Preparing the backpack for the Camino de Santiago

How to organize the backpack for the Camino de Santiago is the first challenge posed by the famous pilgrim route, especially if you plan to carry it on your back. To avoid the added effort of carrying luggage throughout the stages, many pilgrims choose to hire a backpack transfer service.

How to organize the backpack for the Camino de Santiago is the first challenge posed by the famous pilgrim route.

Both options are perfectly ok, as explained in this article. If you use the baggage transport service you can carry up to 20 kilos, if you only want to pay for one package. To learn more about this topic, you can consult the article explaining how baggage transport services work, between stages.

If, on the other hand, you plan to carry your backpack on your back, you will have to use a technical backpack, carry luggage that does not exceed 10% of your body weight and organize the inside of the backpack properly, to prevent your joints from suffering. Here’s how to do it.

But before you go on, if you can’t wait to put your backpack on your back for a pilgrimage, we recommend the Camino de Santiago from Sarria. If you need help in organizing your trip, leave your details and we will contact you to make this adventure a reality.

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    Which backpack to choose to make the Camino de Santiago

    The first decision you have to make when organizing your suitcase to do the Camino de Santiago is which backpack to use. If you are going to carry 10% of your weight for kilometres and kilometres, it is best to have a technical backpack that is comfortable and practical.

    Below we detail some of the recommended features for the Camino de Santiago backpack. Think about whether any of the backpacks you have at home help you organize the trip to the Camino de Santiago and, if not, buy one. Don’t risk walking for hours with any backpack or your back will end up being a problem.

    Choose a backpack that allows you to organize your luggage

    The backpack you choose to take to the Camino de Santiago must be practical. Think that it’ll be like your house, you’ll carry everything you need. If your backpack doesn’t have compartments and pockets to organize your stuff, you’ll find it uncomfortable.

    In that sense, there are backpacks that have a series of compartments that allow you to organize things much more easily, sorting things according to their size and use. The most practical are:

    Side compartments on the outside

    The outer pockets, located on the sides of the backpack, are good to store things that you want to have at hand and that are not delicate, such as sun cream. You can access them without having to take off the backpack.

    Small bag (top compartment)

    The pocket that sits at the top of the backpack is ideal for storing things that are often used and are quite delicate, such as sunglasses, gps, etc. To access this pocket, you will have to take off your backpack.

    Belt bag

    Some backpacks have a small bag, which may or may not be fixed, located on the waist strap. This compartment is very useful for organizing the smallest things and that are used, constantly, while walking, such as the mobile or camera, pilgrim’s credential, some money, etc.

    Walking stick holder

    Walking sticks are always useful on the Camino de Santiago, especially on ascent and descent. These are said to take 25% off the strain related to the weight exerted on your knees, therefore, their use is highly recommended to avoid joint injuries, especially if you are going to carry a backpack.

    One of the drawbacks of the sticks is their transport. Although some are very light, even when folded, they bulk up quite a bit, if you want to place them inside the backpack. Holding them out without a system designed for this purpose can be somewhat uncomfortable.

    Therefore, it is recommended that the backpack has a specific system to carry sticks. Thus, on the flat sections or when you want to rest your arms, you can hold them on the outside of the backpack, without risk of them falling off.

    Elastic straps

    Finally, some backpacks feature elastic straps that are useful for storing bulky things that you plan to use throughout the stage. For example, a small mat to put on the floor, during stops, or a sweater or rain jacket that you want to have at hand.

    Make it comfortable

    Technical backpacks have various systems that allow you to distribute your weight properly throughout your body and that minimize suffering on your shoulders. Make sure your backpack has a chest closure, there are some designed specifically for women, and a waist-fastening band.

    Straps are essential for adjusting the backpack to your back. The most recommended are those that allow you to regulate the handles, as well as the pectoral and waist closures.

    Shoulder pads are also important for protecting the shoulders and distributing weight. In addition, it is recommended that you have a lumbar padding and ventilation system in your back.

    Choose a light backpack to organize the Camino de Santiago

    The weight of the backpack is essential when organizing the luggage to make the Camino de Santiago. Think that in total, the weight of the pack should not exceed 10% of your body, therefore the empty backpack should not exceed 1.5 kilograms.

    The weight of the backpack is essential when organizing the luggage to make the Camino de Santiago.

    Some backpacks have metal structures that make even empty ones heavy. Avoid using those kinds of backpacks.

    On the other hand, the capacity of the backpack also influences the weight. You must select a backpack that fits the volume of luggage you carry to make it convenient for you to organize. Depending on the time of year, we recommend carrying a larger or smaller backpack:

    • Spring: the ideal backpack to organize the Camino de Santiago in spring should be 30 or 40 litres.
    • Summer: in the summer season, a 20-litre backpack may be enough, if you organize it well.
    • Autumn: during this season, on the Camino de Santiago you have to have light clothes and warm clothes, we recommend a 40-litre backpack to be able to organize everything comfortably.
    • Winter: in the cold months it is necessary to bring to the Camino de Santiago much bulkier, heavy clothes, therefore, you will need a backpack of 50 or 60 litres to organize everything properly, especially if you are going to cross mountain passes.

    Criteria to organize your equipment

    Once you’ve chosen the backpack, you’ll need to start preparing the things you want to put in it. To do this we advise you to follow these simple criteria:

    Just the essentials

    You’ll have to carry everything you take to the Camino de Santiago, so be sure to put in your backpack only what is essential. Forget about the “just in case”, everything you wear and don’t use, it must have been a bad decision.

    In this sense, it is about applying some of the principles of minimalist philosophy. Sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil and make your own list of essentials. If you want, you can consult the list of things that we propose to take to the Camino de Santiago and from there, start working on yours.

    Every gram counts

    Another fact that you should pay attention to when organizing your backpack for the Camino de Santiago is the weight of things. It is not the same to carry a sleeping bag that weighs 2 kilos as one that weighs 300 or 600 grams. Bet on lightness.

    No exceptions

    Apply the above two criteria, without exception. Check your luggage as many times as necessary until you manage to organize your backpack with the right weight (remember: no more than 10% of your body weight).

    If you exceed the weight of your backpack you can overload your back and suffer pain during the tour. It is also common to have tendonitis in the knees or ankles due to excessive weight of the backpack.

    How to organize things in the backpack for the Camino de Santiago

    The last step to organize the backpack for the Camino de Santiago is to place things inside, comfortably and practically, paying attention to weight distribution. This phase will be easy if you have followed the advice we have given you in the previous two sections.

    The first thing you need to know is that you must distribute all your stuff in the backpack in a balanced way. Otherwise, you’ll end up walking bent over.

    The first thing you need to know is that you must distribute all your stuff in the backpack in a balanced way.

    You’ll know if the backpack is balanced if it’s able to stand up on its own, without falling sideways. To achieve this, follow the tips below to organize things inside your backpack.

    The bottom of the backpack

    Heavy objects and things you won’t be using during the stage should go at the bottom of the backpack. The heaviest things should be placed on the back, as attached as much as possible to the back.

    The sleeping bag is usually one of the heaviest things that pilgrims carry. Unless it is summer and opt for a light bag or plan to stay in establishments that provide them with clean bedding.

    If you still don’t know where to sleep on the Camino de Santiago, check out our blog post in which we talk about the different types of accommodation on Camino de Santiago that you will find on the pilgrim routes. Maybe you don’t need to carry a sleeping bag with you.

    Centre and upper parts

    In the middle part you must organize the things that you will use at the end of the stage, such as afternoon change of clothes, resting footwear, etc. The top of the central compartment of the backpack is often used for things you might need during the stage that are not small, such as a coat.

    It is advisable to use cloth bags to organize luggage inside the central compartment. Most pilgrims use transparent plastic bags, because that way they can see what’s inside, but they are also louder.

    Outer pockets

    As we told you before, use outside pockets to place those things you use most. Side pockets are used to balance the weight of the backpack. For example, if you’re carrying a water canteen on one side, keep the sun cream on the opposite, to counteract it.

    At this point you should be especially careful with things of value. The Camino de Santiago is quite safe but if you stop in squares or towns and leave your backpack unattended, you may suffer theft. Always carry your valuables with you or use a small lock to close the pocket in which you keep them.

    The acid test

    Once you have finished organizing your backpack to do the Camino de Santiago, weigh it. If it exceeds 10% of your weight, check your luggage again.

    When you get your backpack down to the right weight, put it on your back and take a walk with it. This will show if it’s comfortable for you and if the weight is right for you.

    We hope you enjoyed our tips on how to organize your backpack for the Camino de Santiago. Whether you are carrying it on your back or want to use a baggage transfer service, in Santiago Ways, we can help you organize your pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

    Send us a message through the form on our website or contact us through the chat on our Facebook page. Our team will be happy to assist you and resolve all your doubts.

    Buen Camino!