As you begin to pile things into your bag just before setting out to walk the Camino de Santiago, you’ll no doubt start to wonder if you’ve gone too far – or heaven forbid, not far enough.
How do you know what you’ll need when walking for between 20 and 30 km each day? Should you bring two pairs of socks or five? And what painkillers or medicine do people typically require along the Camino?
There are no doubt a million and one questions going through your mind as you prepare your bag to walk the Camino de Santiago, so here’s a quick checklist of the essentials.
Hiking Boots – Good quality and already worn-in is highly advisable. Trainers are fine for many parts of the Camino when completely dry, but can make things difficult in bad weather.
Trainers/Flip Flops – At the end of the day you really need some lightweight footwear to use that is comfortable but also gives your feet a chance to breathe and recuperate after the long walk.
Day bag – Your day bag is going to become your best friend, so try to choose something light and comfortable, while giving you enough space to carry water, snacks, extra clothing, etc. We recommend something in the 20 litres region.
Socks – You will probably have never thought about socks as much as when you’re walking the Camino. Wet socks are an express ticket to blister city, so having at least one pair of dry socks is an absolute must.
If you do only have two, and you find that they’re not entirely dry in the morning, you can use two pegs to clip your socks to the back of your bag. A few hours walking in the sun will dry them in no time. Also, bring good quality hiking socks, preferably with a bit of extra padding, as they make a big difference compared to your run-of-the-mill day socks.
Waterproof – Never underestimate the weather on the Camino. Just because you’re in Spain or Portugal doesn’t mean the rain can’t be torrential at times, especially in the northern regions. A lightweight poncho that you can put over you and your backpack is a perfect choice and can usually roll up into a really small size to fit in any bag.
General clothing – Many people debate the merits of trousers vs shorts, but it really comes down to personal preference and how cold you generally get. A pair of shorts and a t-shirt are usually fine for most stretches of the Camino but bear in mind that some of the mountainous areas can get very cold in the evening, so remember to bring at least one jumper.
Hats & gloves – A baseball cap or something that gives you a little sunshade will almost certainly be most welcome at certain points along the Camino. If you’re walking in autumn or early spring, a warm hat and gloves are also recommended.
Water bottle – Whether you choose to carry a camel pack or simply a traditional water bottle is completely up to you, but we would seriously advise against walking without any water. All of that walking can be a thirsty job and it’s imperative to stay well hydrated along the way.
Epsom Salts – Most of the hotels we use have a bath and we find that soaking in the tub with some Epsom Salts at the end of the day is a wonderful way to ease those weary bones and aching muscles.
Sunglasses – Walking outside in the blistering sun all day can leave you squinting for long periods, so a pair of sunglasses are a real must – even if you consider yourself not to be a sunglasses kind of person.
Camera – Whether it’s using your phone or something more substantial, you’re going to want to take a few pictures along the way. If you think you’ll be using it quite a lot then consider bringing an extra power source with you that can be recharged each night.
Books – Whether you bring a book or not will most likely depend on whether you actually like reading, but for those that do, that little bit of extra weight is absolutely worth it. Reading a few chapters after finishing a delicious lunch in a quaint Spanish town square is one of the Camino’s hidden delights.
Spanish Phrasebook – Of course, you’re not expected to have a firm understanding of the Spanish language, but knowing a few phrases can make a huge difference, both with your understanding, but also to the people you meet and interact with along the way.
Pegs, pins & bags – Pegs are a great way to clip wet socks to your bag, while safety pins are useful for so many different reasons. Bringing a few plastic bags is also a good idea as they can be stuffed with wet clothing to keep everything else dry.
Documents – Not all of these you’ll bring from home, but it is worth highlighting what kind of documentation you should be carrying along the Camino. The Pilgrim Passport is probably the most important and needs to be stamped at every stop at the end of the day. It’s also a good idea to have our emergency phone number (on travel documents) as well as your hotel voucher and directions to the hotel with you in your day bag.
Sunscreen – The sun can be roasting during the summer, so make sure you bring sunscreen that provides your skin with adequate protection.
Plasters – Blisters, cuts, and bruises are all part of the Camino experience. While you don’t really need a full first aid kit, we’d advise bringing a selection of plasters with you, and in particular some compeed plasters.
Lip Balm – People don’t often think about their lips when they’re out in the sun and shops along the Camino selling lip balm sell huge amounts of it.
Painkillers – While we don’t want to tempt fate, it’s highly likely that at some point you will be in some pain. The nature of walking such distances day after day puts a real strain on the body, so it’s always a good idea to have a few packs of painkillers with you to help you through those difficult times.
Kinesiology Tape – This kind of tape is great for strapping minor leg injuries and is small and easy to carry.