Camino Frances Part 11 – ‘Camino – What To Pack’

Fisterre (Finisterre)

With my Camino just completed I thought it would be a good time to share my thoughts on gear selection with future pilgrims. The most important advice I have is pack light. The less you carry the more enjoyable the walking will be and the less likely you will suffer an injury that may end your walk long before you reach Santiago.

Sadly some pilgrims discovered they had filled their packs to the point they couldn’t carry them and reluctantly hired taxis to drive their packs to the next alburgue. They paid seven Euros a day for the service. They could have saved themselves a lot of guilt, misery and money if they had packed lighter.

About to present my passport to church officials in Santiago de Compostella – Spain

My Camino started August 15th but I have been living out of my little 22 liter Osprey Talon pack since leaving America May 28th and I can’t imagine needing anything larger. The Camino is not a wilderness experience so it doesn’t require a large pack. Everyday you will pass through towns where you can find food, drink, etc. A half liter of water and some red licorice or the uneaten half of a ridiculously large queso bocadillo was all the sustenance I carried.

The extra gear I needed for my non-Camino travels I mailed ahead to Iver Rakve in Santiago. He held it for about six weeks and charged me twenty Euros. ( Iver is the founder of the Camino Forum. I mailed it from Pamplona because it was cheaper than mailing it from France. Once I did that my pack had 20% more space available but I never needed it.

Visiting with Iver Rakve, founder of the Camino Forum, Santiago de Compostella – Spain

On the Camino you will be walking on sidewalks, roads and relatively smooth dirt and stone trails so heavy hiking boots are overkill. That means you can hike in more forgiving and quicker drying light weight boots. My feet are happy in Merrell Moab Ventilators. I have worn out at least three pair over a few thousand miles of hiking and have never had a blister problem. But if I wanted something lighter or cheaper I would walk the Camino in a good pair of running or trail shoes. You may want to add a pair of “Super Feet” insoles to stiffen them up a bit. A pair of light weight flip-flops are also good to have since many alburgues require you to leave your boots at the door. Although I like using hiking poles the Camino was smooth and gentle enough that I never felt I needed them and was glad I left mine at home.

When it comes to lodging most pilgrims will sleep each night in an alburgue, in a bunk, on a mattress, so unless you are planning on camping I don’t see a sleeping bag, pad or tent as a necessity. In place of carrying a ponderous sleeping bag I carried a Reactor Thermolite bag liner that weighed 8 ounces and compressed down to 3x3x5 inches. Despite being a “cold sleeper” I only used the blankets provided by the alburgues once or twice.

The other thing to keep in mind is that every alburgue has a place for you to hand wash and hang dry your clothes so you don’t need to pack much. Washing my gear took about ten minutes and by morning everything was dry enough to wear again. The exception was my thick wool socks so I wore them to bed and by morning they were bone dry. Wearing them to bed worked much better than hanging them off my pack all day. While my clothes were drying I wore a T-shirt and a pair of running shorts. New Balance running shorts with a built-in liner have never caused me chafing unlike some “hiking shorts” I’ve tried. I also carried but seldom used a lightweight pair of North Face pants and a third pair of socks.

For outer wear I had an old Golite wind shirt, a relatively light “Red Ledge” rain jacket and a Tilly hat. That’s all the clothing I needed for my mid-August to end of September hike.

As for towels I have gotten by happily for decades with just a bandana for a travel towel. I have found nothing rolls up smaller, has as many uses or dries quicker. My wife used a microfiber travel towel about the same size as a bandana and was happy with that. Incidentally she also carried a 22 liter Osprey and had room to spare so packing light is not just a guy thing.

In a small Altus waist pack I carried an iPad mini that doubled as a camera and wifi device. I would not recommend using an iPad if you want to take quality photographs but my DSLR broke just before the hike and the iPad was all I had. My wife used her iPod Touch as a camera and wifi device and was happy with that. Neither of us carried a phone.

The gear I hiked the Camino

Of course I also carried a passport, notebook, headlamp, etc. All my gear was placed in one of three waterproof stuff sacks. I don’t use pack covers. A fourth sack was my shave kit. Just before going to sleep two of the sacks were placed in my pack and the third one along with the shave kit were clipped to the outside so it made packing in the morning easy and forgetting something almost impossible. A carabiner and loop of light line attached to the top of my pack allowed me to hang it from my bunk which made for easier access and kept it off the floor.

Those are my thoughts on packing for the Camino and a gear list is attached for those interested in more detail. I don’t know what all my gear weighed but my pack looked to be about half the size of the average Camino pack. If you don’t like my hiking style don’t get your panties in a twist. It’s your Camino, do it your way and have a great hike.


Updated Gear List covering what I carried on the my 2016 Portuguese Camino is HERE

Gear List

Osprey Talon 22 liter pack, Altus Waist Pack, Caribiners-2,

Moab Ventilators Boots, Flip-Flops, Socks-3,

T-shirt, Collared Short Sleeve Shirt, Tilley Hat,

New Balance Running Shorts-2, Light weight pants,

Red Ledges Raincoat, Golite Wind Shirt, Bandannas-2,

Shave Kit – bar soap, deodorant, Contacts/solution, tweezers, nail clippers, razor, comb, tooth brush/paste,

First Aid Kit – Motrin, Tylenol, Imodium, Tums, Antibiotics, Sun Screen,

Neosporin ointment/Hydrocortisone Cream stored in contact lens case,

Ear plugs, Sunglasses, Bifocals, Reading glasses, Needle/Thread,

Sleeping-bag liner,

iPad/cables, plug adapter, Ear Buds, Headlamp,

Passport, Drivers license, Credit cards, documents,

Notebooks (2), pencil, pen, guidebook

Ziplock bags, plastic knife, fork, spoon

<a href=”http://

“> A video of my Camino Experience




Categories: Hiking, Travel

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32 replies

  1. WOW! I can’t believe the Camino is completedtime really flies by. What is next on the list? When do you think you will be back in the pacific Northwest? It would be great to see you two again. Of course, provided I have some time off from school. We are in full swing and I couldn’t be more stressed, excited, fascinated, and scared all at the same time! 🙂 I spend two hours a week in the cadaver lab and I am amazed at the wonder of the human body and though I enjoy Organic Chemistryit is kicking my butt right nowUGH! You must be happy those days are behind you.

    Keep in touch! Lisa and Jason

    From: brickthomas’s Blog Reply-To: brickthomas’s Blog Date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 11:06 AM To: Lisa Hann Subject: [New post] Camino What To Pack brickthomas posted: ” With my Camino just completed I thought it would be a good time to share my thoughts on gear selection with future pilgrims. The most important advice I have is pack light. The less you carry the more enjoyable the walking will be and the less l”

    • Hi Guys,

      It did go quickly. We are wandering around Scotland right now and will sail out of England for Puerto Rico early November. Amazingly a repositioning cruise was cheaper than a couple plane tickets back to the states so we couldn’t pass it up. What we do once we arrive in Puerto Rico we haven’t figured out yet.

      You’re right. We are happy organic chemistry is a faint memory. Anatomy on the other hand was a lot of fun and my favorite class in med school. It would be fun to poke around the anatomy lab again dissecting and checking out prosections. Well, on second thought maybe I’ll just go to the beach. 🙂 It will soon be just a faint memory for you too. Have fun!

      Sent from my iPad

      • hi Thomas…I’m from Puerto rico if you have a few days here…..go to the yunque rain forest is about 45 minute drive from the metro area or go to the west side of the island and enjoy the Bahia sucia in cabo rojo by the light house ……for my the best beach in pr… the way I start my camino in November just few dayssss

      • Hi Pedro,

        Thank you very, very much for the suggestions. I have yet to figure out what to see and where to go in PR. I wish you the best on your Camino.


  2. I love your packing list items and descriptions, Tom. I have even given some thought to this hike myself. Your descriptions and guidance will prove invaluable should I take up the challenge someday. Thank you. – Mike

  3. Thanks for the Camino list ~ what a delight to carry that light pack and agree that’s all one would need. Mike & I went to a presentation at the ALDHA Gathering on the Portugal Camino given by Bob Peoples who told great stories with his giggly Boston accent. Bob was leaving the next day (Oct. 13) to do his first Portugal Camino; his presentation was based on his thorough planning & experience with the Camino Santiago. At the Gathering we met 2 delightful young Southbounders and later hosted them for 3 nights while they hiked the Maryland AT. Looking forward to learning more about your Scotland hiking & repositioning cruise!!

    • Hi Zig Zag,

      Those Camino packs are a real treat compared to the typical AT bundle. The ALDHA sounded very interesting and good job with the Trail Angel work. Thanks for following along and happy hiking.

      Snake Hips

      Sent from my iPad

  4. Great posting…your next mission is the Via De La Plata! it’s brilliant. Nick

  5. Thanks very much for the list – I’ve been compiling lists of lists trying to narrow things down to the essentials. I would be interested to know what your wife packed as well, if she is prepared to share – it would be helpful to know what another woman considered to be necessary for the Way.

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      No problem. My wife is actually the more experienced backpacker in the family but doesn’t like to write. I’ll get her list and post it with mine and email you a copy too.

      • That would be great – thanks very much.

      • Elizabeth,

        Here is Sue’s equipment list. I hope it helps.

        Sue’s Camino Packing List

        Osprey Talon 22 liter pack, REI waist pack, Caribiners-2, Moab Ventilators Boots, Flip-Flops, Socks (3), underwear (3), Short sleeve T-shirts (2), Arm Warmers, Sun Hat, LL Bean Shorts, LL Bean pants, Mountain Hardware Raincoat, Lightweight full zip fleece, Bandanna, pack towel, Toiletries – bar soap, deodorant, razor, comb, Shampoo/conditioner, eye drops, Lip balm First Aid Kit – Tylenol, Tums, Neosporin ointment/Hydrocortisone Cream in contact lens case, Ear plugs, Sunglasses, Spare glasses, Sleeping-bag liner, Apple iPod Touch/cables, plug adapter, Ear Buds, Headlamp, Passport, Drivers license, Credit cards, documents, Notebook, pen, Camino map book, spare Ziplock bags, plastic knife, fork & spoon

        Sent from my iPad

  6. This was a great post – even though the Camino is different from the AT, I wonder how/what you’d change in with your gear if you were to do another AT hike, based on your recent experience on the Camino…? Also what is a repositioning cruise? I’m thinking of a Scotland tour next summer, so will be interested in your posts about that. Thanks! R

    • Hi Robyn,

      I’ll answer the easier question now. A repositioning cruise is when a cruise ship is moved from one location to another which is typically determined by the season. For example the Alaskan ships are moved south for the winter and the European ships are moved to the Caribbean or South America. So they are one way cruises instead of the round trips, may not have as many ports of call but are often relatively cheap, interesting ways to cross an ocean. You still get all the entertainment, food, etc. An all inclusive 13 day trip from from Southampton England to Puerto Rico (including taxes, port fees, tip, etc) could be had for about 900 USD per person based on double occupancy. I am not a cruise ship person by nature but I really enjoyed crossing the Atlantic when I was in the Navy and I thought Sue would find the experience interesting too so we are set to sail November fourth.

      I need to give the AT question a bit more thought and we are about to leave for the Stirling castle tour so I’ll get back to you on that one. By the way I think you will love Scotland. It’s like blending the Pacific Northwest with Vermont then filling it with friendly people with delightful accents. I’ll get back to you soon.

      Sent from my iPad

    • Hi Robyn,

      I gave some thought to the AT question but I need to correct the price I gave you on the repositioning cruise. It’s around 450 per person not 900 USD for a transatlantic crossing. Oops. Sorry. That’s why it was cheaper to boat than fly.

      As for what to add for an AT hike here is what I have come up with:

      Tent, pad, platypus bottle, steri pen, Tall gaiters, rain pants.

      I used only a bag liner in the warmest part of the year and a sleeping bag when it was colder. Up north in Oct and Nov when it was much colder and we were encountering snow I wore thick long johns (I found in a general store in Maine) under my rain pants and in the sleeping bag. (We summited K Oct 8th then flipped back to MA and walked south to the NJ border.)

      I never cook on backpacking or bicycle trips so that simplifies things. I am not so sure it actual saves weight but I do remember feeling sorry for the guys standing in the rain and cold waiting for their water to boil while I sat warm and happy in my bag eating a pop tart or something equally boring. No-cook is not for everyone but I have been traveling that way since the 70’s so it’s the norm for me. Well those are my two cents on the issue. If you have some ideas or thoughts to share on packing I would love hear them. We are leaving for the boat in two hours and I’ll be off line for two weeks so it might be a while before I get chance to respond. Take care and happy travels.

      Sent from my iPad

      • Thanks so much Brick! Even after all my years of backpacking I’m always looking for ways to cut the weight, so am curious about what others do. I’ve gone stoveless too at different times, but miss my coffee in the mornings too much. So I carry supplies. Have fun on the rest of your trip! -R

      • No morning coffee is the hardest part.

        Sent from my iPad

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your experience doing El Camino de Santiago. It’s been in my bucket list for years, I just need to find the right timing! I’m from Spain so that’s a must! I’ll make sure to save this article and take a look again whenever I’m ready for the adventure 🙂

  8. I used your socks in bed trick on two nights when they were still damp it works a treat..thanks

  9. That’s great! Glad I could help.

  10. Thanks. It’s always been an ambition of mine to walk the Camini – great to get some practical advice from someone who has done it! Regards Thom.

  11. I love this post! I’m glad to find someone with a minimalist approach. Thanks for sharing your wife’s gear list in the comments. My hubby and I are planning spring of 2017. I’m starting to walk more and we’ll slowly gather gear. I was wondering if you ever needed or used moisturizer. That is one of my issues for my face and back get so dry. Any suggestions? Thanks for this post. It’s getting me thinking and planning ahead in hopes to make it as manageable as possible.

    • Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks for the kind words. It sounds like you and my wife have the same kind of skin. She said she used Nivea moisturizer daily and had no trouble finding the small travel size containers along the Camino. I hope that helps and have fun planning your adventure. Happy hiking!

      • It’s good to know that so much is available along the Camino. Sure makes packing light easier. I will keep that in mind while making my packing list. Thank you so much!

  12. Great and useful post, Tom, and the photos on your slide show are amazing, considering your shot them with and iPad! Thanks to much for sharing your insights re: packing.

  13. Oh my I love that video so very much! I reminds me of you sitting by the Christmas tree singing take me home country road almost 40 years ago. I took my parents to Sacramento airport today for their trip home & told them about your amazing video! I really hope to follow in your foot steps along the Camino someday soon!
    Wonder where you maybe today?
    I look forward to seeing you again someday soon! I would love to show you Yosemite.
    Love always,
    Laura Ullmann

    • Hi, Laura. Thank you very much for your sweet review. 40 years! That’s a long time. I’m still sitting here playing the same John Denver songs. Sue and I do need to visit you guys and see Yosemite. It’s nice your folks visited for the holidays. I wish you and your family a fun and peaceful New Year. Love, tom.

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