1000 Miles Later: My Ultimate Camino de Santiago Packing List

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One fine October day on a beach in Galicia, I completed the most challenging and satisfying experience of my life. In a little over a month I’d walked right across the top of Spain, starting in a small French border town at the base of the Pyrenees and finishing in the shallows of the Atlantic ocean.

A year later, I strapped on my backpack again, spending nearly three weeks walking from Porto in northern Portugal to Santiago, and then a loop to Finisterre, Muxia, and back. Three years after that, I spent two weeks hiking up and down the mountains of Asturias and Galicia enroute to Santiago once more.

These paths are part of a vast network of medieval pilgrim routes across Europe collectively known as the Camino de Santiago. This packing list details what I took with me, what changed from one route to the next, and how well it all worked during over a thousand miles of walking towards that great cathedral in northwest Spain.

Note that this was what I carried on the Camino Frances, Portuguese, Primitivo, and Finisterre routes, between late August and mid-October. Walking other routes or at another time of year may have required different gear, especially in winter.

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


Backpack

Backpack, Camino Primitivo

It’s easy to spend endless hours researching the best Camino backpack, only to come away more confused than you started.

What I Tried

When I set out to walk the Camino Frances, I was traveling full-time, with nowhere to easily store excess gear long-term. Since I didn’t want to buy another backpack just for one hike, I used the 30-litre daypack I already had.

Somewhat water resistant, with adjustable waist and shoulder straps, it held up to the task well enough. It was slightly too small, though, in a couple of ways. Fitting everything into 30 litres was a tight squeeze, which meant packing in the morning took longer than it should.

It could also have done with being a little longer, as 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.

For the Camino Portuguese, I bought a cheap pack from Decathlon, the Forclaz 40 Air. It was terrible, with uncomfortable straps, no padding, and a distinctly sweaty odour after three weeks of walking in hot conditions. I threw it out as soon as I finished. Don’t buy that.

What I Ended Up With

Eventually I bit the bullet and bought a quality hiking pack specifically for long walks. The Osprey Talon 44 is a mid-sized, top-loading pack with a 44-litre capacity. It weighs 1.1kg (2lbs 7oz) when empty.

There’s a separate section for a hydration sack, or the side pockets are both big enough to fit a good-sized water bottle. The larger pocket on the back is a good place to stow my long-sleeved top when the day warms up, or my wet poncho when the rain stops. Snacks live in the top lid, so I can easily grab them without having to open up the main bag.

The harness and waist straps are comfortable even after walking all day, and the extra capacity makes packing up each morning quick and easy. There’s also enough airflow between my body and the pack to prevent most back sweat, even in hot weather.

After trialing it on a few week-long walks in the UK beforehand, this is the backpack I took on the Camino Primitivo. It was far superior to anything I’d used in the past, and I’d definitely recommend it.

Packing Light for the Camino

Camino - Dave and cutouts

I saw people with backpacks of all sizes along the trail, from tiny schoolbags to enormous 100-litre hiking packs, and everything in between. For most people, though, the best Camino backpack will likely be a comfortable, lightweight, sturdy 35-50 litre hiking pack with good shoulder and waist straps.

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 posting 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 has weighed about 7kg (15lbs) without water each time, and I wouldn’t want to carry more than that.

It’s also worth considering taking the smallest packable daypack you can find. I use this remarkably-tiny version from Sea to Summit, which weighs under 70g (2.4oz) and folds up smaller than my fist.

It’s ideal for throwing a few things into when exploring larger towns in the evening, or on a rest day when you don’t want to carry your entire backpack around. It also gives you the flexibility to ship your main pack ahead now and then, and carry just the stuff you need for the day.

Osprey Talon 44 Hiking Backpack

Photo Credit: Amazon

A mid-sized, top-loading backpack that's ideal for long, multi-week walks like this, where you won't be camping or carrying a great deal of food.

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Sea to Summit Ultra-SIL Day Pack

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This daypack is surprisingly tiny when folded away, but still holds enough stuff for a day of walking or city exploring.

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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 de Santiago - shoes

Just like backpacks and blisters, the best pair of shoes to wear on the Camino is a source of endless discussion.

After much research, I decided I didn’t want full hiking boots. You don’t need the extra ankle support for the terrain on most Camino routes, and the added weight and heat buildup are a recipe for injuries and blisters.

I wasn’t convinced by the people suggesting lightweight trail or running shoes either. Any time I’d worn that type of footwear on a proper hike, I’d struggled on rocky or unstable ground, and been concerned about rolling an ankle.

In the end I went for a middle ground, buying a pair of Merrell Moab Ventilator hiking shoes a size bigger than my usual footwear, and they turned out to be the right choice.

The soles have plenty of grip even on slippery rocks, and are comfortable enough to walk in for hours without pain. They’re waterproof enough to keep light rain out, yet sufficiently breathable for my feet to not get too sweaty on hot days.

That’s important, since sweaty feet can quickly become blistered feet. The extra dampness softens the skin, which then rubs away more easily as you walk. In an environment where hot, sunny days vastly outnumbered wet ones, letting the moisture out was more important than stopping it from getting in.

I’d worn the shoes most days for a few months prior to starting the Frances. You need to have shoes that have been broken in well, 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 local Decathlon store and bought the exact same shoes to replace my mostly-destroyed ones… which I then used for the Camino Portuguese a year later.

When those ones wore out, I replaced them with the latest model, and walked a few week-long hikes before tackling the Camino Primitivo in them. They’re getting to the end of their life now, so I’ll be picking up my fourth pair pretty soon. Apparently I like these shoes a lot.

In the Evenings

On the Camino Frances and Portuguese, I also took a pair of flip-flops with me. The last thing I wanted to do was put my hiking shoes back on after walking in them all day. Comfortable, lightweight alternate footwear was a must.

Flip-flops worked fine for slopping around the albergue and to the nearest bar in the evening, but they were annoying to walk much further in. You also can’t really wear socks with them, which made for cold feet at night towards the end of the walk.

Shortly before starting the Primitivo, I picked up a pair of Tropicfeel “all-terrain sneakers”, and decided to test them out on that route. A bit bigger and heavier than flip-flops (although not as much as I’d expected), they squashed up pretty well in my pack and had a few advantages.

Enclosed shoes were much better for walking around towns and cities before, during, and after the Camino. With more padding in the soles, they were also kinder to my feet than flip-flops after a long day of hiking, and were fine to wear with or without socks depending on the weather.

I got one blister early on during the Primitivo, but it wasn’t particularly painful. If I’d needed to give my feet a break from my hiking shoes, though, I could have walked for a day or two in the sneakers instead. Not an option in flip-flops!

I’d be fine going to back to the Havaianas if space was very tight on a future hike, but if I’ve got the room, I’ll take the sneakers from now on.

Merrell Men's Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe

Photo Credit: Amazon

I've worn out three pairs of these shoes over the last several years, and will soon be buying a fourth. They're ideal for long days in hot conditions.

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Havaianas Men's Flip-Flops

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After 15+ miles of walking each day, the last thing I wanted to do after a shower was put my hiking boots back on.

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Tropicfeel All-Terrain Sneakers

Photo Credit: Tropicfeel

Lightweight, comfortable, and versatile, these travel sneakers ended up being worth the extra space in my pack.

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Shirts

Camino de Santiago shirts

I just used three cotton t-shirts I already owned for walking the Camino Frances, but it wasn’t a great choice.

The cheap ones from H&M stretched to the point of being almost unwearable within the first two weeks. A thicker t-shirt survived the walk, but at the expense of taking forever to dry after doing laundry. If I arrived too late for it to dry in the evening sun, it’d still be damp in the morning.

For the Portuguese and Primitivo routes, I picked up a couple of quick-dry t-shirts instead. They look more like normal t-shirts than running gear, so I could wear them out at night without feeling entirely like I’d just stepped off the trail. This isn’t exactly the same Salomon shirt, but it’s pretty close.

I also took one soft cotton t-shirt, which I wore after showering in the evening, and to sleep in on cooler nights.

Long-Sleeved Top

Camino de Santiago - long-sleeve top

I picked up a long-sleeved Icebreaker merino wool top a few years ago, and it was an obvious choice for my first two Caminos.

Thin but warm, it 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, but whether that was due to wear and tear or getting caught on something, I don’t know.

This type of top is actually part of Icebreaker’s base layer range, but it was fine as outerwear even in cool conditions. There were a couple of early mornings at the end of the Frances when the temperature wasn’t much above freezing, but wearing a second t-shirt underneath kept me warm until the sun came up. Putting it over a single t-shirt was fine the rest of the time.

Because the weather on the Primitivo tends to be cooler, I bought a slightly thicker version for that Camino. It was warm enough even on cold, foggy mornings, and I’d end up stripping it off as soon as the cloud and mist cleared.

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.

Salomon Men's Explore Short Sleeve Tee

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After trying cotton t-shirts and dedicated running shirts, I've settled on quick-drying hybrids like this as the best of both worlds.

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Icebreaker Merino Men's Long Sleeve T-Shirt

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Despite being so thin, this long-sleeved merino shirt kept me warm on chilly mornings and evenings.

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Socks

Camino de Santiago - socks

Good socks are crucial in helping prevent blisters, and I’ve experimented with a few different options.

What I Tried

On the Camino Frances and Portuguese, I took three pairs of Icebreaker merino wool hiking socks, plus a pair of cotton ankle-length socks to use as liners.

The merino socks were pretty good. 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.

The cotton ones weren’t so great, though. Just like the cotton t-shirts, they sometimes wouldn’t fully dry if I got in late or it was a cloudy day. Wearing damp socks to bed to try and dry them overnight got old pretty quick.

What I Ended Up With

For the Primitivo, I took a similar but ultimately better approach. As much as I liked the Icebreaker socks, they were relatively thin and started to develop holes in the sole after a while. I swapped them out for Smartwool medium crew versions, which were significantly thicker.

That extra padding is particularly useful on the Camino, where most routes have far more road walking than you expect or want. Feet get seriously beaten up by hours on asphalt and concrete, and the more padding you can give them, the happier they’ll be.

Despite the thickness, I didn’t find the Smartwool socks dried any slower than the Icebreaker versions so long as I wrung all the water out before hanging them up.

Because my “outer” socks were so much thicker, I could get away with thin “inner” socks. The Bridgedale liners did exactly what they’re supposed to, reducing friction and wicking sweat away from my feet. They dried in about three minutes in the sun.

I’d highly recommend merino wool outer 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.

As long as you don’t get multiple days of cold, wet weather when it’s impossible to get anything dry, you could probably get away with taking two pairs of outer socks instead of three. If you’re looking to reduce weight somewhere, it’s an option.

SmartWool Men's Hike Medium Crew

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These thick merino wool socks were ideal -- comfortable, quick-drying, and providing extra padding for walking on roads and cobblestones.

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Bridgedale CoolMax Liner Socks

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These thin, quick-drying liner socks wicked away sweat and reduced friction to help keep blisters at bay.

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Underwear

Camino de Santiago - underwear

I took three pairs of quick-dry boxer briefs on the Camino Frances, and they were all a bit different. The grey Champion 6″ inseam version was the most comfortable, I suspect because it was longer than the other two pairs and less prone to bunching up.

The other two were fine for the first ten miles or so each day, but would start to rub after that. Without any time to heal, chafing became a real issue after a while.

For the Camino Portuguese and Primitivo, I just went with three pairs of Under Armour boxer briefs with 6″ inseam instead. They worked perfectly, with zero chafing,  and I’d highly recommend them.

It’s a small thing, but I find that having each pair be a different color makes it easy to keep track of what’s clean and what’s not.

Champion Men's Tech Performance Boxer Brief

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The best of the underwear choices I made for the Camino Frances. Unlike the others, these didn't chafe.

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Under Armour Men Original Series 6" Boxer Briefs

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I took three pairs of these for the Camino Portuguese, and they were ideal.

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Shorts and Pants

Camino de Santiago - shorts and pants

I’ve used different brands of quick-dry hiking shorts on each Camino, and they’ve all worked pretty well. I typically go for those with a decent amount of stretch in the fabric, with a few pockets for stashing bits and pieces.

My most recent pair was from the Craghoppers Kiwi Stretch range (which despite the appropriate name for a New Zealander like me, is made by a UK company). If they’re hard to come by where you are, Columbia has also been making good hiking shorts for years.

I took a pair of quick-dry long pants as well. I prefer hiking in shorts, so only wore the pants in the evening after I’d stopped walking. They were definitely worth taking, though, as it was cold enough to need them once the sun went down in the mountains and towards the end of the longer routes.

The pairs I’ve had didn’t convert to shorts, which didn’t bother me but might be something to consider. I used a cheap, lightweight pair from Decathlon on the Frances and Portuguese routes, and a warmer pair from Brasher for the Primitivo. Again, Columbia makes good hiking pants if you can’t find these brands near you.

Columbia Men's Silver Ridge Cargo Short

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Columbia makes great outdoor gear, including these hiking shorts.

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Columbia Men's Silver Ridge Convertible Pant

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While the pants I've taken on my Caminos haven't been convertible into shorts, the extra flexibility is well worth considering.

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Cap

Camino de Santiago - cap

The sun is harsh in Spain, especially in the afternoon. Plenty of people swear by wide-brim hats of various types, but I’ve never found a type I liked. For me, a cap is fine as long as I put sunscreen on my neck and face, and it takes up less room in my bag when I’m not wearing it.

It also comes in handy when the rain sets in. My poncho has a hood, and I put the cap on my head first to keep most of the rain off my face. It looks ridiculous, but given I resemble a drowned rat by that point anyway, fashion sense isn’t a high priority.

I’ve used different caps for each Camino, the most recent being one I picked up on sale from an outdoor store somewhere.

Sunglasses

It’s important (for me, at least) to keep the sun and dust out of my eyes when I’m walking, but I’m not one for expensive sunglasses. The only things I care about is that they fit properly and have adequate UV protection.

The ones I wore on the Frances had thick stems that left a particularly attractive tan line along either side of my face. I went for thinner stems on subsequent Caminos!

Poncho

Camino de Santiago - 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 use a poncho because it takes up less space in my bag.

The Arpenaz model I bought from Decathlon has been great, because it’s sturdier than many 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. The downside is that it’s heavier, but it’s worth the 290 grams (10oz) 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 keep you drier. I’ve used the same poncho with all of my backpacks, and it definitely covers less of my legs with a 44-litre pack than with the 30-litre version!

I’ve been pretty lucky with weather during my Caminos. I only got rained on three times during the Camino Frances, once on the Camino Portuguese, and twice on the Primitivo. When it did show up, however, it was often 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.

The only real downside of a poncho (other than looking like Quasimodo whenever you wear it) is dealing with rain when you’re not walking. Walking around a town or city wearing a glorified tarpaulin isn’t super-convenient or super-glamorous.

I tested also taking a little packable rain jacket on the Primitivo, but while it was useful now and then, it wasn’t really worth the extra size and weight. Back to looking silly, I guess.

Stuff Sack

Camino stuff sack

To organise my clothes on the Camino Frances, 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.

Once I stepped up to larger packs for my subsequent Caminos, I didn’t need the stuff sack any more. If you’re short on room, though, you’ll appreciate the space savings it brings.

Outdoor Products Backpacker Poncho

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I'd never worn a poncho like this before, but it kept me and my pack completely dry from neck to knees even in heavy rain.

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Gobi Gear SegSac Traveler Compression Stuff Sack

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This stuff sack was vital for fitting everything into a 30 litre pack, but I didn't need it once I'd swapped to a 40 litre version.

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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’ve treated my liner, sleeping bag, and the outside of my backpack with a permethrin-like spray before leaving each time. It apparently does the job, since I’ve had very few bites during the night, and none were from bed bugs.

Silk Liner

Camino de Santiago - silk liner

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

I took it on both the Frances and Portuguese routes to discourage bed bugs and mosquitoes from biting me, since they don’t like silk, and to provide an option for hot dorms when my sleeping bag was too warm.

On both walks, I used every day it for the first week or so, as nights were pretty hot. As the weather cooled in late September and early October, I switched to using my sleeping bag instead. Even then, I put the liner inside it when staying in dodgy albergues to help ward off those bugs.

Expecting cooler weather on the Primitivo, I didn’t pack the liner, but I probably should have. It was still quite warm in some of the dorms, and I found myself on top of my sleeping bag as often as I slept inside it.

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

Given its size, I was unsure whether to take a sleeping bag on my first Camino. In the end I was happy I did, and I’ve taken one on subsequent routes as well.

Even though I had good weather, nights get chilly in the mountains and as summer transitions to autumn/fall. 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.

On the Frances and Portuguese, I took a Decathlon model marked as being comfortable down to ten degrees Celsius (50F), and bearable down to 5C (41F).

At 1100 grams (2.4lbs), though, that sleeping bag was quite heavy. For the Primitivo, I took a lighter (700g/1.5lbs) model from Berghaus. Filled with down instead of synthetic material, it’s comfortable down to 7C (45F).

The cover is waterproof, which is a nice touch — I know people who’ve soaked their sleeping bag by accidentally dropping their pack in a puddle.

Either model is fine for sleeping in albergues in September in northern Spain, and you don’t need anything warmer at that time of year. I’d suggest picking up something with similar specifications that’s as small and light as possible.

Camino de Santiago - earplugs and eye mask

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

Earplugs

I always travel with earplugs like these, and figured they’d be fine on the Camino as well. As it turned out, snorers in albergues seem to treat it like an Olympic sport, and there’s someone in every dorm going for gold. Sleep became a very rare commodity.

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 travelers: check out earplugs designed for heavy machinery and air shows instead!

I honed my approach for the Portuguese and Primitivo routes, eventually settling on a mix of top-quality foam and silicone models from 3M. The silicone Skull Screw versions blocked out the most noise, so I put one of those in the ear that wasn’t on the pillow.

They were too uncomfortable to lie on due to the hard section in the middle, sadly, so instead I put a foam one in my other ear. As long as I didn’t toss and turn too much, it worked well — certainly better than any other approach I’ve tried!

Eye Mask

I didn’t wear my eye mask every night, but kept it nearby 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.

Sawyer Products Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent

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Bedbugs can be a concern on the Camino. I sprayed my pack and bedding with a Permethrin-like spray before I left.

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Cocoon Silk MummyLiner

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A lightweight silk liner is much more comfortable than a sleeping bag or blankets on hot nights, and gives extra warmth when things turn colder.

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Outdoor Vitals Lightweight Sleeping Bag

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I carried a lightweight sleeping bag like this, which provided more than enough warmth even on chilly autumn (fall) nights.

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3M Skull Screws Corded Earplugs

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I'm a light sleeper, and snorers in albergues are a real problem. For me, at least, high-quality earplugs are essential.

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Jersey Slumber Silk Sleep Mask

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I wore an eye mask whenever people insisted on turning on the lights or shining flashlights around while everyone else was sleeping.

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Food and Water

Camino - food

As you’re rarely more than a few kilometres from the nearest town on either the Camino Frances or Portuguese, 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.

It can be a bit different on the Primitivo, where there are times you’ll be away from civilisation for 20km or more. On those days, I’d grab supplies from a supermarket in the morning or the night before as needed.

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 and Portugal 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/Hydration Sack

Dave walking on the Camino Primitivo

I used two different models of Camelbak water bottle on the Frances and Portuguese routes, and preferred the one-litre Chute version. The narrow mouthpiece was easy to drink from on the move, but I could still unscrew the entire lid when the bottle needed cleaning.

The only problem? With the bottle stowed on the side of my pack, I tended not to drink from it unless I was already stopping for another reason. Apparently I didn’t stop very often, as I’d end up dehydrated at the end of most days.

On the Primitivo, I decided to try an approach I’d seen several other people using: a hydration sack. My backpack is set up to use one anyway, so I picked up a generic two-litre model from a local outdoor store and gave it a go.

The new approach worked well. As you can see in the photo, I tucked the nozzle into my chest strap so it sat a few inches from my mouth. This meant I drank a lot more water each day. The weight distribution was better, too, sitting in the middle of my back rather than the side of my backpack.

That said, the no-name hydration sack wasn’t very good. It leaked a fair bit, from both the top inlet hole and where the hose joined the bag at the bottom. The rubber nozzle also had an alarming tendency to work its way loose and fall off, which would have rendered the entire thing useless if I hadn’t noticed at the time.

My girlfriend walked the Primitivo with me, and had splashed out on a proper Osprey hydration bladder. She was completely happy with it, and I’ll be buying one before my next long hike.

Roll-Up Water Container

I had this tiny roll-up water container as a backup on the Frances and Portuguese, which held 700mls when unfurled. With the cooling weather and short distances between towns most days, I only used it a few times in the early part of both walks.

I would have used it far more in summer, but it took up so little room when rolled to make it worth taking regardless. With the hydration sack’s extra capacity on the Primitivo, however, I didn’t bother taking it.

Snack Bars

I took a few snack bars on each Camino so I’d always have something to eat if necessary, and never ate them all. They were worth having, but I think that says something about how easy it is to find food most of the time.

CamelBak Chute Water Bottle

Photo Credit: Amazon

The Chute is the better of the two Camelbak water bottles I've used on the Camino, easy to fill and drink from, and almost indestructible.

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Vapur Eclipse Foldable Water Bottle with Carabiner

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I only used this roll-up container a few times, to carry extra water on long, hot days, but it was worth the small amount of extra space in my pack.

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Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir

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My cheap hydration sack leaked a lot, but my girlfriend's Osprey model worked like a charm. I'll be using that instead of a water bottle on future Caminos.

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First Aid Kit

Camino de Santiago - first aid kit

There’s no shortage of pharmacies along both the Frances and Portuguese routes, even in very small towns. There aren’t quite as many on the Primitivo, but you’ll still pass one at least every two or three days.

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 and tweaking the contents slightly on each walk. On the Frances I occasionally had to replace things when they ran out, but not on the shorter routes.

Ibuprofen

I took a pack of ten 500mg Ibuprofen tablets in case of joint or foot pain, and used them occasionally on the Frances and Portuguese routes after a day of long, rocky downhills.

500mg is a standard strength in Spain, but higher than you’ll find in many other countries, so maybe take a few extra tablets if that’s the case in your part of the world.

Vaseline

I used the vaseline for blister prevention during the first several days of each walk, coating my soles, heels, and between my toes every morning. I really can’t overstate how well this worked — it’s the only prevention method I’ll be using from now on.

On the Frances, I stopped after my feet hardened up sufficiently, and used it to deal with minor chafing on my inner thighs instead. On the other routes, I just used it every day. The small 20g tin lasted me 2-3 weeks, but you can easily find it in pharmacies en-route if you run out.

Imodium

Just in case something I ate or drank disagreed with me, I took a few tabs of Imodium to help me get to the next town. Thankfully, I never needed to use it.

Antihistamine Tablets

I threw in a few non-drowsy antihistamine tablets to deal with bug bites or other allergic reactions. I’m not really prone to hayfever, but I did get a nasty bite towards the end of the Primitivo that blistered and took a week to clear up. Not fun.

Multi-Purpose Ointment

I packed some Germolene multi-purpose antiseptic and pain relief cream for insect bites, minor wounds, and blisters. I’ve used it several times and haven’t got an infected cut or blister yet, so I guess it works.

Bandaids

Bandaids have been handy for both the occasional cut or graze, and putting over blisters. I’ve tried a bunch of different types over the years, and most haven’t been very good for feet. All the ones I’ve bought from a local pharmacy fell off as soon as they got a bit wet or sweaty, even the supposedly waterproof ones.

The only ones I’ve had success with are the Steroplast fabric versions, which did manage to stay attached all day. If you run out, you can find generic bandaids in every pharmacy along the route — they won’t be as good, but they’re better than nothing.

Zinc-Oxide Tape

Some people are very keen on zinc-oxide tape as a blister or injury preventative, judiciously wrapping their toes, heels, or knees with it every morning before they set out.

I tried it for the first time on the Primitivo with a toe I knew was prone to blistering… and promptly got a blister on that toe. I guess it works better for other people. Still, in the absence of duct tape, it was useful to have some kind of strong, sticky tape for doing running repairs.

Blister Treatment

Debates about how to treat blisters on the Camino probably go back as far as the first pilgrims. There’s a lot of talk about using Compeed, a “second skin” product that covers and protects blisters once they burst.

It’s readily available in pharmacies in Spain, so I haven’t bothered taking any with me, figuring I’ll just buy it if I need it. So far I never have, but many other blister sufferers swear by it.

Instead, I pop any blisters with a (sterilised!) needle, put antiseptic cream on them, and cover with a bandaid or zinc-oxide tape. This approach has worked fine for me, but others will undoubtedly have different opinions. Do whatever works for you!

Container

The plastic container is the same one I use for my slightly more comprehensive first aid kit while traveling. Grab a small sealable one from your kitchen cupboard rather than buying something special.

Equate Ibuprofen Pain Reliever

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Inflamed knees and other joints is an inevitable part of walking long distances for weeks on end. Ibuprofen helps a lot.

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Vaseline Petroleum Jelly Pocket Size

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I used Vaseline to help protect my feet in the early parts of each walk, and deal with minor chafing towards the end of the Frances.

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Imodium Anti-Diarrheal Caplets

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Imodium is always part of my travel and hiking first aid kit, in case something I eat or drink really disagrees with me.

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Basic Care Allergy Relief Tablets

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I don't usually get hayfever on the Camino, but these tablets are also good for reducing the swelling and itch from bug bites.

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Germolene Antiseptic Cream

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Bites, cuts, scratches, blisters... this antiseptic cream goes onto all of them.

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Steroplast Premium Fabric Plasters

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These bandaids have been one of the few that stay attached all day even when my feet get wet or sweaty.

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Leukotape 1.5" Sports Tape

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I didn't have much success with preventing blisters by using this tape, but others swear by it. I used it like duct tape for gear repairs instead.

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Compeed Blister Small Plasters

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I was fortunate enough not to need Compeed blister plasters, but dozens of other walkers swore by them.

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Toiletries

Camino de Santiago - toiletries

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

Shower Gel

I took a travel-sized container of shower gel on the Frances, and solid body soap on the Portuguese Camino. The soap lasted much longer, but I couldn’t really use it as shampoo, and it didn’t lather as well as the gel. I guess both achieved their purpose, which was making me smell less bad.

For the Primitivo, I just bought a sqeeezable travel-sized container and filled it up with shower gel from home. I prefered this, as the container had a suction cup that let me stick it to shower cubicle. Soap holders aren’t a standard feature of Camino showers!

The container lasts me a couple of weeks or so, but for longer routes, you should be able to find something to refill it with in the larger supermarkets along the way.

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 five weeks of the Frances, but only just.

Toothbrush and Toothpaste

I bought a travel-specific toothbrush that folds up into itself so it’s slightly less gross in my toiletry bag. Any small tube of toothpaste is fine, but if you can find one with a screw-on lid, it’ll be less likely to leak if it gets squeezed while you’re walking.

Hand Sanitizer

I took a small container of hand sanitizer for 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 needle, mind you.

Dove Men+Care Body & Face Wash

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I used a travel-sized shower gel to wash my body and hair on my first two Caminos, and it worked fine. If you have long hair, you may want to take shampoo as well.

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3oz Silicon Travel Bottle Set

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For the Primitivo, I switched to using one of these silicone bottles instead. It worked better, since I could stick it to the wall of the shower cubicle and refill as needed.

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Nivea Fresh Natural 48 Hours Roll-On Deodorant Roll

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Roll-on deodorant is smaller than spray or stick versions, so that's what I used.

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Folding Travel Toothbrush

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This little toothbrush folded up into itself to help prevent the inside of my toiletry bag from getting wet and disgusting.

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Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer

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Hand sanitizer was useful for everything from cleaning my hands when there wasn't water nearby, to sterilizing needles.

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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 Dr Beckmann travel wash, and it worked well.

One tube lasted me about two weeks, and despite the extra weight, it’s worth taking a second one if you’re walking a longer route. A replacement was hard to find on the Frances, and I had to buy a larger, less-effective powdered version when the liquid ran out.

Sunscreen

The sunscreen I took 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 it easily lasted until I got to Santiago.

Safety Razor

I don’t shave more than once a week in normal life, and less so on the Camino. Still, I took a disposable razor to make myself look slightly less like a hobo now and then.

Wet Wipes

On the Frances, 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 two wipes on the entire walk, so couldn’t justify taking them on other routes.

Toiletry Bag

My existing toiletry bag was pretty battered, but fine for the Camino Frances. It fell apart a few months later, so I replaced it with the Deuter Wash Center, which works well.

Almost any type would do, as 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 to keep it off the floor.

Sewing Kit

Yeah, it’s not really a toiletry item, but my small sewing kit lives in my toiletry bag, so close enough.

After not taking one on the Frances route, and then having to rely on the guy I was walking with to patch up a hole in my shorts (thanks Wayne!), I’ve taken a sewing kit on subsequent routes.

I haven’t had to repair anything yet, but the needles came in handy for piercing blisters. I took the unnecessary bits and pieces of the kit out, just leaving needles, buttons, and thread.

Dr Beckmann Travel Wash

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This travel laundry soap did a good job of cleaning my clothes and making them smell better after a day's walking. No mean feat.

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Neutrogena SPF 55 Sunscreen

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High-protection sunscreen is vital when you're walking in the Spanish sun all day. I only use SPF50 or higher.

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Mini Sewing Kit for Travel

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I took out most of the stuff in this sewing kit, only leaving the needles, thread, and buttons.

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Wet Ones Antibacterial Hand Wipes Travel Pack

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Wet wipes are useful for cleaning hands and in a pinch, as toilet paper. I don't view them as a necessity, but you'll probably use one or two.

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Deuter Wash Center II

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I replaced my old, battered toiletry bag with this model, and it held up well. The hook on the top was particularly useful for showers without shelves.

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Technology

Camino de Santiago - technology

When it came to tech, I wanted to take as little as possible, both to remain in the moment and help 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.

Fitbit

On the Camino Frances, I used a fancy Suunto Ambit 3 sport watch to track how far I walked each day. It was overkill for my requirements, and needed charging every couple of days.

For the Portuguese and Primitvo, I just took the Fitbit I wear every day anyway. Since it doesn’t use GPS, it’s not as accurate when measuring distances, but is close enough for my needs.

It only needs charging once or twice a week, and the vibrating alarm wakes me up without disturbing everyone else in the dorm. On the rare occasion I haven’t already been woken up by snorers and rustlers at 5:30am, that is.

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 a small portable battery came in handy, as I could charge my phone overnight or while eating dinner without having to leave it unattended and often out of sight.

Smartphone

My phone serves as camera, guidebook, map, and entertainment rolled into one when walking the Camino. Anything with a decent camera and battery is fine — I used a Google Nexus 5 on the Frances, the successor Nexus 5x on the Portuguese, and a OnePlus 6T on the Primitivo.

Sunrise arrow, Camino Portuguese

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 while walking.

I used a Spanish SIM card and data package while in Spain, and a Portuguese one in Portugal, which let me make calls, check maps, etc 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, called simply “Camino de Santiago Guide” (Android / iOS), was very good for the Camino Frances and Finisterre, especially after the update it got halfway through my walk.

It also included several new albergues that weren’t listed in the paper books others were carrying, and the short reviews of each one were pretty accurate. For under five bucks (and no extra weight), I was very happy with it.

The design could do with some work, but the app had everything I needed, from distances between towns to services, number of albergue beds in each place, and points of interest, and was super-easy to use.

It doesn’t cover other routes, so had to use other apps for those. I wasn’t particularly impressed with Wise Pilgrim on the Portuguese Way, but liked the Buen Camino app I used for the Primitivo. Helpfully, it’s recently moved from being a paid app to a free one.

It has useful features like elevation profiles and being able to create daily stages on the fly, and there’s a GPS map built in to quickly see whether you’ve gone off trail. Waymarking has been pretty good on all of the routes I’ve walked, but it’s easy to go wrong in the larger towns and cities.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive list, I wrote up a guide to the best Camino apps on my other site.

Cables

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

I’d prefer not to have to carry three different types of cable (USB-C, micro-USB, and Fitbit-specific), but so it goes.

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.

During the long, flat days on the meseta, I’d sometimes put on some music to match my mood if I was walking by myself — 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!

iKits 4-Port USB Wall/International Charger

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This 4-way USB charger made me very popular in albergues that didn't have enough power sockets for everyone. In other words, most of them.

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Fitbit Alta HR, Black, Large (US Version)

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I wear a Fitbit every day anyway, and it was useful for telling the time, setting silent alarms, and measuring approximate distance.

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Anker Astro E1 5200mAh Portable Battery

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This little portable battery is small and light, and let me charge my phone and other gadgets when power sockets were hard to come by.

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Anker Powerline+ II USB-C to USB-A Cable (6ft)

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Having a longer-than-usual USB cable was ideal when charging from power sockets halfway up a wall.

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Shure SE215-K Sound Isolating Earphones

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From long solo days on the meseta to chill-out time on my bunk at the albergue, I used my earphones more than expected.

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Miscellaneous

Camino de Santiago - headlamp, towel, toilet paper, etc

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 in various sizes. I used a tiny one about the size of a tea towel for my first two Caminos, but when I lost it near the end of the Portuguese, I replaced it with a mid-sized one instead.

The bigger one doesn’t take up much more space, but it’s a lot easier to properly dry myself with it!

Headlamp

While most people won’t still be walking after dark in summer, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself on the trail before dawn.

Whether you’re naturally an early riser, forced to become one by everyone else moving around at 5am, or are just trying to beat the heat on 20-mile day, you’ll often need a flashlight for the first hour of walking. In early spring, late fall, or winter, it could be quite a lot longer.

Likewise, whether you’re packing up and heading out early or just heading to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you’ll need a light source in the albergue as well.

While you can make do with your phone’s inbuilt flashlight in a pinch, it drains the battery quickly and is annoying to hold for long periods. I used a headlamp like this instead, holding it in my hand in the albergue and wearing it while walking.

The dim red light option helps avoid waking other people up, while the maximum white light setting was plenty bright enough to see where I was going even on cloudy mornings in the countryside.

One set of batteries has lasted for all three of my Caminos, although the light is getting dimmer now, so it’s probably time to replace them.

Ziploc Bags

I bought a pack of medium-sized 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 after my liquid version ran out on the Frances, and gave a couple away to other people who needed them.

Leatherman Multi-Tool

I’ve traveled with a little Leatherman Kick for years, and it’s been very handy. On the Camino, though, I only used it occasionally to do things like chop up fruit, cut a large bandaid down to size, or 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.

Journal and Pen

Camino de Santiago - journal and pen

I had a Moleskine journal already, and took it along to record the trip. The pen was also useful for filling in the date for stamps in my pilgrim passport.

Sea to Summit Dry Lite Towel

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I went for a mid-sized travel towel, which was a good compromise between size and drying ability.

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Headlamp

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My headlamp was ideal for moving around albergues at night, and not getting lost when walking before the sun was up.

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Ziploc Storage Bags, 1 Gallon

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A few ziploc bags are useful for all kinds of things, from protecting your passport and electronics from the rain to carrying snacks.

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Moleskine Classic Hard Cover Notebook

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I used this notebook for keeping a daily diary of the walk. The hard cover helped protect it in my bag.

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Leatherman Wingman Multitool

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I only used the knife and bottle opener parts of my multi-tool, but it was still useful to have.

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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. So far I’ve never needed it, but it’s comforting to know it’s in my bag if required.

Clothes Line and Pegs

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 clothesline at night or on wet days. It worked well, and took up no room in my bag.

I also took a few pegs from home, and used them almost every day. Most lines and drying racks at albergues didn’t have enough pegs for everyone, and windy days often saw other people’s clothes flying all over the place.

Kindle

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 on the Frances. 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, thanks all the same.

It wasn’t a show-stopper, but I made room for the physical Kindle on subsequent Caminos, and it was worth doing. Having the Paperwhite model also meant I could read after the lights had been turned out, but still dim the screen enough that it didn’t annoy anybody else.

Hiking Poles

Having never used hiking poles in the past, I chose not to take them on the Frances. Like many other things, I figured I could pick them up easily enough if the need arose.

There were a few times I wouldn’t have minded having one for steep downhill sections, but for me, it didn’t justify carrying a stick in one or both hands for five weeks. 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.

Due to a niggling knee injury, though, my opinion changed over time. I took a single collapsible pole with me on the Camino Portuguese, which stayed attached to my backpack most of the time but was helpful on a couple of steep sections.

The Primitivo is dramatically more mountainous than either of those routes, and I made the leap to a pair of Black Diamond Trail hiking sticks. I’m very glad I did, as I had a lot less knee pain during steep downhills, and found long uphill sections noticeably easier when I used them.

The quick-release clamps worked well, staying firmly in place until I needed to adjust the length for downhill sections. I found the sticks to be sturdy and the rubber handles comfortable, even after several hours. To avoid that damn tapping noise, I bought some rubber stoppers to go over the metal ends. Totally worth it.

From being a “no poles” hiker in the past, I’m now a total convert. They’ll be coming with me on every long walk from now on.

Kindle Paperwhite

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I tried using the Kindle app on my phone on my phone for my first Camino, but switched to the physical version on subsequent routes for a number of reasons.

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Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles

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From being a "no poles" hiker in the past, I've totally changed my view over the course of my Caminos. Now, I wouldn't do a long walk without them.

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Black Diamond Pole Tip Protectors

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Listening to other people tap the metal ends of their poles on the road was bad enough. Listening to myself do it would have likely driven me insane.

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Travel Insurance

Finally, don’t forget travel insurance. While it’s not technically something to pack, it’s still something to buy before you start your Camino, so I’ll include it here. Accidents, injuries, and illnesses can happen on any long walk, and the cost of everything from medical bills to replacement flights can seriously mount up.

I’ve been buying World Nomads policies for over a decade, including for my Caminos.

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 a couple of items worth mentioning.

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 usual 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 VII — 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 Frances route in particular, 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 apps mentioned above. That turned out to be a good choice, for many reasons.

Firstly, I didn’t need to carry a heavy book with me. Brierly doesn’t make his guides available in electronic form, which seems like an oversight when you need to carry them for weeks or months.

Secondly, the apps have all been more up to date than even the most recent version of Brierley’s guides, with extra features like GPS maps and crowd-sourced reviews. Once you get off the Frances, they also cover several routes that Brierley doesn’t.

Finally, and most importantly, not having the same guide as everyone else was very freeing. The books break each route up into specific daily sections, and many people 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.

Some of the apps don’t provide daily sections at all, while others offer a range of alternatives and let you tweak them as you wish. Either way, I was encouraged to figure out how far I wanted to walk each day for myself, based on the terrain, weather, energy levels, and wherever I liked the look of.

So What Did I Learn From All of This?

So, 72 days and 1667 kilometres later, what have I learned about the gear I did and didn’t take on my Caminos? 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 walk 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 rarely 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 some of the gear I’ve taken with me, and haven’t spent a lot on the other stuff.

Even so, the gear always held up, and I completed all three Caminos at a reasonably-fast pace, with my only injuries being the odd blister and minor chafing. Most importantly, I 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. 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 the best gear for walking the Camino de Santiago, leave them below — I’m happy to answer anything I can.

Want to know more about my Camino experiences? Read my thoughts on the Camino Frances, or check out my Camino Portuguese guide.

98 Responses to “1000 Miles Later: My Ultimate 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.
    4 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!

      • Hi Dave,
        I am curious about your daily expenditures. If the alburgues cost around 10 euro a day, how did your daily cost get up to 37 euros? Is food that much? Thanks, Kathy

        • My average nightly accommodation cost was probably slightly more than 10 euros, since there were a couple of hotels in there as well, and there were other costs like laundry etc. Food was a greater expense for sure, though – at least three meals a day, often more, plus a couple of coffees, maybe a soft drink, a couple of wines with dinner etc.

          Eating on the Camino isn’t particularly expensive compared to elsewhere in the world, but you burn a lot of calories and need to replace them, so it all adds up. You could definitely do it cheaper by self-catering, though,if you wanted to.

  • 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
    4 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 thing I kept on my person as I walked was my phone for taking photos and checking the guidebook app — everything else was in my pack, 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
    4 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
    4 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
    3 years 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! 😀

  • 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
    3 years 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
    3 years 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
    3 years 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
    2 years 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. 🙂

  • Thanks, Dave for the thoughtful and thorough list!
    My friend and I are planning on walking the last quarter of the Camino next month. I was wondering what your suggestion was for how to store passport, money and phone. I’ve read various opinions about storing all three in a “fanny” pack (don’t like the term), but that seems a bit bulky. Other options seem to include a waist wallet that hides underneath the pants (for security reasons) but seems to be problematic for easy access to i-phone for camera purposes. What are your thoughts?
    Jim K

    • While I was walking, my phone was in my pocket (in airplane mode), and my wallet was in my backpack. When I stopped for the night, I switched my wallet to my pocket (because I’d need to pay for food, drinks etc anyway). At night, my phone and wallet were under my pillow. My passport was in a plastic bag in my backpack at all times.

      There’s definitely no need for fanny packs, waist wallets, or anything else to keep those things secure. The chances of theft or loss are almost certainly lower than in everyday life, and most people don’t wear fanny packs etc for their trip into work or to the supermarket. 🙂

  • lidunka
    2 years ago

    a fabulous list, in fact the best I’ve seen – any thoughts on bed bugs. Is this a real problem? The internet suggests so. I plan going next april and have enough to worry about already without bedbugs!!!!

    • Is it a real problem? Yep, definitely. One of the albergues I’d planned to stay in (on the Camino Portuguese) had been closed due to a bedbug outbreak, and I met a couple of fellow walkers who had some suspicously-bedbug-looking bites on the Frances as well.

      Is it something to get really concerned about? No, probably not. I’d suggest that if you spray everything, especially your sleeping bag/liner, with a Permethrin spray, ahead of time, and then be careful about (eg) inspecting mattresses and linen that looks dodgy, not putting your backpack onto the beds, etc, you’ve done about as much as you can. Most of the better albergues are more worried about bedbugs than you are, so they do things like have plastic/vinyl-covered mattresses, use disposable pillowcases and mattress covers, etc.

      For what it’s worth, I haven’t seen or been bitten by any in the two Caminos I’ve done.

  • Catherine
    2 years ago

    Thank you so much for this blog and its details. I have “perfected” my list after reading your page. I am planning a Camino trip with a group of friends in May 2018. You have given my very specific tips and I appreciate it.
    I will certainly keep in mind ordering from Amazon through your page.

  • Sam Davies
    2 years ago

    Very useful and detailed guide for the Camino de Santiago, definitely everything you need to survive during any of the camino routes 🙂

  • Stephen D.
    2 years ago

    Well done Dave. I’m considering going late September or October. Your simple visuals really help me get a grasp on these items. I want to do it with a minimum of gear. I do have concern with the size of the 30 liter day pack when it’s filled. I used one on pilgrimage to Medugorge in Bosnia and I did not like we’re it rested on my back. What do you think about getting a bigger pack that just hangs lower? May look a bit dumpy, but looks don’t necessarily count on the Camino. I’m 60 years old, bald and widowed, so appealing to the opposite sex is not that important anymore. Haha
    Peace, Steve Indianapolis Indiana

    • Haha! In terms of the pack, I’d say go for it with something a bit bigger. I took my 30 liter one because it’s what I already had, but there were definitely some compromises in terms of comfort / where it sat on my back. I picked up a 44 litre Osprey model for my Hadrian’s Wall hike last year, and filled up about two-thirds of it. It was a much more comfortable experience!

  • Hi Dave,
    Great idea about the app instead of bringing the guide book. which one do you recommend?
    Cheers Fi

  • Dominic
    2 years ago

    Really good read as is the Hadrian’s wall blog, many thanks. I may have missed it but did you say what your pack weighed altogether?

    • I did, but it’s easy to miss 😀 For both hikes, my pack weighed about 7kg without water.

  • David Loyd-Hughes
    2 years ago

    Huge Thank you. Found your list researching for short walk along the Via Francigena Tuscany Believe very helpful We plan 8 days of 25 klm early May so possibilities of rain means jackets for sure We plan to enjoy local Cuisine at night so will need some tidy( ish) clothes. Socks n Undies I am now convinced to invest in the best that you recommended as most of my much of my walking gear has come from charity shops! Report back in a few months David. ‘ Slow Food by Foot’. Both over 65 And Not afraid to take it easy Researching possibilities of packs being sent ahead on some days to the next accommodations

  • Annette
    2 years ago

    A friend and I begin our walk of the way in April… I’m so excited! We’ve given ourselves 6 weeks to walk to Finisterre from St Jean. Going by your blog this seems more doable, and at an enjoyable pace as well… I wasn’t so sure it would be. Thanks for the packing tips! Very helpful… I’ve just downloaded the app 🙂

  • Gary Hunt
    1 year ago

    Great check list for me Dave, many thanks. Please excuse my ignorance, but I can’t figure out the name of the app you are recommending?

    • It’s just called “Camino de Santiago Guide”. You’re not the first person who’s struggled to find it, so I’ve changed the text in the post slightly, and linked to both the Android and iOS versions, to see if that makes it clearer.

  • Johan Steyn
    1 year ago

    Thank you for the details. I will walk my first camino in July – the Northern Way. I will leave my Olympus OM-D at home and use my Panasonic CM1 instead. Also, I never walk with poles, so I won’t bother taking any (less hassle on flights too). I aim to carry between 5Kg and 10Kg – hoping to keep it closer to 5Kg if possible 🙂

  • Wow, I’d completely forgotten how cold it could get sometimes. I walked the Camino back in 2015 and this brings back some great memories.

    I didn’t bring a guide book with me when I did it, but I realized how useful it was finding places. I’ll have to check out that app the next time I decide to camino again :).

    Quick question – how many kilometers did you average a day if you remember?

    The list is extremely detailed, wish I had seen something similar back when I was googling around.

    Anyways, thanks for the read! Buen Camino!

    • Hey Thomas,

      I averaged about 25km per day between Saint Jean and Finisterre, which included a rest day in Santiago. Glad you liked the list!

  • Great stuff Dave , very helpful

    I am setting off for St Jean in early september and going thru to finistere

    looking forward to it as i seem to have been putting it off for the last few years

    thanks again

    mark

  • Jane Parkin
    1 year ago

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for both blog and list, so helpful. Am planning to do the Portuguese Caminho soon (June) but would like to ask about food – as a vegan, what are my chances of finding things to eat? It is a problem in Portugal generally (except for Lisbon) but if one can shop in grocery stores and supermarkets it is generally OK.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Hi Jane,
      As with the Caminos in Spain, there isn’t really a great deal of awareness of, or catering for, vegetarians, so it’s even harder being a vegan. That said, the Camin(h)o Portuguese does go through quite a few good-sized towns with reasonable supermarkets, and it isn’t particularly long, so as long as you’re happy to carry 2-3 days worth of food and snacks, you should be able to manage with self-catering. If you haven’t already seen it, I wrote up my Portuguese Camino experience here, which includes the route I took.

      • Dave, hi,

        Thank you so much for responding so quickly. Self catering it will have to be. I read your Portuguese Camino piece before looking at your wonderfully detailed list. One more question – did the albergues have kitchens one could use?

        Again, many thanks for your invaluable advice.

        • Hi Jane,
          Some of the albergues had pretty good kitchens, some had basic facilities, and some had none. It’s something you’ll definitely need to check when working out where you’d like to stay each night. Maybe some of the guidebooks might include that level of detail — I didn’t use anything beyond the app I mentioned in the other post, so I don’t know for sure, unfortunately.

    • Hi Jane,
      I walked the Camino Frances in 2003 and 2004 as a vegetarian with a milk allergy and did not have difficulty. I wasn’t able to order off of the Menu del peregrino at restaurants, but most had some vegetarian options (salad and pasta mostly) and I could get a bocadillo con verduras (sub/hoagie with vegetables) at most bars although they thought it was strange. In Spain, espinacas con garbanzos and gazpacho are both vegan and fairly common. I’m not sure about dishes in Portugal. If you want to say you’re vegan in Spanish you can say “soy vegana” and if people don’t know what that means you can say “soy vegetariana estricta.”
      Hope that helps, Meg

  • Dave, thank you!

  • Quite simply awesome, thank you. I’m just planning my walk for end of August/September and this has just made packing and planning a whole lot easier. Thank you 🤩

  • Dave,
    Thanks for the interesting read and all the great info! My wife and I will begin our Camino on August 28th. She has a bee allergy, not life threatening but we always carry an epipen just in case. What are the nasty insects like along the way (mosquitoes, gnats, biting flies, wasps, etc.)? Is repellent necessary or just precautionary?
    Steve

    • I don’t remember insects being a particular problem, although I did get the occasional bite here and there from unknown bugs. I also don’t remember seeing many wasps, but there’s always a chance, especially in the more remote sections of the trail. I didn’t personally bother with bug spray during the walk, although as I mentioned, I did spray my sleeping bag, liner, and park with permethrin before setting off as a bed bug repellent.

  • Good to know. Thanks! I will probably have a couple more questions for you as we begin our final preparation for this much anticipated trip.

  • Mark Tucker
    1 year ago

    Dave,

    Thanks much for this post. A friend and I will do the last 200 km of the Norte route in mid-September. We are using your guidance to prepare for the walk; from shoe selection to the items we plan on packing. Thanks for doing this.

    I did have one question. Did you take a lot of Euros or rely on a credit card for the walk. I’ve been to Europe a few times and cash-vs-credit preference seems to differ in every EU country. Not sure about Spain. I expect to pay cash in the Auberges but wasn’t sure about restaurants and other stops along the way. Which should we bring – lots of cash or a good credit card?

    Thanks,

    Mark

    • Hi Mark,

      I’d expect to pay cash for almost everything. While you might find cards accepted at some hotels (not albergues) and restaurants in larger towns and cities, that won’t be the case elsewhere.

      I had about 200 euros in my wallet when I started out, and just withdrew more from an ATM when I started running low. They were pretty common, and it was rare to go more than a day or two without passing one.

  • Hi Dave

    Great site, really helpful.

    Watched the film ‘The Way’ with Martin Sheen/Emilio Estevez a few years ago and that piqued my interest at the time. Reached 70 a couple of months ago and now planning to walk the Camino Frances next May.

    Went out for a walk this morning to break in my new Merrills and ended up doing 16 miles. Found leg muscles I never knew I had! I think I need to shorten the next few walks.

    • Great stuff — and yeah, I enjoyed that movie too. The plot was a bit thin, but the landscapes and background of the Camino itself more than made up for it!

      Walking 16 miles off the bat in a new pair of shoes is impressive… and if you didn’t get blisters, it sounds like they were a great choice. 🙂 Buen Camino!

  • hi
    what did you do at night with all your valuables?
    just put it at the bottom of sleeping bag?
    did you lock your bag to your bed in the hostels?
    brgds
    Peter

    • My only real valuables were my passport, phone, and wallet — I’d usually just keep them under my pillow/inside my pillow case when I slept, but if the pillow was particularly thin, they’d go at the bottom of my sleeping bag instead.

      Definitely didn’t lock my bag to anything at night — there’s really no need. If you’re staying in albergues, then everyone else there is walking the same walk you are, knows how important their gear is for comfort and safety, and is highly unlikely to want to steal yours. Thefts can happen anywhere, of course, but they’re rare on the Camino — and nobody is going to steal your entire backpack anyway, so there’d be no value in locking it up.

      Take as few valuables as possible, keep them on your person when you’re awake and under your pillow/in your sleeping bag when you’re asleep, and you should be fine.

  • Duncan Fisher
    1 year ago

    Some very useful info here, and an interesting blog in general Dave! I also had the same issue with the merino top – worked really well, but eventually got a hole in it from all the putting on/taking off of the backpack. I already had a packing list from doing the Frances but you’ve given me some ideas for things I hadn’t thought of, for when I start the Portuguese from Lisbon in the next week. Can’t wait! Thanks.

  • It was informing, coming from an expert. I am headed that way in about a week and had a question. Question is the guide phone app, “Camino de Santiago Guide”.

    Does that guide requires you to have a phone network to use or just a WiFi sufficient? I am not planning on getting a SIM there and not sure if the app is still usable. Thanks in advance.

    • If I remember correctly, all the parts of the app that I cared about (distances, information about what facilities were available in each town, albergue descriptions, etc) worked fine without being connected. I think the map needed an Internet connection, but I never used it anyway. My phone was in flight mode whenever I was walking, and I don’t remember having any problems with the app.

  • Thanks for the info. I’m heading out on my walk in May 2019, looking to shake off the last bit of anger from the divorce. Quit my job back in August of last year while I was backpacking in Spain & Morocco when the boss called to ask if I was coming back any time soon. Nah, think I’m gonna stay a few more weeks… I’m in the process of selling everything, house, furniture, car, etc… and having the same idea, to become Caine from the 70’s Kung Fu series. Whatever happens it can’t be worse than the last 20 years. The only thing I’m really in the dark about is the sleeping gear. I have a small travel sleeping bag, so maybe just that and a liner? Seems like maybe I should put the liner on the outside, maybe one of those net/mesh bug bivy? They weigh almost nothing, but I’ve never used one. Maybe I’m overthinking it.

    For hiking I don’t use underwear. I generally hike in very lightweight running shorts and a pair of lightweight hiking pants over that. I’m in Oregon, so here if I encounter water the shorts can get wet and dry very fast. So gonna stick with that and have 2 dry fit shirts and a very lightweight, long-sleeve w/ built in hood (UV protection) hiking shirt. Legs can get wet, so just lightweight rain jacket which is good for wind as well. I started using a heavy trash bag to line the inside of my pack because I saw it on a youtube video. Then a smaller trash bag for my sleeping bag.

    Anyway, I saved your site because the first thing I saw was, “I sold everything and gave the finger to the rest of the world…” Maybe it was not quite like that, but that’s what I saw. Happy hiking….

  • Carol Ann Keough
    6 months ago

    Very interesting reading. I have completed several Caminos and at 71 years I will be completing the second half of the Camino del Norte next month. I would like to add a couple of things to your excellent suggestions/recommendations. A walked two long Caminos with blisters. I tried everything possible to treat them, but with little success and extreme pain. I then decided to work at preventing them. With so much previous “experience” I knew that certain toes would develop blisters. I wrapped these with self-adhesive tape from the onset and sure enough it worked. While I still get the occasional blister, I treat it immediately. I do break them with a sterilized needle and then treat the wound with anticeptic cream. I do carry a fanny pack and would not be without one. I access and use all sorts of thing s while walking — water, sunscreen, glasses, phone, money, tissue, pen, credit card, passport, credential — and I particularly like having these items on my person when I remove my backpack at e.g. cafes. An absolute must for me. I wear Salomon waterproof hiking shoes, which are wide in the toe box. I also bring a needle, thread and a small folding pair of scissors for a multitude of uses. Finally, I do not use a top loading backpack. I would find access to my stuff just too cumbersome, as compared to the front loading type. Finally, I think each person will find what works for them with a few helpful tips from others like you.

    • Hi — totally agree about taping up your toes/feet if you know where you’re likely to get a blister. It definitely helps!

      I know I’d find a fanny pack too sweaty and cumbersome to wear while hiking for hours, but if it works for you, that’s great. I think it helps that I only really use my phone (for camera, maps, and guidebook) and water bottle while I’m walking, and everything else lives in the top of my pack where it’s still easy to grab while at a cafe or whatever, but isn’t on my person.

      Interesting comment about the waterproof shoes — what time of year have you tended to walk your Caminos? My feet get too hot and sweaty (and then, blistered) when I wear waterproof hiking shoes on long hikes in hot conditions, but I do like them at other times of year/in other parts of the world.

      I’ve always used a front-loading backpack for general travel, for exactly the reason you suggest: ease of access to my stuff. I’ve found that with less gear, and less need to access it outside the start and end of the day, the reduced size and weight of a top-loading pack works better for me on the Camino, but again, as you say, everyone will find the approach that works for them.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Hi, thanks; I did 2 x 2 weeks from puy en vêlay and took a few years break so I’m refreshing my memory in term of packing. Thanks so much. Maybe it’s because i’m a 5’2″ woman (and we are advised to carry only £10% of our weight including weight of bag, food and water for the day!) but I’d say only 2 pairs of socks (including one pair on body), 2 short sleeve shirts) 2 tees or 1 tee and 1 tank, and 2 leg coverings (pants or shorts).

    I wasn’t sure if you reserved or not, but I found it useful to reserve at least a day ahead. some places are fine, but many places fill up (usually around tourist place s and small cities or places with lodging few and far between and it can be pretty stressful. I’m gonna aim to even book 2 days ahead this time. I already tried to book one place and it was full, as can happen…thanks again.

    I got poles and they are great. lightens up the weight on knees and keeps the arms moving. IT’s nice, you can get rubber pole tip covers for some models. they are light and fold in.

    • Thanks for your comment.

      In terms of number of socks, shirts, etc — we’re in agreement on most things. I could get away without the third pair of socks most of the time on my Caminos and other walks, but they’ve been useful during very hot or wet weather when I change socks mid-way through the day, but still have a clean, dry pair to wear once I’m showered and in for the night.

      I didn’t reserve anything except a hotel in Santiago at the end, as I liked the flexibility of choosing where I’m going to stay based on how the day is going, people I meet, etc. That said, it’s probably dependent on time of year — the bed race is very real on the Frances in July and August, for example, and it’s a problem on other routes with limited accommodation as well.

      I’ve switched to using poles for my recent hikes, and I’m a convert! I’ll be updating this list after I walk the Camino Primitivo next month, and poles will be on it!

  • Best blog I have read about the Camino.
    Down to earth. Not fussed about wearing your old favourite hiking clothes 😄. My husband and I plan to take nothing brand new too.
    A question about the primetherin spray. We will be leaving from Australia. Should we spray our sleeping bag etc before leaving home or buy some spray in St Jean and do it the day before we intend to start Day 1?

    • I’d do it before leaving home. While St Jean is a pretty likely place to be able to pick some up, given it’s such a popular starting point, I wouldn’t want to rely on it. Logistically as well, you might find it harder to find a spot to lay your bags etc out, spray them, and let them dry.

      Funnily enough, I’m going to go and spray my own sleeping bag and pack this afternoon, in preparation for starting the Primitivo in a couple of weeks. 🙂

  • Dave-
    Thank you so much for writing such an informative and detailed post! I found it much easier to understand than most others. I have a couple of questions:

    How much Spanish do you speak, and what would you recommend to someone who understands only a bit, and speaks even less?

    Is it necessary to call ahead to albergues and reserve a bed?

    How much cash is necessary to carry during the day? Do most towns have an ATM?

    The Camino Frances is the first adventure of my gap year between high school and college, I can’t wait!
    Many thanks, Elise

    • Great to hear!

      To answer your questions:
      — I don’t speak much Spanish now, and spoke even less when I walked the Frances. I picked up what I call ‘Camino Spanish’ along the way, which is basically just a few useful words and phrases accompanied with a smile. Your needs are pretty limited, so you don’t need all that many words! In reality, on that route at least, anyone in an albergue, bar, cafe, etc will be pretty used to dealing with walkers who don’t speak much or any Spanish. You’ll be fine.
      — there’s no need to call ahead on the Frances unless you’re walking in absolute peak time (July and August, basically). I didn’t reserve anything except my first night in Saint Jean and my last night in Santiago. There’s so much accommodation, usually pretty close to each other, that you’ll typically be able to walk on to the next place if all the albergues do happen to be full. Not following the “Brierley route’ helps as well, as I mentioned in the post.
      — there are ATMs fairly often, but not every town or every day. I just got 200 euros out at a time from an ATM, which was enough for several days, and topped it up when it was getting low.

      Have a great Camino!

  • Jane Maltais
    1 month ago

    Thank you so much for this. I’m an “ultra-lite” traveler anyway but this put any apprehension I had to rest about what to pack. I plan on doing the Frances from Brugos next September (2020). This is the boy version of my own list.

  • Bernadette Reilly
    1 month ago

    Hello I just read your blog! it is very helpful thank you! I’ve already written my pack list from your info. me and a group of girls are planning to do the Lucca to Siena via Francigena Italy next year in early November. do you know anything about this? I hear it is similar, but I am wondering about food, water, rooms and shops etc along this one. this is the only trail I will do in the region as we are coming to Italy to ‘live’ for 5 months from Australia so all our time is allocated to other activities. I hope you or someone reading this has some advice for me 🙂
    happy travelling for its the best thing ♥

    • I’ve talked to a few people who’ve done it, but don’t have any personal experience or detailed information for you unfortunately. Maybe someone else who reads this can help!

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