I’ve been asked by quite a few people on YouTube to put together a packing list for Camino de Santiago. Table based packing lists can be a bit tedious, so I’ll instead focus on the 10 most important gear items to consider. My experience with the Camino began with my walk of the 500-mile Frances route back in 2012. Since then, I’ve hiked the 104-mile Tour du Mont Blanc, the 221-mile John Muir Trail, the Salkantay and Ausangate treks of Peru, and recently returned from walking the Camino Portuguese.
The most important gear list theme or idea I want to stress is that you need to go lightweight. Take the essentials and leave the rest at home. Many will suggest a base weight of no more than 10% of your bodyweight, which is something I tend to agree with. A very reasonable target for all pilgrims should be in the 12-20lbs window.
Keep in mind that the Camino is not a backcountry experience, and as such, gear items like tents, camp kitchens, cold weather sleeping bags, and high capacity backpacks are not necessary. The gear you’ll find in this post is structured on the gear foundations of long distance day hikers and thru-hikers.
*The recommendations were last updated January of 2020.
Your choice of footwear will be the most important gear decision you make. This decision will be a part of every step you take. Here are three key things to look for:
- Comfort and Fit– In my opinion comfort is the key factor. What works for one foot, may not work for another. If you have a pair of shoes/boots that have worked for you in the past, stick with it. I prefer to have a thumb width of space at the front of my shoes to allow for foot swelling and down hill movement. In the heel, make sure to have a secure fit. If your foot is moving in the rear, you are guaranteed to have blisters at some point on the Camino. Many shoe specialty stores (I like REI) will help you with all of this. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
- Versatility– Many come in with the idea that the Camino is walked exclusively on trails, this is not the case. A great deal of your miles will be spent on concrete and asphalt. On the trail, there are no sections that would be considered technical, with few fitting the description of overly rocky. No real shale or talus to be found. That being said, there is quite a bit of hill walking in certain areas that could be a risk for slips without proper traction. It really depends on the time of year. I walked in the summer, and never came across any dangerous areas. I’m sure had I walked in winter/early spring, my opinions would be different. My opinion is the same on Gore Tex (GTX), it really depends on the time of year and the conditions you’ll be walking in. For summer, I would strongly recommend you not wear a Gore Tex option. You should also look for a shoe with a rockplate or shank as this will dissipate the abuse of stones over the long haul. Many wearing running shoes seemed to do just fine as well, as the added cushion adsorbed the blows.
- Experience– As I listed earlier, go with the footwear that works for YOU. If you don’t have a shoe you like, make sure to get ample experience walking in the shoe you have chosen for the Camino. I came across far too many pilgrim in agony because they neglected this point.
It’s often said that 1-pound on your feet is equal to 5-pounds on your back. For this reason and many others, I would suggest going with trail running shoes as opposed to heavy boots. Here are a few things I look for:
- Lightweight: under 14 oz.
- Breathable: must let feet breathe and dry quickly
- Forefoot Protection: Must protect my feet from the rocky trail with a rockplate and/or ample cushion
- Fit: I prefer shoes with a foot shaped toe box and no slop in the heel or midfoot
- My Foot: My foot is not your foot! Try on multiple shoes and go with the one that fits your foot shape.
- Durable: Shoe must be able to handle 500+ miles per pair or more
- Comfortable: No hot spots or rubbing points, with a nearly seamless interior upper
- Stable: Not necessarily with inserts or built in support, but I’m not a fan of narrow or flimsy shoes with a pack on
- Drainage: With rain and puddle crossings, I need the shoes to drain and dry quickly
Recommended Camino Footwear:
I was getting so many questions and comments on Camino footwear recommendations I decided to put together a post laying out all of the options. In my “10 Best Trail Shoes For Pilgrims” you’ll read about trail conditions and how to pick footwear based on your needs.
Getting the right pack for the Camino is critical, especially for those with little backpacking/hiking experience. An uncomfortable or heavy pack can lead to very long days and a very sore body. Many recommend a pack in the range of 30-40 liters, and even that is more space than you may need. If you have a large pack that you like, go with it! There’s no need to change, just know, you might be tempted to fill it with snacks and treats along The Way. Go for a pack with hip straps to ensure the load of your weight does not solely rest on your shoulders. Comfortable shoulder straps are also a must. Many pack manufacturers have gender specific packs these days, to ensure that the shoulder straps fit your body more comfortably. If you tend to pack heavy, you’ll probably want a pack with a frame, to ensure an even and supportive weight distribution. If you know you’ll be able to go super light, you should be able to get away with a frameless pack. Just like with my section on Camino footwear, go with what works for you and if you don’t know what works, go to a store like REI or Cotswalds to have one of their staff members assist you. One major thing to look for in a Camino pack is storage options. My pack has nice pockets on the hip belt and on the shoulder straps. This allows me to access money, chapstick, camera/phone, etc without removing my pack and opening the main compartment. Saving that time and energy is important when spending a few weeks on the trail.
Here is a list of my recommended Camino Backpacks:
Osprey Levity 45 (My Review) – A brand new lightweight pack from Osprey that comes in at 1.75 lbs! This was my pack for the Camino Portuguese and I loved it!
Osprey Exos 48 – A very light framed pack perfect for the Camino. I wore the Exos 58 on the John Muir Trail with no complaints.
Buy at REI
Hyperlight Mountain Gear Packs – These are the best lightweight backpacks on the market if you’re looking to go super light and aren’t on a tight budget. For the Camino, I recommend the 2400 Southwest at 1.83lbs.
Buy at Hyperlite Mountain Gear
Gregory Optic 48 – The is a new 2.5lbs pack from Gregory that still packs in a lot of comfort and features.
Buy at REI
ULA Camino 2 – A pack named after the Camino! Very light and comfortable. What makes this pack special is that it has a zipper compartment on the pack body so users don’t have to undo the roll-top closure.
Buy at ULA
Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40 – A very lightweight 40L pack option. Gossamer Gear is a brand made well know by the many PCT, CDT, and AT thru-hikers that use them each year.
Buy at Gossamer Gear
Again, just like the shoes, get a lot of training in with your pack and make sure it will work for you. You will be living out of this decision for a month! I went with the REI Crestrail 48L, which was larger than I needed for the Camino, but I backpacked through Europe for a month before I began in St Jean. It was much more space than I needed after I shipped all of my backpacking clothes home.
This might be a controversial pick for some, but it’s an item I know I can’t live without. I love photography, and I love sharing my experiences through photography. If you’re not one of these people, feel free to leave the camera behind, a great deal of your experiences will be impossible to capture through this medium anyway. At the very least, bring a journal. I brought my iPhone, which doubled as a computer, journal, camera, video camera, and a means of communication. Overall, I am very happy with this decision, but the low light images leave a little something to be desired, as I can’t print anything larger than 12×18 without noticing a lack in quality. For web use, phone cameras are just about perfect, and you can’t beat their weight and portability. For the John Muir Trail and Tour du Mont Blanc, I brought a Sony mirrorless camera with an APS-C sensor. I’ve been really impressed with the Sony mirrorless series and their E-Mount lenses. Whatever you decide, make sure to bring something along that can snap a quick photo. The landscapes, people, and architecture of The Way will stick with me forever, and I am very happy that I brought a camera to take these memories home.
Here Is A List Of My Recommended Camino Cameras:
Smart Phones: If you’re only planning on sharing photos with friends and family on social media, you’ll probably be happy taking pictures on your smart phone. This will provide a lightweight and simple solution for photos and video. If you’re looking for higher quality photos and videos with levels of creative control, you’ll want something a little more capable.
As far as lightweight cameras go you have two choices: point and shoot and mirrorless.
Most point and shoot cameras have all but disappeared from the market due to the emergence of smartphones, but a few top notch choices still remain.
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VII: This is probably the best point and shoot camera on the market and is priced accordingly at $999.
Buy on Amazon
If you’re looking for something a little more powerful than a point and shoot camera, you’ll want to look at mirrorless cameras. The best mirrorless cameras in the world right now are made by Sony. I’ve travelled all over the world with a cropped sensor Sony a6000 and recently upgraded to a full frame Sony a7rii. Both are incredible cameras. I highly recommend the new Sony A6600/a6400 and the new Sony a7iii if you’re just getting into the mirrorless system.
Buy Sony mirrorless at Amazon
If you go with a mirrorless camera, you’ll want to make sure you have the right lenses. I’d highly recommend a wide angle lens if you only plan on bringing one. For the a6100/a6400/a6600 I’d recommend the Sony 10-18mm. For the full frame Sony A7 series, I recommend the Zeiss Batis 18mm, Sony 16-35mm f/4, and Sony 28mm f/2.
During the Spanish summer, the sun is bright. Don’t forget, you’ll be walking from East to West each day, so there is no avoiding it. I’m big into eye protection as I spend a lot of time in the sun. Find a pair with quality lenses, you won’t regret it.
5.) Microfiber Towel:
To me, this is a must. I brought a micro fiber towel and washcloth on the Camino. They were usually dry before I went to bed, and certainly dry by morning. Things would have been much different with a damp terrycloth towel, especially for the algbergues without hot water! Don’t go without one, trust me on this.
Recommended Microfiber Towels:
6.) Quality Socks:
This may be another purchase that might seem unnecessary at first, much like the microfiber towel. It will be worth every penny you spend. I prefer the brand Darn Tough, as I have worn these on thousands of hiking and running miles now and won’t use anything else. They use a merino wool blend that lats forever.
- Darn Tough Socks – Best Merino Wool sock. Stink free, lifetime guarantee. My John Muir Trail sock.
7.) Technical Shirts and Underwear:
This isn’t mandatory, but definitely recommended. I know some who still wear cotton, but I just cant manage it. I need quick drying clothing. This is especially important on the Camino as you need to wash your gear at night and have it dry as soon as possible. This cuts down on the amount of gear you need to bring. I like Salomon shirts and shorts, but anything you like will do. I really like ExOfficio underwear. They dry very quickly and are comfortable in all conditions.
The Patagonia Capilene Daily is my favorite shirt for hot weather.
The Arc’Teryx Motus is my second favorite hiking shirt and the one I use for long days with lots of sun exposure.
8.) Warm Clothes:
This will depend on the time of year you are walking. For summer, a pair of longpants, a jacket, and a fleece will do. The first nights in St Jean and Roncesvalles were a little chilly, then it was fairly warm. It cooled down quite a bit once I reached Galicia towards the end. Much like California, warm days usually give way to fairly cool nights with little humidity. I wouldn’t describe any of the nights as “cold”, but I definitely wouldn’t want to be left unprepared in the event of a shift in weather.
I only needed mine for one day, but I consider myself lucky. It can get quite wet in Galicia especially, so come prepared! Many on the Camino forum recommend the Altus Poncho, as it will cover you and your pack. The last thing on earth you want is a pile of wet gear and clothes.
10.) Hat and Buff:
- This could have been grouped with sunglasses, but head protection is just as important as protection. To me, the perfect combination is a hat and a Buff. The sun can be brutal on the Camino, especially on the Meseta in the Summer. Having a hat combined with a buff around my neck saves me from getting sunburn and heat stroke. These are items you will want to hike with before you start the Camino, as comfort is key.
- Buff Headwear
**Additional gear items to consider/bring:
- Sleepingbag/sack: This was a mandatory item for me, but not for all. The Camino can be done with just a light sack in the summer and use of the Albergue blankets on cold nights. I brought +40F sleeping bag which I used almost every night as well as a very thin liner.
- Trekking Poles: I only use trekking poles with a heavy pack or on difficult terrain, so they were a non factor for me on the Camino. I understand that some have bad knees, so this would be an essential item. I just cant stand the sound of them on hard surfaces so please bring rubber caps! Also, if you bring them know how to use them. I saw way too many pilgrims with no clue on this, which defeats the purpose.
- Spanish/(Your Language) Translation Book: This wasn’t something I needed having lived in Argentina, but is something you may want to consider. Fluency is not required, but be able to ask and understand basic words and phrases. —English Spanish Dictionary—
- Hydration Bladder/Water Bottle: I mentioned this with my backpack recommendation earlier, but thought I would add a little more. I used a 3L Camelbak hydration bladder, but have since switched over to Platypus for all of my adventures as the Camelbak bladders leak too much. Hydration packs are not necessary on the Camino, but much more suited to my preferences. I saw many getting by with Nalgene bottles and others with generic store bought plastic bottles. Why do I prefer a hydration bladder? 1.) Your body will better handle a balanced and centered pack load, having the water (which is heavy) centered and placed in my pack is much better for a month of walking. 2.) I tend to drink more when the spout is right by my face. This ease also means you don’t have to take off your pack or fidget around with it every time you need a drink. 3.) With a larger reservoir I had to stop much less. Potable water is readily available all over the Frances, but there are a few days (Roman Road) were there is a lot of space between water stops. Whatever you choose, make sure to stay hydrated. Water will help you muscles recover, prevent heat stroke, prevent blisters, and benefit your overall health.
- Bed Sheet: Some places will hand out disposable bed sheets, but many do not. Bringing this item will depend on your feelings towards laying on an uncovered mattress. It really depends on you. I treated mine with permethrin, as I was highly paranoid of the dreaded bed bugs before walking. It seemed to work well, or fate worked in my favor, as I never got bitten.
- Headlamp: This is critical if you plan on leaving a little early from the albergues. I brought my Petzl which has a few white light modes and the all important red night vision mode, perfect for searching through my pack while other pilgrims were sleeping. It also came in handy on the few morning I wanted to start while it was still dark out. This item was a “must bring” for me, but might not be for you. —Petzl TIKKA Plus —Black Diamond Storm—
- Safety pins/Line: At the end of each day you’ll want to wash your clothes by hand, unless you want to pay the 3-10euro(depending on location) for a machine wash and dry. Some places have clothes line, others do not. It makes things easier when you can set up your own drying line after a wash. The safety pins will ensure your things stay on the line with the afternoon gusts of wind.
- Sink Stopper: This goes along with the clothes line, and makes it easier to wash your gear at the end of the day. It saves water, too.
- Ear Plugs: I sure am glad I brought mine along! One thing is for certain, if you stay in the albergues you are sure to hear some serious snoring!
- Night Pack: I liked leaving my sweaty day pack to dry at the albergue, but wanted to take my valuables with me. The REI Flash 18 packed worked perfect for me.
- Needle and Thread: This is a must for any small repairs along the way.
- Chapstick/Sunblock: Don’t start walking without it. Get small bottles as you can pick up extras along the way.
- Guidebook/Maps: You can easily walk the Camino without either, but it makes things much easier if you bring a guidebook along. This becomes especially important in the last 100KM from Sarria as accommodations tend to fill up quite early in the day. I used my guidebook to call ahead and book rooms a day in advance for this portion. Stay off the recommended stages though, especially for John Brierley if you want to avoid large crowds and full albergues. —John Brierley Guide Book—Anna Dintaman Guide Book—
- Sandals/Crocs: Make sure to bring sandals to wear in the shower and around to town to let your feet recover.
- Pack Cover: If your pack is not waterproof and/or does not come with a built in cover, you may want to purchase on of these.
- Plastic Bags: These will help you organize things withing your pack and double as a waterproof barrier
- Extension Cord and Adapter: I really like this as it allowed me to charge my iPhone under my pillow at night. It also had a three plug option which allowed me to take one plug and give the two extras to fellow pilgrims.
- Watch: The Camino is a place where you don’t need a watch, but it’s an item I always like to have on me.
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