We have looked at routes, and then accommodations. Now let’s go to gear. What to bring with you will vary from person to person. There are, of course, some basics such as baggage and shoes. After that items will vary depending on your personal tastes and needs. In this post I will list what I found most useful. For ease, I have posted photos/links from online shops, however, this does not mean I endorse or receive anything in return for posting them. It is strictly for information purposes.
Before taking a look at my most trusted items on the Camino I do want to mention that I carried all of my items the whole way. I did not use one of the baggage services that are readily available. I did consider using these services on occasion, though in the end I opted against it as I really did not know if I would get as far or go further than planned. Another topic worth mentioning is the recommended weight of backpacks. I had read on some Facebook groups that your backpack should not be heavier than 10% of your body weight. Despite knowing this, I admit that I never knew how much my bag weighed. No clue. It was heavy, that is for certain (even after purging it of items on the 3rd day). I didn’t weigh it as fretting about the weight of my pack would be one less concern. That worked out fine for me.
Okay let’s get to it. Here is what I used and found helpful on the Camino de Santiago.
GREGORY PARAGON 48 L BACKPACK (SIZE S/M)
This backpack was amazing. Although my bag was heavy when it was filled it did not feel like it when I had it on. I had it fitted properly in-store and selected the proper length for my back. It sat well on my hips and the shoulder straps did not dig in. It had useful pockets, straps, hooks, etc. There was a area for my water bladder that I was grateful for. If I could have had this backpack in a 40 Litre (L) or 45 L size I would have taken that instead of 48 L as it was too much room. Unfortunately, they were sold out of the smaller size backpacks for my size/height unless I upgraded and spent more money, which I did not want to do.
LA SPORTIVA WILDCAT TRAIL RUNNERS
Good shoes are important as you will be in them for hours. After much consideration I opted to go for trail runners instead of hiking shoes or boots. I went 1.5 sizes larger to accommodate socks and have room without slippage of the foot. These were very comfortable and I enjoyed wearing them. Before my Camino I did break them in, perhaps a bit too much, as the latter part of Camino the wearing of the soles in the forefoot was noticed when walking over rockier surfaces. Despite that they were good shoes. That being said, I will use hiking shoes (not boots) for my next Camino.
LORPEN LINER SOCKS/ICEBREAKER SOCKS/WRIGHT SOCKS*
*A note about socks – I suggest you spend the money on good ones and train in them before. I would also get several pairs to change part way through the day. I did that until I lost one.
Lorpen Coolmax Liner Socks:
Personally, I consider proper socks as important as proper footwear during the walk. I did not know enough about socks until I was a few days into my Camino, when my feet started to blister. Then I learned about liner socks and my Camino game was changed. Liners are thin socks, often nylon, worn under your socks and they help prevent blisters. THEY MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE! I now do not consider going on longer walks without them. I was basically blister free once I began wearing them.
Wrightsock Double Layer Cool Mesh II Quarter Socks:
These were my fav socks. Lightweight and breathable. Which is good as hot, sweaty feet aren’t fun. And these helped my feet be less so. Sadly, I lost one halfway through and used my other socks exclusively with my liner socks.
Icebreaker Women’s Multisport Light Cush Mini Sock: My second pair of socks that have served me well. Also lightweight and breathable. After losing one Wrightsock I wore these everyday for 3 weeks. I still have them and they are still in good shape. A very good quality sock.
FITLIFE NORDIC WALKING/TREKKING POLES
Using poles is personal preference. Poles are great to take some of the pressure off your knees and also good for navigating down those dreaded downhill portions (and some uphills). It is also vital to learn to use them properly as they can be a hindrance or plain useless if used incorrectly (I found an number of useful videos on YouTube). I saw that most pilgrims had trekking poles – some with two, others with one. A few didn’t use them at all. Once again it is personal preference. For myself, I could not imagine walking the Camino without them.
My sister has a knack for giving me useful gifts and this was one of them. Having done the Camino Nortes herself, she knows how useful a water bladder is. I had the valve tucked into my shoulder straps so I could sip my water hands-free. This bladder is a 2L capacity and was easy to refill. Another item I found indispensable on my walk.
TILLEY AIRFLO® HAT and POLARIZED SUNGLASSES
The sun is hot. A hat or a suitable covering is so very important. My best friend suggested buying a Tilley Endurables hat – she said they are of highest quality. They are pricey though come with a lifetime warranty. I was not disappointed in the least. I hand washed it often and it dried so very quickly! It was comfortable and the chin strap adjusted well on windy days. I love this hat!!
Even with a brim on the hat, I wore sunglasses to protect my peepers and to stop squinting in the bright Spanish sun. I didn’t spend a great deal of money on my “shades” as I have a tendency to lose them though I did purchased polarized ones for extra care. And I did lose them. And the next pair. And almost the last pair though luckily I didn’t and they made it back to Canada with me.
CELL PHONE AND LOCAL SIM CARD:
I like to be connected to family and friends when I am away. I always travel with my (unlocked) phone and a buy local SIM card when I travel. I did the same in Spain for the month of September. I wanted to be able to call my mom regularly so I purchased a SIM with data and international minutes. It was still cheaper than cell phone service in Canada. Wi-Fi s available in most places including albergues though at times it was slow due to the volume of users. I purchased my SIM card in Pamplona on day 5. Being in a larger centre made it much easier to find a retailer.
PASSPORT AND/OR REQUIRED TRAVEL DOCUMENTS:
This may see obvious though it is always a good to reminder. If you are travelling to another country it is your responsibility to make sure you have the proper documents to enter that country. So make sure you have everything sorted. And then there is also the “Pilgrim Passport” or credencial. I will have another post about that and resources.
ITEMS WORTH MENTIONING:
Here is a list of a few other items that I found useful:
- TURKISH TOWEL – lightweight, quick-drying, compact, and double duty as a blanket at night
- SILK SLEEPING BAG LINER – I have had this for years and travel with it often. Albergues usually have disposable paper sheets so this was nice to have and good for the warmer nights
- TRAVELON CONVERTABLE PURSE – I used this like a fanny pack to keep my ID, credencial, cash, sunscreen, and phone in. It’s durable and will be used for future travels as a cross-body purse
- HEADLAMP – I found this handy on early mornings when the sun had not yet risen. It was brighter and stronger than the flashlight on my phone. And it’s hands-free
- RAIN PONCHO – I selected a rain poncho over rain coat and pants simply to save space and easy of putting it on. I used it 3 times and it kept me and my pack dry
- FIRST-AID KIT – I always travel with a small First-Aid kit. I had slightly larger one with me. I did end up buying some supplies as I went along at the farmacias. A small one would do well.
- CLOTHING – This is very personal, though I will say the less the better. I had two walking outfits and in the end only wore the same one over and over. My clothing dried quickly (athletic wear). I even had quick-dry underwear. I had one outfit for the evenings and my luxury item was pyjamas. You don’t need much on the Camino and you will likely be carrying it so less is always better.