Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Friday, June 30, 2017

My Current Packing List

Here is my current packing list after walking the Camino for over 10 years:

  1. Backpack
  2. Down blanket (I made mine)
  3. PASSPORT and/or VISA
  4. Photo ID (driver’s license is fine)
  5. Credit Card (optional)
  6. ATM Card
  8. Money Belt
  9. ALTUS raincoat
  10. Shoes
  11. Crocs or other featherweight sandals
  12. Smart Wool or other wool hiking socks / 3
  13. Cotton or silk sock liners / 3
  14. Short-sleeve shirts /2
  15. Long sleeve shirt /1
  16. Long-sleeve featherweight fleece /1
  17. Hiking shorts or zip-off trousers /2
  18. OR Macabi Skirt / 2
  19. Wind jacket & trousers OR Backpack Raincoat - ALTUS / 1
  20. Underwear /3
  21. Long underwear, silk, poly, or polertec /1 if walking in autumn/winter
  22. Hat (beanie in cold weather, sun hat in hot weather)
  23. Small change purse
  24. Towel
  25. Tissue or 1/4 roll TP
  26. Ziplock bag to carry TP out
  27. Handkerchief or bandana / 1
  28. Refillable water bottle / 1 8 oz
  29. Travel size deodorant
  30. Travel size toothpaste/toothbrush
  31. iPhone for using internet and taking photos
  32. Sleep mask and earplugs
  33. My tiny pillow
  34. Tiny lightweight journal and pen for taking down info along the Way
  35. Guidebook - I like Brierley's
I keep my pack weight down to 10% of my body weight, as advised by experienced pilgrims.

I dress in comfortable old clothes I can discard when I arrive in Madrid. Of course, I carry my eyeglasses.

BACKPACK: Buy a comfortable but lightweight backpack. Don’t let the salesperson sell you a heavy-duty, inner frame, mountaineering pack. You won’t be carrying camping gear, tent poles, stoves, etc. You’ll only need a lightweight pack to carry clothing and toiletries. Most packs come in different torso lengths and some in ladies and men’s sizes so try them out in the store. See my blog post on buying a backpack and email me if you do not have the link.

When you go shopping, take a digital kitchen scale with you and weigh everything! If you find two items that you like, buy the one that weighs the least.

Your backpack and shoes will be your most expensive items. I paid around $125 for my Arcteryx backpack.

You must try on your backpack to be sure it fits correctly. Please do not buy it online.

Passport/VISA – NOW is the time to make sure your passport and/or visa are up to date. If your passport expires within 3 months of this trip, they can stop you and send you home.

CASH: I usually carry no more than 300 Euros on my person. I carry all 20€ denominations except for one 10€ and two 5€ bills. You can purchase Euros at your bank. You can also buy them at the airports. There is a fee for both so research which is your best choice. I often just get 100€ at my bank, then use the ATM in Spain.

The ATMs in Spain work just like the ones in the USA. You put your card in and the money comes out in Euro bills. Check with your bank to find out if there is a charge for using the ATM in Spain. Be sure your ATM card has a 4-digit pin.

I switched bank accounts to Charles Schwab because they charge no ATM fees at all and they reimburse you for some fees the Spanish banks charge. I love this card for travelling!

I always carry an EXTRA ATM CARD with me in case my card gets eaten by a machine on a weekend. You should carry it someplace besides your money belt, in case the money belt gets lost or stolen.

Do not bother with traveler’s checks. Nobody in Spain will take them. Also, many small villages will NOT take credit cards, so you will need to carry cash at all times for your food, transportation, etc. Also, be sure you take a popular globally known credit card such as VISA if you’re taking one.

a couple of weeks before you leave for Spain. If you do not, you might get there and find your card has been frozen because they think it’s been stolen. It’s much easier to deal with that issue from home than from Spain!

Money Belt: Please purchase a money belt that can be worn under your clothes and around your waist. You can find them at the Steve Ricks website and REI and many other online travel stores. Buy this in addition to a fanny pack. Keep your passport, your bank cards, and your cash in this and never ever leave it in your room. Take a plastic zip-lock bag that it will fit in and carry it into the shower with you. In the morning before you leave your room, put the day’s cash into your fanny pack or change purse. Never get into the money belt in a public place. Spain is very safe. In fact I feel it is much safer than any city in the USA. But you must use your common sense and not tempt fate. With this economy, there is sure to be a rise in petty theft, so just take precautions.

Rain cover: I love my ALTUS poncho. You have the option of purchasing it and picking it up in SJPP. However, if you choose not to, you will need a rain cover for your backpack because there most certainly will be some rainy days. A nysil cover is the best. It is lightweight and I think I paid under $20 for mine. It folds up into a small packet about the size of half a sandwich and I keep it handy in the front pocket of my backpack. Last year I bought an umbrella in Spain and carried it and loved it! I used it for rain AND for sunshine! I walked in the shade probably 20 degrees cooler than fellow pilgrims with no umbrella.

Daypack - I don't bother. I just carry my pack. If I'm booking transport, I find a lightweight nysil pack to carry water and food and rain gear. Sea to Summit offers a featherweight pack for day trips, for packing your heavy items in and sending with transport. It is optional. You can purchase it online from REI or other sporting goods stores. If you are carrying your backpack and NOT transporting it, you will not need this.

Walking sticks (optional). See my blog on walking sticks for more information. There will be slippery places on the trail this early in the year, and most likely also in the Fall, so I’d advise you carry them. You can buy trekking poles in SJPP or you can pick up a really nice stick there for under 10€

Shoes: I’ve probably worn your ears out about shoes. This is your most important purchase. Do not try to save money here. Spend what it takes. Your feet will carry you across Spain so treat them as friends and buy the correct shoes. I love New Balance. See my blogs. You do NOT need hiking boots. Buy comfortable, flexible sole walking or running or trail shoes. Get shoes with a LARGE DEEP and WIDE toe-box so your toes don’t rub against each other or press against each other. This is important because we are walking all day long. Spend the $35 on some nice gel inserts. I like Motion Control inserts because they keep my ankles straight and support the instep. Buy your shoes 1 to 1.5 sizes too large because your feet WILL swell when you are walking 6 hours per day. Take your socks when you try them on.

Crocs or other featherweight sandals. At the end of the day after your shower, you will want something comfortable to put your feet into. I love Crocs because they are featherweight to carry, and they are nice and wide so your feet will be happy. I’ve also carried Teva sandals, and those work fine. I usually pick up my Croc knockoffs in Spain at one of the Chinese discount stores for around 6 euros.

Socks.  Smart Wool or other wool hiking socks. I love Smart Wool socks because they are cushioned and last forever. I get mine at REI. Any thick cushioned wool hiking sock will be fine. 1000 mile socks bought in the UK are about £9.18 a pair.

Quick drying sock liners: These are thin, polyester socks that you wear under your wool socks. You change these each day, but you can wear the wool socks up to a week. When you walk, the wool socks will rub against the liners, instead of against your skin, and keep you from getting blisters. 

You can also just wear the smart wool alone. 
You can also just wear the same socks you'd wear at home. 
There are plenty of places along the route if you decide you need a change.

Short-sleeve shirts and Long sleeve top: TYou don’t need anything fancy, just something that will dry overnight when you wash it. If you live in the USA, consider visiting your local Goodwill Store and check out the Action Wear section. You can find unbelievable buys there! Consider the weight rather than the fashion. Nobody cares if your pants match your shirt on the Camino.

Long-sleeve featherweight fleece shirt: This is part of your layering system. You will probably start out in the morning wearing it and strip it off within the first hour. You can purchase them from Cape Storm or First Ascent, from Outdoor Warehouse, Cape Union Mart, REI, and other sporting goods stores. A zipper is convenient, but it is also extra weight. Choose a microfleece if possible; something not too bulky, but warm. Polartec is a great fabric choice.

Hiking shorts (quick dry) or zip-off trousers: Again you want quick dry shorts or trousers. They make some really nice hiking trousers that have zip-off legs. If you can find these, they are great. They have lots of pockets and if you find them, just buy 2 pair and don’t bother with extra shorts.

Macabi Skirt.  The past few years I hiked in 2 Macabi skirts. These are expensive but worth every penny. Honestly, I could have gotten by the entire 3 months with one skirt. They just do NOT get dirty and when you wash them, they dry in an hour. They have HUGE pockets to carry food, and guidebooks and zippered pockets for cash. I loved this skirt and will wear one each time I walk from now on. You can find them online.

Long lightweight trousers: If you buy zip-off trousers, you will not need these.

Parachute jacket trousers: These are very nice for wind and rain. They are lightweight nylon or Gore-Tex. Mine are Moonstone and are Gore-Tex. I have heard that Frogg Toggs are very good and are affordable. I think REI carries them. You do not need these AND an ALTUS. One or the other. But if you choose this, you'll need a pack cover. With the ALTUS, your pack is protected when you put on the raincoat.


ALTUS Backpack Raincoat – bought in Spain.  This can be bought in St Jean Pied de Port, in Zubiri, in Pamplona and in Sarria. If you would like to order this and have it waiting for you in Spain, you can order ahead. The 2012 price was 44 euros each. This is a great deal because you will save on expensive shipping. I can’t say enough about this poncho – it will keep you warm and dry, and will cover your backpack as well as you. Do a google search and look at the photos. It’s awesome. I don’t even take a jacket anymore… if I get cold I layer clothes and put this on top. I’ve even used it as a blanket. If you do any hiking or backpacking, you will use this again and again.

Underwear . I buy straight-leg panties for these hikes because they don’t bind me but whatever you wear at home is perfectly fine.  Ladies, buy panties with a cotton crotch panel.

Long underwear. Buy a pair of lightweight, but warm long johns. Good fabrics are silk, polyester, or polertec. I buy Cuddle Duds at JC Penney’s and I’ve also got a pair of silk long johns. You can find them online or in sporting stores. REI carries several brands. Last year I splurged for a set of merino longjohns. They kept me toasty warm

Sports bras. Of course, this is up to you, but I suggest sport bras for comfort. Underwires can cut into you and are not comfortable with a backpack.  You can find really nice but inexpensive ones at stores like Marshall's. I buy mine in a 3 pack for under $20.

Hat & peak: A “peak” is the visor part of a cap. You can take a baseball cap or buy a hiking hat. You can take one of those lightweight visors without a top. Something to keep the sun out of your eyes. I have a Tilley hat that I love. It has a secret compartment for my paper with credit card numbers, extra cash, etc. It smooches up to fit into my pack and it holds my raincoat hood off my face.

I also carry a microfiber beanie for cold mornings.

I also have a BUFF – look for them on the internet, they are very cool!

Sun Screen : I do not wear sun screen. When it is sunny and hot, I put on my long sleeved lightweight shirt and lately I've gone to carrying an umbrella!  I pick it up in Madrid or Pamplona for under 10 Euros. I don't get a folding umbrella, but a stick one. Sturdy and perfect for rain or sun, they are also useful to frighten away dogs if necessary. 

If you need sunscreen, this is something you can easily purchase in SJPP when you arrive.

Waist bag : This is just a small bag I call a fanny pack. It holds your cash, your camera, and your credencial. If you have pants with large pockets that zip or button, you won’t need one. You can also pick one up in Spain.

Small change purse:  Like the ones your grandma used to carry. To carry the day’s cash. Pick one up in Spain.

Glasses & case: If you wear prescription glasses, please bring an extra pair (safer).  I used to advise you bring a prescription, but it's pretty much impossible to get a new pair of glasses in under a week. So you're better off bringing an extra pair. On one of my last group walks, one lady lost her glasses going over the Pyrenees in a snowstorm and had to wear her prescription sunglasses the entire rest of her Camino.  Generally I don't suggest you bring "extra" things.. but this is one time I do.
Camera .  I use my iPhone

Head lamp (optional) Honestly, I hate these things. I’ve been rousted from many a good night’s slumber by a pilgrim wearing a headlamp.  You really don't need to be walking in the dark either. So unless you really need this, leave it at home. If you really DO feel you need one, get one with a red lamp so you don't blind the rest of the albergue.

Credencial : Get this in Spain when you arrive.  Usually 1 to 3 Euros.

Maps & Guide: These are optional if you're walking the Camino Frances. It's very well marked and the pilgrim office will give you a list of albergues if you ask. If you would like to pick up a map book or guide to carry along, I prefer Brierley’s. It is the best, in my opinion.

Notebook/Journal & pen (pocket size) It’s nice to have this to make notes, take email addresses of people you meet along the way. But buy a small, lightweight one please. Mine is a mini-sketch book that I got at an art store and is about 3” x 5”.

Toiletries: In all my years of walking, I’ve seen only one or two woman wearing makeup on the Camino. Really, it’s true. It’s just too heavy to mess with and nobody bothers. Also, please do not bring perfume or cologne if you plan on walking with me as I have Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and cannot tolerate scent, even organic oils. Instead of shaving cream, bring unscented soap. Instead of electric razor, bring or buy disposables. Instead of hair dryers and rollers, cut your hair short and let it air dry or pull it into a ponytail. Go light! If you have dry skin, consider buying a lotion in SJPP or use olive oil!  If you are set on a routine with a particular set of cosmetics, bring very small sizes and consider packing those into a smaller bag that you will check so you can still carry on your backpack (in case the bags get lost). If you have questions about this, email me. Here is what I do…

I use a Ligget’s shampoo bar for both body and hair washing.
I cut my hair very short before the trip and let it air dry.
I wear no makeup or lotion or fragrance
I use a deodorant crystal stone.
I do not shave my legs.


Camp Towel: I use an old worn out terrycloth towel cut in half. I’ve also carried a microfiber dish drying towel. I don’t care for camp towels; they just seem to spread the water around. But buy something lightweight. Most private hostels will provide towels, but pilgrim albergues will not.

Tissue (1/2 toilet roll or pocket Kleenex) You can pick up pocket Kleenex packets n Spain. Please bring a plastic zip-lock bag to carry out your tissue when you use it on the trail. This is a HUGE issue with me – DO NOT LEAVE TOILET PAPER ON THE CAMINO, LADIES. CARRY IT OUT AND DISPOSE OF IT. It’s sad to see what women leave along The Way.

Elastic Clothes Line: (optional) I like carrying one of these. Most places will have a clothesline for your wet clothes, but occasionally there will be none. You can find these in travel stores. Rick Steves’ website has a nice one. This is optional. I’ve also made my own by purchasing round elastic, then twisting or braiding it into a rope and tying one end. With this, you do not need clothespins. You simply hang your clothes by putting the edges between the twisted elastic.

Large safety pins (diaper pins are nice): These are nice to use to hang up your clothes for drying. They are also good to pin your damp socks to your backpack if they aren’t dry in the morning!

Lightweight nylon stuff sacks: I use one for shirts, one for pants, one for underwear and socks, and one for “other small things.” Saves you digging around in your backpack, especially if it’s top-loading.

Compeed (buy in Spain): This is a stick-on bandage that is great for hot-spots before you get a blister. Stock up in Pamplona or SJPP.

First aid items (buy in Spain): Things to consider are arnica cream (for aching muscles), Compeed, and mosquito spray. They also have a wonderful rosemary-infused rubbing alcohol for sore muscles.

Water bottle (or just buy in Spain): You can bring a special water bottle or just buy a disposable one at the airport and refill it. You can bring a water bladder if you wish, but it’s really unnecessary on the Camino Frances, as there are fountains of good water in every village.

Cell Phone: This is absolutely optional. There are places in Spain where you can pay to make calls to the USA, especially in large cities like Burgos, Leon, Pamplona. There are also internet caf├ęs in the large cities where you can send and receive emails. If you plan on carrying a cell phone, you should talk to your provider about using it in Spain to see what is necessary. You will also need to bring the charger and a plug adaptor. There are places in Pamplona where you can purchase a temporary cell phone or a sim card for your unlocked phone. Also, consider the high cost of roaming charges.

Handkerchief or Bandana: (optional) Please carry one for your nose, your sweat, or for using if you have to urinate on the trail. It can be washed each night with your laundry and will save the trail from being littered with tissue.

If you have any questions about any of these items, drop me a line.

Remember, every ounce counts!
Pack light!



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