It’s all about choices

Walking the Camino is a very personal decision. It goes to follow that selecting which gear to use is also very personal. “We all walk our own Camino in our own way, and in our own time.” You must select gear that will work for you. No one but you will be wearing your shoes and socks, clothing, or likely carrying your backpack. It can be a joy or misery based upon your choices. Make sure that you train using all of your gear and carrying your backpack, with the water source that you choose so that you are confident that it works for you. Lastly, own your choices.

Backpack

Finding the right backpack for you is one of the most important decisions you will make.

Footwear

Will you wear boots, shoes, sandals or some combination? How about socks?

Clothing

What type of clothing will you wear?

Rain Gear

Rain Coat and Rain Pants or Poncho?

What to sleep in

Will you carry a sleeping bag, a sleep sack, or even simply a blanket?

Water

How will you carry water for your walk?

Trekking Poles

Will you use trekking poles?

Other Packs

Will you carry a day pack or a fanny pack?

Toiletries

What types of toiletries will you carry?

Shower Gear

What do you need to deal with showers?

Electronics

Types of electronics that you will carry?

Miscellaneous

Other thoughts

Backpack

Arguably, your most important piece of gear is your backpack. It is where you keep all of your stuff and its fit and finish as it relates to your body are very important as you walk along.

First, it is always recommended that if at all possible you get your pack fitted by an experienced professional. A sporting goods store that sells backpacks and hiking supplies can usually do that.

So, the next thoughts on choosing a pack. What size do you want/need? You can get help answering that question during your fitting. How much does your pack weigh empty? Actual pack weight matters. Some packs weigh more than 5 lbs empty. If the goal is to carry no more than 10% of your body weight then you just used up 50 lbs. Several excellent lightweight packs weigh less than 3 lbs. Remember, you will most likely not be carrying a tent, cooking equipment, or days’ worth of food, so you probably do not need a large pack.

Backpack for the Camino

Shoes and Socks

This is probably the most controversial topic on the entire site. Everyone has an opinion and they are confident that they are right. The true answer is that we all walk our own Camino in our way. Your choice of Shoes and Socks are very personal and most importantly you are going to have to live with your choices, so make sure they work for you. The best way to figure this out is to wear your choice of shoes and socks as you train. Your first choice may not work. It is always recommended that you purchase shoes that are at least 1/2 size larger than you currently wear, many pilgrims go 1 size larger. Your feet will swell, that is almost guaranteed.

Shoes

Boots – Many pilgrims wear boots, especially during the early spring or late fall when rain falls more regularly and there is a chance of snow. Boots, arguably provide more support for your ankles and can keep your feet dryer. During the early spring there can be a great deal of heavy mud and boots can help with that.

Trail Runners – These days the majority of pilgrims wear trail runners. They are light, provide good padding and most have excellent traction. The downside is that most are not waterproof so your feet will get wet in the rain. While that may be a bit of a challenge, they will dry and it is simply not that big of a deal. Most would say that the benefits of trail runners far outweigh the downside.

Hiking Sandals – During the warmer months some pilgrims choose to wear hiking sandals. The benefit is that your feet stay cooler and there is less moisture so it prevents blisters.

It is very important to train in your shoe choice once you have made it. Some stores will allow you to return shoes that you do not like for a full refund, so long as you do it in a reasonable amount of time. Blisters happen and shoe choice can make a big difference.

Socks

Socks and shoes are symbiotic and work together. You can choose socks made from many different materials. Wool, Cotton, Synthetic. Some socks have individual toes (Toe Socks), and there are very light liners. You can get socks in different weights from extra heavy to light. All of these choices are personal preferences. Try out different combinations of shoes and socks to find the combo that works for you. Consider that you will be walking 10 to 20 miles per day in this combination.

Clothing

Your choice of clothing first comes down to what and how much of each item you choose to take with you. Most pilgrims choose quick-drying fabrics, hopefully with antimicrobial qualities. Smart Wool, Nylon, or Polyester is the most predominant on the Camino. You will rarely see Cotton as it is very slow to dry. Although some carry cotton to sleep in.

Most people dress in layers on the Camino. The base layer – underwear, socks, teeshirt. Next layer of Pants or shorts, a pullover top, or a button-up shirt. Next layer a jacket or vest or maybe a fleece top. Lastly a jacket or raincoat.

Rain Gear

This would be the second most contentious subject. There are two schools of thought. The first being a rain poncho. The second being a raincoat and rain pants.

Rain Poncho – There are two types of Poncho’s. There is one that snaps up the sides. While this might seem great, when there is rain, wind typically accompanies it. The snaps don’t hold well. The other type of poncho zips up the front and has extra fabric on the back that forms a type of pouch that covers your pack. The zip-up poncho works great.

Raincoat and Rain pants – With a raincoat, your pack goes on the outside so you will need a rain cover for your pack but it works very well. You can also bring rain pants which will provide an excellent water barrier and keep you dry. The challenge with a raincoat and rain pants is that they are heavier to carry and more cumbersome to put on when it starts raining. You will also need to carry a rain cover for your pack. Many pilgrims forgo the rain pants and just carry the coat and a pack cover.

Sleeping Bag, Sleeping sack or blanket

The choice of which type of thing to bring to sleep in is dictated by the time of year that you are walking. Northern Spain can be both very cold and very hot. In the Spring and Fall, the weather is temperate during the day but it can be very cold at night. Most albergues do not keep the heat on throughout the night so a sleeping bag can be a very good idea. Conversely, during the summer months, it is very warm in Spain and does not always cool down at night. A sleep sack or light blanket would probably be quite sufficient.

Water Transport

How will you carry water on your Camino? It is very important to stay hydrated. There are two options.

A water bladder typically is carried inside your pack in a water pouch that most packs have. The bladder typically has a capacity of 2 or 3 liters. It has a long tube that comes out of the pack and is attached to one of your shoulder straps. It makes it easy to drink water by simply sucking on the end of the tube.

The other option is to carry a water bottle or bottles. Most packs have pouches on either side of the outside of the pack where you can keep your water bottles. You can either bring them from home or simply buy a bottle or two of water at the store in Spain or France and use them. Water in 1.5 ltr bottles can cost as little as 50 cents.

Trekking Poles

Using trekking poles is again a personal choice. The benefits of using them are, that they provide relief for your knees as you walk, they assist you in climbing up hills, and they provide stabilization as you go down hills, or are walking in rocky or slippery areas. The majority of pilgrims use them although some choose not to. If you are going to use them then it is recommended that you train with them so that you are comfortable with them on the Camino.

Day Pack and or Fanny Pack

Most pilgrims carry along some type of small pack that they can keep their valuables in. It can be a shoulder bag, a fanny pack, or some other type of small bag.

These are important as you should always take your valuables with you wherever you go at all times. That includes the shower so some type of waterproof bag is great and a ziplock bag inside of your bag works just fine.

Many pilgrims also carry some type of day pack. If you are carrying your backpack then your daypack might be a very small light stuff sack backpack that opens to a good size bag for shopping but is extremely light.

If you are transporting your backpack then a good-sized day pack will be important. If you are going to transport your pack then it is recommended that you fill your daypack with the items including water and snacks that you believe you will carry and train with it before going to ensure that it works for you.

Toiletries

The first thing that most of us need to wrap our heads around is that NOBODY CARES what you look like. We are all wearing the same clothes day after day. Most of us do not shower in the morning and some of us walk with bedhead all day and NOBODY CARES. Very few wear makeup or do their hair. It is more of a wash-and-go thing.

You will need the basics – Soap and shampoo or an all-in-one type bar such as Dr. Bonners which acts as soap, shampoo, and also laundry detergent if you are hand washing. You will need a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb or brush, a razor, and any other minimal items that you think you should carry.

Shower Gear

For the shower, you will need a towel. Most people use a quick-drying shammy-type towel that is very light and absorbent. Your choice of items from above, shower shoes if you choose, and some type of bag to hold your clothes that you will put on after your shower and your valuables. it is also helpful to have a bag to put your dirty clothes in when you take them off. A kind of laundry bag if you will.

Electronics

In this day and age, most pilgrims carry at the very least a mobile phone.

If you will be carrying a phone you will need some way to charge it. Spain, France, and Portugal all use the same standard two-pin plug. you can purchase an adapter for your US plug that will convert it to the European standard. Since most albergues have many pilgrims and limited electrical outlets it is recommended that you carry a USB charger that has multiple outlets so that others can share.

Many also take their Apple Watch which needs to be charged daily. Same recommendation. With a USB charger that has multiple plugs, you can charge both your phone and watch while others also can share your charger.