What do I take on the Camino de Santiago?
One of the first questions asked by people who decide to do any of the pilgrim routes is what to take on the Camino de Santiago. The answer is not simple and depends on a large number of factors. The time of year, the chosen itinerary, the places where you plan to spend the night, the characteristics of each pilgrim, etc., are just some of them.
In Santiago Ways, we are fortunate to have accompanied hundreds of pilgrims on the journey. Therefore, we do not want to simply provide you with a list of things to put in your backpack. Firstly, we would like to give you some tips that will help you prepare for your trip Santiago.
Advice to choose what to take on the Camino de Santiago
Before delving into details on what to bring and what not to take on the Camino de Santiago, there are 3 basic tips that should be present when preparing your backpack. Take note!
On the Camino de Santiago you will find services
Throughout your journey along the Camino de Santiago, no matter what route you choose, you will find services (pharmacies, clothes shops, supermarkets, etc.). It doesn’t make sense to spend a fortune buying products you don’t have at home and not being sure of using them.
A good example could be anti-inflammatory cream. It is true that it is recommended to carry one in your first-aid kit. However, if you don’t have any at home, you don’t need to buy one before you leave and put it in your bag.
If your joints (ankles, knees, etc.) bother you on the way, you can buy one. Almost every day you will pass by a pharmacy. The same applies to many of the things that are not essential, but advisable.
You should not be obsessed with taking from home, things you can get in any small town. Not all pilgrims have the same needs, if you listen to everything you hear, you’ll end up with a 15-pound backpack.
Take things that you won’t mind losing
We give you this advice for two reasons. The first is that the odds that during the route, especially if it’s many days, you may end up losing or forgetting something is very high.
The second reason why we say this is because if you have not prepared your backpack properly, perhaps during the journey you realize that you need to lose weight. That moment is beautiful because it means that you have already learned the first lesson on the Camino de Santiago: travel light!
If your backpack is full of things of great economic value or sentimentality, this moment can be especially painful. The lodgings on the Camino de Santiago are full of boxes with clothes and objects that pilgrims leave behind because they consider them unnecessary.
If lightening your backpack is due to a problem with your joints or because you realize that maybe your physical condition was not as good as you thought, you have four options. Leave the pilgrim route along with your things, (the worst choice, according to us).
You could also hire a shuttle to take your backpack from one point to the other. Another option is to send by parcel the excess weight that you carry. Finally, you can breathe deep, accept your pilgrim status and say goodbye to things you’d rather have left at home.
Make your own list of what to take on the Camino de Santiago
Searching online, you will find countless lists of things to take on the Camino de Santiago. Some are quite exhaustive and others are only left with the most essential.
Take your time to consult various lists. Give special value to those that explain the usefulness of carrying a certain accessory. Think about that depending on the itinerary you choose and the time of year in which you make your pilgrimage, some things can be useful or not.
Three frequent questions about equipment to take on the Camino
In addition to what things to take on the Camino de Santiago, there are 3 frequently asked questions posed by many pilgrims about baggage. Now, we give you our advice on each of them.
Which backpack do I take on the Camino de Santiago?
The first one is what backpack to take on the Camino de Santiago. This is not a trivial question. To cope with so many kilometres of pilgrimage, there are two really important things: backpack and footwear. They are the only two things you will wear every day and are not easy to replace.
The backpack is the pilgrim’s house. During the journey, the people who travel the various pilgrims’ paths, carry everything they need on their backs.
Not any backpack will do, think that will be your faithful companion during the whole route. To make it comfortable and practical, the backpack needs to have some features.
Pay attention to the following tips to choose your backpack for the Camino de Santiago. Once you have clear what backpack to take to the Camino de Santiago, you can take care of the rest of the baggage. If you want to know the details of things that Santiago Ways recommends to take with you, you can see this article on what to take in your backpack on the Camino de Santiago.
It has to be easy to load
Obviously, the backpack should be comfortable to carry. To ensure this, it is recommended that you have shoulder pads, a chest closure and a waist-fastener.
This way, it will be more comfortable for your shoulders to support the backpack for so many hours. In addition, the weight will be distributed correctly throughout your body.
That it has adjustable straps is also important. To walk comfortably you will need to carry the backpack completely attached to the back, and for that, you will have to adjust it to your body.
Lumbar reinforcement and the presence of a back ventilation system are also desirable features. Although they are not as essential as the previous aspects.
It should be lightweight
Many backpacks, even when empty, are weighed down by their own structure. Pay attention to the weight of the empty backpack before deciding on one model or another.
Backpacks with integrated metal structure are not recommended for weight. It is advisable that the empty backpack weighs 1.5 kilograms or less. Think that once filled, your weight should not be more than 10% of your body weight.
It should have adequate capacity
The capacity of the backpack you choose to pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is important. A very small backpack will not be comfortable if your luggage is hard to fit in.
If you choose a very large backpack, you run the risk of overfilling it, either before leaving home or on the road. Also, the bigger the backpack, the heavier it will be, even if it is empty.
Obviously, it is not the same pilgrimage in winter as in summer, as warm clothes take up much more. Therefore, in summer a backpack between 35 and 45 litres should suffice. If you do the Camino de Santiago in winter maybe you should use one of 50 or 60 litres.
It should be practical
The backpack should be practical when it comes to organizing everything you wear. It must have outside compartments, to store small things, like sunscreen. Elastic straps are also useful.
Backpacks with a waist-strap pocket are very practical. Because they allow storing in it objects that you will use frequently and to which you can access without having to remove the backpack, like for example your mobile to take photos.
If you plan to carry trekking sticks, it will be much more convenient to transport them, when you do not use them, if your backpack has a specific system to carry them. However, there are many other strategies for attaching them to the backpack.
Should I take a sleeping bag on the Camino de Santiago?
Another question that often haunts the head of many pilgrims is whether to take a sleeping bag on the Camino de Santiago. As always, the answer depends on what you plan to do.
To spend the night in hostels, since many of them do not have enough bedding and are quite cold, it is advisable to wear a sleeping bag. A light sack is usually enough for most of the year.
A sheet sack can be enough if you make the Camino in summer and you are not a person who feels the cold. On the contrary, in winter it is advisable to have a good sleeping bag.
To stay in more comfortable places (inns, cottages, etc.), like those that we work with in Santiago Ways, you will not need to carry a sleeping bag with you. This type of accommodation is somewhat more expensive than the hostels, but they are much more comfortable.
Sticks, yes or no?
It is normal for the previous two questions to be among the most frequent. Both the sleeping bag and the sticks are objects that will take up space in your backpack. However, selecting properly, both can be quite light.
Traditionally, pilgrims have used a wooden cane, known as a staff. This is quite heavy, although still, some pilgrims acquire one during the tour. Some of them are authentic handcrafted works.
The alternative to these beautiful relics is trekking poles. Much lighter and easier to transport.
The use of walking sticks will help you to distribute the weight of the backpack on them. They will also allow you not to have to force your knees on the ups and downs. In this way, the answer to the question is clear: yes.
However, there are some drawbacks. You’ll have to carry them, even if you’re not using them. Especially on the flat sections, where the poles do not bring much value, but continue to tire our arms.
Unless you are an experienced hiker, accustomed to travelling long distances with weight behind your back, our advice is that you take some walking sticks with you. They do not add so much weight if you select them properly, and you can load them on the outside of the backpack when you don’t use them.
Perhaps so far you have not had any problems with your knees or ankles, but walking for many kilometres with weight on your back adds pressure on your joints. Using walking sticks is a good way to take care of them.
More advice on what to take on the Camino de Santiago
Completing the Camino de Santiago is a personal experience and each one goes with his own backpack. Most lists of what to take to the Camino de Santiago only contemplate basic things, but each pilgrim knows what is essential for them.
Now, we talk about some small treasures that the pilgrims that have accommpanied us through the years have opted to carry with them. What’s going to be yours?
it is indisputable that the quality of the photos that most of the mobiles is excellent. But for those who love photography, giving up their camera implies a great sacrifice.
There are few pilgrims, you’ll see on the Camino de Santiago carrying an SLR camera. However, some prefer to pay the price that it implies, to leave it at home.
If you are one of those lovers of photography, we recommend that you only risk to bring with you a camera that will be light. Pick a compact camera and adapt to it. Forget it if your camera and your target weigh more than one kilogram, it’s better to not even think about it.
Many of the people who complete the Camino de Santiago are going through personal moments of change and take advantage of the experience to rediscover themselves. Others, even without thinking about it, are involved in processes of personal transformation during the pilgrimage.
Loading a small notebook, you can use as a travel diary will help make the experience even more constructive. The breakfasts, a small stop in the middle of the tour, the quiet evenings in many of the small places in which you will conclude a stage, are ideal moments to write.
Lovers of drawing will find landscapes and urban environments that will invite them to spend hours in front of the sketchbook. On the Camino Frances, it may be more difficult to find the tranquillity that drawing requires, but the other pilgrims’ paths will give you many hours of solitude.
If you like to draw, don’t forget to put in your backpack a small sketchbook and a pencil. It doesn’t weigh much and will give you great moments of satisfaction.
We believe that the Camino de Santiago is a place to listen to oneself, to come into contact with the beautiful landscape that crosses and to find inspiration in other pilgrims. However, music can be a good companion for some desolate kilometres.
If you are one of those people who need the music in their day to day, do not forget to save a good selection of songs on your mobile, because in many sections you will not find a connection. Do not forget your earphones, as perhaps the pilgrim who walks next to you, prefers silence.
Another issue is the musicians. Carrying a guitar or another large instrument is not very advisable for the devices that are difficult to transport, but a harmonica or a flute are excellent options.
Lovers of reading will also not want to give up carrying a book, especially if they are willing to spend many days on their pilgrimage. If it is your case, do not choose a very heavy book; If you finish it you will be able to buy another. You can also use an ebook if you are one of those who devour pages.
We hope that our tips on what to take on the Camino de Santiago have been helpful. If you have not already done so, do not forget to check our article on what steps to follow to take to organize the Camino de Santiago and the tips to enjoy the Camino.
If you have more questions or want to advise you personally on your trip to Santiago de Compostela do not hesitate to contact us. We’re waiting for You!