What to bring in the backpack to walk the Camino?

Camino de Santiago Guide

Essential items and optional luggage for the route

What to bring in the backpack to walk the Camino?
@ Pradero

@ Pradero

Preparing the luggage for the Camino de Santiago

In Vive el Camino we know that both weight and choice of content of your backpack is essential before starting your trip, so we list everything you need in this guide of the Camino. The first thing to bear in mind when preparing your backpack to the do the Camino of Santiago is the time of year that you will be walking. Given that, the backpack of a pilgrim walking in winter should be completely different to those hiking in the summer.
Experts on the Camino of Santiago claim that they are able to guess, with some accuracy where each pilgrim departed from by the luggage they carry on their backs. They find that those pilgrims carrying the most luggage tended to depart closer to Santiago and, those who started from the Pyrenees, knowing that they would have to bear the burden for more than 700 km, take the bear minimum.

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The essential luggage

  • Footwear: This is the most delicate subject. It is essential to wear appropriate footwear. In most sports shops it is possible to find hiking shoes, the most appropriate for walking. Any footwear should be used for a couple of months before starting the journey. Those choosing to wear brand new shoes or inappropriate footwear usually end up abandoning their adventure because of the discomfort.
  • Mid-mountain trousers: Again it is important that they have had previous use to ensure that they are Practical and comfortable as they will probably be used every day. It may be a good idea to take waterproofs to wear over the trousers in case rain makes an appearance.
  • Shorts: In summer you can use them to sleep in and, to walk in during the hottest part of the day and even to have a dip in one of the pools or rivers, abundant along the Camino of Santiago.
  • Sweatshirt or Jumper: Comfortable, not too heavy. Useful on cooler days but don’t forget that you will have to carry it on hot days too.
  • Two Tops: One to wear and a second as a replacement.
  • Three or four clothes pegs. They can be very useful.
  • Three pairs of socks without seams.
  • Three sets of underwear.
  • Flip Flops: Essential to use in the showers of the hostels and to rest your feet    after a long days walk.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Sleeping bag: If the Camino is done in winter, embark on the journey with a good sleeping bag specifically designed to withstand low temperatures. If walking in the summer a lightweight one should be sufficient.
  • Sleeping Mat: at some stage you may have to sleep outside.
  • Special Towel: In sports shops you can purchase fast drying towels. Apart from not being very expensive this type of towel weighs very little, which is appreciated when it comes to walking.
  • Vaseline: Apply a small amount of Vaseline to your feet at the beginning of each day to help prevent the appearance of uncomfortable blisters.
  • Washing detergent: to clean your clothes
  • Pillowcase: Essential
  • Sun protection: Essential
  • Documentation: ID card, health card and a bankcard. It is also wise to always walk with some cash, just in case.
  • Raincoat: Essential to avoid getting wet in any unexpected down pours.
  • Mobile phone and charger: Taking a mobile phone could be an asset or a liability. There are travellers who are addicted to looking at the screen of their phone instead of the surrounding landscapes. However, walking with a mobile phone can be a great help in the case of an emergency.
  • Credential: This document that certifies the walker as a pilgrim. A must have to sleeping in the majority of the hostels. In some establishments it is also necessary to show the credential in order to benefit from discounts for pilgrims. Foreign Pilgrims should also carry their European Health Insurance Card.
  • Penknife.
  • Backpack: A necessity for carrying your luggage. It is very important that it is comfortable. It is worth weighing it before departure, its weight should not exceed 10 % of the weight of the pilgrim. Some models have special pockets designed to distribute the load.

Hiking poles or Staffs: More and more pilgrims are choosing to walk with this kind of aid. In recent years special hiking poles have been overtaking the traditional Walking staff.

  • Hat: Can be a great help in the summer months.
  • Earplugs: You don’t know who your neighbour in the hostel may be. Rest is very important.
  • Some recommend having a small first aid kit to hand consisting of bandages, plasters, iodine, gauze, thread, a needle, a lighter, tape and some kind of anti-inflammatory. However, it is also worth considering that if at any time you need any of these products you can acquire them in one of the many chemists that you will find along the Camino of Santiago.
  • Swimming trunks or swimming costume: Highly Recommended for the summer months.
  • A small torch: The most recommended is the mining style torch, which shines from the front thanks to an elastic belt placed around the head. Thus, the hiker can have both hands free while it is in use and, such a device may result useful to avoid danger. It is also worth having it to hand during the early hours of the day.
  • Reflective Bracelet: Especially suitable for people opting to walk early in the morning or late in the evening when there is little light.
  • Camera: There are not many pilgrims who embark on the adventure with a camera to capture the numerous magical moments. However, nowadays most mobile phones come with a built-in camera, this is ideal as it means less weight to carry and, only one gadget to charge, always an arduous task at the destination points. In winter, the luggage taken should not be too different with the exception of the sleeping bag, which should be more adapted to low temperatures, the jumper may be somewhat thicker and more hardwearing footwear for any stretches of mud. During colder seasons it is worth taking gloves, a hat, a scarf or a neck warmer and a good raincoat, if possible, lightweight but warm enough to protect pilgrims from the cold.

The Camino de Santiago by bike

Cyclists require specific equipment to ensure they reach Santiago safely.

  • Helmet: Safety comes first. A helmet is mandatory. In specialized shops there are very comfortable models available, designed to keep the wearers head cool and, at affordable prices. There are no excuses.
  • Pannier bags: For those who do not want to buy them, there are companies that offer the possibility of hiring.
  • Sports Sunglasses: To protect against the sun, rain and wind, crucial for the descents too.
  • Cycling shorts: A small investment in proper cycling shorts may prevent saddle sores. They normally come in three degrees of hardness. The latest generation have a layer of protective gel and are the most suitable if you are going to spend a lot of time in the saddle, but they are also the most expensive.
  • Cycling shirt: Use a cycling jersey appropriate for the time of year. For the coldest months, a good solution may be to wear a thermal shirt under it. The back pockets are quite useful.
  • Raincoat: A basic waterproof coat to avoid getting soaked to the bone on rainy days. A waterproof plastic bag might be enough to protect the side pannier bags from getting wet.
  • A water bottle: Essential. This can be refilled as you pass drinking fountains along the Camino of Santiago.
  • Bicycle pump: It’s more convenient to adjust the tire pressure at the end of each stage.
  • Puncture repair kit: On any long journey cyclists are more than likely to suffer a puncture.
  • Lights: Although the majority of kilometres will be covered during daylight hours, it is recommendable to take a light on the bike (to be seen, to avoid not seeing) to avoid any problems.
  • Small tool kit: Each cyclist should know his/her bike. With most models a few basic tools are sufficient to fix most problems. It is important to remember to carry as little weight as possible.

Accessories for cyclists

More experienced cyclists’ recommend taking neoprene boots about five or six sizes larger than their shoe size in order to cover their shoes and ensure they reach their goal with dry feet.

There are a huge number of gadgets available that are specifically designed for cyclists and, which record everything from altimeters to speed and the heart rate of each cyclist. There is also the possibility to download smartphone applications, to suit the needs of each individual.

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