When you’re planning to pack and carry all your (current) worldly possessions for six weeks or so, choosing the appropriate limited gear becomes pretty crucial. This post is broken down into a few sections: shoes, backpack, and everything else.
I once read somewhere that the most important thing for doing the Camino is your feet. So naturally you want to take good care of them! By extension, I suppose it could be said that shoes are the most important piece of equipment.
I did some footwear research for a trip to England about six years ago. I knew I wanted a good pair of walking shoes since walking is my preferred way of getting to know a place. For that trip, I bought a pair of Merrells that were very comfortable, casual shoes, but the soles weren’t thick enough for me to avoid foot pain on rocky or uneven surfaces when my feet became tender by the end of the day. I decided I needed the thick sole of a hiking shoe. So back to the research.
After reading a log of good things about the Keen Voyageur, I went to a local shoe store to try on a pair. Even though my regular size fit very well, the clerk suggested I buy a half size up because feet will always swell after a full day of walking. I did as he suggested, and have never been sorry about it.
My pair of Keens was comfortable from the first day and required no breaking-in period.Rocky or uneven terrain gave the soles of my feet no trouble. I once used them in Hawai’i to hike up to a waterfall. On the way up, we had to cross and re-cross a stream several times.Younger folk on the trail leapt over the stepping stones like so many agile goats, but I lost my balance and stepped calf-deep into the water. Although my shoes and socks were soaked, the shoes did not rub or cause any kind of problem or discomfort like wet footwear often does. I was able to complete the hike, and my shoes were mostly dry by the next so I could wear them again for another hike.
I ended up wearing the Keens a lot – during snowy winters (the thicker soles kept my feet a little warmer and the treads helped prevent slipping on icy surfaces), on hikes in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, and many other places. They were so comfortable I sometimes even wore them just to go grocery shopping. After three years, the fabric on the inside of the left heel began to wear through. I was on my way to being devastated until I remembered that most marvelous of inventions: duct tape. So I stuck a small piece of tape over the worn spot and have continued to wear these most serviceable of shoes.
It seemed best, however, to buy a new pair for the Camino – just in case. So I got another pair of Voyageurs (in a color I like better) and have been wearing them on our training hikes. Once again there was no adjustment period; they were comfortable from the beginning.
When choosing a backpack, I’ll admit I was pretty evenly torn between getting an Osprey or a Gregory. I think in the end it was the lower price of the Osprey that decided me. I chose a women’s Kyte 36 because it is small enough not to induce me to carry too much and big enough to fit everything I want in it. The features I really appreciate are that it has lots of pockets (this feature appeals to me on almost any type of clothing or accessory), it’s light weight (just over 3 lbs.), there is access to the main section from both top and side openings, and it has an adjustable torso (important for making sure the hip straps do their job).
Including what I’ll be wearing each day, I’m taking the following:
- two pairs of zip-off hiking pants
- two short-sleeve wicking shirts
- one long-sleeve button down shirt
- fleece jacket
- waterproof shell
- sleep shirt
- three pairs of socks
- three pairs of liner socks
- three pairs of underwear
- hiking sandals
- shoes (my lovely Keens)
- Buff bandanna
- phone and charger (I plan to send updates and a few photos daily to my family via Instagram)
- plug adapter
- journal and pens
- travel book(s) – more about this later
- headlamp (not in the photo because I forgot to take it out of the backpack pocket)
- sleeping bag liner
- microfiber towel
- first aid kit
- two Vapur collapsible 1L water bottles
- Scrubba wash bag
A few details
With full water bottles, the pack weighs just under 10% of my body weight, that 10% being the recommended maximum of how much to carry. I’ve found that the water (recommended 2 liters a day, and refilling as you go) is the heaviest item I carry, but there’s nothing to be done about that. I appreciate the Vapur bottles, though, because they are collapsible, so when the water’s gone you can just fold up the now-nearly-weightless bottle and put it in your pack…until you get to the next water fountain, where you really should get more water. And then it starts all over again: filling, drinking, filling, drinking, filling, drinking…
The Scrubba Wash Bag is a handy item that my daughters told me about. I recommend trying it out before you go, just so you understand its little quirks (like making sure you fold it down enough so it doesn’t leak). I washed some socks and underwear init and was very impressed with the results.
I think it’s amusing that there’s such a category of items as “feminine urinary devices”. It sounds a bit too euphemistic to me, but I can’t think of what it would be a euphemism for. Anyway, the Freshette is an amazing little device. There are other similar items out there—like Go Girl and She Wee—and I’ve heard good things about them, but after having read several reviews, I decided on this one. And I totally concur with the reviews that you should practice using this kind of thing before striking out on your own.
Finally, the first aid kit is one I threw together on my own and put in a packing cube. I’ve seen a lot of travel first aid kits for sale that range from a couple of Band-Aids and two aspirin to vastly comprehensive sets, but none of them met my particular needs very well. So I made my own. It’s actually a kind of combination first aid/toiletries kit. It included toothpaste, lip balm, and general first aid kind of things like anti-bacterial ointment and pain reliever. It also has my personal prescription medications, plus a couple of extra prescriptions my doctor gave me in case I come down with a respiratory tract infection or a UTI or something equally unpleasant. Some recommendations I’ve read said you ought to wait to buy some of these items, like pain reliever, until you get to Spain. I think the idea was to keep your overall pack weight low. But I figure it doesn’t matter much if you add the weight now or later because you don’t have to actually carry your pack until you get there. I am waiting til I get there, though, to buy shampoo, soap, and detergent.
The one thing not on this list is hiking poles. I have a pair I use regularly for hiking at home, but I haven’t been able to find a straight answer about whether I can take them on the plane as a carry on. Rather than risk having my poles be confiscated, I’ll just get another pair once we get to France.
So there you have it. Once I actually get back from hiking the Camino, I’ll review this packing list for what worked and what didn’t and what I wished I had (if anything), but this is what I plan to set out with.
PS – These product recommendations are all my own. I didn’t receive any kind of compensation from any of these companies.