Ultimate Camino de Santiago Guide – The Packing List
During the Summer of 2019, two guides from Bucket List Events took 33 days to walk the entire Camino de Santiago path. That’s literally 500 miles. It was an experience worth sharing with others, so that’s exactly what they did. Over the next few posts Cassidy and Katie will bestow their well earned knowledge to you can plan the trip for yourself, or just enjoy the ride.
Introduction to the Camino Crew:
Howdy, my name is Cassidy, and I was the mastermind and researcher behind our Camino de Santiago adventure! My Camino story started off a little like this: I was a 23 year old, blonde female preparing for a 500 mile, post-grad adventure. I was determined to go right after college, before officially “starting my life.” After the Camino, Katie and I worked as guides for Bucket List Events. Going back to Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls (San Fermin) after having walked through it during our Camino will always be one of my favorite life choices! #vivasanfermin!
Before ever setting foot in REI, I scoured the internet for any and all Camino de Santiago resources and packing lists as I wanted to be fully prepared upon arrival. I read through every blog post I could find; I looked at different guide books, apps, and social media accounts to find out the best things to take, the best clothes to wear and what all we should expect along the way. I passed all of my knowledge along to Katie (& Grace, our other Camino compadre) after convincing them to go with me, and hoped for the best!
I’m Katie, and I was the “along-for-the-ride” friend. Cassidy and I have been friends for years, and I was so jealous of Cassidy’s summer plans. As a pharmacy student, I was torn between what I should do-get an internship-and what I wanted to do-travel the world with my best friend. When the Bucket List Events guide opportunity became available, I knew that it was meant to be and jumped in head first. Cassidy’s trip was planned months before I decided to join. She had been researching and planning, while I had no idea what we were getting into. I tried to follow the research she had gathered, but ended up cutting corners where it really counted. I left the country days after my last pharmacy final, so I didn’t have the time (or the money) to follow her advice exactly.
You can think of me as the “what went wrong” example. I made many mistakes because I didn’t put enough time into the planning phase of my trip. Some mistakes were minor and we could correct them, but I paid for some of my crucial mistakes, like shoe choice. As you follow along our post, you will see Cassidy’s experience after all of her planning, followed by my experience of flying by the seat of my pants. I hope everyone can learn from Cassidy’s research and my mistakes!
The Caminaritas (& Bucket List Event Guides):
Thus, three blonde girls set off for a nice walk across Northern Spain. We called ourselves the Caminaritas (@caminaritas on Instagram) and began our grand adventure in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Our walk taught us many valuable lessons. This blog post will hopefully be a resource for you, and serve to answer some of the more popular questions we have been asked about our experiences on the Camino de Santiago!
Camino de Santiago Packing List
MUY IMPORTANTE STUFF:
Cassidy: This is the most important piece of paper to carry with you during your Camino. It is a pamphlet that will continuously be stamped in order to prove your journey, and will be needed in order to get your Compostela in Santiago. You will need to get at least one stamp a day, which will typically come from the Albergue (pilgrim hostel) you stay in each night. There are also stamps available at most of the churches, bars, cafes and restaurants along the way. During the last 100kms of your Camino, you will need to get two stamps per day, as they become stricter with the guidelines and try to weed out those that are not completing the last 100kms by foot.
You can get your compostela at the Pilgrim office in St. Jean or order it online here: https://americanpilgrims.org/request-a-credential/
Katie: The credential is one of my favorite souvenirs from the Camino. Some places have really cool stamps, so make sure you look around when you stop. There was even a stamp that was a wax seal. Once you get to Sanitago, you turn in your credential and they check your stamps to prove that you walked x amount of miles, so don’t miss a day! Peregrinos are required to walk at least 100k to earn a Compostela. Your Compostela is a beautiful piece of paper with your name in latin that proves you walked the Camino. Basically, it’s your Camino certificate of completion.
Cassidy: Would recommend packing.
Katie: You need it.
Credit Cards & Euros
Cassidy: While there are ATMS along the Camino, we recommend starting out with around 300-500 euros in your pocket. Many places along the Camino, especially in the smaller towns, still operate as cash only businesses. There will be plenty of opportunities to withdraw more cash while on the Camino, but starting with cash in your pack (or secret money belt) will prove to be good planning.
Katie: One peregrino thought 70 euros would be enough to get him to the next big town, but it didn’t stretch as far as he’d hoped. Luckily, most peregrinos are willing to help out! He venmoed us, we gave him some euros for dinner, and he became one of our best friends. (We love you, Sebastian!) You should also find a good place to store your money. It can’t be too hidden in your pack because you will constantly get it out throughout the day, but you should consider not storing money in the most obvious pocket.
Guide Book – John Brierly (LINK HERE)
Cassidy: A helpful resource for daily distances, resources in each town, what to expect on the trail, and it even includes some motivational material. Worth the weight of a book, as we used it every single day and read it over breakfast as our morning ritual.
Katie: Sometimes John was insightful, and sometimes he was quite out of the box, but reading his thoughts during his many Camino journey prompted me to think deeper about my Camino experience
Journal and pen
Katie: Almost every night, Cassidy and I got together to review the day. We wrote down where we walked, what we ate, who we talked to, and what we discovered that day. Some of our notes focused on gathering information to help other peregrinos know what to expect. Most of our journaling was about our experiences and what we learned about ourselves along the way. I love looking back at my journal to relive my Camino. I would suggest keeping a page of Camino Quotes from those you meet. Some are silly and some are deep, but they always leave me with good memories.
Cell Phone, Charger, Adapter, External Charger, Headphones
Cassidy: While some may want to limit their technology usage and non-organic sounds from their Camino, we enjoyed music and podcasts quite frequently. Outlets are sparse so an adapter with a couple USB ports may be useful. I would not recommend bringing a nice camera (DSLR), as the weight outweighs its benefits. While I brought my DSLR, I regretted that decision every morning when I replaced it into my pack.
Katie: I packed two pairs of headphones but only needed one. I left my phone charger and adapter in an albergue early on, but I was able to get a new one in the next big town. Unless you need your laptop or tablet for work, don’t bring it. After a long walk, either a nap or a drink with friends is all you’ll need to be ready to do it again the next day.
Apps to Download
Cassidy: If you do end up bringing your cell phone and wanting to use it as a resource, Buen Camino was a great app to scout out places in the next town/village to stay. While you don’t always need to reserve a bed the night before, it became standard practice for us to do so and resulted in peace of mind and more leisurely walking. I would recommend becoming familiar with the App before or early on in your trip. It is not the easiest to navigate, but has a lot of good resources within it that can be used for distance calculation and planning as well. Also, be sure to download Google Translate if you do not speak Spanish. This came in handy more times than I can count. Downloading your music and podcasts to your phone is also handy as service and Wifi can be slow/scarce.
Camino de Santiago Packing List – CLOTHING: (for hiking in the summer months)
Katie: No one cares what you wear. Peregrino style is what is comfortable and easy to pack. Most peregrinos shower and wear their next day’s walking clothes for pajamas. As long as you don’t smell too bad, no one will notice if you wear the same thing!
- 2-3 Dry Fit Tops
Katie: We would recommend trying on your shirts with your backpack so you know if the sleeves or neck are uncomfortable when strapped in. Tank tops are a gamble because your straps will rub your shoulders after you have been walking for 10k.
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 1 pair of zip off pants
Cassidy: I did not bring any, but wished I had!
Katie: We were jealous of people who could just zip their pants into shorts quickly during the day instead of unpacking their pack to dig out a pair of shorts.
- 1 pair of leggings/pants
- 1 rain jacket with a hood
Cassidy: I would recommend Goretex. While it is pricey, it really is worth it. I will continue to use mine.
Katie: I brought a cheap rain jacket, and it barely protected me. After hours in the rain, I would be soaked through and Cassidy was completely dry. One of my biggest Camino regrets was not investing in a Goretex rain jacket. I received one for my birthday this year so bring on more rainy adventures!
- 1 fairly warm jacket, can be a pullover or a zip up.
Cassidy: This piece still needs to be durable and quick dry.
- 1 thermal undershirt
Katie: I brought a tight Under Armor dri fit thermal and it was invaluable to me. I was so cold for about the first week of the Camino and this kept me from losing too much heat.
- 2-3 sports bras
- 3-5 pairs of underwear (not cotton)
Katie: I love the Exfficio brand because they are comfortable and quick dry. I continue to wear mine in my normal life. Link HERE
- Bathing Suit
Cassidy: We did actually use ours during the Camino and in Finisterre! If walking during the summer months, it is good to bring!
Katie: Some stops along the Camino have pools or natural water sources, and it felt so great to jump into cool water after a long day.
- Hiking shoes
Cassidy: While an entire conversation can be had about shoes, and which would be the best to wear during your Camino, I will try to simplify my advice: I wore hiking shoes. These were somewhere between trail runners and hiking boots, and were incredibly durable, waterproof, and were a great choice. I wish mine had more padding inside as the soles held up like hiking boots – no squish. I ended up putting new insoles in half way through the Camino to make them a bit “softer” to walk in. The waterproofing was helpful on rainy days, but once waterproof shoes get water inside of them, they take about twice as long to dry as non-waterproof. For me, this was a non-issue as we had very few rainy days, but can become problematic with the weather that can sometimes be found on the Camino. If I were to do it all over again, I would look at trail runners a bit more, and possibly try to find a waterproof pair. However, I don’t regret the shoes I wore as they served me well. I would just put squishy insoles in before leaving home next time. (LINK TO CASSIDY’S SHOES)
Katie: I made many mistakes with my shoe choices, and I paid for them with every step. I bought new running shoes for the Camino instead of hiking shoes. I thought it would be fine, but by day three I had so many blisters that my blood was soaking through my socks. Down side, it hurt, like a lot; Upside, I learned how to take care of blisters really well, so look forward to that section below. Moral of the story: I ended up buying some trail runners on the Camino, and my feet had never been happier. If I could go back, I would buy the trail runners before I left and spend some time walking before I left for the Camino, but that just wasn’t in the cards for me.
- Socks – 3 wool, 2 sock liners
Cassidy: People swear by the sock liner trick. It adds an extra barrier, and when worn with wool socks they are meant to absorb the friction from the socks, sparing your feet some damage. I wore mine for a week or two before simplifying to just wool socks. I would recommend summer wool socks if hiking in warmer weather. They are thinner, and allow your feet to breathe.
Katie: I wore silk sock liners for almost the entire Camino. I’m not sure they actually did much since I got more blisters than almost anyone I knew. I also had wool/synthetic blend socks and they were not as good as 100% wool socks and may have contributed to my blister problem. Moisture creates blisters, and wool is great at wicking it away. Other ways to combat blisters are to make sure you shower at night so your feet dry out over night (compared to showering in the morning and stuffing your barely dry feet into your shoes) and changing your socks throughout the day if they feel wet for any reason.
Cassidy: I took two pairs of sandals. One served as shower shoes, and one was the pair I walked around in during the evenings. I would recommend bringing a pair that can serve as hiking shoes if your feet get too banged up from your shoes. I personally wore sandals later in the trip due to toe complications, and was so thankful to have a pair of sandals that I could wear with socks to hike in.
Katie: I brought Birkenstocks, and I loved them. They were so comfortable to put on in the evening after walking all day. There were days that I contemplated walking in them because they were so comfortable, but I didn’t want to wear them without socks. I didn’t bring specific shower shoes. Sometimes I wore my Birkenstocks, and sometimes I just risked it all with open blisters in sketchy showers. I got lucky, I would not advise it-athlete’s foot is a real risk.
- Sun Hat
Cassidy: While I took both a baseball cap and a sunhat, I tended to use the ball cap more, and would not take a sunhat next time.
Katie: I also wore a baseball hat and wore it almost every day.
Cassidy: If you are doing the Camino during the summer, take one of these things to keep the sun off your neck. It can also be dunked in water and put back on if you get too hot on the trail.
- Sunnies & Croakies
Cassidy: While I rarely used sunglasses while my hat was on, I would recommend bringing a pair with you. Croakies is a personal decision, but are helpful in keeping the glasses on your face and around your neck.
Camino de Santiago Packing List – GEAR
Cassidy: I took a 35L Women’s Osprey Kyte backpack from REI. It was everything I needed, held up incredibly, and I will continue to use it on other trips. Make sure your pack comes with a waterproof cover, or purchase one as you will need this at some point during your trek. (LINK TO CASSIDY’S PACK)
Katie: I would suggest a 30-40L pack with hip and chest straps to help with weight distribution. I cannot stress REI enough. Sign up for a membership and then get discounts on purchases. This store is one of my favorite places. I used a backpack that I used the previous summer to travel. It is men’s REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 pack. It opens from the front which seemed really handy but actually didn’t make my life any easier because any time you opened it, everything fell out. The waterproof cover was great, and it saved me more than once. I also suggest buying your backpack, then going into REI and having them help you pack it and strap in correctly. You might not think strapping in can affect you, but we knew one pilgrim that didn’t know his backpack was uneven and had pain on one hip that was relieved when he fixed the balance of his pack. It’s very important to know how to strap yourself in! (LINK TO KATIE’S PACK)
Cassidy: Katie makes a great point above. Head into your nearest REI or adventure store before leaving and have them fit your pack to you. OKAY, AND THIS IS IMPORTANT: When you are on downhills, steep descents, etc., cinch your pack to you as high and as tight as possible. This saves your knees from taking all the weight! Once you are down the hill, uncinch it back to a comfortable spot.
- Trekking Poles
Katie: I cannot stress trekking poles enough. You may think you are young and you don’t need them, but they are a life (and knee!) saver. We used them mostly for stability and taking pressure off our knees on sharp downhills. Uphill stretches are hard, but if you go up, you must come down. Often these downhill stretches are steep and treacherous. We bought trekking poles in Pamplona, but I wish I had them from the very beginning.
- Stuff Sacks (Waterproof)
Cassidy: I purchased a pack of them on Amazon, linked HERE. These came in handy too many times to count, are virtually weightless, cheap and are waterproof.
- Gerber multi tool
Cassidy: Came in handy too many times to count. I would recommend one with a corkscrew for roadside bottles of Rioja wine. If you are not checking your pack when flying, be sure to buy a bladeless type.
- Pocket Knife
Katie: We didn’t bring a knife, but I wish we had. We constantly used our friends’ knives along the way.
- Carabiner/Gear Ties
Cassidy: Snag a pack of cheap carabiners. We used these to attach wet shoes/clothes, water bottles, and stuff sacks on the outside of our packs.
- Pepper spray
Cassidy: Safety first! While the Camino always felt super safe, I did take pepper spray with me and felt better for having it as a young female on the Camino.
Cassidy: Actually, take a lot. They are weightless and came in handy too many times to count. To store snacks, toiletries, trash from your lunch, etc. Take too many because it won’t actually be too many.
- Water Bottle
Cassidy: I took a Nalgene, but would recommend just using a disposable water or coke bottle with a screw on top. They are lighter, and can be thrown away after a few days use instead of trying to keep a reusable water bottle clean.
Katie: My Naglene broke within the first few days. Not worth it.
- Toiletry bag with hook!
Cassidy: The hook matters. It will make your life easier in the Albergues.
Cassidy: During your Camino, you will come to a cross – Cruz de Ferro. You will want to bring a rock or stone that is special to you and leave it at the base. Read more about the legend here: https://caminoways.com/cruz-de-ferro
Katie: Many pilgrims walk with a shell on their backpack to mark themselves as Peregrinos. This comes from the original Camino de Santiago where pilgrims would walk all the way to Finisterre, which was then believed to be the end of the known world. They would pick up a shell on the beach and carry it with them as they walked the entire Camino back to their homes, proving they had walked to the end of the world. Now, we carry shells even though most Peregrinos don’t walk home (even though some do)!
Katie: We used headlamps more than we thought we would! Great for packing your bag without waking up the entire Albergue, walking in the early morning light, and getting into the right bunk if it’s after lights out!
Camino de Santiago Packing List – COMFORT
- Sleep Mask – Contoured
Cassidy: Linked HERE. A contoured sleep mask is a more comfortable fit, and when the lights come on at 6am, you will be thankful you have a sleep mask.
- Silicone Ear Plugs
Cassidy: Linked HERE. These saved us too many times to count. This exact type is superior to all others. I will go to my grave using this brand. Mack, if you’re reading this, thank you mucho!
- Large Microfiber towel
Cassidy: Linked HERE. Get the large. It doesn’t weigh that much more, and the comfort of a full towel cannot be replaced by a washcloth sized one.
Katie: I got a smaller size made from a different material, and it never dried as fast as Cassidy’s large one and didn’t save me any space. Plus, drying off with a hand towel for 33 days gets old quickly.
- Sleeping Bag liner
Cassidy: A silk sleeping bag liner was all we took to sleep in. Silk prevents bugs, is light-weight, and great for summer. If I were to have walked in a colder season, I would have taken heavier sleep gear. We usually asked for blankets (montas in Spanish) if they were not already on the beds, and we slept comfortably most nights. (Link HERE)
- Pillow Case
Cassidy: This may be one of the best tips I can give you. I took a silk pillowcase, and I was so happy I did. All of the pillows on the Camino are longer than the traditional American size, so be aware of that. I recommend silk as it prevents bugs and will make your skin and hair happy.
- First Aid Kit
Cassidy & Katie: Should include gauze pads and neosporin.
Katie: Pharmacies in Spain are everywhere and very helpful. If you can use google translate or a Spanish-speaking friend, a pharmacy can probably help you solve your problem!
Cassidy & Katie: Linked HERE. Buy it on Amazon. Compeed mimics how your skin naturally deals with blisters so your skin can heal. Put it on when you feel a possible rub or blister spot coming on. It will save you on the front end of the problem. Leave on until it falls off on its own.
Cassidy & Katie: Once the blister or rub spot has developed, put moleskin on the area. This will allow the spot to heal without rubbing. Take off at the end of every day to let the area breathe.
Katie: Be aware that you can get much, much higher strength medications over the counter in Spain than you can in the US. Use caution when taking medications because two acetaminophen purchased in Spain may be a much higher dose than you intended to take!
- Katie: We actually used this often to sterilize our open wounds.
Cassidy & Katie: We used the needle to pop the blister and the thread to keep the blister from refilling overnight. It’s a controversial tactic, but it worked for us.
Cassidy & Katie: Use to disinfect the needles before popping blisters. You could also use rubbing alcohol, but we thought the lighter was more useful.
- Laundry Wash
Cassidy: Linked my favorite HERE.
- Toilet Paper
Cassidy & Katie: You don’t need to buy and bring your own, but it’s a good idea to keep toilet paper or wipes in your pack for emergencies along the trail. They happen more often than you might think.
- Tweezers/Nail Clippers
Cassidy: You will want to keep your toenails cut fairly short to prevent them from hitting the front of your shoe. This can cause unnecessary damage to your toenails, so keep them trimmed!
- Body Glide
Cassidy & Katie: For all your rubbing and chafing needs. Link HERE
Cassidy: Apply to your toes, in between and on the typical rub spots to add an extra layer of glide. This helps to alleviate some friction in your socks. I thought this helped me quite a lot with blister prevention!
- Hair Elastics
Cassidy: I kept my hair in a ponytail or braids the entire Camino.
- Hand sanitizer
Cassidy: I enjoyed having a cheap wrist watch on. When waking up in the Albergues at night, I could easily check the time. It was also helpful to have a wrist watch as you didn’t have to pull your phone out of your pack every time to check the time.
Katie: I was constantly asking Cassidy what time it was because, of course, I didn’t bring a watch.
- Contacts and solution
- Prescription Glasses
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
- Soap, shampoo, conditioner
Katie: These can get heavy. I brought bar shampoo and conditioner, but once again forgot them in an albergue. We ended up carrying pretty big bottles of shampoo, and conditioner, but we each carried one and it worked out okay.
- Sunscreen, lip balm, moisturizer
Katie: Your face is more exposed to the elements, so even if you don’t normally use these products you should consider packing a tube of each!
- Hair brush
- Prescription meds
Katie: Make sure you take what you need plus a little extra just in case! But don’t do what I did-panic and pack a year’s supply of allergy medication.
- Chargers and adapters
Katie: You’ll be surprised by how much product you use in about 35 days. Travel size won’t cut it if it’s something you use every day.