Updated on March 23, 2021 by Asher Fergusson
Because this is usually a trip that involves backpacking, it can be quite hard to know how to pack if you’ve never done it before. I’ve put together a guide to help you decide what to wear on the Camino de Santiago, what NOT to bring, and many other FAQs to make your pilgrimage safe and enjoyable.
What to Pack for Camino de Santiago – 17 Essentials
While big bags can obviously hold a ton of gear, it’s best to get a small backpack and use the space wisely to avoid toting around a heavy pack. It’s also a good idea to get one with hip straps that help you maintain your balance.Other good things to have on hand include a rain cover and a hydration pack, which can be bought separately if you already have a backpack.
Stay organized and make packing for the trip a breeze. These top-quality packing cubes will make it easy to arrange your belongings at your destination so you’ll always be able to easily find what you’re looking for. Once you start using packing cubes you’ll never want to go back!
Just because you’re going to be hiking in all weather doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take along what you need to stay moderately clean and presentable on your travels. Of course, what that entails varies depends on your own personal needs but your list might include things like soap, shampoo, deodorant, ponytail holders, chap-stick, and other hygiene products.
Consider purchasing a pre-stocked set of mini-toiletries for the occasion – it can really save you a lot fo trouble. Another thing you may want to bring with you is rolls of travel toilet paper or a small pack of tissues. Yes, really! These come in handy when you find yourself miles from the nearest bathroom.
4. Neck Wallet
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There aren’t any fashion police en route to Santiago so you can pack sensible, practical garments without worrying that you’ll stand out from the crowd. If you can get by with only a couple of outfits, that’s great. Most sources recommend taking along two outfits so that you can swap them out. But if the thought of wearing just two outfits every day for weeks drives you crazy, you might want to pack a few extra options. In terms of underwear, look for items that dry quickly and won’t chafe. Just keep in mind that you want to pack undies made from synthetic fabrics instead of those made from cotton ones. This is because cotton can take quite a while to dry and that isn’t an ideal scenario when you’re doing laundry every other day.
Durable shoes with good traction are a must for the trail. You’re going to be walking for a long time each day so make sure the shoes that you’re bringing along for the ride are comfortable and well broken-in before you leave home.
You’ll want something to protect you from the weather while you’re outdoors. A lightweight, well-made rain jacket is always a good idea. However, ponchos are also good because they can be folded up into a tiny ball if they’re not in use. You might also want to look at purchasing a windproof travel umbrella. If you can find waterproof hiking pants, that’s a bonus.
You’re going to be drinking a lot of water on your journey. While the tap water in France and Spain is generally safe to drink, it might not always be to your personal tastes. The best way to avoid this potential problem is to take a water bottle with its own filter.
The lighter, the better. You might even want to make your own sleeping sack since traditional sleeping bags are often really heavy. Some folks that go on the trail during the summer might even get by with either a single sheet or a single comforter. You may also want to bring a small travel pillow to use or at least bring along a pillow case to keep from having to put your head down on ones that might not be clean.
11. Sun Protection
This could be in the form of sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, bandanas/buffs, lightweight scarves, or some combination of those things.You’re going to be out in all weathers so you definitely want to protect yourself from the damaging effects of the sun.
It’s never a good idea to be without food, particularly when you’ve got a long hike ahead of you. Having snacks on hand will keep you sociable and fully energized if you get hungry miles from the next town. You’ll also want to bring along utensils and antibacterial wipes or hand sanitizer so that you can clean your hands properly before you eat anything.
Since you’re not going to be spending much of your time at places with actual electric outlets, having a portable power bank is a good way to keep your cellphone functioning at peak levels while you’re on the trail.
15. Laundry Soap
With only a few outfits to choose from, you’re probably going to be doing laundry on a regular basis. I personally like Dr. Brommer’s because it’s good at getting tough stains out of clothes and it comes in a wide variety of scents.
If you’re bothered by the snores of other people and plan on staying in pilgrims hostels along the way, either one of these items is a trip essential. A sleep mask might also be good item to have on hand if you’re the sort of person who wakes up every time someone in your room turns on an overhead light.
It’s best to arrive prepared for whatever weather you will encounter on your journey. This is a great umbrella that’s well constructed to withstand even strong winds. It’s compact and comes with a carrying case that allows you to store your wet umbrella without getting surrounding items wet.
Placing a seashell on your bag is an age-old tradition that marks you as a pilgrim who’s en route to Santiago. The locals recognize this symbol and are usually willing to help travelers on their way. However, if you prefer to go incognito, that’s perfectly okay too.
Other packing list items for Camino de Santiago
Reusable lightweight bag
Quick Drying Travel Towel
What to wear on the Camino de Santiago
1) Sturdy, practical clothes that work good in all weathers and will stand up to repeated washings. They get bonus points for being rainproof or at least water resistant.
2) Even in the summer months, bringing along some cold weather items is a good idea because the temperature can drop suddenly and unexpectedly in mountainous regions.
3) Something that perks up your appearance the evenings so that you’re not stuck wearing grungy hiking gear the entire trip. This item could be earrings, lipstick, a second pair of shoes, or even a fresh shirt.
4) You’ll obviously want to pack warmer clothes when the forecast calls for cold weather and lighter garments in hot weather. Good winter options may also include thick scarves, fleece hats, and gloves.
What NOT to take on the Camino de Santiago
2) Uncomfortable Footwear – You’ll be doing a lot of walking so leave any uncomfortable footwear behind. It should go without saying that this caveat also covers high heels because they’re certainly not suitable for all the hiking you’ll be doing along the way.
4) Large Electronic Devices – Items like computers or overly large cameras that aren’t worth the additional weight they add to your pack. You can instead use your phone to take pictures and to post humble-brag Facebook status if you feel you must.
FAQs about Hiking the Camino
1) How long is Camino de Santiago and how difficult is it to hike?
As Santiago has been a popular pilgrimage site for centuries there are many different routes to the town’s cathedral. The most popular route is called the French Way, which goes over the border from France into Spain. It lasts 790 kilometers (about 500 miles). For the most part, the trail is of average difficulty but it’s still doable for active people that are in good health. There are also some routes that are more strenuous than others so be sure to research more carefully the path you plan on taking before setting out. It’s also a good idea to build up your strength by taking long walks that increase in duration for a while before you leave for your trip.
2) How long will I need to complete the route?
The French Way takes a little over a monthto complete if you are on foot. Other methods of conquering the trail might involve bicycles, horses, and possibly hopping on a busfor a bit. Any of these tactics caneasily reduce the time it will take to get from point A to point B. Other routes may take longer or shorter amounts of time to complete. Just keep in mind that you must do the last portion of the path either on foot for 100 kilometers (62.14 miles) or by bicycle for 200 kilometers (124.28 miles) in order to receive your completion certificate.
3) What’s a good basic daily budget for hiking the Camino de Santiago?
$40 to $60 per person is a good base rate for this trip. However, this estimate does depend on where you plan on spending the night and how much you typically need for food on a daily basis. While donation-based accommodation can be found in some spots, pilgrim’s hostels(calledalbergues or refugios)normally charge around €8 ($9.55 USD) per night. Meanwhile, staying in a private hostel or hotel could easily cost you anywhere from $30 to $60 or more on a daily basis. Your trip cost calculations should also include the price of transport from your home to your starting point as well as any additional activities or services that you plan on using. For instance, you can pay to have your bags transported from point to point on a daily basis so you don’t have to carry them around
4) When is the best time of year to hike the trail?
As is the case with many European destinations, the Camino de Santiago can be quite crowded and warm during the summer months. It can also be icy cold and totally devoid of people in the wintertime. Therefore, the months of May, June, September, and October are generally considered the best time to go for milder weather and fewer crowds.
5) What pack size is best?
For this trek, the recommended average is under 20 pounds for men and under 15 pounds for women. However, the amount you are able to successfully carry might end up being more or less than that. Just keep in mind that the less you pack, the less you’ll end up carrying and the road is long.
6) What are some space saving tips for hikers?
Use items that have dual functionality. If your phone has a camera and a book reader feature on it, you may want to simply use them to avoid taking along extra items. Likewise, it’s a good idea to bring things like sarongs that can double as a shower cover-up, towels, dresses, picnic blankets, privacy curtains, and so on. The more purpose that your gear serves, the less ultimately you have to bring with you. Leave behind anything you don’t need. Your back and feet will thank you.
7) Are there any additional safety issues that need to be addressed?
Not aside from the usual ones that go along with hiking and staying in hostels. Just be cautious and you should be perfectly fine.
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