Sleeping bag, rain jacket and pocket knife: what should you take with you on the Camino de Santiago? This is the packing list for the Camino de Santiago.

The secret to a physically comfortable Camino de Santiago is two things: the right shoes and a light backpack. Every extra kilo tires the body more quickly and unnecessarily strains muscles and tendons. The result: pain, blisters or inflammation.

Therefore: less is more!

You can find my thoughts on the maximum weight of the backpack here. At the end of the packing list, I also give tips on how to save weight.

You can download the packing list for your preparation here.

What goes in the backpack? The packing list for the Camino de Santiago

ClothesTwo sets of clothes are enough – one for hiking and the other for the evening. Two hiking pants, two shirts, a light fleece for evenings, two pairs of hiking socks, three pairs of underwear, a scarf (you can also use this to cover your pillow). Important: high-tech outdoor clothing is light, strong and quick-drying. Avoid cotton!

Shoes: After much trial and error, I finaly hike with trail running shoes. These are light, comfortable, and have good suspension. I don’t use shoes with a Goretex membrane because waterproof shoes make you sweat terribly in summer and will cause blisters. It’s better to have wet feet in a rain shower than four weeks of wet feet from sweating. I use the Terraultra by Inov8.

Cosmetics: Again, less is more. A small towel, soap for body, hair and for washing clothes, toothpaste and toothbrush, suncream.

Weather protection: A cap against the sun, a large poncho for the rain in summer. Should it rain, a good poncho is more practical than a jacket, since the poncho also protects the backpack.

For sleeping: A thin cotton or silk sleeping liner. You don’t need a sleeping bag in summer!

Odds and Ends: A fork and spoon (or a spork) for picnics, a small pocket knife with a long blade, safety pins to use as clothespins and to prick blister bubbles. A lighter for the gas stove in the hostel, headlamp, sunglasses, carabiners for hanging items.

Pharmacy: Plasters, Leukoplast (to cover blisters and can also be used as adhesive tape), disinfectant spray, painkillers (Ibuprofen and Voltaren as tablets), diarrhea medication.  An ointment against bruises, strains, aching knees, and an ointment for healing wounds. Deer tallow for rubbing on feet (prevents blisters) and thighs (avoids sore spots). Suncream. I keep patches and medication in a small tupperware so the pills don’t get crushed. You only need the basics as pharmacies are found regularly on the different Caminos.

Smartphone: For contact with the outside world, alarm clock, camera, music and audio book collection.

A sturdy wallet: for the most important documents and money.

Flip-flops: I can use them in grubby hostel showers and wear them after the day’s hike. Trekking sandals also work, but these are heavier than ordinary beach flip-flops. I recently discovered the plastic Arizona sandals by Birkenstock, wich are very light and comfortable.

My luxury: A small sketchbook, mini set of watercolors and drawing pencils. If you don’t paint along the way, you should take a small diary with you.

For a Winter Camino add in: 
Thermal underwear: Long underwear and a thermal undershirt are important in winter – it can get very cold in Spain too. Merino wool is ideal. 

Thin down jacket as an additional insulating layer.

A rain jacket paired with the down jacket gives extra warmth.

Lightweight sleeping bag: Hostels can be cold, so a light sleeping bag is very comfortable (the heating in the public hostels is usually only turned on when a pilgrim comes).

Waterproof running shoes: In summer I avoid rainproof shoes because your feet sweat too much. But in winter, when it sometimes rains for days, they come in very handy.

Waterproof bags or a waterproof backpack liner: Store your laundry, cell phone and sleeping bag in them. If it rains for a long time, moisture will always get into the backpack, despite the rain cover.

How to avoid unnecessary weight on the Camino de Santiago?

The most important tip is: Only pack half of everything you want to take with you! On the Camino de Santiago you need much less than you think. Also: In Spain, and especially on the Camino de Santiago, you can buy everything you need for a pilgrimage.

Here are a few more practical tips for reducing weight

Bar soap instead of shower gel. Sometimes you meet pilgrims who have 500 milliliter bottles of shower gel, shampoo and conditioner with them. A bar of soap is enough for washing – at least for men with normal hair length. For women, buy a mini 100ml bottle of shampoo or a multi-purpose shampoo/soap bar like Dr Bronner’s.

There are trial sizes for every cosmetic product. Most of the time, these are enough for a whole Camino. Otherwise buy locally.

Use a silk liner instead of a sleeping bag. You don’t need a sleeping bag during hot summer nights in Spain, a silk or cotton liner will suffice. That saves a good 500 grams.

Trail running shoes instead of mountaineering boots. Heavy mountaineering boots are overkill for the Way of St. James – trail running shoes are completely sufficient and weigh a lot less.

Functional high-tech clothing has many advantages: it dries faster, absorbs less odors and is lighter than cotton.

Multifunction items: Again, less is more! What item can be used for different purposes? For example, a lightweight sarong can be used as a skirt but also as a scarf and headscarf. Flip-flops are not only foot protection in questionable showers, they can also be your evening “dress shoes”. 

Mobile phone instead of camera. If you are not taking photos of the Way of St. James for professional use, the mobile phone camera is completely sufficient – the quality is so good that you can even use it to create picture books as memories.

What equipment is unnecessary on the Camino de Santiago?

On my many Camino de Santiago I have seen pilgrims with the strangest equipment such as: 
Tent. This isn’t a backcountry wilderness hike! There are enough beds on the Camino de Santiago! And if you really want to sleep outside, you can do so without a tent in summer. It’s not worth the weight. 

Sleeping pad. The chance of sleeping on the floor is really very small.

Stove and cookware. There are enough bars, restaurants and supermarkets along the way. If you have to save money, it’s better to eat cold and treat yourself to a restaurant every now and then rather than lugging around the weight of a camp stove.

Spade. Yes, someone had a folding spade hanging from their backpack. To this day, I still haven’t figured out why. 

Guitar. The idea of singing together in the evening is nice – but is it worth the extra weight? Some hostels even have guitars.

Lord of the Rings. Yes, someone had dragged along a bloody thick Lord of the Rings book. I know from experience that after a long day’s walk, dinner, and cleaning up, there’s rarely time to read on the Camino. But if you really want to read, carry an E-reader or better yet, download audiobooks to your phone.

Hammer. Why? Just, why? 

Hammock. The idea of sleeping in a hammock sounds romantic – but it makes no sense at all in the treeless Meseta, the plain in central Spain that is a big part of the Camino Frances. 

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