This year we're in the process of packing for our third trip on the Camino. This time for a change we're heading to the Portugese Camino and I thought it was a good opportunity to repost this blog.
Originally posted Sept 2014.
The hardest part of the Camino isn’t the 25km you walk everyday, nor is it the snorers in the Auberges or the fear of bedbugs …the hardest part is spent at home trying to decide what to pack. Basically, (and this isn’t a good thing for a retailer to say) you don’t need much but what you do bring needs to be light and hard-wearing, particularly for all you hard-core Peregrinos who are doing the full journey.
(This is a blog post, prices are correct at the time of posting but are subject to change).
Before I get into what I packed, I’ll show you the bag I used. I chose the Lowe Alpine Airzone Pro ND (stands for Narrow Dimension i.e. lady fit) because it has heaps of access points. You can get at your stuff from the top, from the bottom and from a horseshoe opening at the front. It also has an excellent back system with pockets on the hip belt and shoulder straps. It holds 33-40L and it was carry-on compatible. Perfect bag! Costs about €120 (update the new and improved version now costs about €147.50)
When we traveled and how much we did
We (my husband Philip and I) only had a week off from our shop, of which four days were spent walking. We started in St Jean Pied de Port and reluctantly left the Camino in Puente La Reina. It was the start of September and it was gloriously sunny. You’ll carry the same for a week as a month – just end up doing more washing en route. You should aim to keep your bag at a maximum weight of 7/8 kg for women and 9/10 kg for men and remember you will be carrying 1L to 2L of water which equates to another 1kg/2kg of weight. The lighter the better.
- Walking Shoes
- Two Technical T-Shirts
- A Pair of Convertible Pants
- A Pair of Shorts
- A Warm Layer (in my case a light down jacket but a fleece would have sufficed)
- Underwear (3 knickers, 2 sports bras – 3 pairs of boxers for guys)
- Socks – 2 good pairs (bring 3 if doing longer than we did)
- Something to sleep in (boxers and t-shirt for guys, sleep shorts and t-shirt for girls)
- 2 x normal t-shirts for night time
- A pair of flip flops/light comfy shoes for night time
- A hat
- Waterproof jacket
- Waterproof pants
- A sleeping bag liner or light sleeping bag. (we brought liners, mine was silk, Phil’s was cotton – both fine)
- A travel towel
- A head torch (didn’t use but would probably be handy if you were staying in the Auberges a lot or setting off very early in the morning)
- 2 x Stuff Sacks to pack everything in
- A book
- Sun Tan lotion
- Shower Gel/Face Wash
First Aid Stuff
- Compeeds….(only 5 in a pack so bring 2)
- Stuff for dodgy stomachs
- Insect Repellent – although we didn’t end up using this when we were there
Exactly what we packed
The toughest choice you’ll make is what shoes to bring. I would recommend a hiking shoe or a mid (a low, light boot). I went for a pair of Merrell’s – Siren Sport GTX which I have had for years and which are one of the best sellers in our shop. You are looking for something light, with a solid sole that will give you stability on uneven surfaces. I felt it was important that they were waterproof but some people would disagree on this because a waterproof shoe is warmer to wear than a non-waterproof one. To me the thought of having wet feet was more off-putting than the thought of having hot feet and to be honest I didn’t find them particularly warm so I was happy I went the way I did (even though we didn’t get any rain). Philip wore a pair of Salomon trail runners which weren’t waterproof. They were lighter and more flexible than my shoes. He found them good but on the very rocky sections he was feeling the stones more underfoot than I was.
Two Technical T-Shirts, which I rotated and used every second day.
I chose Merino Wool (Icebreaker – €54.99) because they don’t get smelly. Icebreaker merino resists odour naturally, and can be worn for days – even weeks – without washing. To test it out, Phil wore one t-shirt for four days and it was still passing the sniff test on day 5!
A Pair of Convertible Trousers
Columbia do great Convertible pants. Their Silver Ridge Convertible Pant is very light, doesn’t crease, is comfy and basically ticks all the boxes.
A Pair of Shorts
Again, I chose Columbia here. Quick drying with lots of pockets and in this snazzy beige colour (see below pic) they go with just about everything…plus Phil had a matching pair – twinsies! Silver Ridge Cargo Short – €44.95
A Warm Layer
I borrowed a very fancy light weight down jacket off my sister but a fleece would be fine. I’d recommend something light but warm – so anything made out of Polartec would be perfect.
You can reduce the amount of underwear you need to bring by choosing technical fabrics over cotton. The problem with cotton for this kind of thing is that when it gets sweaty, it stays damp for a long time. You need to chose a quick dry sport fabric – like LIFA from Helly Hansen or Merino wool from Icebreaker (that’s what I brought).
Two recommendations for you here.
The 1000 Mile Approach Sock is designed for maximum comfort with hiking shoes. The 100% Tactel® inner layer stays with the foot, wicking away moisture, whilst the soft wool-mix outer layer moves with the shoe.
The lack of friction between the layers helps to prevent blisters and reduces wear.
I thought these were fab. Just make sure you take your time putting them on in the morning to get the layers sitting right.
These are Philip’s choice. All the benefits of Icebreaker Merino wool combined with a supportive foot bed and reinforced toe box. If you get two pairs and rotate them every second day you’d be amazed how long you get out of them.
Waterproof Jacket and Pants
Thankfully we had great weather and didn’t need to use these but what you are looking for here is something super light. A lot of people choose Ponchos but having spoken to a couple of people who went the poncho option they wouldn’t recommend them as they blow in the wind too much to be truly useful in heavy conditions. If you can afford, it the creme de la creme of lightweight waterproof gear is Goretex Paclite and the brand I’d choose is Berghaus. Berghaus Paclite Pants cost €120 and the jackets cost about €250.
With jackets there are lots of cheaper alternatives, you can get a nice light waterproof jacket from the North Face for about €100 and less from other brands. A cheaper alternative is something like Mac in a Sac. Not as good but will get you through a shower and they are lovely and light.
A good hat with a wide brim is essential for during the summer. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d spend over €80 on a hat until I came across Tilley hats but I’m glad I did because they are the most comfortable, useful things ever. They float, they come with a lifetime warranty, UV50 protection, if you lose it within the first two years they’ll give you a new one for half price. The list goes on.
If you don’t feel like spending that kind of money there are plenty of other good hats from brands like Berghaus, Columbia and The North Face
Sleeping Bag or Sleeping Bag Liner
A sleeping bag or sleeping bag liner is essential if you are going to stay in the Auberges. Some of the Auberges have blankets – some don’t. For example the monastery in Roncesvalles doesn’t provide blankets, so I slept fully clothed in my liner and was just about warm enough. The joy of liners are that they are so light – especially the silk ones. However, only you know how warm you need to be at night to sleep comfortably. This bag from Snugpak is a good option if you want to bring a sleeping bag because it is small and tidy. It still weighs 850g though….but it is treated with anti-bacterial stuff to keep those pesty bed bugs away.
As I said above, we chose to carry sleeping bag liners because we stayed in Pensions (little Guesthouses) on some of the nights.
I carried a silk liner which will keep you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s warm. The silk has been treated to be antibacterial, anti-mosquito and anti-bed bug. It also hides a security pocket inside.
Phil carried a cotton sleeper which also had the EX3 triple layer of protection which prevents bacteria, mosquitos and bed bugs.
A travel towel is an essential piece of kit as you won’t have space in your bag for a regular towel nor time to wait while it dries.
Again we went with Lifeventure products here. Prices range from €18.50 to €30ish, basically the more expensive they are the more absorbent and faster drying they get. We chose MicroFibre, the most traditional of the trek towels, this one offers a little more comfort while you’re away. It dries six times quicker than a beach towel and absorbs seven times its own weight in water. It packs down neatly into a compact ripstop carry case.
I chose this one from LED LENSER because for €29.99 you get 90 lumens (which is very powerful for that price), however I didn’t use it once so I won’t bring it next year.
I think these are essential for use with a rucksack because it allows you to pack quickly, unpack quickly and access your stuff easily. I always put underwear in one stuff sack, clothes in the other and the third for night time stuff like chargers, sleeping bag liner, headtorch, etc. Three stuff sacks weigh just 90g.
What I didn’t bring that I should have….
I was pretty happy with my packing but one thing I wish I had brought was a small packable rucksack for use at night when you’re out exploring or going for dinner. Something like this one from Ticket to the Moon would have been perfect.
So that’s it…
I hope you find some useful information here for your Camino trip, if you have any questions I’d be delighted to help you out. Feel free to pop into the shop or send us an email and we’ll get back to you.
Remember as well, you’ll come across lots of shops over there where you can buy anything you’ve forgotten to bring.