What to pack for the Camino Frances?

Every time I climb a hill, I think about what I’m carrying in my pack that I don’t need. And there have been a lot of hills over the course of 800km, so I think I’ve got this packing list figured out! Now keep in mind, this list is specific to the Camino Frances where towns and services are close together. If you are planning for a more remote route, you might need to carry more food and water. I hiked in July and August when temperatures ranged from the high 40°s Fahrenheit in the Galician mountains to nearly 110°F across the Meseta. For a winter hike, you’d need warmer clothing. For another route you might actually need camping gear.

Gear

Backpack– You’ll need a comfortable, well-fitting backpack of 30-40 liters. Don’t buy anything larger than 40 liters or I will personally haunt you and give you nightmares every night of your Camino. It will just be heavier, and you’ll fill it with stuff you don’t need. I’ve been very happy with my Gregory Jade 38 pack, although I probably could have even used a size smaller. Gregory Jade 38

Hiking poles (optional)– I’m hooked on hiking poles. They take some stress off your knees going downhill, provide a rhythm going uphill, and keep you from falling when you trip over a cobblestone or your own feet. They are difficult to pack in luggage, so next time I’ll buy an inexpensive pair when I get to Europe.

Hiking Shoes– Choose a pair of running shoes or trail shoes. Fit is more important than type of sole, upper material, or anything else. There’s no need for heavy leather hiking boots on this trail! Remember- a pound on the feet is like five pounds on your back! Brooks Cascadia

Sleeping bag liner- In the summer, there’s no need for an insulated sleeping bag, because albergues provide blankets. But you’ll need a lighter bag or sleeping bag liner, because not all albergues provide sheets. In fact, some of the cheaper albergues use rubber mattress pads to make it easier to keep clean. I prefer a silk liner, over synthetic or cotton, because it’s light and comfortable. Mine is a mummy bag, designed to fit inside a sleeping bag. Next time, I’d buy a rectangular bag to have more comfortable sleeping space. silk sleeping bag liner

Pillow case – Most albergues provide pillows but not pillow cases. I’ve used a t-shirt, but next time, I’ll just bring an old pillow case.

Packing Cubes– or stuff sacks. It’s much easier to keep organized and to pack your bags quickly in the morning with a few lightweight bags. packing cubes

Pee cloth – public toilets (servicios or aseos or WCs) are few and far between. When walking between towns you’ll need to find a bush and go au-natural. But don’t be a jerk and throw TP on the ground! Kula Cloth makes a discrete antimicrobial cloth that hangs conveniently on your pack, where it’s always available to catch the last few drops. Just throw it in the laundry every couple of days.

Water bottle– I brought a camelbak hydration pouch and didn’t use it. Too much trouble getting it in and out of the pack when refilling. It was easier to use a smaller flexible bottle and fill it up at each public fountain – they’re everywhere! I’d bring two 0.5 liter bottles. If you drink a bunch at the fountain there’s rarely a need to carry more than a liter.

Hiking clothes

  • 2 pairs of socks, synthetic or marino wool
  • Gaiters to keep the stones and sand out of your shoes Dirty Girl Gaiters
  • 2 pairs hiking shorts or skirts. I love my hover skirt from Skirt Sports
  • 3 pairs underware
  • 1 sports bra
  • 2 synthetic or marino wool short sleeve T-shirts
  • 1 long sleeve mid layer (I didn’t bring this, and wish I had. It gets chilly at night and I got tired of wearing my rain jacket)
  • Sun hat – I wore this every afternoon for sun protection, and even in light rain showers Chaos Hats
  • Bandana
  • Sun glasses – I dropped mine on the ground several times while juggling poles, map, phone, etc. It’s also easy to leave them behind. Don’t bring your Ray Bans.
  • Rain gear (lightweight rain jacket and pack cover, or Pancho) Mike insists on an umbrella
  • Optional wind layer – I carried a 2 oz nylon wind shirt

Camp clothes

  • Lightweight trousers – something clean to change into after you shower. I never hiked in long pants.
  • T-shirt or tank top, bra, undies
  • Pajamas – optional. You’ll often be sleeping in mixed gender dorm rooms, and you’ll probably have to get up in the middle of the night to pee. I brought a pair of cotton sleep shorts and a tank top
  • Sandals – the albergues ask you to leave your hiking shoes just inside the door to keep things cleaner. You’ll want a pair of keen sandals or flip flops for the rest of the evening and for walking around town when your feet hurt.
  • Town clothes (dress, earrings, lipstick) Totally optional, but I spent a weeks as a tourist before the Camino, and took three rest days. It was good for morale to change out of hiking clothes! I love Skirt sports dresses and the super light-weight travel dresses from Indygena
  • Swimsuit (optional) – I heard rumors of towns and albergues with swimming pools, but I never found one.

Toiletries

Bring a little bit of everything, but not too much. Toiletries get heavy fast. You’ll travel through plenty of towns with opportunities to buy more. Grocery stores are usually cheaper than Farmacies.

  • Shampoo
  • Soap
  • Facial cleanser
  • Q tips
  • Moisturizer
  • Sun block
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
  • Prescription meds – I shopped at a Farmacie in Santiago and bought 100 days of my thyroid meds for €10. Much easier and cheaper than I expected!
  • Makeup, hair products, Deodorant, razor (optional)
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • First aid kit (blisters, colds, Imodium, allergy, antibacterial ointment)
  • Quick dry pack towel

Food

Only bring food from the States if you have special dietary needs. I brought gluten free energy bars for the first few days and nuun electrolyte tablets, but too much gets heavy!

  • Electrolytes
  • Energy bars
  • Hiking snacks (just a day or two at a time- there are lots of towns and grocery stores)
  • Zip locks

Electronics

  • Phone and charger – Spanish Sim card. I went with Orange’s Go Walk pre-paid sim card. €20 for two months of data and local phone calls. Great customer service and coverage.
  • Garmin watch and charger
  • Headphones and charger

Wallet

  • Passport, credit card, debit card, cash, pilgrim credential

Other

  • Clothes pins – optional. Mike lost a bandana from a windy line.
  • 50′ light parachute cord for clothes line – often there’s not room for everybody’s clothes at the albergues.
  • Headlight (preferably one that has a red light option and is rechargable)
  • Guidebook – supplement with a cell phone app, but it’s good to have paper backup.
  • Massage ball – you never know what’s going to hurt when you start hiking 15-25 miles a day while carrying a pack. I’d love to have access to a foam roller, but they’re bulky. A lacrosse ball is smaller, and worth the weight!

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