El Camino: Packing List

From Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago Compostela, the most famous El Camino route stretches over 700 kilometers. That as you can imagine is a long way with only your two feet to guide you. If you have been following our Camino adventures you will know it was no easy path to conquer. For those that haven’t go check it out Here. One of the biggest challenges about such a trek is what to bring. You carry your entire life on your back for anywhere between 20 and 40 days. You definitely only want to take what you need. Our list is of course just a guide, what we took, what we sent home, and what I wished I had taken.

The first and most important piece of advice is don’t (unless you have done a lot of pack walking previously) pack more then 10% of your body weight. You pack weight for 10% should include snacks and water. As in, if you weigh 70 kgs. With snacks and water your pack shouldn’t weigh more then 7 kgs. For those that have backpacked before or want to know more about recommended pack weights here is an article about backpacking weights to check out.

I have broken our packing guide into three sections as follows;

Part one is what Royce and I took with us.

Part two is the changes we made.

Part three is our ultimate list if we were to re do the trip and an explanation on these decisions.

Part One: The List -what we took.

Some items Royce took specifically and his clothing varied slightly to mine as he doesn’t obviously wear a bra!.. Well I mean there was that one time at band camp.. For the items we took as a couple but Royce carried I will mark with (R)

  • 35 liter pack (with rain covers)
  • dry bags
  • Walking shoes
  • 2 Quick dry Shorts
  • 1 3/4 sports leggings
  • 1 merino thermal leggings
  • 2 Quick dry shirts
  • 2 quick dry singlets
  • 1 warm fleece top
  • 4 pairs socks
  • 4 Underwear
  • 3 Bras
  • Woolly hat
  • Lightweight dress
  • Buff
  • Rain coat
  • Sunglasses and case
  • Toiletries
  • Camel Pack
  • Camera (R)
  • GoPro and accessories (R)
  • Cell Phone
  • Battery Pack x2
  • Inflatable travel pillow
  • Sleeping bag
  • Silk Sleeping bag Liner
  • Packing cells
  • Pilgrim Passport
  • Bum bag
  • Bank Card
  • Euros
  • Passport
  • Trekking poles ( Royce found some on the way , got given his stick then gave the poles away)
  • Jandels
  • Quick dry Towel
  • Headlamp
  • Small First aid kit
  • Earplugs
  • Lunchbox Knife/Fork/Spoon
  • EU multi charger and Adapter
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Bug Spray
  • A Small Rock
  • Pilgrim shell
  • Multi tool (R)
  • Journal and Pen
  • Clothesline
  • Travel cup
  • Shewee

Part Two: What we should have taken and what we sent home

Sent home

  • Pillow
  • Extra clothes
  • Travel cup (Royce kept his which clipped nicely to his pack)

Should Have Taken and consequently mostly brought along the way. B =bought

  • Wet weather pants (B)
  • Hiking boots instead of shoes (I needed the ankle support)
  • Rain Poncho (B)
  • A second warm top (definitely had colder mornings and days heading toward October)
  • Gloves (B)
  • Zip off pants (I was jealous of Royce’s pants to shorts situation)
  • Long quick dry pants (B)
  • Bed bug spray (B)
  • Washing liquid for clothes (B)

Part Three: The Ultimate List

  • A Good Pack -An obvious essential, this will depend entirely how you are getting to the start point but my advice would be no more then a 35-40 liter bag. You find ways to fill it if it’s bigger. Pick something with shoulder and hip straps so you can adjust the weight on your body. Pockets are always good to!
  • Good WELL WORN Shoes/Boots -The number of people we met with brand new shoes or boots was horrifying. Likewise the number of people after the first couple days with blisters was fairly in line with this. If your going to buy shoes/boots for the trek; WEAR THEM IN! This is not wear them once or twice round the house. You need hours, days, weeks of wear into them to ensure you wont cause foot problems. Hours more if there leather boots. If you have ankle or knee weaknesses I would recommend boots with ankle support. But ultimately wear something with nice thick soles. My shoes though comfortable were wearing very thin by the end of the walk. I also in hindsight wish I had water proof footwear as I detest wet feet.
  • Jandals aka Flips flops -Something to put on your feet when you take your walking shoes off so you feet can breathe. Also good for wearing in the shower and just generally around the hostel.
  • Clothing -This is where everyone always overdoes it. You don’t need it. you really don’t need it. I can say it 100 times you still won’t get how much you don’t need it. Get quick dry clothes. normally you get in sign in to your albergue, shower and then hand wash your clothes. Most albergues don’t have washing machines, especially at the beginning of the trip. They get more numerous the closer to Santiago. Some places have spinners and a few have both washers and dryers but honestly you only end up using them occasionally. If your travelling in the summer, two sets of clothes is all you need. maybe a third nicer shirt and trousers or dress so you can go out in some of the bigger towns. but pilgrims wearing pilgrim clothes in the bar is not really an issue. You stand out as a pilgrim no matter what you do. We went in Autumn going toward October, and doing it again in that time frame I would pack:
    • 2 pairs of shorts,
    • 2 t-shirts,
    • 1 singlet,
    • 2 pair of longs (one trouser (preferably the zip to shorts variety) one thermal legging.)
    • 2 warm tops.
    • 3 pairs of wool socks, (I would personally definitely go with wool, preferably quite thick socks for the extra cushioning.)
    • 4 underwear,
    • 3 Sports bras.
    • For the height of summer I would sub out the longs for a lightweight dress and only take one warm top.
  • Water Proof Clothing -Seems logical, but personally I would go all out unless you enjoy being wet, when your walking all day and it does decide to rain being wet just adds insult to injury. I only took a coat and regretted it. Spend the little bit extra and get GOOD Gear. The cheap stuff is cheap for a reason, and if you look after it good quality waterproofs will last for ages.
    • Waterproof Jacket
    • Waterproof Leggings (strops water dripping into the top of your shoes)
    • Poncho (stops your pack getting wet, more effective then just a pack cover!)
  • Woolly hat/Sun hat/Buff/Sun glasses -I took a woolly hat and a buff as we were walking in the autumn. They are great for the dust if your not used to it and keep you warm on the cooler mornings. I would recommend a sun hat and sun glasses as the all day heat dries you out. Season dependent obviously, definitely recommend a sunhat for the summer months!
  • Waterbottle/Camel pack -I personally preferred the camel pack as you don’t have to try and reach behind you to get your bottle out whenever your thirsty and consequently drink more. Hydration is soooooo important as I found out. Check out my blog post here to read more about that. Have at least 1 litre of water, I had a 2 liter camel pack.
    <<NOTE>>Royce had around 1 liter drink bottle to start with. After tweaking his sciatica because his water bottle was only on the one side of his pack, he switched to two 750 ml bottles one on each side. More weight but better distributed.
    Most areas have water available in plentiful supply but some sections there is quite a stretch between fountains.
    <<NOTE>> The water along the Camino route is perfectly safe, we drank from the fountains and albergues the entire trip and never had any issues, neither did anyone else. Some of the city water is chlorinated and doesn’t taste fantastic. But all the water fountains that are potable (there are a few that stated otherwise.) And albergues are totally drinkable and in our personal experience we saw no necessity to spend money on water purifying tablets.
  • Sleeping Bag/Sleeping bag Liner -I had both a silk liner and a lightweight sleeping bag and didn’t regret it. A lot of people didn’t bring either and ended up sleeping in their clothes when it got cold (or under their towel) as not all albergues have blankets. (And I didn’t trust the blankets, because bed bugs.) If your walking in the summer a liner would be all you need. It made me feel better about bed bugs as well. For the cooler months (i.e. the end part of our walk) I was glad to have the sleeping bag. Ultimately you do you but I would still take at least a liner.
  • Cash and Bank card -If you haven’t already heard the phrase; in Spain “Cash is King.” Many places don’t take a card or there is hefty minimum spend. You obviously don’t want to carry 1000 Euro in cash around so take both a Credit/Debit/Travel card and cash.
  • Passport/Visa/ID/Pilgrim Passport -The first three are self explanatory. The pilgrim passport you get either before you start by ordering online or from an official start point. The passport is needed to collect stamps and for entry into most albergues to prove you are a pilgrim.
  • Toiletries -I will do a separate post just for the girls on exactly what and why I took what I did. But in short;
    • Bar of soap (it goes further)
    • Deodorant
    • Small refill bottles of shampoo and conditioner or shampoo and conditioner bars.
    • Toothpaste and toothbrush. (Royce and I shared our toothpaste tube and bought more along the way.)
    • Sunscreen
    • A tub coconut oil /Your chosen moisturizer/after sun gel. I used coconut oil as It’s also good for my hair as I have long curly hair. And as its a solid I didn’t have to worry about it leaking in my bag.
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Moon cup (way easier.)
    • Shewee (I never used it can’t get the hang of it but if you have one you use, bring it.)
    • BED BUG SPRAY -GET IT! You are VERY likely to encounter bed bugs along the way at some point. You might not get them yourself, but someone you start the walk with will. Better to be prepared and try and avoid the little suckers where possible. You can buy more along the way. The natural stuff apparently works better, and you can even make your own concoction using essential oils.
    • Clothes washing soap Sea to Summit does an all in one laundry and wash soap bottle with citronella to deter the bugs. Or you can use bar soap, albergues again frequently don’t have anything so worth taking something.
  • Quick Dry Travel Towel -QUICK DRY! Microfiber or bamboo, if your not taking a sleeping bag it can double as a blanket.
  • Electronics -This is a bit of a point of contention as many people want to be ‘tech free’ on their journey. But more then likely you will take your phone anyway. I would recommend taking something you can take photos with, be that cell phone or camera (we had both because Blog.) And if you going to take these things adapters are essential and battery packs are recommended. Plugs can be few and far between in albergues and battery packs make your life easier if you have one. Having your smart phone also means you can use one of the Camino apps which also again makes your life easier. To summarize;
    • Smart phone
    • Camera (could be cell phone or GoPro)
    • EU adapter
    • Battery Pack
  • Ear Plugs -Just take them, actually take a whole load in case you lose some. You might not like them, but I bet you like sleep more then you don’t like ear plugs. You can buy them in bulk from ebay or hardware stores.
  • Headlamp -This is sort of optional, if your an early riser like we are an want to get your walking done when its cooler then a head lamp makes life easier, and I would 100 percent recommend it. Also an opportunity to see the sunrise from a good vantage point should be a must do on your Camino journey. But if you aren’t ever going to be out the door before the albergue kicks you out at 8 am then I wouldn’t worry too much.
  • Small First aid kit -you can go as in depth as you like but I would recommend at the minimum;
    • Plasters
    • Compeed
    • Betadine/some sort of antiseptic
    • Antiflamme/some sort of anti inflammatory cream. Not Voltarin as it reacts badly with sunlight. (As we found out from a fellow pilgrim with a VERY swollen knee.)
    • Small sewing kit with strings for blisters
    • Your normal medication that you might need
    • Antihistamine
  • There is no need to take a load of anything other then your regular medications. As there is an abundance of farmacias along the path with pharmacists who are very used to the aches and pains of pilgrims. Remember to take pills out of boxes and remove glass bottles into zip lock bags, saves space when you’re packing.
  • A Small Rock -Check out my blog post explaining the importance of said rock ➡ HERE
  • Camino Shell -Your marker as a pilgrim (as if you need another one! 🤣) We got given ours in France from friends, but the scallop shell can also be purchased along the way. Don’t expect to pick one up from the beach. You would be better off ordering Scallops in a restaurant, then finding said shell along the Camino route. Everybody else has already has that idea!
  • Hiking poles -They make the walk easier. Not strictly necessary but I would take them again definitely.
  • Packing Cells -Just do it, you won’t go back after you’ve tried them.
  • Multi tool -bring one with a bottle opener and a corkscrew! We also used the knife quite a bit. Albergue cooking implements are like any other hostel, there is never a sharp knife. We had the Leatherman Wave with us which disastrously didn’t have a cork screw!

Optional Extras

  • Knife, Fork, Spoon, Lunch box, travel cup -Something we always do while travelling to avoid plastic, and it means we can pre pack tomorrows lunch into the fridge. Royce’s travel cup had a clip which he could attach to his backpack meaning every time we stopped at a fountain he could unclip for a cup of water. Likewise pilgrim shells can also be used for this.
  • Journal and Pen -most people want to document the trip in some way, to look back on the massive journey you have undertaken. There is plenty of time in the day to write a journal and it’s a great memento.
  • Clothesline -We have pegless travel clotheslines that always find comes in handy as there is often no pegs or no clothesline space. Also meant socks that weren’t dry from the night before could be hung on our backpacks.
  • Bum Bag I found it really useful to have somewhere to keep my money, emergency loo paper, cell phone and pilgrim credentials that wasn’t in my pocket and didn’t require me to rifle through my backpack. I would take again.

That’s everything, hope you enjoyed our list. Let us know in the comments if you thought we have missed anything or want more details. Packing is always a nightmare when you don’t know what your really preparing yourself for. Hope everyone is well and lock down isn’t causing too much havoc. Till next time. Stay in the gate and adventure from your living room! 😉 Lots of Love The Not Travelling at the moment Shepherds!

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