El Camino Frances: Pack your Bag

During the Camino, you will most likely develop a love-hate relationship with your bag. One the one hand, it holds the only elements of homeliness and comfort you’ll have access to, as you embrace the nomadic way, but, on the other hand, it does have to go on your back. 

There is a simple reason why it is recommended not to carry more than 10% of your body weight: it does get heavy! Not to mention that you will also have to lug around a couple of litters of water on top of it all. On the whole, it is really not the time nor the place to be high maintenance or to be stubborn about how strong you think you are! Your back won’t thank you for it!

Before getting started, as a reminder (you can read my introductory Camino post here), I walked the Camino in September. Therefore, although the days were uncomfortably hot, temperatures did drop quite a bit at night. With this in mind, here are the selected items that will cater to those circumstances. 

Clothes

  • Shorts: 1 pair
  • Pants: 1 pair
  • T-shirts: 2
  • Socs: 2 pairs
  • Underwear: x
  • Sweater: 1
  • Rain jacket: 1
  • Waking shoes: 1 pair
  • Alternate walking shoes: 1 pair
  • Flipflops: 1 pair

First and foremost, as a rule, the more synthetic the better when it comes to clothes. Cotton won’t be your friend on this journey. You want synthetic, man-made, quick drying, sweat repelling stuff!

Because there are washing facilities of some kind in 99% of the hostels, there is no need to over do it with quantities. Rest assured that you will have the opportunity to wash the stink out of your clothes before long. My top tip would be to get together with other pilgrims and put on a communal wash. Oh, and wear underwear you don’t mind putting on display -:).

When it comes to footwear, having two pairs of walking shoes does seem a little excessive (not to mention the suggested third pair of flip flops/shower shoes). However, it will give you that much needed pressure relief on your blisters. As these never really have the chance to heal before you are heading off again, by alternating between the two pairs, you’ll reduce the possibilities of rubbing the same spots day after day.

Toiletries
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Deodorant
  • Moisturizer
  • Towel
  • (Blister) plasters
  • Sunscreen
  • Needle and thread
  • Disinfectant
  • Cotton balls/rounds
  • Nail File

Personal hygiene is unsurprisingly ‘personal’ so I just included the basics. If you want to add in a little pamper item, by all means have fun carrying it. As long as no one can smell you from the next town over, you’ll be fine. 

Regarding the items in the right-hand column, unless you are some exceptional specimen who, for some baffling reason, never gets blisters, you will most likely want to pack these things. A bit gross perhaps, but the needle and thread draining method worked wonders. 

Extras
  • Hat
  • Pocket knife
  • Journal + pen
  • Handkerchief
  • Headlamp
  • Comfies
  • Water Bottle: 2
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Day Bag
  • Swimsuit

Now, on to the fun stuff! Since I checked my bag, I was able to bring a little pocket knife that came in handy when picnicking on the side of the road etc. If you can’t bring your own, there are tons of local groceries along the way where you can buy one. The same goes for nail cutters and any other missing or forgotten “necessities”.

Next, a wide-brimmed hat is essential. In some areas, trees are few and far between and the sun is absolutely relentless. As a matter of fact, you will probably want to start your day early so as to reach your next destination before the afternoon blaze hits. In which case, and given that you won’t always have someone else’s lamp to rely on, packing a headlamp or other type of light will be a great idea for those early mornings.

Regarding the swimsuit suggestion, this is totally optional as are the couple of comfy clothes. For these, it is simply pleasant to have the option of wearing   something that isn’t made of polyamide at the end of the day. As for  the swimsuit, some (mostly private) alberges have a swimming pool! 

Another optional item is the sleeping bag. Personally, I ended up not taking mine, opting  for a towel instead. If this seemed like a good decision at first, I ended up going to bed wearing most of my clothes  towards the end of September. For my next Camino, I’ll bring a lightweight blanket. 

Finally, do a favour to your fellow pilgrims and don’t use plastic bags if possible, or at lease don’t use them to store the items you’ll be susceptible to need at a quarter to five in the morning. Don’t rob them of those last few tender moments of rest for the love of God! 

And there we have it! The minimal packing list I’ll probably ever make. The only things that remain to be added to this list is an open mind, a smile … and a stone for the Cruz de Ferro. I hope this was helpful, and thank you for stopping by.  

¡ Buen Camino!