The Camino de Santiago, a dream pilgrimage for many, should never become a packing nightmare. So, first and foremost, it’s worth noting that we transfer your bags for you from one Camino cama to the next, so that’s one weight off your shoulders. So, all you really need to think about is getting your body rather than your bags ready. Another thing to remember is that this is a pilgrimage and, although you may not be doing it for religious reasons, keeping things free of ‘stuff’ and travelling light is a good Camino mindset. So, with all that in mind, here are our suggestions for a good Camino de Santiago packing list.
We always recommend hiking boots with excellent ankle support, waterproof and with sturdy and slip-proof soles. You must break them in, for at least two months before your trip. Don’t just borrow your mate’s (albeit tempting). This is the best investment you will make and you may well have them for years. They also become your best Camino companion and will carry memories of the adventure with you for long after.
For the Camino, we think that a lightweight boot is best, as you are covering long distances. Leather is heavy and, so although you may feel miserable without your Meindls, you might want to leave them at home for this one. Waterproofing by the likes of Gore-Tex or Sympatex is crucial though, unless you find that your feet just get too sweaty, and you don’t mind getting them wet, and some pilgrims make this a conscious choice and prefer to wear a quality hiking sandal. If you do go for waterproofing, and most people do, here’s an excellent guide to maintaining hiking boots by waterproofing and waxing.
Hiking shoes and trail runners are also popular options, and lighter of course. One great tip is to bring spare insoles especially if your feet are prone to sweating (which happens more with Gore-tex). That way you can swap them around, and let one pair dry out as you don fresh ones. But most people choose one piece of footwear or the other, and don’t go for both boots and shoes. You are unlikely to wear both, unless you are doing the Camino on the cusp of cold and warm seasons.
As already mentioned, your luggage is transferred for you but still, it helps to not make it too difficult for the local drivers. In general, we recommend a water resistant soft bag such as a duffle bag or backpack, weighing no more than 20kg, or 15kg on the Camino Portugues. Leave your wheelies at home please.
For your daypack, make sure it is waterproof or bring a waterproof cover for it, and as heavy as you can manage on your daily walks. A daypack with pockets, especially for your water bottle is invaluable, and make sure it is a proper good hiking one, with padded adjustable straps.
Accommodation on the Camino includes a mix of small, locally-owned hotels or traditional guesthouses, all offering a warm welcome to pilgrims. They have been carefully selected based on their proximity to the Camino, as well as having warm hospitality, good local food or commitment to responsible tourism. All rooms have en-suite or private bathrooms, so you don’t need to pack a towel.
On some occasions, during busy seasons, we may have to accommodate guests in Camino hostels, but we aim to provide private en-suite rooms in that case. More details are available at time of booking and we will advise if you need to bring a sleeping bag in that case. However, this is unlikely.
Hydrating is vital on the Camino and having a reusable bottle is a must. Choose one that is hardy, as it will get dropped for sure, and it’s ideal to have a spare one too. For some of the longer Camino holidays, we also recommend water bladders that you can carry inside your daypack, or if there are two of you travelling together, one person could carry a hydration backpack and the other your daily backpack. If you are doing the Camino during the colder months, and our Camino trips run all year round, depending on the version you are opting for, a thermal water bottle cover is also handy. Choose one that works in all weather conditions, so it keeps the water cool in summer, but stops it from freezing in winter. In general, we recommend that you start with at least 1.5L of water in a water bottle, on the morning of each walk.
There is no stigma anymore about walking poles, in fact they are the sign of a strident walker rather than a struggling one. Hiking without poles is like cycling without padded cycling shorts or a gelled saddle. They protect your crucial bits and, in so doing, power you to go further.
The Camino crucials are as follows: a waterproof and windproof shell jacket; down jacket; couple of fleeces; breathable and moisture-wicking tops; walking trousers (ones with zip-off shorts ideally) and additional waterproof pull-on trousers, with a side zip; a padded hiking skirt is also a top option for many; and lightweight windproof gloves and hat. The latest trend for cashmere balaclava-style hoods are easy to tuck in a pocket and will warm you up perfectly if temperatures drop.
Never underestimate the importance of good hiking socks either, and go for quick drying and breathable ones, although we value some merino on the Camino. In colder months you may also want to wear a sock liner, but many hiking socks have reduced the need for this. It’s your choice, but the best way to find out what works for you is on your training walks.
Note that gear rarely remains waterproof for more than five years and some may deteriorate in three years or less. So try it out before you go and, if it’s not up to scratch, you can re-waterproof it with specialist sprays or washes. We also recommend rain jackets with a good hood and protective collar.
Sun cream with Factor 50, for both your body and your lips, quality UV sunglasses (with polarising lenses to combat glare and a sun hat of course. One tip is to have a sunglasses case with a carabiner clip so that you can attach it easily to the outside of your daypack.
First aid kit
From rehydration to repellents, plasters to painkillers, scissors and tweezers, you need all the basics to keep you safe, tick-free and sick-free. Stick a whistle and a foil blanket in there too, in case of emergencies.
As well as your vital charger, and adapter to suit the country where you are travelling, we recommend bringing a power bank for charging your phone. You may also want to keep your camera charged if carrying a separate one to your phone, so don’t forget that charger either.
Those little things that you might not have thought of packing, but which our regulars never forget include: earplugs for sleeping in places you are not used to; a flannel to put in your daypack to stick in a mountain spring and cool off with; blister plasters; a drybag to put inside your day bag to keep precious things dry; binoculars for wildlife spots; a head torch; more socks than you think you need; a neck warmer or tube; a water spray bottle for cooling down and a fold up mat for sitting down are both bliss. And slippers or sandals for evenings.
Your packing list isn’t too different if you are choosing to do one of our Caminos by bike, except that you can add cycling shorts and leggings to the list.
Your bike rental comes with a pannier rack, helmet, the all important gel pad, lock, tool kit, bell and bottle holder. Note that in some cases, you may need to bring your own pannier for daytime use, but your main luggage is transferred for you, of course. We will let you know at time of booking, as it depends on the Camino that you choose, whether our local partner provides a pannier or not.
As for cycling shoes, this is a personal choice. Some cyclists may want to wear cleat shoes, and it will depend on the Camino that you choose as to whether we can provide a rental bike with cleat pedals. Cycling shoes wearers are also fond of a waterproof covers to go over their shoes, which keep their feet toasty too. Although these are designed to fit over cycling shoes, there are plenty of everyday waterproof shoe covers on the market to go over trainers. For socks, cyclists are recommended to get ones that are thermal, wind and waterproof.
If you have any other boots, bags, big or beautiful tips to share when it comes to what to add to your Camino de Santiago packing list, please do send them our way on Facebook or Instagram. And don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions regarding what to pack for any other specific Caminos.