4 Essential Packing Tips for the Camino de Santiago
While there's no wrong way to walk the Camino, what you bring impacts your journey. A pilgrim who walked the Camino Frances shares four essential tips on what to pack for your long walk to Santiago de Compostela.
The pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is Spain is a journey growing increasingly popular as travelers look for new ways to find meaning in their trips. Although the walk has Christian origins, it’s now undertaken by people of every faith and nationality. It’s a social experience for some, and a journey to find deeper meaning for nearly all who walk it. After trekking 500 miles (800 kilometers) from France to Spain with my niece in tow, we learned a lot about what we needed to bring on the Camino—and even more about the non-essentials we should have left behind.
Read on for four key tips that will help you decide what to pack for the Camino, the right types of gear, and a packing list of essentials for your long walk to Santiago.
What is the Best Backpack for the Camino?
Perhaps the first question many wonder, the best backpack for the Camino depends on how you plan to walk. You’ll want a lightweight and small (well under 40L) backpack if you plan to walk with your pack—it should have waist and chest straps and bonus points for water bottle holders.
However, if you plan to ship your bag ahead each day so that you can walk unencumbered—which is easier than you can imagine—you can opt for a more spacious pack paired with a waist pack or day bag. Consider the following backpacks and waist packs for your Camino.
● Global Companion 40L: You’ll see some pilgrims walking the Camino with packs 40L and larger, but unless you have trained for walk, packs of this size are ideal when you’re using the daily ship-ahead option for your pack. Even if you plan to send you pack ahead every day, there will be times you have to shoulder it and walk, so opt for a backpack designed to be worn for hours—comfortable waist and chest straps, and backpacks designed for women. The tuckaway rainfly will be appreciated as well!
● Wayfinder 20L: For minimalist travelers, this could work as your sole pack. For those shipping their bag ahead, consider the spacious Wayfinder Crossbody to carry your essentials (water, sunscreen, etc).
● Stash Waist Bag: A small waist bag is perfect for those shipping a bag ahead, or those without easy-access pockets on their main pack so you can keep a few granola bars and your Camino pilgrims passport handy.
1. Carry the Right Sized Pack
You may think this was just covered, but your pack size and weight is just too important to not emphasize again. Packing light is essential. What you pack for the Camino can dramatically impact your walk—which is a misnomer. Though it’s a walk anyone of reasonable fitness can successfully walk, you will trek through the Pyrnees mountains, and up and down at points. You will also trek for hours and hours every day (many pilgrims put in four to eight hours of daily walking). If you’re carrying your pack day in, day out, you truly should aim for under 40L. If you’re shipping ahead (which is what my niece and I did on our Camino once the blisters started), you can pack a bit more and then use a lightweight day pack or waist bag.
2. Prepare for the Elements
It will rain on your Camino. You will also face incredibly bright sunshine and baking heat during some months. If you walk in the shoulder season (spring and late fall) you may even face snow. Research the timing around your Camino and prepare for the weather with waterproof hiking boots (all seasons), a poncho or Frogg Toggs (we had these and loved them), rain covers for your packs, and seasonally-appropriate clothes.
3. Bring Quality Gear
When you pack light, it means the gear you bring will see a lot more use. This is very true on the Camino, where you may pack just two full outfits, two pairs of socks, and a few other packing essentials. As you walk for weeks, cheap gear will not hold up to the stress of long-distance walking. Opt for things like quality wool socks (I’ve hiked with Smartwool socks for years and recommend them highly), durable backpacks, and high-quality hiking boots.
4. Walk Your Own Camino
You’ll find heaps of advice online about how you should walk (to bus or not to bus past certain parts), and if bringing certain items are “cheating.” At the end of the day, the Camino is about your own journey and you should plan for the Camino you want to walk. My niece and I bused at certain points along the route, and we stopped once a week for a night in an Airbnb to relax and wash our clothes. We also walked fewer miles than some each day. But it was our Camino, and we loved it and that was the whole point.
What to Pack for the Camino de Santiago
2 Dry fit shirts
2 Bottoms (shorts/sports leggings and convertible hiking pants in the summer)
1 Jacket for the elements (sun protection for summer, wool for winter walks)
1 regular outfit (for post-walking, think lightweight dress or thin pants and a shirt)
2 Sports bras
3-4 Pairs of Underwear
Waterproof hiking boots
Hiking sandals (optional, some pilgrims alternate hiking days with boots/sandals)
2 Pairs of wool socks
Gear and Extras
Sleep sack (for the albergues)
Poncho or Frogg Toggs
Raincover for packs
Headlamp (for pre-dawn walking)
Basic travel utensils
Water bottle (or hydration bladder)
Travel lock (many albergues do not offer lockers)
Essential medicine (painkiller, antihistamine)
Moleskin (to prevent blisters)
Compeed (for when you inevitably get blisters)
Those are the basics you need to pack for the Camino. You’ll also need a lightweight toiletry kit , your smartphone with a Camino app, and your credential (your pilgrim passport to access pilgrim accommodation along the route), which is best kept in a neck wallet or waist belt alongside your actual passport and credit cards. Buen Camino!
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By Shannon O’Donnell on March 10, 2020
Shannon O'Donnell is a long-term traveler who has been on the road
since 2008 and has lived everywhere from Southeast
, where she now calls
home. She travels slowly and supports
along the way, winning
numerous awards for her work advocating for sustainable travel.