My Detailed Camino de Santiago Packing List

Back in September, I completed one of the most challenging and satisfying experiences of my life. In a little over a month I walked from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a small French town at the base of the Pyrenees, to Santiago de Compostela and onward to Finisterre on Spain’s Atlantic coast. These paths are part of a vast network of medieval pilgrim routes across Europe collectively known as the Camino de Santiago.

I’ll write more about the experience in the future, but wanted to devote one post solely to the gear I took — exactly what I chose to take and leave behind, and how well those choices worked over the course of my five week walk.

A few points before I start:

  • This equipment was what I carried on the Camino Frances and Finisterre, between late August and early October. Walking other routes and/or at other times of year would likely have required different gear.
  • Back in March, some friends and I walked a one-week section of a different route, the Camino Mozarabe from Granada to Cordoba in southern Spain. That experience helped prepare me for the Frances route in several ways, not least being the knowledge that everything I needed could fit into a 30 litre backpack! As a result, I was happy to walk with less gear than I otherwise might have.
  • I travel full time, and don’t have a home base or storage space to keep extra stuff in. As a result, I wanted to buy and carry as little dedicated extra gear as possible while still staying safe, comfortable and healthy.

Note that this post is broken it up into several sections — if you’re only interested in a particular part, you can skip straight to it.



 

Backpack

Camino backpack

You can spend hours reading about Camino backpack options, only to come away more confused than you started. My decision was made much easier by the fact I already travelled with two backpacks, a Macpac Orient Express travel pack and a REI Traverse 30 litre daypack. I really didn’t want to buy another pack if I didn’t have to, so ideally it was going to be one or the other.

The Macpac is great, but it’s not designed for hiking, so I turned to the Traverse 30 instead. Moderately waterproof, with adjustable waist and shoulder straps, it held up to the task well. My only complaint was that it was slightly too short, which meant the base of the bag sometimes rubbed against the bottom of my back. It never became a major problem, but by the end of the walk I started stuffing a shirt between the bag and my back as a cushion.

Camino - Dave and cutouts

I saw people with huge backpacks (usually big guys, often with camping equipment), but a comfortable, lightweight, well-made 30-50 litre hiking pack like the Osprey Exos 38 or larger Exos 48, with appropriate shoulder and waist straps, is ideal for most walkers. The key is to get plenty of practice with whatever you intend to use, well ahead of time and with as much weight as you intend to carry.

The people I met who were sending gear home from Pamplona or nursing shoulder injuries hadn’t done this, and were suffering for it. A bit more preparation would have resulted in less pain to both wallet and body.

The theory for the Camino is that your backpack and everything in it should be no more than ten percent of your bodyweight, and less is better. Mine weighed 7kg without water, and I wouldn’t have wanted to carry any more than that.

 

Clothing

When it comes to clothing, picking the right shoes and socks is obviously very important, and as I discovered, underwear matters too. You don’t need to get carried away with the rest of your clothes, though — I took three sets, along with a few things to protect me from hot, cold and wet weather, and it was the right amount.

 

Shoes

Camino shoes

After much research, I chose a pair of Merrell Vertis Ventialor hiking shoes, purchased from Decathlon in Spain. Very similar to Merrell’s Moab Ventilator range elsewhere in the world, they were ideal for the Camino Frances. The soles had plenty of grip even on slippery rocks, and were comfortable enough to walk in for hours without pain. They were waterproof enough to keep the rain out, yet sufficiently breathable for my feet to not get too sweaty on hot days.

I’d worn the shoes most days for six months prior to starting, including that 200km Camino route I walked earlier in the year. You need to have well worn in shoes, and mine definitely were — probably a little too well, really, since the back and insoles were falling apart by the time I arrived in Finisterre.

Given I only got one small blister over the course of nearly 900km, though, I had nothing to complain about. In fact, before flying out of Santiago, I walked out to the Decathlon store and bought the exact same shoes to replace my mostly-destroyed ones.

I also took a pair of flip-flops (not shown) that I wore every evening, and in particularly dirty albergue showers. The last thing I wanted to do was put my hiking shoes back on after walking 25km+ in them each day. Comfortable alternate footwear was a must.

 

Shirts

Camino t-shirts

I used three of the cotton t-shirts I already owned, but it wasn’t a great choice. One of the cheap ones from H&M stretched to the point of being almost unwearable within the first two weeks, and I replaced it in Burgos. The thicker t-shirt survived the journey, but at the expense of taking a long time to dry after doing laundry — if I got in too late to dry it fully in the evening sun, it’d often still be damp in the morning.

With hindsight, I’d probably have taken two technical quick-dry running shirts like this, plus one of the cotton ones for wearing in the evenings or to bed on cold nights.

 

Socks

Camino socks

I knew that good socks were crucial for avoiding blisters, so I took three pairs of Icebreaker merino wool hiking socks, plus a pair of cotton ankle-length socks. I always wore two pairs — the cotton socks as an inner layer and a merino pair on the outside, unless the cotton ones hadn’t fully dried from the previous day’s washing.

The merino socks were great. They were very comfortable, and my feet didn’t get too hot or sweaty. They took a little longer to dry than expected, but I just hung them off my backpack the next morning if necessary. One sock developed a hole in the heel by the end of the walk, as did both of the cotton socks, but to be fair, none of them were anywhere near new when I started out.

I’d highly recommend merino wool socks for anyone walking the Camino. They’re not cheap, but you only have one pair of feet to get you through the walk, and blisters can easily ruin the experience.

 

Underwear

Camino underwear

I took three pairs of quick-dry boxer briefs, and they were all a bit different. I had a brand-new pair from Under Armour, plus two well-worn Champion pairs. The underwear that was most comfortable and caused the least chafing was the grey Champion 6" inseam version. I suspect that was because it was longer than the other two pairs, and less prone to bunching up.

The other two were fine for the first 10-15km of each day, but would start to rub after that. In hindsight, I’d have bought 6" versions of the Under Armour instead of the 3″ version I took, or just gone with three pairs of the Champions.

Without any time to heal, the chafing eventually became a minor issue after a week or two. I hadn’t taken baby powder with me — I could easily have bought some from a pharmacy somewhere, but Vaseline kept the problem at bay well enough to get me through.

 

Shorts and Pants

Camino shorts

I took a pair of running shorts, an ancient pair of hiking shorts and some quick-dry long pants — and only one of the three made it to the end. The shorts somehow developed an enormous rip down the front at the start of day three, and I had to replace them in Pamplona with an overpriced, ill-fitting pair.

I’d still recommend taking hiking shorts, though — just perhaps don’t start out with a pair quite as old as mine. They’re made for walking long distances, with plenty of pockets for stashing bits and pieces. Columbia has been making good ones for years.

The running shorts were only for emergency use, and I rarely wore them — which perhaps explains why I overlooked them while packing in the dark one morning and didn’t notice for a week. Of all the things I could have lost, they were probably the thing that mattered least.

I only wore the pants (not pictured) during the evening when I’d stopped walking, but was pleased I took them. In the mountains and towards the end of the hike, it was cold enough to need them once the sun went down. The pair I had didn’t convert to shorts, which didn’t bother me, but might be something to consider. Mine were knock-offs from Nepal, but again, Columbia makes good ones.

 

Long-Sleeved Top

Camino merino top

I picked up a long-sleeved Icebreaker merino wool top a couple of years ago, and it was an obvious choice for the Camino. It was thin but warm, weighed very little and handled being worn every day for a month without being washed. I did notice a small hole in the back by the end of the walk — whether that was due to wear and tear or getting caught on something, I don’t know.

There were a couple of early mornings when the temperature was barely above freezing, but wearing a second t-shirt under the merino top kept me warm until the sun came up. The rest of the time, putting it over a single t-shirt was fine.

The Icebreaker range comes in different styles and designs, so pick something that’s not completely ugly — you may want to go out at night in the larger cities without looking (entirely) like you just stepped off the trail.

 

Cap

Camino cap and sunglasses

The sun is harsh in Spain, especially in the afternoon. I saw people with all kinds of sun protection, but for me, a cap was fine as long as I put sunscreen on my neck and face. Mine was a cheap North Face knock-off — I liked it because the brim folded up, so it could be stuffed in a pocket when not in use.

It also came in handy when the rain set in. My poncho had a hood, and I put the cap on my head first to keep most of the rain off my face. It looked ridiculous, but given I resembled a drowned rat at that point anyway, fashion sense wasn’t a high priority.

 

Sunglasses

I bought a cheap pair of sunglasses from Decathlon for the walk, mainly because I’d broken my other ones the week before. The only things I cared about was that they fitted properly and had adequate UV protection. They were fine in both regards.

The thick stems did leave a particularly attractive tan line along either side of my face after a while, so if you’re worried about that, maybe look for a pair with thinner stems.

 

Poncho

Camino poncho

Walkers on the Camino take one of two approaches to keeping dry in bad weather: a poncho that covers both them and their backpack, or a combination of a pack cover and rain jacket (and sometimes, rain pants). I opted for the poncho, because it took up less room, and was happy with the decision.

The Arpenaz model I bought from Decathlon was ideal, because it’s sturdier than most others. That’s good for two reasons: it won’t tear or spring a leak so easily, and flaps around less when you get wind as well as rain. In my experience at least, that was most of the time. The downside is that it’s heavier, but it was worth the 290 grams to me.

If you’re right on the limit with the size of backpack your poncho will cover, buy the next size up — it’ll be easier to put on in a hurry, and there’s a better chance your bag will remain completely dry.

I was fortunate enough to only get rained on three times during my Camino, but when it did show up, it was heavy and for several hours. Neither my pack nor any part of me covered by the poncho ever got damp. Even though my face and everything below my knees were wet, it was only a minor discomfort rather than ruining my day.

If you don’t live near a Decathlon store, pick up something like this instead.

 

Stuff Sack

Camino stuff sack

To organise my clothes, I used this Hoboroll stuff sack. It had five compartments inside, which I used to separate clean and dirty items, and compression straps to reduce the amount of space my clothes took up. Without it, I likely wouldn’t have been able to fit everything into my 30 litre pack.

You won’t need one if you’ve got plenty of extra room in your backpack — but if not, you’ll appreciate the space savings.

 

Sleeping

While most albergues will provide disposable or washable sheets and pillow cases, and some offer scratchy wool blankets as well, you’ll need to carry some bedding of your own for warmth and comfort.

There’s a lot of talk about bed bugs on the Camino, so I treated my liner, sleeping bag and the outside of my backpack with a permethrin-like spray recommended by a pharmacist in Madrid before I left. It did the job — I got very few bites during the night, and none were from bed bugs.

 

Silk liner

Camino silk liner

My silk liner is the oldest piece of travel gear I own. I must have had it for at least fifteen years, but it’s still going strong. I lost the proper bag for it years ago, but a ziploc also works fine.

I took it both to discourage bed bugs and mosquitos from biting me, since they don’t like silk, and to provide an option for hot dorms when my sleeping bag was too warm. I used every day it for the first week or so, as nights were very hot.

As I got closer to both the Atlantic and the end of September, the weather cooled and I used my sleeping bag instead — but I put the liner inside it when staying in dodgy albergues, to help ward off those bugs.

Quality silk liners aren’t cheap, but they’re a worthwhile investment, especially if you’re walking the Camino in late spring, summer or early autumn. When the time eventually comes to replace mine, it’ll be with one like this.

 

Sleeping Bag

Camino sleeping bag

Given its size, I was unsure whether to take a sleeping bag. In the end I decided to, and was happy I did. Even though I had good weather, nights were chilly in the last half of my Camino. I could have probably got by using those scratchy wool blankets and sleeping in my clothes if necessary, but it would have still made for some cold, uncomfortable nights.

My  model from Decathlon was marked as being comfortable down to ten degrees C, and bearable down to 5C. That was ideal for sleeping in albergues in September in northern Spain, so I’d suggest picking up something with similar specifications that’s as small and light as possible.

 

Food and Water

Camino - food

As you’re rarely more than a few kilometres from the nearest town on the Camino Frances, there’s no need to carry much in the way of food. On the odd occasion I knew there’d be more a few hours without somewhere to eat, I’d just ask a bar owner to make me a bocadillo (baugette/sandwich) to take away before setting out.

Breakfasts and dinners were sometimes available at albergues, but most of my meals were in bars, cafes and restaurants along the way. I found something to eat in all but the smallest villages, even on Sundays when much of Spain closes.

There was clean water in public fountains in almost every town and village, and bar and cafe owners were always happy to refill my bottle after I’d had food or a drink there.

 

Water Bottle

Camino water bottles

This one litre, indestructible Camelbak water bottle was almost perfect for a walk like this. Its physical size sometimes made it hard to fit in a hand basin to refill, and the large mouth meant I needed to stop to take a drink if I didn’t want water all over my face, but they were both minor issues. That said, I’d ideally have taken one of the models with a “spout” or “chute” lid.

A couple of weeks in, I managed to leave it behind outside a cafe (just before a 10km stretch with no towns or water, obviously). I bought a normal one litre plastic bottle of water to replace it for the rest of my Camino.

 

Roll-Up Water Container

I had this tiny roll-up water container as a backup, which held 700mls when unfurled. With the cooling weather and short distances between towns most days, I only used it a few times, mainly in the early part of the walk. I would have used it far more in summer, but it took up so little room when rolled to make it worth taking regardless.

 

Snack Bars

Camino snack bars

I picked up a six-pack of snack bars so I’d always have something to eat if necessary — and only ate two of them the entire walk. They were worth taking, but I think that says something about just how easy it is to find food on this route.

 

First Aid Kit

Camino first aid kit

There’s no shortage of pharmacies along the route, even in very small towns. As a result, I carried what I considered the bare minimum of first-aid equipment, knowing I’d be able to buy anything else I needed. I used everything I had, to the point where I bought extras of a couple of things when they ran out, but didn’t need anything extra.

 

Ibuprofen

I took a pack of ten 500mg Ibuprofen tablets in case of swelling or blisters, and used three of them — typically after a day of long, rocky downhill sections. 500mg is a standard strength in Spain, but higher than you’ll find in many other countries — take a few more tablets with you if that’s the case in your part of the world.

 

Vaseline

I used the vaseline for blister protection during the first ten days of my walk, coating my soles, heels and between my toes every morning. Once my feet hardened up sufficiently, I stopped doing that… and used it to deal with minor chafing on my inner thighs instead.

A single tube lasted a couple of weeks, so I replaced it around the halfway mark.

 

Immodium

Just in case something I ate or drank disagreed with me, I took a few tabs of Immodium to help me get to the next town. Thankfully, I didn’t need to use it.

 

Multi-Purpose Ointment

I picked up this multi-purpose ointment in Australia a couple of years ago. It’s a combination antiseptic and pain relief, meant for treating insect bites, minor wounds and blisters. I put it on my blister now and then, but that was all I needed it for.

 

Bandaids

Bandaids were handy for both the occasional cut I picked up, and putting over blisters. I took a few medium and large sized waterproof ones — the waterproofing didn’t work all that well, but they were otherwise fine. I ran out in the final week, and just bought more from a pharmacy.

 

Safety Pin

As gross as it sounds, I used the safety pin to pop my blister after a few days. There are many theories about the best way of treating blisters — I opted for leaving mine for a while since it wasn’t very painful, before eventually popping it, covering it in antiseptic ointment and putting a bandaid on it.

To sterilise the pin beforehand, I used the hand sanitizer I already had.

 

Blister Treatment

There’s a lot of talk about using Compeed, a “second skin” product, for blister treatment on the Camino. As it’s readily available in pharmacies in Spain, I decided to use some cheaper bandaid-type things with an embedded gel patch that I already had, and buy Compeed if I needed it. In the end I didn’t, but many other blister sufferers swore by it.

 

Container

The plastic container is the same one I use for my slightly more comprehensive first aid kit while travelling. It used to live in my kitchen drawer, back when I had a house.

 

Toiletries

Camino toiletries

Like everything else, I tried to keep toiletries to a minimum while still remaining reasonably clean and un-stinky.

 

Shower Gel

I bought a travel-sized container of shower gel, which amazingly lasted me the entire walk. Several of the albergues provided some, and the gel I took was also quite thick, which helped me use less. I had a shaved head (at least when I started out), so I used it as shampoo as well.

 

Roll-On Deodorant

In my experience, roll-on deodorant is smaller and lasts longer than spray or stick, so that’s what I took. It lasted the whole walk, but only just.

 

Toothbrush and Toothpaste

I bought a standard toothbrush, with a little plastic cover to make it slightly less gross in my toiletry bag. The toothpaste had a screw-on lid, so it wouldn’t go everywhere in my bag.

 

Hand Sanitizer

I took a small container of hand sanitizer in case of dodgy toilets and dirty hands. I saw some people using it before every meal, but I only took it out half a dozen times. It was useful for sterilizing my safety pin, mind you.

 

Laundry Liquid

Camino laundry
Hand-washing clothes was part of my routine most days. Although many albergues had washing machines, I used them sparingly — there was no real need to spend 3-5 euros a day to wash one change of clothes. I used the Trek and Travel version on my walk in March, and it worked well. Tracking down an alternative in Spain before setting out was surprisingly difficult, but I eventually found some in a large Carrefour supermarket, and had no problem with it.

I should have bought two containers at the time, though — it was equally hard to get once I was walking, and I had to buy a less-effective powdered version once the liquid ran out.

 

Sunscreen

The sunscreen I took was small, light and had an SPF of 50, so I never got burned even when I was out in the sun for ten hours. It was also super-thick, which meant one tiny bottle lasted me the entire walk.

 

Safety Razor

I didn’t plan to shave on the Camino, but took a razor just in case my beard got too itchy. It didn’t.

 

Wet Wipes

I threw in a pack of wet wipes to deal with things like cleaning my hands and face, mopping up spills and if really necessary, to use as toilet paper. I only ended up using a couple of them, so could probably have done without — or at least found a smaller pack.

 

Toiletry Bag

My existing toiletry bag was pretty battered, but fine for the Camino. Almost any type would do, so long as it has a fabric loop or plastic hook to hang it up in albergue showers. Having a hook on the bag was useful, as I often needed to hang it over the cubicle door due to there being no other way to keep it off the floor.

 

Sleeping

Camino earplugs and eyemask

I’m still in two minds as to what the hardest part of the Camino was — walking 25+ kilometres every day for a month, or dealing with the snorers, farters, and early risers in the albergues every night. Something to block out light and sound was vital if I wanted to get any sleep.

 

Earplugs

I always travel with earplugs like these, but as they were getting old, I made the mistake of buying new ones from a pharmacy in Spain before I left. The previous ones came from a hardware store and worked great, but neither the silicone nor foam ones from the pharmacy blocked out anywhere near enough noise. The end result? Several sleepless nights when the snorers were out in force.

Lesson learned: take several pairs of the best earplugs you can find, and test them out first. I’d suggest steering away from those aimed at travellers — check out earplugs designed for heavy machinery and air shows instead!

 

Eye Mask

I didn’t wear my eye mask every night, but kept it to hand to deal with people who insisted on turning the light on when everyone else was asleep. I got mine from an airline toiletry pack years ago, but they’re cheap to buy if you don’t already have one.

 

Technology

Camino tech gear

When it came to tech, I wanted to take as little as possible to both remain in the moment and keep the weight down. Here’s how it worked out.

 

4-Way USB Charger

This multi-USB charger made me pretty popular in the albergues, especially the ones that didn’t have enough power sockets for everyone (ie, most of them). I could charge up whatever I needed to, and still have a socket or two left over for others to use. I was very glad I took it.

 

Sports Watch

I used my Suunto Ambit 3 Sport watch to track how far I walked each day, along with my pace and when I started and finished. Combined with my guidebook app, it was extremely useful to know how far I had to go to the next town — especially since the distance markers and signs on the track were often hilariously inaccurate.

I also (shockingly) used it to tell the time, and to set an alarm — it was quieter than the one on my phone, and meant I could turn my phone off at night. It wasn’t essential, and I wouldn’t have purchased one just for the Camino, but I got plenty of use out of it.

 

Portable Battery

Even though I was able to find a power socket somewhere in every albergue, I wasn’t always able to leave my phone plugged in long enough to fully charge it. That’s when my portable battery came in handy — I could charge my phone while eating dinner, or overnight, without having to leave it unattended and often out of sight.

 

Smartphone

My Google Nexus 5 gave me a scare about a week into the walk, when it decided to start rebooting continually. Given it was my camera, guidebook, map and entertainment rolled into one, having it die on me would have been a problem. Fortunately I’d had this issue once before, and knew that if I kept smacking the rear of it often enough (no joke), it would eventually fix itself.

It took a few hours, and a smack so hard I broke a couple of the internal plastic clips, but in the end the aggressive approach paid off and I had no further problems.

Empty path on the Camino

I’d been concerned about battery life, but keeping the phone in flight mode whenever I was walking dealt with that easily. The photos I took turned out just fine, and I posted one per day on my Facebook page, starting here if you’re interested. I’d bought a Spanish SIM card and data package, which let me make calls, check maps etc as needed pretty much anywhere. Surprisingly, there was Wi-fi in about 90% of the albergues I stayed in, along with most bars and cafes.

The guidebook app I chose, Camino de Santigo Guide, turned out to be excellent — especially after the update it got halfway through my walk. It had everything I needed, from distances between towns to services, number of albergue beds in each place, basic maps and points of interest, and was super-easy to use.

It also included many new albergues that weren’t listed in the paper books others were carrying, and the short reviews of each albergue were pretty accurate. For three bucks (and no extra weight), I couldn’t have asked for more.

 

Cables

All of the cables worked fine, and having an extra-long USB cable was useful in albergues with sockets halfway up the walls.

 

Noise-Isolating Earphones

I didn’t expect to use my earphones very often, but they got a regular workout. I’d sometimes lie on my bunk and relax for an hour after a long day’s walking, and it was great to be able to listen to music or a podcast while I did.

Especially during the long, flat days on the meseta, if I was walking by myself I’d also put on some music to match my mood — slow and reflective some times, upbeat at others. It made the tiredness and sore feet much easier to ignore, at least for an hour or two!

 

Miscellaneous

Camino dry bag, towel and toilet paper

I tried not to get too carried away with “extras”, as they all took up space and added weight. Here’s what made the cut.

 

Travel Towel

It’s very rare to be provided with towels in albergues, so you’ll need to take your own. I saw a few people carrying full-size bath towels, which looked comfortable, but also very large and heavy.

You can get quick-dry microfiber travel towels of various sizes — I opted for the smallest one, about the size of a tea towel. It took a little longer to pat myself dry than normal, but on the upside, the towel dried quickly and took up no room in my backpack.

 

Dry Bag

Since I already had a mid-sized dry bag, I took it with me. The plan was to use it for my electronics if I got caught in heavy rain, but my poncho kept everything so dry there was no need for it. I could have left it at home.

 

Toilet Paper

I took a half-roll of toilet paper in a ziploc bag, in case I got caught short somewhere there was no toilet or paper. In the end, I didn’t need it — but it was comforting to know it was in my bag if required.

 

Large Garbage Bag

Camino garbage bag and ziplocs

Much like the dry bag for electronics, I intended to use a garbage bag to line the inside of my backpack if I knew I’d be walking in the rain all day. As it turned out, my poncho kept everything dry even after hours of rain, so I didn’t use it.

 

Ziploc Bags

I bought a pack of medium sized (3 litre) ziploc bags before I left, to store things like my snacks, pilgrim credential and passport. Since I had a few left over, I took them with me. I used one to store some laundry powder, and gave a couple away to other people who needed them.

 

Journal and Pens

Camino journal and pens

I had a Moleskine journal already, and took it and a couple of pens along to record the trip. Surprisingly for me, I even managed to do so.

 

Clothes Line and Pegs

Camino clothesline and Leatherman

Rather than buying a fancy clothesline from an outdoor store, I found a place that sold climbing and other rope by length, and bought a couple of metres. I used it to hang damp clothes off my pack while walking, as well as to make an impromptu clothes line at night or on wet days. It worked well, and took up no room in my bag.

I also picked up some wooden pegs, which I used almost every day — most lines and drying racks at albergues didn’t have enough pegs for everyone, and windy days could easily have seen my clothes disappearing over the fence.

 

Leatherman Multi-Tool

I’ve travelled with a little Leatherman Kick for years, and it’s been very handy. On the Camino, though, I only used it occasionally — to chop up fruit, cut a large bandaid down to size and open a bottle.  The pliers and screwdrivers weren’t needed. Unfortunately this model doesn’t exist any more — the Wingman is probably the closest equivalent.

 

Things I Should Have Taken, But Didn’t

As it turned out, there were only a couple of things that I didn’t take but kinda wish I had. The Camino is a great excuse to leave your normal life behind for a month or two, and that included material possessions.

 

Sewing kit

I own a small sewing kit, but couldn’t find it before I left. While it wouldn’t have had a hope of repairing the massive tear in my original pair of shorts, it could have patched up the hole that materialised 600km later in the replacement pair. Then again, the guy I was walking with that day offered to sew them up for me (thanks Wayne!), so maybe I didn’t really need that sewing kit at all.

 

Kindle or a Physical Book

I figured I’d be able to get away with just using the Kindle app on my phone instead of taking the physical device, and that’s what I did. It worked, but the problem wasn’t the actual reading of books — it was the difficulty of keeping my phone charged while doing so.

Since power sockets were rare and usually nowhere near my bed, if I wanted to charge and read at the same time, I had to sit or stand beside the wall somewhere else in the dorm room, or out in the corridor. I’d much rather have been lying on the grass outside with a Kindle or physical book, thanks all the same.

It wasn’t a show-stopper, but in hindsight, I’d probably find room for the Kindle. Physical books wouldn’t require charging and would be harder to break, but getting good English-language replacements once I’d finished them would have been a challenge.

 

But What About The…?

I’m not going to go into every possible thing I could have taken but chose not to — this post is long enough already — but there are three items worth mentioning.

 

Walking Poles

Walking poles were everywhere along the Camino — everything from a straight tree branch to high-tech, lightweight metal versions. It seemed like at least half the other walkers carried one, but I decided not to. I’ve never used them while hiking in the past, and figured that like many other things, I could pick them up easily enough if the need arose. For me, it never did.

There were probably about three times that I wouldn’t have minded having one, all on steep downhill sections — but for me, they didn’t justify carrying a stick in one or both hands for nearly 900km. Listening to the tapping of other people’s poles on hard surfaces was irritating enough, so I definitely didn’t need to listen to my own.

 

Camera

Camino mountain view

I debated long and hard with myself about taking my camera, and in the end I’m pleased I didn’t. Although the camera on my phone wasn’t as good, it was fine for the daytime landscape shots I was mostly taking. My Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera isn’t particularly large, but it’s too big to fit in a pocket, which meant there was no good way to keep it accessible without buying yet more dedicated gear. Add to that the extra weight of the charger and cable, and it wasn’t worth it.

If I owned something like the Sony RX 100 IV — a small point-and-shoot that takes exceptional shots and charges via USB — I’d likely have taken it with me. Anything bigger, however? I couldn’t justify it.

 

Guide Book

There are many guidebooks to the Camino Frances, but among English speakers, the most popular is Brierley’s A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago. I considered buying it for a while, but instead opted for the app mentioned above. That turned out to be a great choice, for many reasons.

Firstly, I didn’t need to spend $19 and carry a heavy book with me. Secondly, the app was much more up to date than even the most recent version of Brierley’s guide — in fact, it received a substantial update halfway through my walk.

Finally, and most importantly, not having the same guide as everyone else was very freeing. The book breaks the Camino Frances up into 33 daily sections, and many people choose to follow those recommendations to the letter. As a result, some of the smaller villages and albergues fill up quickly, as everyone on ‘the Brierley route’ stops in the same place.

The app didn’t do this, leaving it to me to decide how far I wanted to walk each day based on the terrain, weather, energy levels and wherever I liked the look of. It felt very liberating to sit in a bar at night, watching others spend hours poring over their book and calling ahead to book accommodation for the next day, knowing I’d just figure it out as I went along instead.

Not needing to plan or book ahead was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the walk for me.

 

So What Did I Learn From All of This?

So, 34 days and 867km later, what did I learn about the gear I did and didn’t take on the Camino Frances? In short, I discovered something I probably knew all along: less is more. Beyond a bare minimum of stuff, the smaller and lighter your backpack is, the more enjoyable your Camino will be.

Climbing up and down mountains or hiking 40km in the sun is much easier when you’ve only got a few kilos on your back. With the next town or village never more than half a day away, almost anything you want can be purchased when and if you need it — take smaller amounts of the “essentials”, and leave all the “maybes” at home.

I also realised that you don’t need huge amounts of dedicated technical gear, or to spend large sums of money on what you’re carrying. I already owned most of the clothing and equipment I took with me, and none of the few extra things I purchased cost more than about fifty bucks. As a result a few things weren’t ideal, but they still did the job — I completed the Camino at a reasonably fast pace, with my only injuries being one blister and minor chafing, and had an incredible time doing it.

So, the final word. Do your research, pick your equipment and buy whatever you need, but don’t obsess over it, and know you don’t need to look like a walking REI catalogue to finish and enjoy your Camino experience. The less gear you carry, the happier you’ll be — and every dollar or two you save on it will pay for another glass of wine at the end of a long day on the trail.

Buen Camino!

 

If you’ve got any comments or questions about gear for walking the Camino Frances, leave them below — I’m happy to answer anything I can.

Also, if you found this useful and would like to help me out, please consider using the links in this post when purchasing from Amazon. You’ll pay the same price, and I’ll get a few dollars to put towards my next Camino!

 

 

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A highly-detailed guide to what to pack for the Camino de Santiago.
A highly-detailed guide to what to pack for the Camino de Santiago.

 

42 Responses to “My Detailed Camino de Santiago Packing List

  • Useful! I decided I’m doing the Camino in April. Glad to know there are pharmacies enroute because I foresee many blisters, haha

    • Awesome! You’ll have a wonderful time — it’s an incredible experience. 🙂

  • Laura C.
    2 years ago

    I have no intention of walking the Camino, but this thorough post is very helpful even for general travel. Thanks for taking the time to detail your travel gear, Dave.

  • Time and pneumonia cut my 2014 (mid-sept to early oct) camino short in Burgos, but will be continuing this next April. I just read your Hoboroll vs packing cubes. Last time i used Eagle Specter cubes, next time I’ll just use the shove it method. I, like you found the cubes to waste space and I watched many a traveler using the shove it method of packing able to pack a lot more in a lot less space!! Only things to be cubed this time will be bathroom/first aid bag and a few charging cables!!

    • Sorry to hear your first Camino got cut short, but it’s great that you’re able to continue next year! Yep, packing cubes really don’t work well for me — with a suitcase, sure, but it’s the old ‘square peg, round hole’ story with a backpack. 🙂

  • Hey,

    How much did you spend during the actual walk…if you don’t mind me asking. I really want to do the walk in 2017 so any money info will be great. Thanks and by the way, great article, very useful!

    • I actually tracked my costs during the walk, so I can tell you I spent an average of around 37 euros per day. That was staying in albergues all except two nights (my birthday in Burgos, and the night I arrived in Santiago), where I stayed in hotels. Hope it helps!

      • Thank you very much.
        Also, was anyone sleeping is tents? The albergues are around 15 euros per night, right?
        Thanks

        • Some people do sleep in tents, especially couples, families and those on super-tight budgets. Most people don’t want to carry the weight of a tent, bedroll and heavier sleeping bag, so they don’t bother.

          15 euros is at the higher end of albergue pricing — you’re normally looking at between 5-10 euros a night in places run by religious orders or municipalities, and 10-15 for private ones. There are also some donativo albergues, where you pay what the stay was worth to you. Some places include breakfast and/or dinner.

          • Aww, it all sounds brilliant. We will definitely carry a little tent with us, just so that some days are quite cheap…and romantic haha

            Thanks for the info, I am itching to just go now…

          • I’m already planning to walk a different Camino route next year — I miss it already!

  • Thanks for very useful article. Hoping to walk some of the Camino next year. The more I travel, the less I am prepared to carry 🙂 jJust wondered if you did the walk as a solo traveller and if so how was that aspect of the journey? Thanks, Aileen

    • That’s definitely the right idea — the less you can carry, the happier your body will be about it! 🙂

      I did walk as a solo traveller, and honestly, I loved it. It meant I could walk by myself whenever I wanted to (and sometimes I did), but I had no problem meeting people to walk with when I wanted company. Some people I only walked with for an hour, some for a day, some for a week or more. It was really nice to be able to do that, but also to make my own decisions about how far I wanted to walk, where I wanted to stay etc every night without feeling responsible to anyone else about it. 🙂

  • John Shevland
    2 years ago

    Dave,
    Dave – Very helpful advice. I’m planning to do the Camino Frances this time next year, and picked up quite a few pointers from your article . You didn’t mention wearing a jacket. Was the long sleeved top enough? I usually prefer to carry stuff in jacket and shirt pockets rather than in my shorts or long pants.

    John

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for stopping by. I didn’t bother with a jacket — I don’t really own anything that would have been appropriate, and in the end the long-sleeved top was enough. There were only a couple of especially cold mornings where I needed a second t-shirt underneath until the sun rose, and the rest of the time I tended to be too warm if anything. You could take a jacket if you prefer, of course, and if you’re starting before May or after September, it’s probably not a bad idea.

      The only things I kept on my person as I walked were phone and wallet — everything else was in my daypack, as I didn’t need to access it very often during the day.

  • Congratulations Dave on completing the Camino and for sharing your experience with others. This has been extremely informative. I just came back from shopping for a backpack and they clerk was trying to sell me a 60L which I’m glad I didn’t buy. 30L seems more appropriate and your reasons are worth taking into consideration. I can’t wait for my Camino in the spring of 2017. Time is booked off and training has begun. All the best on your next one!

  • Cest La Vibe
    2 years ago

    I would have probably skipped the H&M tees and worn some Under Armour charges cotton tees instead. And more Under Armour underwear instead of the Champion. Or maybe some Nike Dryfit.

  • Wow, that’s a spectacular list! I agree about the t-shirts, go quick-drying over cotton. They are super cheap to buy in Decathlon if you don’t have them already.

    • Absolutely — I needed some new running shirts anyway, so ended up buying them from Decathlon (along with replacing my hiking shoes) in Santiago after finishing the Camino. Better late than never, right? 😉

  • Thank you so much for this detailed packing list Dave! i really want to do the camino at somepoint in the future, I just need to find the time and money!
    Do you think 1000 euros would be enough to travel the full camino?
    Did you manage to lose any weight on the camino or were the bocadillos and vino tinto too tempting? 🙂

    • No problem! I think you could walk the full Camino Frances route on about 1000 euros, yup, as long as you weren’t going too slowly. As mentioned, I spent an average of 37 euros per day, and walked for 34 days — but that included a rest day in Santiago and three extra days to Finisterre.

      30 days x 37 euros = 1110 euros, and that included a couple of hotel stays. If you stay in the cheaper albergues, avoid hotels and maybe don’t have quite as many second (or third) breakfasts as I did, you’ll likely hit the 1000 euro mark. 🙂

      I lost around 5-7kg (not totally sure, as I didn’t have scales to weigh myself at the start). It would have been more with a few less bocadillos, that’s for sure!

  • Great packing guide for the Camino de Santiago. Though if you took a compact amount of gear, it makes me wonder what the overpackers were taking with them!

  • Congratulations on doing the Camino! I love the Merrell hiking shoes even for the day hiking that we do. They are more comfortable than any of the many other hiking boots I’ve owned over the years. Thanks for sharing all the info.

  • Luminita
    2 years ago

    I’ve been reading about other traveler’s experiences completing the Camino and they all say it’s a life-changing experience. Maybe someday I will try it as well and this comprehensive list that you put together will ceratinly be very helpful. Thank you for sharing your tips.

  • Dude, my Nexus does the same thing. Then sorts itself out after a day. Annoying as hell though. I’ll be doing half the Camino this year, this was super helpful!

    • Yeah, seriously annoying — it’s my only real gripe with the Nexus 5, actually, but it hasn’t done it again since.

      Enjoy your Camino!!

  • I am so interested in doing the pilgrimage!

  • Thomas Woods
    1 year ago

    Hi Dave,
    Thank you for an excellent, detailed and candid account of your packing list! I’m doing the Camino Frances through the whole of September 2016 and my list was my biggest worry, but you’ve put my mind at ease. Great points especially about the tech to bring (I’ve ordered the Suunto Ambit3 Sports watch from Amazon UK) and the sleeping bag. I’ll definitely be investing in a silk liner.
    Thanks again, Buen Camino!

    Thomas

    • You’re more than welcome, Thomas — I’m glad it helped! Keep the pack weight down, make sure you’ve got good socks, comfortable shoes and enough time to complete the walk, and you’ll have an amazing time! 😀

  • Debbie
    1 year ago

    Hi Dave
    I enjoyed reading your blog, thank you for bringing back wonderful memories :-))

    I did the Camino in September/October last year. It certainly was the most profound and amazing time of my life. On typical days I didn’t spend as much as breakfast was tortilla patata and lunch bread/cheese/ham from little shops. Only expense was coffee, evening meal and obviously much vino!
    I found the 4-5am starts very cold, maybe as I started 20th Sept so I took one complete outfit and one spare but also took merino thermals and a pair of gloves. The thermals doubled as pj’s, were great under shorts in the early morning and lightweight. You are so right less is definitely more when your walking for weeks on end.

    When I do it again I will send a small pampering pack onto santiago. Oh what I would have given on my arrival for something different to wear and lovely smelling soap!

    Bien Camino

    • You’re welcome, Debbie! Yeah, I definitely wasn’t skimping on the food budget — I had second breakfast most days, plus lunch, dinner and an extra cafe con leche here or there as well. Some days the food costs definitely mounted up, but then again, those were the 30+ km days, so I figured that was my body telling me it needed the extra fuel! 😉 A few of the nicer albergues were relatively pricey as well (12-15 euros or so), especially at the start and end — that’s somewhere I could have shaved a few euros off the budget if needed.

      You’re right about the thermals, especially starting a month later and also being on the trail that early in the morning — it was chilly enough for me at 6am in early October! I’d have definitely had some gloves and a beanie if I was walking much later in the season, and probably something warmer for my legs as well.

      And yep, absolutely agree about the pamper pack at the end — I would have really liked a nice set of freshly-laundered clothes to be waiting for me at the final albergue… ones that I hadn’t been wearing every other day for the last month!

  • Ignacio
    1 year ago

    Hi Dave,
    Just finished reading your “packing list” and it was really helpful. I am a 65 yr. old male, in semi-decent shape, I’ll be doing the Camino Frances August 27, 2016 from SJPP. I started training mid-April by walking, b/t 6-10 miles every other day . Hopefully, beginning first week in August, I will try to walk everyday for 8-10 days in various terrains to sort of duplicate a “mini” Camino. Question: Is this sufficient training of should I be concentrating on something else?
    Thank you for taking the time to respond,
    Ignacio

    • Hi Ignacio,
      If you’ve been walking 6-10 miles every other day for the last 3 months, and will up that to a similar distance for 8-10 days straight in August, you’ll have done more training than the majority of your fellow walkers. 🙂 Obviously I’m somewhat younger than you, but I did a lot less training than that (a few 10km runs in the six weeks beforehand, plus one 15km walk) and I was fine.

      The key thing is to take it easy for the first few days, and listen to what your body is telling you. Give yourself plenty of time to walk the entire route (ie, don’t have a tight deadline that forces you to walk long distances each day), and be prepared to have shorter days, or rest days, whenever you need them. That’s especially true in the first 7-10 days as your body is doing most of its adjusting to the new routine. You can always make up a bit of time towards the end if you need to, as you’ll likely be able to walk longer distances than you can at the start. That’s how it worked out for me, anyway.

      Buen Camino!

  • Myrna McRoberts
    11 months ago

    …….so enjoyed all the comments!!!! We have always tried to pack light but this info gives us an even better idea

    We are celebrating all year – our 80-75-20 milestones and are talking about perhaps March for a Camino start, so like the idea of thermal underware to double as pj’s

    We are fortunate to have good health and keep active

    There is a group here that has meetings for those who have done the walk and those interested so plan on attending

    AGAIN – THANKS

    M

  • I downloaded this blog early this year when preparing, and this spring (Mar-May 2016) walked the Camino from le Puy. I agree with most of the blog. I was fortunate to have worn a merino wool Oxford-style shirt from Wool&Prince which, while expensive (US$120), was warm when it was cold or wet (such as condensation inside poncho), eliminated odors. It was the only shirt I wore for 10 weeks except when it was in the laundry. I could walk without other cover in the dawn coolness. I could even go from the camino to a Michelin-listed restaurant with this.
    While I carried other clothing, I found no use for short-sleeve shirts (insufficient sun protection) or for shorts, both of which I carried but never wore: either I wore zip-leg trousers for hiking or regular (North Face synthetic) trousers for “street wear” at my daily destination. The zip-leg was also useful because much of the trail is muddy, and I could hand-launder the filthy legs at my daily destination without removing the clean trousers.
    I would not bring a baseball-style cap such as suggested, but a fully brimmed, waterproof hat. My hat served as a sun shade for my face and neck, but more importantly it helped me retain glorious 360 degree visibility when I was wearing a poncho in the rain.
    I also learned the need for foot care. You have two equally important feet to carry you this distance. I specifically stress (1) lambswool for blisters between toes and (2) moleskin for damage to toes. Both were necessary to me, both were important to other pilgrims I treated and are now friends for life.

  • An afterthought, but an important one not mentioned to date: access to cash.
    For credit, I chose a chip-and-pin card (most Americans only have access to chip-and-signature, not so useful in France and Spain).
    For cash access (ATMs), I set up a separate account at a different institution with a card that did not charge more than the 1% FX fee, and put only $1000 in this account. I set it up for web access, so as the balance fell I could replenish it from my main account, which was not at risk if my ATM card were compromised (this did not happen).

  • I enjoyed reading this very much. I am a 43 yo Peruvian living in the US for the past 21 years. I am planning on walking El Camino from SJPP in June 2018. I am planning way ahead of time due to work, kids, dogs, family. How is the weather like at that time of the year? Is it dangerous to do it alone?

    • I haven’t waked it in June, but I’d suggest May/June is a good time of year. The later you leave it, the hotter and busier the Camino will become, so I’d probably choose to start in May if I could.

      While nothing in life is 100% certain, walking the Camino Frances solo is a very safe activity. Unless you’re walking in winter, there are so many other people doing the same thing that it’s rare to not have someone else in sight. Based on my experience, you’ll only be alone if you want to be — I made friends a couple of hours out of St Jean that I also finished with in Finisterre five weeks later, and met dozens of others along the way that I spent anything from a few hours to weeks walking with. I wrote more about all that side of things here.

  • Karen Effard
    4 months ago

    Dave you’re an inspiration. Thank you for so much info !! I’ve been out spending today on my kit. I’m stressing about getting the correct boots and backpack though. I’ve been fitted but I’m still not sure either are really “comfortable ” enough. I’ve bought 2 pairs of boots and two backpacks to try to decide.

    I can’t wait but I’m very apprehensive as a solo, female, non hiking traveller !!

    Even planning the journey to get to SJPP is a bit tricky. I’m travelling from the uk and it seems either 2 flights, a bus and a train OR a coach from my town to Bayonne but I arrive at 4am.
    Any suggestions Dave ?

    • Hi Karen,
      It sounds like you’ve got the right idea with the boots and pack. Make sure you’re really happy with both — they’ll become your best friends for a month or so!

      Getting to St Jean — I came from Madrid, so took a bus to Pamplona, then a bus to St Jean. If you can find a flight that gets you to Pamplona (maybe via Barcelona or Madrid), then it’s straightforward from there. Otherwise, you’ll need to work your way down to the bottom of France, but as you’ve found, it’s not necessarily all that easy or enjoyable!

  • Carol Lindsey
    3 months ago

    The best list ever, and delivered with a smiley tone 🙂 Thanks! My sister and I are taking 10 days to start the Northern Way, and this entry was very helpful. Peace.

  • I feel like I took this same picture ( as we all did.) – leaving Cruz de Ferro and en route to El Acebo? That or just after entering Galacia. Either way , lovely shot. Brings back all the feels. 🙂

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