This post is long overdue but here we go!
Planning to walk Camino is an exercise in lightweight packing and de-cluttering. I wanted to walk 800km over a 6 week period and I would need to carry all my clothing, toiletries, and medical supplies on my back during that time. Packing a light pack makes the long walking a lot easier.
I was advised to carry no more than 10% of my body weight in my backpack. I was advised to carry no more than 10kg but to really aim for 6-7kg. I was advised to weigh out every item of gear before I packed it, and to omit anything that didn’t have at least a dual role. After years of hiking and camping, I thought I had a pretty good handle on packing a backpack. Turns out, I didn’t have *that* good a handle on it because I am used to packing for wind, rain, and cold conditions – and Spain was hot and dry. I found it difficult to resist packing backup clothing and rain gear.
I packed my backpack the evening before I flew out to France.
Last minute packing at its best!
I didn’t test out my gear before I packed it. I didn’t do practice walks with my backpack for weeks in advance. I didn’t know what it all weighed when it was packed away and sitting on my shoulders. I didn’t have time to organise all of this before I left.
The night before I flew to France, I sat on the floor of my spare room with gear all around me – deciding what to bring and pulling labels off my new purchases. I’m sure this last minute frenzy is sweat-inducing for many people but my philosophy was this:
I am going to get this gear list wrong in some way – just because I’ve never done this before and the future weather conditions are unknown. So, I will pack as sensibly as I can but I will allow myself to replace or remove gear along the way if I need to. And I allow myself to figure it out as I go along.
If I do say so myself, that flexibility around my gear gave me great freedom and it allowed me to relax. I didn’t have to get it all perfectly right. I didn’t have to have all the answers in advance. I could make it up as I went along.
So what *did* I pack?
My Camino Packing List – What I Brought to France/Spain:
- 45L North Face backpack
- 1 pair Leki hiking poles
- 1 white sports sock to cover the hiking poles when I checked my bag in at the airport
- Scallop shell hanging on outside of pack, gifted to me (Thanks Jen!)
- Nite ize buglit flashlight attached to shoulder strap of backpack (Thanks Katie & Jon!)
- 1 lightweight Columbia rain jacket
- 1 pair lightweight North Face rain pants
- Chaco hiking sandals for 10 days then swapped to Salomon hiking shoes. (I didn’t buy the Gore Tex variety because they felt too heavy & the weather/ ground were dry)
- 3 pairs medium weight hiking socks (2 pairs of 1000 Mile Socks & 1 pair Bridgedale wool)
- 1 pair of Crocs (with holes!) to wear in the evenings & in the shower. Unlike flip flops, I could wear socks with them (how sexy!)
- Custom fitted arch supports
- 1 pair of Columbia hiking shorts for day use
- 1 pair of North Face long pants for evenings (not the zip-away ones)
- 2 wick-away t-shirts (synthetic, quick-drying)
- 1 cotton t-shirt for evenings and bed
- 1 Lowe Alpine fleece sweater (a really ugly one too that I’ve had for 10+ years & I didn’t mind it getting more scruffy. The fashionista in me sometimes regretted that it was *so* ugly and I felt self-conscious about looking so rough – but it was warm, dried quickly, and worked as expected so I can’t really fault it)
- 1 fleece hat
- 1 REI sun hat (thanks Jen!)
- 1 quick-dry sports bra
- 4 pairs underwear
- 1 cotton pashmina
- 1 pair of sunglasses, which I broke along the way so I bought more
- 1 extra-large travel towel (the size of a regular bath towel)
- Bandana (it hid all my bad hair days!)
- 1 wristwatch with leather strap
- iPhone charger
- Travel adaptor
Sleeping gear: (thanks Jen!)
- Sea2Summit pyrethrin-treated sleeping bag liner
- Homemade blanket of silk fabric and Primaloft
- Printed email confirmation for outbound flight to France
- 1 money belt to go around my waist
- Pilgrim Passport (compostella)
- John Brierley’s guide book from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago
- John Brierley’s guide book from Santiago to Finisterre
- Debit card & credit cards
- Hardback A5 journal & 2 pens
- Lightweight fabric crossover bag (Thanks Jen!)
- Lightweight money purse big enough for credit cards & cash
- Medical information printed in different languages & laminated
Food & Drink:
- Plastic spoon/fork thing with a serrated edge (it was meant to act as a knife but it couldn’t cut butter!)
- 1 lightweight 1L plastic sports bottle
- 1 collapsible Platypus hydration system (Thanks Megan & John!)
- 1 large double zip lock bag to hold everything (durable, see-through, lots of space)
- Synthetic face cloth for my face (advertised as useful for cleaning my kitchen or car!)
- Sunscreen (I used SPF 50 & SPF 30 in generous doses
- Travel size shower gel (filled up as I went along)
- Travel size foot cream (Thanks Edel!)
- Travel size face wash (Thanks Edel!)
- Shower gloves
- 2 disposable razors
- Female sanitary supplies (& bought more along the way)
- Small tin of vaseline for my feet
- Normal size toothbrush
- Half tube of normal size toothpaste
- Dental floss
- Roll-on deodorant
- Plastic hairbrush
- Hair ties (I never counted how many)
- 10 packs of foam earplugs
- 10 clothes pegs
- Lip balm
(I saw safety pins listed on other peoples’ packing lists but I couldn’t figure out why, so I didn’t bring any. Turns out, if you need to dry your laundry on your backpack while you walk, then safety pins are more secure than clothes pegs).
- Band Aids (Thanks Frederique!)
- Sterile wipes (Thanks Frederique!)
- Dr. Scholl blister plasters (Thanks Frederique!)
- Nail scissors
- Mefix blister wrap (a gift (thanks Jen!) but I never figured out how to use it)
- Compeed plasters – various shapes and sizes
- Antiseptic cream (small)
- Antihistamines (never used)
- Paracetamol (useful when I got a cold)
- Antacid tablets (never used)
- Immodium (never used)
- Several small Ziploc bags
- 2 large double lock Ziploc bags (for toiletries and keeping my paperwork dry – amazing!)
- Several plastic bags to wrap my clothes in
- Keychain REI temperature gauge with mini compass (lost along the way, sorry Jen!)
- 1 small glass rock to leave at Cruz de Ferro
Things I acquired along the way:
- 1 travel adapter plug for my phone
- 1 rain cover for my backpack
- 1 pair of Salomon hiking shoes
- 1 bright orange Altus poncho
- 1 lightweight fleece jacket
- 1 pair of fleece-lined leopard print leggings (saucy!) (in anticipation of cold mountains but I never wore them)
- 1 wick-away t-shirt to replace the one I accidently destroyed (Thanks Fred!)
- 1 cotton Tommy Hilfiger sequin t-shirt
- New sunglasses
- Sink plug (thanks Don!)
- Strong plastic shower gel bottle (thanks Don!)
- Anti-inflammatory gel
- Anti-inflammatory tablets
- 1 new A5 journal
- 1 pocket book called “Daily Strength”, handed out for free when I arrived in Roncesvalles
- 1 pair of earrings
Things I sent home (and why):
- Rain pants – My first 3 days of walking were exceptionally hot & I figured I wouldn’t need them for the rest of the trip. It was a risky decision but it worked out.
- Long sleeve thermal top – too hot to wear (again, a risk that worked out)
- Fabric money belt – awkward to wear under my shorts *and* the waist strap of the backpack. It got sweaty and grimy and was very uncomfortable.
- My hiking sandals – only after I finished with them and had transferred to the hiking shoes. They weighed 1kg and were too heavy to carry just for the fun of it.
- Old phone charger. I thought it *would* work in Spain but it didn’t, so I sent it home to use again on some other future vacation
- Used pages from my guidebook. I read (in the guidebook, incidentally) that I could lighten my pack by tearing out the pages for towns I’d already passed through. I did this for a while & sent the pages home so I could read them again in the future. (and we all know this didn’t happen!)
Things I should have sent home, binned, or given away (and why):
- Mefix blister wrap. I never figured out how to use this (even after repeated Googling) and I carried the weight of it all 800km. Silly, silly, stupid.
- My rain coat. I carried a raincoat *and* a poncho and didn’t really need both. The poncho was good in mild but wet weather. The rain coat was good in cold/windy, wet weather. I had very little of either and could have omitted some weight by choosing only one of these items.
- The rain cover for my backpack. My poncho had a special flap to cover the backpack so I didn’t need an extra cover as well. I guess I was paranoid about getting wet (cold, sick, and covered in blisters) but I could have taken this out.
- My first journal. I filled the pages with writing but continued to carry it in my backpack – afraid of losing it if I posted it home in the mail. It was a heavy luxury to carry.
- Custom made orthotic insoles – I couldn’t find a pair of hiking shoes that these fit into so I couldn’t use them. Really, if I wasn’t wearing them on my feet there was no point in having them.
- Tommy Hilfiger t-shirt – I hardly wore it & it only added to the weight
- Travel size foot cream – I hardly ever used it & Vaseline would have done the same job
- 1 white sports sock to cover the hiking poles. Really, it was ridiculous that I even carried this!
What I loved (and why):
- Nite ize buglit flashlight – powerful light, very portable, very light
- Columbia hiking shorts – lightweight, quick-drying, very comfortable
- Altus poncho –even though I hardly used this, it covered everything (including my pack) but allowed lots of air to circulate in around my legs & torso – very important in mild weather.
- Wick-away t-shirts. I know some people think all this high-tech gear is a load of overpriced marketing nonsense but I felt quite comfortable in 35 degree heat because of these t-shirts. Star buy.
- Salomon shoes – cushioned, light, and tremendously durable
- 1000 Mile Socks – They have a blister-free guarantee or your money back. Highly recommended.
- My €2 shower gloves – magically scrubbed away the day’s sweat, grime, and sunscreen – in seconds!
- Sleeping bag liner – much lighter than a sleeping bag, comfortable, quiet, and not a bed bug in sight! Highly recommended.
- My cotton pashmina. This was a last-minute grab as I left to catch my plane for France. The morning was dark, cold, and raining, and I wanted some emotional comfort for my trip (so the scarf was a “blankie” of sorts). I used this every day as:
- A pillow case
- An eye mask to block out the light caused by roommates
- A wrap around my shoulders to keep me warm
- A wrap around my waist when dashing to the bathroom in the middle of the night & needed some modesty!
- My Platypus hydration system. People either love or hate these things but I’m definitely in the former camp. I loved being able to drink water while I walked, without having to take off my backpack or stretch around for a water bottle. Genius.
- Compeed plasters – I used these whenever I got a “hot spot” on my feet and remained blister-free for most of the trip. The reason they are so great is because they are more cushioned than other varieties and the glue on them stays stuck to the skin so they don’t dislodge with long distance walking. Worth the money.
- My €2 plastic nailbrush – I used this to clean my Chaco sandals, my Crocs, and my clothes. Just like the shower gloves, this removed grime and sweat quickly – loved it.
What I would change next time round:
- Backpack – The size was good but the item itself weighed 1.5kg when empty. Frankly, that’s too heavy.
- Hiking poles – They’re 10+ years old and a bit heavier than the new varieties. I’d try to get lighter ones.
- Arch support for my shoes. I use arch support in my daily life but didn’t use any on camino (because I bought my shoes along the way and my custom-made insoles didn’t fit). Painful decision.
- Pack 2 sports bras
- If I were walking Camino Francés (in particular), I’d bring Brierley’s maps but not the full guide book. Everything was so well sign posted & I didn’t read all his extra material, so the maps alone would have been sufficient.
- I’d carry less water each day. Someone convinced me to carry 4 litres while crossing the Meseta – that’s 4kg of weight – madness!
What do you think?