you aren’t taking care of your feet, your Camino is over.
Your feet will be aching and tired after the first week, so gel inserts will be a godsend. You can pick up replacements in Farmacias along the Camino.
The best piece of advice I can give is to break in your shoes before you go. Make sure they are very broken in. Blisters are painful and difficult to walk with. But if your shoes are broken in, you can determine any issues before the Camino where they can be resolved before you walk 800km.
Before my first wander, I recognized my shoes were too small.
I had invested a small fortune after spending a lot of time trying on a lot of shoes. So, to say I was frustrated, is putting it lightly. I was fortunate that a good friend of mine had the exact same pair in the same size I needed for my wander and offered them to me. When I put them on, they fit like butter. I had enough time to break them in a little further before the wander.
For my second wander, I bought the same size shoe – a men’s shoe in wide.
You need shoes that allow your toes to wiggle. When you lace your shoes, skip the first loops. This will provide more room in the toe box.
TIP: If your heels are loose, there is a lacing technique called Lock Lace, which I found works very well. This tightens the heel, which in turn, prevents blisters from friction.
Here’s a great post I found that helps with all kinds of lacing for all kinds of issues.
- Merrell sandals
These Merrell sandals are great for afternoons and evenings, as they allow your feet to breathe. Take whatever sandals you like, as you may find, when the road is flat or if you have a short day, you may prefer to wear sandals.
- Flip Flops/Thongs
A cheap pair will do, (but not too cheap as you don’t want them falling part the first day!). You really only need them for showers. I recommend these Under Armour flip flops/thongs.
- 4 pair of merino socks + 2 liner socks
Smartwool is a good brand. Darn Tough is another really great brand I recommend.
I decided to take 4 pair of socks because on my first Camino I lost 2.5 pair when I handed over my washing to a hospiterio. For the last 200 km, I had 1.5 pair of socks and since they were $30/pair, I wasn’t willing to buy more for the remaining time. I just washed the same pair out at the end of each day. They were rather crunchy by the time I got to Santiago.
Liner socks are great if you follow the vaseline, liner socks, merino sock technique. If you want to see how I did it, check out my video of my very unflattering video of my daily foot routine.
If the thought of Vaseline freaks you out, check out these liner socks instead. But I will tell you, you do actually get used to the Vaseline on your feet pretty quickly…. really, you do.
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What Do You Put In The Backpack?
3 days of clothing – that’s all you need.
You could even get away with two days of clothing but there will be days when you deal with rain, and stuff won’t dry. There will be days when you will be so tired and you won’t want to deal with hand washing, knowing your planned Albergues the following day has a washing machine (I’m thinking Orisson/Roncesvalles). With three days, you have flexibility.
Bottoms (ie. Pants)
- 1 pair leggings – full length. I highly recommend these ones.
- 1 pair Columbia Saturday Pants– these pants are warmer than they seem, so I wear these on cooler days.
- 1 pair Capri leggings (for really warm days).
- 1 Kathmandu Merino Skirt – great to wear over leggings when it’s chilly and you need extra warmth and also good for evenings.
- 2 long sleeve MacPac Merino shirt
- 2 short sleeve t-shirts
- 1 Bonds singlet/tank tops
- 1 long sleeve active hoodie
- 2 sports bras
I have a hard time finding comfortable sports bras that support me. I found these bras from Lane Bryant and found them super comfortable – and supportive. I have a hard time finding comfortable sports bras that support me.
- 3 pair of underwear
Make sure they are lightweight, so they dry easily. Many suggest the Exofficio-brand but I found they didn’t allow ‘things to breathe’ and they just made me feel sweatier. I took three pair of old cotton underwear.
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Do You Need Waterproof Gear?
Yes. You need a waterproof jacket. I recommend a Mountain Equipment Jacket and whatever pants you can find that fit and are comfortable.
If you can to invest in a Goretex jacket, do. You need to stay dry, otherwise your Camino will be miserable. You don’t need to be wet or cold.
- 1 pair of Waterproof Pants.
Be sure to find Waterproof pants that can go over your shoes if a storm hits quickly.
- 1 Poncho
I bought in Saint Jean Pied de Port, one that fits over the backpack as well. You can skip this if you feel your jacket, pants and pack are fully waterproof. But I found that a poncho was good for the days where water was drizzly or going over the Pyrenees, when it was great to have another layer, especially against the sleet and mist.
What Other Stuff Do You Need?
- 1 pair of gloves. They don’t have to be expensive ones, just ones that you can use with your walking poles, but keep your hands dry and protected from the wind. Mine were a cheap pair I bought from Uniqlo years ago, that I didn’t care if I lost, but luckily I still have them.
- 1 Beanie to protect your head from the cold.
- 1 Wide-brimmed Hat to protect yourself from the sun. Be sure it covers your neck and has a cord on it when the wind picks up.
- 1 Merino Buff. This was a godsend on my first Camino and I will be taking it again for my next. My buff kept me warm. It kept my unruly hair out of my eyes. It absorbed the sweat from my brow when it was blazing hot.
- Travel clothesline and a handful of pegs.
- Safety pins, in case socks or your towel doesn’t dry overnight.
- Small sewing kit. You may need this for a rip in your pants, or even to treat a blister. I took a needle with a little thread. Nothing more.
- Lightweight, quick drying towel.
- Plastic ziplock sandwich bags. Good for storing your credential and passport in to keep it dry. Take one that is big enough for wet clothes as well.
- Toilet paper and a ziplock bag to store it in. There are times when services are not available and you need to use ‘a friendly tree’ so taking You also should take an extra bag, in case you need to ‘carry out’ used toilet paper from your wanders.
- Tissues. You will use more of these than you ever have before. They can be found at shops along the way, so take a pack or two to start.
- A lightweight journal and two pens. I love the ones from Muji. They are similar to moleskine but better because they lie flat, are lighter and they are a lot cheaper.
- School stick Glue – I am a journaler.
- iPhone X plus Charger with European plug (if applicable). If you don’t have a good camera on your phone, take a lightweight Camera. You’ll want to capture the views.
- Sim Card for the phone – pick up in France before Camino. They are hard to find before Pamplona, so pick one up in France before you begin the Camino.
- Small light/headlamp. If you get up early to beat the heat, you will need a headlamp on some mornings. I did not take one on my first wander but I will be taking one on the next.
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What You Need To Take Care Of Your Feet?
- Vaseline. This is a great way to prevent blisters and I swear you will not need a pedicure after walking 800km with vaseline on your feet!
- BandAids. Fabric ones. They stay on better and they can be used as padding as well.
- Tape works for wrapping toes.
- Compeed. Forget every other treatment you’ve ever heard of. Compeed is a “form-fitting film that acts like a 2nd skin creating a barrier from water, bacteria and other impurities. It also allows the skin to breathe and lets excess moisture evaporate to aid in natural healing.”
- Rubber toe protectors. These are optional but prevented me from losing toenails and prevented blisters.
Have enough on hand to get you through a week.
My foot routine for the Camino was and is this: Wrap little toes in tape or bandaids. Put rubber toe protectors on weirdly long toes. Slather entire feet in Vaseline. Put on liner socks, then merino socks, then shoes.
Seriously, it took me just as long to prep my feet for the day, as it did to pack up my stuff, dress and brush my teeth.
What Medications Are Needed?
- If you are prone to colds, take some kind some cold medication. At least a little to tide you over, until you can reach a farmacia.
- Tea Tree Antiseptic Cream I love this stuff. It’s great for scrapes, for bites, and for treating blisters.
- Tiger Balm – amazing for sore muscles, although you will smell like an old woman in a nursing home.
- Ibuprofen. Take a enough for a few days. If you need more, any farmacia has them. Just ask. They will ask if you want 400 mg or 600 mg.
- Sunscreen. You need sunscreen. The sun is intense. Take a travel tube and replace as needed.
- Ear Plugs. Albergues are mixed sleeping quarters and the snorers come in both sexes. There are some snorers where you feel the walls will be going in and out with the snoring. Take the ear plugs. Take two sets in case you either lose a pair OR you give a pair away to another suffering pilgrim.
- Sunglasses. Sure, they not medication, but they may as well be. You will need these. You are outside all day and the sun gets pretty intense.
You NEED Travel Insurance for the Camino
Stuff happens on the Camino. Legs are broken. Ankles are injured. It happens.
People even get lost (especially in bad weather). If you plan on walking the Napoleon Route from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles, it’s highly recommended you have travel insurance before you embark on this journey. The day I walked this route, in mid-April, way after the route was opened, 9 people were rescued off the mountain that day. Rescues doesn’t come cheap and those saved pay to be rescued. Travel insurance saves your ass in MANY ways.
I use – and continue to always use – World Nomads. Click here for why I recommend them (this will take you to my other website) and then click below for buying your Travel Insurance.
What Toiletries Do You Need To Pack?
- Toothbrush. Take the manual one and leave the battery operated one at home
- Travel size toothpaste. You can leave the full tube as there are plenty of places to buy toothpaste along the way.
- Tongue scraper. Dental hygiene is important to me, hence the tongue scraper but it’s SUPER lightweight, so adds minimal.
- Bar soap for body and shampoo, kept in a lush container. I also like the bar soap as it goes further than liquid, and you can also handwash clothes with it.
- Strong Deodorant – Strong deodorant is a must – the clinical version. Some don’t even bother with deodorant on the Camino and I just think that’s unnecessary and I daresay, inconsiderate to your fellow pilgrims! Some don’t even bother with deodorant on the Camino and I just think that’s unnecessary and I daresay, inconsiderate to your fellow pilgrims!
- Moisturiser for legs, hands and face. You’d be amazed at how dry everything gets with the wind and elements.
- Nail Clippers
- Chapstick. Take whatever brands works for you. You will need it. The wind will howl in some areas and the sun will dry your lips out.
Take a waterproof bag to carry your clothes and your valuables into the shower with you. I find a quality drawstring bag works well. And you can use it for afternoons and evenings for your valuables, when you can leave your pack by your bed to wander.
Can Your Get Snacks Along The Way?
You can pick up replacement snacks at Supermarkados along the Camino. I packed enough snacks for a few days of walking. Many hamlets don’t have a place to replenish, so you need enough to boost your energy to get you through long days of walking.
- Dried fruit and nuts
- Protein bar (2)
- Refillable Water bottle (2) – 600ml – 750 ml.
Keep in mind that 1 litre of water equals a kilo, so you need to account for the weight. There are places to refill your bottle along the way (just be sure NOT to use it from a non-potable On the days which are longer with limited services, you will need two bottles of water. You can purchase another bottle along the way, or if you have brought an extra empty bottle, fill it and use this one.
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What Kind of Sleeping Bag Do You Need?
I hate sleeping bags.
I find them either too hot or too constrictive and I cannot fathom the idea of the ‘mummy’ type of ways. You do need a sleeping bag on the Camino, but you have options. Albergues offer a bed, usually flanked in a disposable cover. Many also offer a blanket.
- I recommend a RUMPL lightweight down blanket.
I love it. It can be stuffed into the bag easily and it’s lightweight enough to put over me and long enough to wrap around me.
Putting your head down on a pillow, you want to have comfort. The pillows otherwise are scratchy. You can also tuck your valuables into it at night.
You really don’t need to carry a guidebook. There’s a great app called the Wise Pilgrim that provides all you need about the hamlets, towns and cities you will go through. It also provides distances and history of the areas you walk through. If you’d prefer the physical book, click here.
If you want a physical sheet that provides names of Albergues and offers elevation information, the Pilgrim office in Saint Jean Pied de Port can provide this to you.
The last thing to thing pack is a rock or stone from home.
You will place this, along with all your burdens, at Cruz de Ferro.
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