Decision Time! Our suggestions are based on walking the Camino in summer time and we’re assuming that you’re carrying a rucksack on your back.
If you are getting your main bag transferred between stages, you need very little other than some food, water, an emergency first aid kit, a poncho and hoodie/fleece as mentioned below.
Keep these in a light shoulder bag – the bag offered to groups by Camino Groups has been chosen for this specific purpose and also acts as a souvenir of your Camino experience!
Don’t be too concerned about not carrying a particular item as most small towns will have shops and pharmacies along the way. Many first-time walkers just end up leaving stuff behind to reduce the weight in their bag.
Remember that you are not in a fashion parade – practicality trumps visual effect every time! You will sweat and get dirty and it won’t take long for you to lose any inhibitions you may have as to how you look!
Finally, the more time you give yourself to prepare, the more chances you will have to find the perfect item for you. Outdoor stores will stock all you need but these are rare in Ireland outside of large towns. It’s definitely worth your while keeping an eye on the likes of Aldi to see what they might have on offer.
Your rucksack should carry between 35-65 litres capacity and should weigh about 8kg when fully-packed. 10kg is too heavy. When carrying your rucksack, keep 3 things in mind – make sure to use the chest and stomach straps to take pressure off your shoulders. Make sure that the rucksack is strapped tight to your body and that there is no “give” – this will affect your shoulders, and finally, your rucksack should be aligned evenly with your back. If you’re not sure of this, just ask a friend to look at you when carrying the rucksack. Most good rucksacks will have plenty of external pockets to separate your items as well as external bottle-holders. Your rucksack should also have some form of back support. A rain cover on the bag is also a help.
This is the most important item on your list. Good walking boots are worth the money – consider them as an investment rather than an expense. Boots with ankle support are a help. You must break in your boots long before you start the Camino, otherwise, expect blisters. Under no circumstances should you buy boots that don’t fit perfectly in the hope that they will stretch out or that an extra insole might make them fit. Either they are a snug fit or they’re not. If not, don’t buy them! The image here is of a boot laced up according to a tip we were given in Cizur Menor – the lacing allows for the proper grip while we were also told that you should leave enough room to be able to squeeze your index finger inside the laces.
You will also bring a second item of footwear for when you’re not walking. Our tip is to bring a pair of well-used walking sandals which will give your feet some air when you’re not walking but which will also act as an emergency back-up in case something goes wrong with your boots. You don’t need flip-flops for the shower either.
Good walking socks are also worth the money – expect to pay €10-20 for a pair. Bring 2 pairs and use in rotation (wash the pair you’ve worn for the day when you arrive at your accommodation – the other pair comes in to use while they dry).
Bring 3 changes in total, again, using in rotation. Avoid brand new underwear in case of chafing.
Bring 2 pairs for rotation. If you can find one pair with zip-on legs, consider it as an option, it might be useful if you need to avoid the sun or if you get a cold snap. Once more, ensure these are well tried and worn before setting out.
Bring 3, 2 of them to use in rotation for walking and one to wear in the evenings. GAA jerseys or similar sports tops are ideal as they are breathable and allow you to sweat more easily. They also have the added bonus of a collar which can help to protect you from the sun.
This is needed in the evenings for when it can get quite cool – something like a hoodie or fleece should do – light but enough to keep you warm. Camino Groups offer our own hoodies for sale to groups as a practical item but also as a memento of your walk! This top can also come in useful at night if it’s colder than expected while trying to sleep.
Rain Gear – Poncho
You might get lucky and avoid all showers but we doubt it! Bring a poncho that can be packed tightly. You might find lightweight ponchos from about €3 but a good poncho with taped seams (for about €10-15) is worth the investment. It will serve to keep both you and your bag dry. If you are from Ireland, chances are you will need it again!
A hat serves two purposes – primarily to keep the sun off your head but also to keep sweat off your face. A brimmed hat offers extra sun protection around your face and neck.
Hostels vary in terms of the bed covers they provide. Some go so far as to provide sheets and blankets (more so privately-owned Albergues than municipal ones), but expect the worst. We suggest a lightweight sleeping bag with medium warmth as a good compromise. After all, it might be cool at night. A travel sleeping bag should come with a cover so that it can be packed compactly.
Get a medium-sized travel towel. These dry quickly and can be packed compactly.
Toiletries and Medicines
A bottle of travel soap is useful in that doubles up for use in the shower as well as to wash clothes by hand. Other than that, our advice is pack as little as is essential and in as small a quantity as possible. After that, it’s an individual choice. Just remember that basic toiletries can be purchased in a lot of towns long the Camino.
Similarly to toiletries, medicines can often be purchased as you go. We suggest that you bring a small quantity of blister plasters such as Compeed and some headache tablets, as well as a small DIY medical kit that should include a scissors, some thread and a needle, some tape and some bandage material. This is for use in case you run into difficulty and are far from a town, where you should be able to restock on depleted items.
Tip – If you get a blister, pop it immediately. Compeed is the best plaster we have come across, but the traditional treatment is to run a piece of thread through the blister to allow for the liquid to drain off. A couple of square cotton pads applied to the blister and taped to your foot can help as well in taking pressure off the blistered area when you’re walking.
Carry sunblock as well. You will be spending a lot of time under the sun, so don’t be astonished at an outbreak of sunburn if you’re not protected. Sunburn is a nightmare for a walker.
In the case of items such as sanitary towels or contraception, again, main brands should be available in towns.
For any item that requires a prescription, we advise that you bring enough of that item with you to last the duration of your trip. If you are on a prescription, ask your doctor for a clearly-written copy of what that prescription is in case of emergency while on the Camino.
ATMs are available in most small towns, but you might be 3-4 days walking without coming across one. Try to keep smaller notes on you as small café owners don’t always smile kindly at you when you proffer a €50 note for a coffee! Having said that, ATMs might only distribute €50 notes, so you’ll have to cash them in sometime.
If possible, bring 2 different money cards and pack them in different places in case one is lost.
Tip – When keeping money about your person, keep it in a money belt inside your clothing. Our own favourite is a flat money belt worn outside your underwear but inside your shorts and to your front.
A purist would include this item as ‘Optional’ in that the Camino can be a release from modern-day pressures. While this is true, this is still an essential item for us for many reasons. Your phone can be: An emergency point of contact / Your Watch / A Torch / Your Guidebook (on an App) / Your Camera / Useful for taking Notes / Music Holder / A Dictionary (as an App)
So all in all, we consider it essential! But keep in mind the following: You need a charger and an adaptor for Spain, avoid using the internet via Data Roaming at all costs (wifi coverage in accommodation isn’t that bad) and a useful extra to carry is a battery booster that can be charge with the phone from the mains.
We recommend that you bring the following as well: Sunglasses (self-explanatory), 6 clothes pegs (you will need for hanging out clothes to dry), 2 small plastic bags (for separating dirty/wet clothes) and one roll of toilet paper for emergencies.
A rain jacket can serve a couple of functions. It can act as an extra layer in the evenings for warmth and it can keep you dry if it rains. Our own personal preference is to bring a hoodie or fleece as well as a poncho. Ponchos cover your bag as well as your person and this is essential – getting wet yourself isn’t too big a deal, but your bag (and contents) getting wet is a problem. So if you’re carrying a poncho, why duplicate it with a rain jacket?
This is a matter of personal choice. Some people swear by them in that they give you extra support on hills while others dismiss them as an extra and unnecessary item. Up to you!
Unless you intend on sleeping outdoors, it’s highly unlikely that you will need one.
A thin, muslin sheet can be useful when the weather is very hot and can be used at night in place of a sleeping bag. It’s also lightweight and can be compacted for packing.
The majority of walkers enjoy plotting, changing and re-plotting their routes as well as learning about the towns and regions through which they walk. Take your guide book with a pinch of salt, however (not literally!), and don’t use it as a scientific measurement of distances or the perfect judge of places to stay. The former doesn’t exist on the Camino and the latter is subjective. John Brierley’s guidebook is definitely the market leader for English speakers and although it mightn’t be everybody’s cup of tea, it is certainly as comprehensive as anything else out there.
There are plenty of new Apps in this area, but the world is still waiting for a really comprehensive one! Some people simply prefer walking without any guide book. Your choice!
This is very subjective. A camera is an extra piece of equipment along with accompanying cable and charger and also requires care in minding it. Some people will enjoy photography and will bring a good camera, but for many, their phones will do the job just fine. Keep in mind that no camera in the world will do justice to some of the vistas you will see.
This depends on the individual. If you do want to write on your travels, keep it light and waterproof. Tablets are new to the Camino world and can possibly combine the functions of a phone and a writing pad.
Here’s a tip you probably won’t see in many guide books! If you sweat easily and find the going difficult on hot days, consider attaching a small golf towel to your rucksack strap that you can easily access to wipe your face. Golf towels are perfect as they usually have some form of a clip attached, making it easy to attach to your bag and are also quite small.
You can buy a water bag which fits in your rucksack (inbuilt in some rucksacks), allowing you to sip water easily without having to take out a water bottle. We remain to be convinced though – carrying two 500ml bottles is just as easy to carry and definitely easier to refill!
No, not that kind. The Templar Knights wouldn’t have been ideally suited and booted for walking 25km on foot each day. Body armour here refers to a sports top that is very tight-fitting to the body and is worn underneath another layer. It’s a possible option for keeping warm in evenings and/or at high altitude.
Travelling in colder months
For those who walk the Camino outside of May-September, you will need to consider what extra clothing you will need to bring to cope with colder and wetter weather conditions. We advise you to seek advice on this, possibly from outdoor pursuits shops or experts in this area.