What to take on the Camino de Santiago?
Nowadays, doing the Camino de Santiago without a backpack is possible. However, most people prefer to carry their own backpack to Santiago de Compostela, just as many pilgrims have done for centuries.
To complete this challenge successfully, it is important to plan in detail what things to carry in your backpack to complete the Camino de Santiago. There are no lists that work for all pilgrims, so it is important to keep in mind some advice to prepare your kit . We recommend that if you have not already done so, consult the link before you continue reading.
With the experience that we have had in accompanying hundreds of pilgrims to the heart of Galicia, we have developed this article so that it will help you prepare your backpack for the Camino de Santiago. We hope you find it useful.
List of things to take in your backpack on the Camino de Santiago
Once you have decided which backpack you will take on the Camino de Santiago, then it is the time to worry about everything else. The footwear, along with the backpack, are the most important elements of your pilgrimage. Clothing, first-aid kit or other useful accessories are important, but they are not as relevant as your backpack and shoes.
The following list of things to take on the Camino de Santiago will serve as a starting point to prepare your own list, depending on your personal characteristics and the pilgrim route you choose. If you still do not know which, we advise you to read this article on which Camino de Santiago to choose. Obviously, the time of year in which you plan to pilgrimage will also largely mark what things you have to take on the Camino.
What footwear to use on the Camino
Shoes are one thing that occupies enough space in any luggage. The good news is that the shoes that fill your backpack most are the trekking boots and you will wear them whenever you have to load your backpack. Choosing a good shoe to complete the Camino de Santiago is fundamental.
Boots for the Camino de Santiago
The best boots to make the Camino de Santiago are those that you have previously used and do not hurt you. If you already have such boots, forget the other specifications and use these ones. A very common mistake is to wear new shoes.
If you do not have any type of boots that you can use, you will have to buy some and use them as much as possible before beginning the pilgrim path. Thus, the shoe will be adapted to your foot and avoid uncomfortable chafing or blistering.
In summer some hiking shoes are suitable. They can be low cut or ankle. In the latter case, make sure that they do not exert excessive pressure, so that you can walk comfortably.
In the warmest times, some pilgrims prefer to use closed sandals, specially designed for hiking. They grip the foot less but are lighter.
In the winter months, it is recommended to use high-cut mountain boots that protect you from the cold. They are heavier, but depending on the itinerary you choose, you could find snow in some sections.
Regardless of the time of year, your feet will heat up when walking, generating moisture. Therefore, it is recommended to use breathable fabric footwear.
Permeability is another factor to consider. Although in summer it is not necessary, it is possible that it rains or you have to cross some streams, so that waterproof footwear will ensure that your feet will remain dry. In winter, it is more than advisable to wear waterproof footwear.
Other footwear that you will need
In addition to the footwear you will use to walk, you’ll need one or two more pairs. Slippers you can use in the shower are essential, especially if you plan to sleep in hostels.
To rest your feet in the afternoon, you can wear other shoes that are light and do not occupy much space. Some pilgrims use the same plastic slippers they use to shower for a walk in the afternoon, thus avoiding carrying a third pair of shoes.
What clothing to take in your backpack on the Camino
When preparing the clothes, you will take on the Camino de Santiago, you should keep in mind that it is usual to wash it at the end of each stage, so you do not need to carry a large number of changes. For this reason, and because in the north of Spain downpours are usual at any time of the year, it is advisable to wear clothes that are quick-drying.
In this sense, to prepare your backpack for the Camino de Santiago, one usually talks about the number 3, for most of the garments. The first, will be the one you wear; The second, a clean change that you can use while washing the clothes you used during the stage; And the third is spare, for emergencies, either because it has rained and you are soaked, because one day you have arrived very tired and you have not washed clothes, etc.
Continuing with the type of material, it is advisable that you wear breathable clothing, that is, made with synthetic materials. In both winter and summer, you’ll sweat a lot and if your T-shirt is cotton, it won’t allow perspiration to go outside and dry quickly.
If you wear a shirt that does not breathe, in summer you will be wet during the whole tour, giving you that uncomfortable feeling. In winter, if the inner shirt does not sweat, the feeling of cold will increase considerably, even if on top you wear more warm clothes.
For the upper part of the body, the three layers’ theory used by most experienced hikers works very well. This consists of having a breathable T-shirt in the backpack, another layer that serves as a coat and the last one that protects you from adverse weather conditions (rain, wind or snow).
How does this translate into your backpack? So, combining the three layers’ theory and that of the number 3, in the following way:
The three breathable t-shirt technique
In summer they can be all short-sleeved, in winter it is advisable to wear some long sleeves. In the afternoon, to walk through the locations where you end the stage, you can use one of the T-shirts because you have one extra. Although if you prefer, you can add a fourth, that will serve you while walking or sleeping.
One or two warm items
If you are going to complete the Camino de Santiago in summer, it will be enough to wear a light polar jacket and/or a thermal T-shirt. In winter you need to wear a good thermal shirt and a coat that is also breathable, as you will wear it for much of the day.
A rain jacket or anorak
In both winter and summer, it is common for it to rain in the north of Spain, especially in Galicia. Rain jackets are more useful than umbrellas, which can be made uncomfortable by the wind.
In addition, the raincoat will also serve as a windbreak. The ideal thing is to take on the Camino de Santiago one that is easy to pack and that takes up little space in the backpack.
To complete the Camino de Santiago in summer, hiking trousers will be enough. Ideally they are modular, so you can use them long in the first hour of the morning, which is colder, and shorter in the hot moments. Leggings are also a good option because they are very light.
If you make the Camino de Santiago in winter, it is recommended to use thermal leggings under the hiking trousers, to protect you from the low temperatures.
In addition to the pants you use to walk, you will need others you can use during the rest of the time and, of course, others to sleep in. Three trousers!
Other pieces of clothing on which you will also have to decide whether to take on the Camino de Santiago or not and how many changes, are:
Underwear and socks
With underwear, the theory of three still applies. It is recommended that you should take comfortable and breathable clothes.
Socks can become almost as important as boots and you should not take risks with them. Carry in your Camino de Santiago backpack non-cotton and seamless socks.
Don’t take less than 3 pairs. In some guides, they will recommend that two are enough, but imagine one morning when your socks from the previous day have not dried. And either because it’s raining or you’ve stepped in a stream, you get wet with the ones you’re wearing.
What are you going to do? Walk with wet feet? No, these things cannot be allowed by pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, because there are many kilometres that you have to travel. You can walk with a wet T-shirt in summer, but not with wet socks.
It is advisable to wear a hat that protects us from the sun, especially if you make the Camino de Santiago in spring or summer. However, during the winter it may also be necessary during the midday hours. Choose a lightweight, easy-to-fold item and take up little space in your backpack.
The woollen hat, as well as a scarf that protects our neck and gloves, are essential in winter. However, some pilgrims also take them in other seasons, to protect themselves from the morning cold.
If you do the Camino del Norte or the Camino Portugues coastal route swimming costume is indispensable. However, if you do any other Camino de Santiago it is also advisable to carry one in the backpack, especially in summer, as you will also find rivers and pools where you can refresh yourself.
If you plan to stay in hostels you should bring a towel to dry after the shower. In other types of accommodation, it will probably be provided. If you make some of the routes that run, to a large extent, close to the sea, for example, the Camino del Norte or the Camino Portugues coastal route, you also have to have a beach towel.
A small bag or belt bag
It is practical to take with you a small bag or belt bag that you can use when you go out for a walk in the afternoon, after leaving the backpack in your accommodation. In addition, if you plan to stay in hostels, most of them do not have lockers to store your valuables (mobile, cards, ID, etc.).
Useful items for the Camino de Santiago
Now we talk about some things that are not essential and therefore are not in the backpack of all pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, but they can be very useful. Think about it if you want to include some of them in your backpack.
Sunglasses are needed in any season. We will spend many hours walking in the sun or even in winter, exposed to the reflection of the snow.
Washing soap and clothes pegs
You’ll need a bar of soap to wash your clothes every afternoon. To dry properly, it is advisable to carry 4 or 5 clothes pegs with you. Some places provide them, but others don’t.
Safety pins are practical to hold clothes on the outside of the backpack if they have not dried the next morning. They weigh nothing and they can save you from losing, while you walk, things you’ve got hanging from your backpack.
Travel-size hygiene products
Take hygiene products you use in travel pack formats. If you end up on the route, you can buy more in small towns that will come across your path. For example, it doesn’t make sense to carry a 750 ml shampoo in your backpack, if you’ll be on the Camino de Santiago for a week.
If you plan to stay in hostels, you should know that in these, dozens and dozens of people share the same space. Each pilgrim has their own schedule, so both at night and in the morning, you will have to use a flashlight to avoid turning on the light and disturbing your roommates.
You can use your mobile flashlight. However, to pack in the mornings, for example, you will need both hands, so a frontal flashlight is more practical. Some pilgrims begin to walk before sunrise, in those cases you will also need it.
Mobile phone and charger
Disconnecting from technology on the Camino de Santiago is one of the great challenges for many pilgrims. However, taking your mobile and charger with you is always useful, both for taking pictures, and in case of an emergency.
Bottle or water bag
On most pilgrim routes you will find drinking water sources every few kilometres. It is advisable to carry a bottle or a water bottle to fill. Obviously, you can also use a regular plastic bottle, but they are more difficult to attach to the backpack.
A highly recommended option are the water bags that are placed inside the backpack, although some already come with this built-in element (Camelback). The water bags do not weigh anything empty and allow you to stay hydrated while walking in a very comfortable way.
The trekking poles help you to unload some of the weight of your backpack and also protect your joints during the ups and downs on the route. The downside is that you have to carry them when you don’t use them, but in sports shops, you can find some really light ones.
Waterproof cover for the backpack
In the north of Spain, the rain is frequent in both summer and winter, so it is recommended to have one. Also, it will serve to cover your backpack if you have clothes hanging and drying.
The sleeping bag is useful for those pilgrims who plan to spend the night in shelters. If you use another type of accommodation, it is not so necessary.
Some guides recommend bringing a mat. It makes sense if you plan to camp on the Camino de Santiago, for which you will have to take a tent, with the extra weight that this implies. Even in summer, it’s too cold to sleep outdoors.
If you don’t plan to camp, there’s no point in carrying a large mat. In the event that one night you do not find accommodation and you have to sleep on the floor, surely any hostel or refuge can provide you with one. If you don’t want to risk it, contact us and we will take care of booking the accommodation on the Camino de Santiago for you.
Needless to say, it is necessary to carry documents and bank cards. However, a detail in which many pilgrims do not pay attention is to always have some cash in the wallet. There will be days when you won’t find any ATM on the route.
It is advisable to carry a small first-aid kit in the backpack to make the Camino de Santiago. There are a number of ailments that are common among the pilgrims (joint discomfort, chafing, blisters, etc.), but it is not necessary to become obsessed with it.
Remember that along the way you will find many pharmacies. Here are some things you might need during your pilgrimage:
- Sun cream (obligatory)
- Needle and thread to treat blisters (important and recommended to bring from home)
- Plasters (important and recommended to bring from home)
- Antiseptic cream
- Anti-inflammatory cream
How to prepare your kit for the Camino
When you have decided which backpack to take on the Camino de Santiago and which things you will put in it, it is time to organize the luggage. If you bring a sleeping bag, put it at the bottom, as it will be the last thing you use every day. The clothes should go on top and the small things neat in the outer compartments of the backpack.
Once you have it all in place, weigh your backpack. This should not exceed 10% of your weight. so, if you weigh 60 kilograms, your full backpack should weigh about 6 kilograms.
After adjusting the weight of the backpack, check that it is suitable for you. Before you start the Camino de Santiago, put your backpack and take a walk with it, so you can get an idea of whether you can support this weight for hours or if you need to lighten it.
We hope that our list of things to carry in the backpack to complete the Camino de Santiago has helped you. If you have more questions or want to join you in the fantastic adventure of touring the Jacobean Route, do not hesitate to contact us.