Ever since my Mom saw a movie called “The Way” about 10 years ago, she dreamed of walking this legendary pilgrimage across Northern Spain. Known as The Camino de Santiago, millions of pilgrims have made the journey to Santiago de Compostela since 800 AD. My mom is a true adventurer at heart and dreams big dreams. Like, she climbed to Mt. Everest Base Camp. She wrote a memoir. So when she asked me to join her in a 300 mile trek across Spain, I was honored to be included on her next “Everest.”
Once you begin walking on the Camino, life becomes pretty simple. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still really, really hard. It challenged me in every way I think of - physically, emotionally and spiritually. But it’s simple. You just walk. You walk at your own pace and you can stop whenever you need to.
But because the Camino de Santiago isn’t a a normal trip to Europe (and it's really not a vacation), it requires a lot more packing preparation. You see, the majority of pilgrims carry all of their belongings on their back. So every item you pack and it’s subsequent weight are extremely important. To “just walk” actually takes a bit of time to plan!
Here are some questions I asked myself before packing:
How on earth am I going to do this?
How much weight should I carry?
What shoes will be comfortable?
How will I take care of my feet?
How much clothing should I pack?
What kind of backpack should I buy?
What kind of tech gear do I need?
How will the weather be that time of year?
My Mom and I excitedly exchanged calls, texts and emails discussing all of these things. To get ideas, I watched YouTube videos, talked with my cousin who had recently completed the walk and read blog posts like this one. It's important to note that here is no wrong way to be a pilgrim. Whether you carry your pack everyday or send it to the next town via JacobTrans or strap it to your mountain bike, only YOU know how to prepare for the journey God has for you. Don’t let anyone tell you any different! For example, my Mom and I stayed in small hotels instead of abergues which some pilgrims look down upon as if it isn’t a “real” Camino. Judging other pilgrims for their choices can be tempting because you’re doing yours *your* way, but it’s a slippery slope that detracts from the gracious spirit of the road. If you got yourself to Spanish soil, believe me…your pilgrimage is real.
This isn’t a sponsored post or anything, so all of the items you see below are personally vetted by me. Also, please note that my packing list does not include items you’d need in an albergue like a pillowcase, earplugs, sleeping bag, etc.
Here's what I packed for the Camino de Santiago:
1 40L backpack - It's important to not bring a backpack any larger than 40L as it will weigh you down! I almost brought a 60L, which would have been a huge mistake.
1 set of packing cubes - I'm a recent convert to packing cubes, but they truly make traveling a little easier. You're constantly packing and unpacking, so these cubes helped me stay organized.
2 pairs of Darn Tough hiking socks - These are made in Vermont and are truly tough!
2 pairs of hiking liner socks - These aren't absolutely essential, but they're supposed to help prevent blisters. I still got blisters though haha
2 pairs of athletic shorts with pockets - These lightweight shorts were very comfortable and I didn't experience any issues with them. The pockets were key!
2 pairs of Uniqlo Airism underwear - These are light, breezy and comfy!
1 pair of Columbia trekking sneakers - Do not pack hiking boots. Go for a lightweight athletic or running shoe. My sneakers held up great and I still wear them to the gym! They were waterproof and served me well on rainy days and in puddles.
1 pair of Teva sandals - I loved this celestial pattern and it was easy to strap them onto my backpack. They were comfortable for nighttime wear and lightweight to carry.
1 pair of high-rise Carbon38 leggings - These are a staple for me at home and I've owned this pair for 5+ years! They're $$$ but excellent quality that has lasted me hundreds of workouts. I wore these on chilly days and on all of my flights.
1 Columbia long sleeved shirt - I purchased a simple grey long sleeved shirt on Poshmark from Columbia and I basically wore it every day. The quick dry was helpful and the hood came in handy when it was raining!
1 athletic dress with built-in bra - This was my "evening look" haha and it conveniently had underwear and a bra built in, so I didn't have to pack a traditional bra. Very good for hot days. Now I wear it to play tennis!
1 waterproof North Face rain jacket - Having a lightweight rain jacket is critical as the weather on the Camino can change quickly. Make sure it's not "water resistant" but "waterproof."
2 Wolven Noor 4-Way Sports Bras - I'm not sure that the bras I packed were the most supportive, but they were reversible and did the job.
1 journal - My mom was the primary journal writer as I managed our daily video logs, but it's still nice to have!
1 eye mask - Any ol' eye mask will do!
1 international travel adapter - This is absolutely essential. I've had this for 4+ years and used it on every international trip I've been on.
1 multi-use USB charging cable - This one is fantastic as it has 3 different plugs!
1 Davines shampoo and conditioner - My hair is platinum blonde, which means it's super damaged haha so I always bring my special shampoo and conditioner when I travel!
1 carabiner - Helpful to clip small items to your backpack. They cost a few dollars and can be found at any sporting goods store.
1 Nalgene water bottle
1 small first-aid kit with sewing kit - This was a TOP ITEM. You cannot forget to pack a small first-aid kit with bandages, cleaning solution and a sewing kit. The sewing kit helped me manage my blisters.
1 mask - All of the buses required us to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID. That was the only place we needed them.
1 pair of Illesteva sunglasses - I couldn't find my athletic sunglasses for the trip, but I used my polarized Illestevas and they were great.
1 small canvas bag - Any simple reusable bag from home will do. I've found that packing a neutral, non-branded canvas bag is a great "errand" bag for evening adventures, shopping trips and more. They weigh nothing!
10 postcards from California - This is something I pack for a lot of trips! It's fun to leave a little thank you note behind when you have exceptional service or make a new friend. My Dad picked out a bunch of special and cute ones from my parents' home of Florida!
1 neon yellow Buff - This was super helpful and I often wore it around my neck for sweat resistance or sun protection. There's even a Camino theme Buff, which I bought for my Mom!
1 iPhone - Obviously. Make sure you have a protective case to prevent cracks!
1 baseball hat - Totally essential. Mom had to buy a bucket hat outside of Pamplona because her hat didn't cover her face enough. It's also easy to clip a baseball cap to a carabiner on your backpack!
1 pen - Another key item. If it's a ballpoint pen, make sure it doesn't explode when you're on the flight over!
1 passport - You DO NOT want to forget your passport. Make sure your passport is up to date and if you can swing it financially, apply for the Global Entry program so you can more easily navigate customs.
Surprising MVPs of My Backpack
1 pair of Croakies - I was constantly taking my sunglasses on and off, so a pair of these kept 'em accessible!
1 Swiss Army Pocket Knife - I used every single function, including the tweezers, nail file, scissors and knife. This is a MUST HAVE and keep it clipped to the outside of your backpack.
1 water-resistant Casio watch - I have a 1980s Casio timepiece, which was perfect to track our anticipated timing to get in the miles. It's also perfectly cool to not track time or miles on the Camino.
1 yellow highlighter - Mom and I enjoyed highlighting our route and favorite stops in the guide book!
1 bar of soap with loofah - My aunt and grandmother gifted me this bar of soap inside of an exfoliating loofah, which felt positively luxurious out on the trail!
Encouragement Notes - My husband hid little notes on index cards in every compartment of my backpack, which brought me such JOY. I also asked friends from church to write encouragement notes on Post-Its which cheered me on along the way.
What I didn’t pack but wish I did:
1 pair of loose linen pants - My athletic dress didn't cut it on chilly notes, so linen pants would have been great. I ended up buying a pair in Logroño!
1 loose linen top - Likewise, I bought the top in Logroño and it was so loose I didn't really need a bra. Well, maybe I did...
1 Sharpie - It's a Camino tradition to write names of loved ones or prayers on rocks and old signs. I wish I'd had one so I could constantly be writing on rocks!!
My Bose headphones - They are completely noise cancelling so they're a staple for enjoyment and entertainment on long flights. I regret not bringing them as they didn't really take up that much space. They would have been nice for music on sleepless nights when the jet lag was nagging!
What I packed and didn’t really need:
1 rechargeable headlamp - I wore it 3-4 times on early morning walks and late night journaling, but it wasn't really essential.
1 lightweight blanket - I got sick one day on the side of the road and got the chills, so that was the only time I used it. Important for albergues, but not important for hotels.
1 compass - We used it once symbolically to acknowledge my grandmother who gave it to me for the journey! We used it en route to Pamplona to show that we were beginning our westward trek.
If you’re interested in walking the Camino and have questions about what to pack, please send me a message here or DM me on Instagram. Until then, Buen Camino!