Regarding wash: Ten years ago everything I took had to be hand washed in a cold water tub provide at the albergue. Today, with more and more pilgrims walking, many albergues furnish a washing machine and even a dryer. ***Be aware that Spanish washers use VERY hot water and can ruin your clothes if you aren't careful.***
If you prefer to use washing machines along the way, you do NOT have to take soap. It is provided with the machine.
If you prefer to have your laundry done for you, many private albergues will provide that service for a small fee of €3 to €6. Well worth not having to carry laundry soap. Be aware that Spanish laundry soap is highly scented so if you are allergic, this may not be a good option for you.
In the shoulder seasons, as I told the ladies, just take clothes you can layer. A warm base layer, a short sleeved shirt over that, and a merino wool or fleece over that is all you will need unless it's snowing!
Unless you are walking a winter Camino, you do not need a heavy jacket on the Camino. A merino wool sweater or fleece is good enough. You may start off with it in the morning, and will peel it off within 20 minutes, I promise.
I always take a set of long johns. Silk is good, as is bamboo and merino wool. Women can get Cuddleduds, which are lightweight and warm. Joe uses polypropylene. These are great for sleeping in as well.
Scarves: An extra large, but featherweight, scarf is really handy for keeping the wind and sun off of you. It can also be used going to/from the bathroom at night or as a dress while you're washing your clothes.
Towel: There is no reason to carry a high-tech travel towel. In fact, I hate those things. They just smear the water all around. Instead, check your grandma's linen closet for a worn out threadbare terrycloth bath towel. Then rip it in half and share with a friend. You just need something that will dry you fast and that will dry itself fast. If the towel isn't dry by morning, it's too thick. Test it at home before you take it as with all your Camino gear.
Umbrella: For years, I laughed at people carrying umbrellas. Then I tried it. I'm now hooked and never walk the Camino without an umbrella. This is something I do not take from home because there are very sturdy, inexpensive umbrellas all along the route. I have never paid more than €8 for an umbrella in Spain. I use a STICK umbrella because they won't go inside out in the wind. I stay dry in downpours and probably 20% cooler in the sun than those without umbrellas. It's like walking in the shade. You can also use it as a walking stick. Try it.
Pockets. You are going to want some pockets. Just be sure they velcro or snap closed and keep nothing of value in them in the big cities.
Secret Pockets and money belts. Over the years, I've tried various ways of keeping my money, credit cards, passport, and cash secure. Here are my thoughts...
Money belts. I really do not like wearing money belts. They bind me and twist, but it is NEVER safe to keep your valuables in your backpack. Never. Keep these items in a money belt around your waist. You can find money belts at REI, in travel shops or online in the Steve Ricks' website store. They look like this:
You NEVER take this off except to shower and then, you carry it into the shower with you in a ziplock bag you bring from home.
I do not like neck money pockets. They drag on my neck and give me a headache and they're too easy to cut and run with. Pickpockets know them well.
I'm a big fan of secret pockets. These can be as simple as a sock safety pinned to the inside of your pants or skirt, but be careful, as safety pins can come loose! If I were going to use this method, I'd double pin it.
Here are some instructions for a variety of secret pockets:
A hidden travel pocket like this one can be purchased online or at a travel store.
It hangs from your belt, tucked inside your trousers.
This type is easy to make and I've added a pattern for a very simplified version.
This pattern is from the book "The People's Guide to Mexico."
It is a cylinder inspired by Papillon, the French convict-turned-writer.
It will easily hold a passport, and at night you can simply take it to bed with you.
A belt, cord, or stout string inserted through the top loop allows it to be worn hanging from the waist inside your clothing.
Variations are possible.
Use a durable but lightweight material.
Plain dark colors that match your belt are best.
It's more important that it is safe and sturdy rather than pretty.
The material can be cut in a long strip, 6 inches by 32 inches.
If you like, finish the two short ends with seam tape or zigzag.
Fold it double to 6 x 16.
Leave 2 inches at the fold for the belt loop.
Now sew down one side, across the bottom and back up for about 6 inches.
The remaining gap is for inserting your passport and money.
Leave an opening large enough to easily insert and remove valuables but not so large they may work their way out.
Remember, the pocket goes INSIDE your clothing, not out!!
I hope this has inspired you to look through your closet
to see what you may already have!
Need help planning your Camino?
Don't want to walk alone?
Don't want to race for a bed?
Walk with us in a small group or alone.