Before you go: what to take with you?

When we decided to go on the Camino de Santiago we had absolutely no experience in trekking, hiking or anything of this kind (not that we have loads of it now). So to begin with, we were wondering what kind of backpack, shoes, clothes or any other equipment we would need. Googling “what do I need for the camino” resulted in reading some scarce and contradictive comments and opinions which only made as more sceptical about the whole thing. We decided to provide some form of ‘list’ for people who are dealing with the same kind of problem. Bearing in mind that we made our journey in August and September it will most likely not be applicable to other seasons but as summer as a whole is the preferable time to start for most people, we hope that you will find it usefull. Of course, I cannot promise that everything that worked for us will work for you as well so treat it just as an example.

  1. Backpack. It should not be greater than 30-35 liters as you will presumably find it to heavy to carry, it’s as simple as that. If you plan to travel by cheap airlines with hand luggage only it will probably fit.  We decided on this one for my fiancee and a 32 liter version for me. The hip belt and all that stuff it has are very comfortable, we were quite happy with it. Look for previous years’ collections as they are much cheaper and almost indistinguishable. It was OK for Ryanair hand luggage as well. Pick any backpack that suits you, but remember that you will be carrying it all day and in extreme heat so it really has to be relatively small and comfortable.
  2. Shoes. Trekking boots, light trekking shoes, sandals, and maybe flip-flops to wear after the whole day of wandering? We were going mad while reading about it on the Web, as we got totally contradictive answers. Won’t the boots be too heavy and too warm for the extreme temperatures of the Spanish meseta ? Will light shoes be protective enough for the mountains in Navarra and Galicia? How about sandals and getting your feet hurt with little stones? Will the flip-flops needed to take a shower fit in the backpack at all, with all that more important stuff already there? We decided on these boots for me and a female equivalent for my fiancee. They are relatively cheap and very comfortable. GTX makes them perfect for most weather conditions, and they did well with the heat, as we also had very good ‘air-conditioned’ socks which are crucial.  To wear after the march and for the shower we bought rubber  sandals similar to these. Our feet were happy with our choice, so we hardly ever used the plasters but you might need them anyway, it’s good to have different kinds for different foot parts. The critical thing about shoes is that, they cannot be new when you go for Camino, you absolutely have to wear them a lot before you set off, they must fit your feet perfectly.
  3. Socks. Good socks are essential for walking in hiking boots, so if you have to save money on something, let it be some other piece of clothing. The socks we bought are relatively expensive in our opinion but they made the difference and we had virtually no blisters at all. You should take 2-3 pairs. We also suggest that you consider the antibacterial models containing silver.
  4. Underwear and t-shirts. We were satisfied with our ordinary cotton clothes, obviously white t-shirts are more convenient in the sun of mediodía. Take no more than 2-3 of each, depending on how often you are prepared to wash them. There is a washing machine and a dryer in most albergues on Camino Frances (the main route) at an approximate cost of 2-4 euros.
  5. Trousers. The have to be light, bright and CONVERTIBLE. We bought two pairs of these for each of us. I found them comfortable enough to sleep in, refer to the point about the sleeping bag.
  6. Rain poncho you don´t need a jacket, a simple rain poncho will do. Do not buy the more expensive ones, and definitively do not buy the even cheaper transparent ´plastic bags´ since they will not last one windy day. Such poncho can be very usefull, especially in the mountains or on the way to Fisterra. Somebody needed mine so badly, that he or she stole it from me one day before reaching Santiago and I nearly missed the pilgrims mass because of the rain. So do not leave it unattended even if it cost you five euros (btw. nobody was interested in my tablet and phone when I left THEM unattended).
  7. Sleeping bag is something that everybody takes with, yet I am not so sure if it is indispensable. Should you not feel comfortable sleeping fully dressed in clean clothes for the following day and under a sheet, which you will be provided with in most albergues, at least see to it that your sleeping bag is as light and compact as possible because, at the risk of being repetitive, let me remind you that you WILL carry it all day on your back. (Well of course you can rent a mule or a truck following you all the time, seriously, some people do, at least as for the truck).
  8. Fleece jacket is something I regret not to have spent more money on, as mine turned out to be too cheap and thin and I missed the zip. So you might like this one but I never tested it. It is quite cold in Spain when you set off at 5 AM especially in the mountains, so I wore my plastic poncho on top of my sweater, which I definitely do not recommend. Remember, during the night and early in the morning it may be cold even in August. Once we slept in an albergue in the mountains,  situated in a former church so it was not even close to warm and cosy (the hosts were very nice though!).
  9. Head torch will be indispensible if you plan to set off at 5AM.
  10. Take as little as possible to your make-up bag (also mind the limitations of hand luggage) but you definitely need a towel if you want to sleep in albergues.
  11. Do not forget some kind of a hat, sunglasses and suntan lotion.
  12. I leave the necessary medicine, bilster plasters and all such stuff to you.

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