Camino del Norte/Camino Portugues: Packing list and reflections

It has been 9 months since Greg and I started our first Camino adventure, and this is something I meant to post way back then….so I am back-dating it.  For any curious readers or anyone planning a future Camino adventure, the following is my packing list with comments. A bit further along, I will also throw in a few reflections about walking the Camino in general.

As the main daily activity is walking a lot, the less weight one carries, the better. The general rule of thumb seems to be something like carry no more than 10% of your body weight. I didn’t quite manage to do that, but I got close. My backpack weighed approximately 7 kilograms without water and food, and I typically carried 1 liter of water and filled my bottle along the way when I could. For days without a lot of water stops, I carried a second 1-liter bottle.

So, here is a breakdown of exactly what I carried, and which items were useful or not:

Backpack: My trusty little 36-liter Osprey small-frame women’s pack. I was pleased with this size. I maybe could have gotten away with a smaller bag, but this one was nice since I never had trouble persuading all my stuff to get small enough so the bag closes.IMG_9490

Sleeping sac: Forclaz Ultralight (800 gram) medium size bag (fits humans up to 5’7″) from Decathlon. It would not be comfortable using outside unless it was really really hot, but for sleeping in the summer inside albergues, this did the job.

Shoes: Solid, comfortable hiking boots. Many recommend lighter tennis shoes, but as someone who needs lots of ankle and arch support, I never regretted my shoe decision. I did meet a young lady who was walking the whole Norte in Teva sandals. She had done it before on the Camino Frances and was quite happy. She was only 18, and walking alone. Very cool girl from Germany. Not sure how I would have done on my own walking across Spain at 18, but now I wish I had tried it. I cannot fathom how she didn’t hurt her toes while walking in sandals, but to each their own.

Socks: 2 pairs wool socks

Undies: 3 pairs, but two would have sufficed if I had had wool.

Pants: 1 pair walking pants, 1 pair shorts (with pockets!), 1 pair stretchy leggings. I usually put the leggings on after we got to our daily albergue and showered. I also slept in the leggings or the clean pair of walking bottoms. I am sure I could have gotten by with one fewer pair of pants, but I liked having the 3.

Shirts: 2 T-shirts, 1 long-sleeve sun shirt, 1 tank top, and 1 long sleeve thermal shirt. Definitely should have ditched one of the T-shirts, the long-sleeve sun shirt, and maybe even the tank top. It was nice sometimes to have the extras, but honestly, I didn’t really need all of those.

Bra: 2 sports bras. This was good as I could wash the sweaty one with my other dirty clothes and have something clean to put on in the meantime.

Nothing cotton!

Other gear:

  • Light rain shell
  • Thin fleece sweater
  • Gloves
  • Warm wool hat
  • Sun hat
  • Sunglasses
  • light flip flops to wear in the shower and around the albergue
  • pack rain cover
  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottle
  • Pocketknife (cannot take on plane)
  • Hiking poles! (In many airports…you cannot take these on a plane! I have had two pairs of hiking poles confiscated since I was unwilling to check my bag. On the other hand, I have also flown to Israel with hiking poles sticking out of my pack and no one cared.)
  • First aid kit (Bandaids, blister covers, neosporin, Ibuprofin, tweezers, nail clippers, alcohol swabs, headlamp batteries, hand sanitizer)
  • Toiletries: Diva cup, Toothpaste/toothbrush, deodorant, Shampoo/body wash/laundry soap [I used one small bottle for all three purposes, it was fine]. One benefit to walking with another person is that you can simply carry one bottle of soap, toothpaste, and deod between the two of you!
  • Headlamp
  • mini journal + pen
  • phone + charger
  • plastic bag w/money, ID, credit cards, and passport
  • Credencial!!!!!!!! Nearly as essential as a passport for a Camino pilgrim. This is basically your Camino passport that allows you into pilgrim-only albergues and serves as your proof that you did, indeed, walk or cycle where you claim to have gone.

Overall, I think every single thing I brought on this list–with the exception of some of the clothing I have noted–was useful and worth carrying the weight. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, and will hopefully go on some shorter camino adventures soon! Perhaps the 5 day Camino Ingles starting in A Coruna. Or maybe I will start in Sarria and walk the last several days of the Camino Frances as long as I don’t do it during the summer months!

It was a really unique way to travel, to see these portions of Spain and Portugal which we would otherwise probably never see.  Walking it as a couple was an entirely different challenge. It forced me and G to deal with several differences ranging from walking pace to how often one should wash socks to how much time one or both of us needed alone versus socializing with other pilgrims.  Not easy all the time, but incredibly worth it. Also, I think if I had walked by myself, I would have made more friends. Not that we didn’t make some casual friends along the way, but because we had each other, we didn’t seek out friendships or socialize nearly as much as I otherwise would have. Case in point: G made several friends during the 10 days he walked the Norte by himself while I was recovering in France from my surgery. And he is certainly no social butterfly. I would happily go again with G, but I’d love to walk a solo Camino too!

There are too many thoughts and details I can’t remember now without poring over my journal that I wrote while walking. Hopefully I will be a better blogger in the future.




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