Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Friday, October 28, 2011

More About your Camino Santiago Packing List

I posted the main portion of my packing list
for the Camino Santiago
earlier this year.
Search the sidebar for the link.

There are probably as many versions of the Camino packing list
as there are pilgrims.
What you take depends, of course,
on what time of year you travel,
whether you will be staying in pilgrim hostals or booking private lodging,
and whether or not you will be carrying your own backpack.

As I've explained many times,
whether you carry your pack or not,
you will have a much nicer walk if you are carrying no more
than 10% of your body weight.
That is not a lot.
One of the wonderful lessons of the Camino
is learning just how few possessions it takes to bring us happiness.

Here are a few more items you may (or may not)
find useful on your Camino Santiago trek:

Tevas, Crocs, or Lightweight Sandals

It only took wearing Tevas on the trail a few hours
for me to realize the difference between them
and the wonderful support and protection of my trail shoes.
One of my Camino friends,  Lillian,
wore Teva hiking sandals and was very happy with them,
but I'm just not willing to change what's not broken for myself.

While in hot weather Teva or sandals may sound comfortable,
I feel I need more support and protection on the Camino
than can be offered by sandals.
The trail is scattered with sizeable loose rocks 
and some rough terrain.
You are going to be walking 20 to 30 kilometers a day.
That is 12 to 18 MILES.
I just don't see how Tevas can support and protect your feet
the way a good pair of trail shoes can.

I do suggest you pack a pair of lightweight sandals 
such as Tevas
or Crocs.
Teva Sandals
At the end of your day, after your shower,
it's nice to slip into something comfortable
to give your feet a rest and to air them out.

The showers in pilgrim albergues are used by many people each day
and can get pretty questionable as to cleanliness.
(I wouldn't worry when staying in private places - they are generally immaculate!)

Tevas are nice because they can be worn in the shower
and they can be worn with socks, or without if the weather is warm.
They can be tied to the back of your pack for easy quick access if you get a blister.
 Crocs are another great option. They are amazingly lightweight
and can also be tied to the outside of your pack.
They are comfortable, can be worn in the shower,
and are easy to clean.

Neckerchief, washcloth, tissues, small zip-lock bag

Did I mention carrying hankerchiefs?
Did I already mention it 10 times?
Do you mind if I mention it again?
Here is why:
PLEASE do not do this!!!
One of the most distressing things I saw along the Camino
were places where people (mainly women!)
toileted and walked away,
leaving piles of dirty toilet paper to get stepped on,
rained on, then to bake in the sun.
It is so simple to carry a ziplock bag,
put the used paper in it,
and carry it to a trashcan.

If you are walking the full 6 weeks,
a good alternative is two handkerchiefs.
You will use one as a washcloth or to tie around your neck
to protect it from sunburn.
The other will be used when you have to urinate in the wilderness.


You may want to buy two different colors
so you don't get them mixed up!

A handkerchief is easy to carry,
can be used several times,
then washed and dried each night.

If you prefer, a packet of tissues also works great.
These can be purchased by the 12-pack along the Camino...
perfect to share with other pilgrims!
Or if you wish, you can bring a half roll of toilet paper
just in case you need it on the road.

Female Urinary Device

This can be a handy item to carry
and there are a variety of these for sale.
The two I've tried are the GoGirl and the SheWee.

The GoGirl is nice because it folds up but without practice is more likely to leak.

The SheWee, well, what can I say?
You can "go" standing up like a man with your back to the road
and nobody guesses what you're doing.
You can stand up and not have to sit on questionable toilet seats.
I just love it, period.
It's available at for under $20.
The Go-Girl is flexible and soft

The She-Wee is not as flexible
If you decide to purchase one, 
please get plenty of practice at home BEFORE your trip. 
There is definitely a learning curve, 
but once you figure it out, these work great!

Two Bras

Remember, purchase sports bras with no underwire.
Be sure to get something that is quick drying.
You will wear one and pack one.
Do not order these on the internet.
 You need to try them on to be sure 
they are not too tight and do not pinch.
Comfort is a high priority.

Parachute Jacket and Trousers.

Consider taking a pair of parachute jacket/trousers
instead of a heavy jacket if you're walking in the Fall.
These can be stuffed down to the size of a grapefruit
and are very lightweight, yet warm.

There are not too many times you will need a jacket,
unless you're walking in the winter.
Even in the fall, once I pick up speed,
I stay warm from the exercise and find myself shedding my jacket
within half hour from the start.

The trick is to layer your clothing 
so you can take it off as you warm up.
The trousers are great if your legs tend to get cold.
If not, they are optional.

If you have a tight budget or just don't want to spend a lot,
take a look at frogg toggs.
They're inexpensive, lightweight, 

and at under $30 they can't be beat!
They come in all colors.

ALTUS Poncho.

I know this is another repeat,
but I'm  recommending the ALTUS for all AnnieWalkers!

The most debated piece of gear after shoes is the poncho vs. rainsuit.
If you are not walking in the summer months,
you will most likely encounter rain somewhere along the Camino,
so you will need one or the other.

The ALTUS Poncho is wonderful!
It covers you from head to ankle and it also covers your backpack.
It keeps you toasty warm in blowing rain
and doubles as an extra layer in any cold weather.
If you have an ALTUS, you will not need a nysil pack cover.

If you need help finding the Altus,
send me a note.
I may be able to help you track one down.  
I do know it is possible to order it and have it waiting for you in SJPP.

On my first Camino,
I left the United States with a regular Poncho in my pack.
After one day of poncho walking,
I went on a search for a rainsuit.
I ended up finding a heavy army camoflauge suit
in one in one of the larger cities.
By that time, walking in the blowing rain
had caused me to get soaked and chilled,
and resulted in having to spend two days sick in bed.
In retrospect, I wish I had my Altus back then!
I had packed a primaloft jacket, 
and it would have been better to take the rainsuit
and leave the primaloft jacket at home.
While there were probably 6 days of cold rain,
there were only 2 times it was cold enough for the primaloft jacket.

Since purchasing my ALTUS poncho,
I have not bothered taking a heavy jacket or a rain suit on the Camino,
and I'll never go back!

A Note About Weather

Unless you're walking in the summer,
you must be prepared for any type of weather,
while still keeping the weight of your pack
to 10% or less of your body weight.
This means you have to be inventive,
using layering techniques
and doing without some of the creature comforts we have become used to. 

A Sleep Sack

Ninety percent of the refugios along the Camino
will offer you a bed with a sheet on it and a pillow.
Some will offer a blanket.
However, the sheets in pilgrim refugios
have often not been changed for several nights.
So I suggest that even if you travel in the Summer Months,
you at least take a silk or other lightweight sleepsack.

If you are walking with AnnieWalkers,
all of the places we sleep except for two will provide clean beds and sheets.
For the Gite in SJPP and the Pilgrim Hostel in Puente le Reina,
you will need to purchase a sleep sack
or rent sheets from the lodger.
You can find silk sleep sacks online starting at around $29. 

Nysil Day Pack

If you are an AnnieWalker, you may want to bring along a Nysil day pack
like this Sea to Summit (REI).
It's probably more comfortable to pack heavy non-essentials
in the nysil pack to be transported
and to wear your nice padded backpack,
but you can experiment and see what works best for you.
It's also nice to have a daypack for day trips or excursions into town.
This one will fold up and take little space in your regular backpack.

Walking Stick(s) or Trekking Poles

Do you "need" a walking stick?
Again, I've done an entire blog on this question.
Search the sidebar for
"Where the Rubber Meets the Road"

I believe the consensus is "maybe."
In the rainy season, the stick will help you on slippery slopes
and in fording small streams.
In dry weather, it greatly reduces the wear and tear on your legs
as it helps you up, and more importantly DOWN rocky trails.
 If you turn your ankle or get a blister, you'll be happy you have a stick.
They are also handy for protecting yourself
from those mysterious, invisible feral dogs
I keep hearing about but have never experienced.

We used our sticks on the Camino Portugu├ęs in a different way.
We tied bright orange handkerchiefs on them
and walked with them raised to warn oncoming traffic
there were pilgrims walking ahead,
around the many blind bends in the road. 

If you need to, you can also prop up your poncho with a stick
to make a temporary shelter from sun or rain.
Practice this at home before your trip.

Although many walk without a stick,
we recommend you have one, and two are even better.
So many times we would be amazed at how rapidly
we were "smoked", by a trim 75 year-old
charging up the grade with their trekking poles.

When we returned home we both bought a used pair of poles
and tried them out.
The verdict:  great for setting and maintaining a brisk gait;
faster travel times with less effort due to the use of the upper body in walking;
excellent for keeping balance while gawking at the scenery off the path.
We already knew the pilgrims with trekking poles
were usually found to be first in line at the more crowded albergues.
I now take my pacer poles on most trips.
They are telescoping so I can pack them up when not in use.

You can either take your own sticks or buy one along the Way.
As soon as you reach any large Camino town,
you will see baskets of walking sticks, called palos or bastons, for sale. 
The bastons we saw were quite affordable (around 5 euros)
These are beautifully carved , sanded smooth and sealed.
They come in all lengths and it's a fun part of being a pilgrim
to look for the one that was made just for you! 

Money Belt

Please do NOT leave home without this!
And please, never keep it in your backpack or in a locker.
Never leave it in your room while you shower.
Wear it or have it with you at all times.

It is to be worn UNDER your clothing.
You should never get into it in public.
If you need to access the contents,
go to the privacy of a bathroom or your own room.

Also, please take a plastic ziplock bag.
When you shower, put your moneybelt into the bag
and carry it with you into the shower.
The bag should be large enough to hold your credit cards,
your cash, and your passport.
Never ever let it out of your sight!

Do not buy a money 'belt' that goes around the neck.
They are easy to spot and easy to steal.
All it takes is a quick hand and a sharp knife.
A guy on a motorcycle can have yours and be gone before you know what hit you.

I don't mean to alarm you.
Crime along the Camino is almost non-existent.
But there are cases of funds and gear being stolen.
So use common sense and you'll be fine.

If you like to wear a waist bag or fanny pack
for the day's cash and goods, that's fine,
but please try it on with your backpack to be sure it fits with the waist belt.
I usually carry a small change purse in my pocket instead
with the day's cash in it.


For most pilgrims this simply means 
soap that can be used on body AND hair.

If you are male, it may mean a razor as well.
Me shave my legs on the Camino?

I've only seen one pilgrim wearing makeup and sprayed hair.
She even wore nylon stockings under her shorts
and her nails... well... 
this is not a fashion show.
Consider letting all that go...
just for three weeks.

Make a pledge to go light.
Consider cutting hair short so it can be washed and quickly air dried.
Leave the hair dryers
and bags of makeup
and creams and lotions and sprays
at home, if at all possible.

And please do not bring perfume.
You will be sleeping and eating in close quarters
and many people can be sensitive to fragrances.

First Aid

If you wish, you can bring a SMALL first aid kit.
This means the following:
3 bandaids, tweezers,
a needle and thread, alcohol WIPES.
That's it.

Honestly, something no larger than 2 x 3 inches will be sufficient.
Anything you need can be purchased in Spain.
We will make a stop at the Farmacia the first day
to stock up on Compeed
and anything else you wish to carry.

You might want to look for the gel tubes
(I mentioned them in the other equipment blog) at your local drug store.
If you can't find them, they will be available in Spain at the farmacia.
They are great for putting on your toes if you begin to get blisters between them.
They can be cut to size with a small scissor.

Buy your scissors in Spain unless you plan on checking your backpack.
I don't advise checking your backpack, by the way.
Lost luggage could put a shocking dent in your trip!


I do not like backpacking towels.
They don't work for me.
Instead, I use a well-worn terrycloth towel cut in half.
It's very thin and although it's cotton, it dries quickly because it's so old.
A guest-towel also will work great!
I've also used a microfiber kitchen towel,
and that is nice because it is so lightweight.
Most of the places AnnieWalkers will be staying will either provide linen
or you'll be able to rent linen,
so I wouldn't spend anything on a special towel.
Just grab an old kitchen towel and call it good!

Laundry Items

Bring about 6 clothespins (pegs) or baby diaper pins.
A stretchy travel clothesline can be handy.
If you wish to bring a laundry bag, you can.
I never do because I wash my clothes each night.
I buy fels naptha soap in St. Jean for handwashing my clothes.
One bar can be shared among several pilgrims.
Look in the contents for my blog on clothes washing.
For the times you actually find an electric machine,
the price has always included soap
so I do not carry laundry soap besides the Fels Naptha.
It is unnecessary weight.
If you decide you need laundry soap,
you can purchase it there.
You may want to bring a small empty plastic bottle "just in case."

Notebook/journal and pen

Make it small and lightweight
like these I found at Powells Bookstore in Portland.

Lightweight plate and cutlery 

For picnics a "spork" is perfect, 
as is a melmac or plastic plate from the dollar store or Goodwill. 
Get your spork at REI or online. 
You can also simply take heavy duty plastic cutlery. 

Anything else you need can be found in Spain.

Sitting plastic

Sil has this on her packing list,
but I've never bothered with it.
A small lightweight plastic bag or a piece of tyvek cloth would be nice.
You could also use your ALTUS poncho.
Just something to sit on in case the ground is wet.

That's about it.
Tomorrow or the next day I will put this in a checklist form
and add a few personal items
like your passport, money, glasses, and camera.

Please pack in cloth bags

Many handbooks on backpacking suggest that you separate your clothes
into small bundles of like items for easier access.
Many suggest you use baggies or plastic shopping bags for this purpose.
While I agree with this system
because it really does make finding your clothing easier,
I implore you to consider spending a few extra dollars
on purchasing or making CLOTH or NET bags.
The money you spend will be repaid time and time again
by the good wishes and positive thoughts sent your way
by appreciative fellow pilgrims!

One of the most insidious items encountered on the Camino
is the rustling plastic bag 
that breaks the healing spell of a restoring night's sleep.

Without fail, It raises its noxious head at the most inopportune times.
Late at night it rattles surreptitiously
to wake you from your well-earned and much needed sleep.
It rouses you from your sweetest dreams
long before the sun even stirs in the wee hours of dawn
and has the power to spoil your mood
and reduce to rubble those elevated thoughts about comrade pilgrims
you are working so hard to achieve.

There is more than one reason behind the warning label,
"Caution! Can cause suffocation,"
and lapse of sanity might very well be an honest defense
in the case of "Mad Pilgrim Murders Another in Plastic Induced Rage."

I'm exaggerating, of course.
But do yourself and your fellow pilgrims a favor,
and do NOT pack in plastic bags!

Small nylon or other lightweight fabric stuff sacks
are very inexpensive to buy.

If you can sew a straight line,
these take only 10 minutes to construct.
You basically slap two rectangles together.
Sew 3 sides.
Make a casing in the top, and thread a shoestring through it.
Tie a knot so the shoestring stays in and Voila!
You have the satisfaction of making your own gear
and in addition, you've possibly saved a life!

Your New Mantra

Whether you are walking on your own or with AnnieWalkers,
If there's a mantra I could teach you,
it would be "Go light, go LIGHT, GO LIGHT!" 

Remember, the correct weight of your pack,
as prescribed by most seasoned pilgrims, is 10% of your body weight.
What that means is if I weigh 140 pounds,
the total combined weight of my backpack and all of its contents,
including sleeping bag and pad,
should be no more than 14 pounds!

Does that seem impossible?
It did to me, until I had walked about 2 days
and began dropping items along the Way.
Cooking pot? Don't need it.
Extra sweater? Dead weight.
Dress for dinner? No way!
Paperback novel? Too weary in the evenings to read!

I promise you that if you follow our packing list,

you will not need for a single item.

The results from taking this advice are positive and many.
You will learn the difference between a "need" and a "want."
You will learn the invaluable skill of "making due."
You may benefit from the experience of doing without.
You will learn how strong and inventive you really are.
You will learn to depend on the kindness of strangers.
You will learn that God, The Universe, and the Camino
really do provide for us when we have faith.

Anything and everything you NEED will present itself along the Way;
the trick is to be expecting and watching for those gifts of grace
that "poor me" never seems to even catch a glimpse of. 

Don't miss this great opportunity for spiritual growth
and to gain confidence in yourself.

Do yourself and your feet a favor and repeat after me, "Go LIGHT!"
Sounds kind of like a football cheer, doesn't it?

"First and ten, do it again!"  Gooooooooo, LIGHT!

This priceless lesson of the Camino
is just how little it takes to keep us alive and comfortable.
It is amazing what you can do without.
Lightening your burden along the Camino gives you
the courage, rationale and motivation
to lighten your burden when you get home.

Many pilgrims find themselves cleaning house,
cleaning out the closets,
and getting back to basics once they return home.
Life becomes simpler and more meaningful.
On those long days of simply putting one foot after the other,
you have time to think.
Once you work through the problems that are keeping you awake at night,
you begin to think about what this Camino is teaching you,
what it all means.

Life is so simple on the Camino.
You wake up,
you dress,
you walk,
you eat,
you drink,
you wash,
you sleep
and then it all starts over again.

No big decisions to make.
No evening news to reinforce your native paranoia.
No insurmountable enemies to watch out for.
No decisions about what's for dinner or what you'll wear tomorrow.

A simpler life means more freedom.
Freedom to breathe, love, travel, be spontaneous.
Freedom to live each minute,
savoring it without being bogged down with "things" to take care of.

It's a sort of paradigm shift that hits you after a couple of weeks of walking.

You realize how simple a good life can be
once you allow yourself to be unbrainwashed
and independent of our consumer consciousness.
Simple furniture –
you can actually get a good night's sleep on a mat on the floor!
Taking a rest on a tree stump, a bridge, or a grassy hill.
 Simple entertainment –
watching the birds fly,
the bugs crawl,
children playing,
 Listening to the Pilgrim's Mass,
people's voices in unison, praying for your safety.
The smells of the wet forest,
the hot dust,
the pines,
garlic frying,
your own sweaty body after a hard day's walk.

Simple clothing --
not  the latest expensive, disposable fashion
but instead, comfortable clothes and sensible shoes.
 Simple meals  –
a piece of cheese stuck between a sliced French roll,
baked fresh this morning with no preservatives, no chemicals.
A pilgrim's plate consisting of meat, a salad, a carbohydrate
and an inexpensive but heady glass of wine.

Whether you are planning the Camino on your own
or gearing up for an AnnieWalkers trek,
all this simplicity is contagious,
and I promise it will change you, forever.
Hasta Pronto!

Note:  If you are interested in walking the Camino Santiago, 
but are not quite ready to go it alone, 
consider joining Annie
on one of our small, affordable Camino walks. 
For more information see our website 
at this link: AnnieWalkers Camino


  1. Amazing, informative, generous, inspiring!

  2. Hi Annie!

    I still can't believe that we missed meeting each other on Camino, by only a few days! Oh well.

    It's going to take a while for me to compile all my thoughts and edit pix but...I wanted to share about Teva's:

    I learned first hand that EVERYTHING on Camino is so very different for each individual. That said, I ended up switching out to my Teva Terra Fi 4's within TWO hours of starting in my Keen's and I never switched back! That included mud, water and that 430 meter steep ascent through LaBruja mountain in Portugal.

    Buen Camino <3


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