I’ve been asked by quite a few people on YouTube to put together a Camino packing list. I didn’t want to list every item that I brought, so instead I will list my top ten items. Each item includes a list of recommendations.
*The recommendations were last updated March of 2017.
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.
In my opinion, trail runners are the perfect option for the Camino, a boot/running shoe hybrid. I chose the Salmon Crossmax (now discontinued) for the Camino. Why?
- I love Salomon and have worn their shoes for thousands of miles, running and trekking. Familiarity is key. Train with whatever shoe you choose, and don’t let the Camino be your first outing.
- They are designed for “door to trail” running. The perfect combo of Camino needs. Great cushion combined with a lugged outsole.
- They have a rockplate
- They have a quick pull lacing system. These Kevlar laces are tough, and the ease was perfect for adjustments throughout the day.
- The breathability was perfect for me, and I never got a blister.
Here is my list of recommended Camino Footwear:
Stable And Versatile
La Sportiva Akasha (My Review)- Great grip, cushion, and precision. A little warm in the summer.
Salomon XA Pro 3D (My Preview)- A beast of a hiker. I wore these on the John Muir Trail and Tour du Mont Blanc.
Salomon X Ultra 2– Another beast of a hiker. Similar to the XA Pro 3D, but a much more aggressive outsole
New Balance Leadville 3 – Only shoe on this list to come in widths. A great all around hiker.
Brooks Cascadia 12 – An old faithful trail shoe. The Cascadia is legendary on the PCT, CDT, and AT.
Nike Wildhorse 3 (My Review)- Great all around performer. Perfect for 3 season hiking.
Salomon Wings Pro 2 (My Preview)- Perfect stability and protection, with great grip and durability.
Altra Lone Peak 3.0 – Great for wide feet and those prone to blisters.
La Sportiva Ultra Raptor – Great grip, comfort, and breathability. A little narrow.
Salomon Sense Pro 2 – For those looking for a less structured Wings Pro 2.
Saucony Peregrine 7 – A more lightweight and nimble options, but with great traction and protection.
Hoka One One Speed Instinct – Great cushion with dual density midsole.
Maximum Grip For Sloppy Trails
La Sportiva Mutant – Great for muddy trails in the Fall or Spring. A little warm for summer.
Salomon Speedcross 4 – These shoes will keep you on your feet regardless of the terrain.
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:
- 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 Souhtwest and 2400 Windrider.
- ULA Camino 2 – A pack named after the Camino! Very light and comfortable.
- Osprey Exos 38 or 48 (My Review) – A very light framed pack perfect for the Camino. I wore the Exos 58 on the John Muir Trail with no complaints.
- Osprey Kestral 38 – Heavier than the Exos 38, with more padding, zippers, and pockets to show for it.
- Osprey Talon 33 – A streamlined and lightweight pack. Not a lot of bells a whistles, not a lot of weight.
- Zpacks ArcBlast 45 – A super light pack at 20.8oz (590g)!!
- Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40 – A very lightweight 40L pack option
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. A good rule of thumb is to have no more than 10% of your body weight as your total pack load. For overnight backpacking trips I’ll get closer to 20-30%, but on the Camino I’d stick as close to 10% if you can manage. The lower your pack weight, the happier your shoulders, legs, and feet will be. Keeping your pack weight low, will also reduce the risk of blisters and injury. I prefer a pack with a built in compartment for a hydration bladder. I’m not a fan of lugging bottles in side compartments. The best bladder I’ve used is by Platypus, the CamelBak one I used on the Camino leaked like crazy.
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 mirroless camera. 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:
- iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus – A great phone for photos, video, and staying in touch
- Samsung Galaxy 7 – The best smartphone camera on the market
- Sony a6500 – The newest and the best from Sony mirrorless.
- Sony a6300 – My top camera pick
- Sony a5100 – A more affordable mirrorless
- Sony a6000 – The old version of the a6300 and my main camera for 3+ years
- Sony A7II – A full frame camera with a hefty price tag for the serious photographer
- Sony 10-18mm Lens – The best landscape lens available for the Sony mirrorless lineup
- Sony 16mm – An affordable, lightweight, and capable pancake lens
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100/B – A point and shoot options for those not wanting to use their phones
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. *Make sure to lather on the sunscreen as well* I wore my Oakley Jawbone Sunglasses. I’ve worn these things for years now, they are battle tested and have taken on everything I’ve thrown at them.
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 DryMax, I have worn these on thousands of hiking and running miles now and won’t use anything else. I still have and wear the pairs I bought for the Camino! Others will recommend wool, but go with what works for you. Just make sure it is an item you train with. You don’t want a cheap threadbare pare of socks, blisters are no fun.
- Drymax Socks – Best synthetic sock on the market. Very durable and comfortable.
- Darn Tough Socks – Best Merino Wool sock. Stink free, lifetime guarantee. My John Muir Trail sock.
- Injinji Toe Socks – Great sock for those prone to toe blisters.
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.
- Patagonia Capilene Daily – This is the best shirt on the market. I have 5 of them. They dry quickly and are very comfortable.
- Under Armour Tech Shirt
- Nike Dri-Fit Shortsleeve and Longsleeve
- Columbia Short Sleeve and Longsleeve
- Under Armour Quarter Zip
- Arcteryx Motus Shirt
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
- Nike Hat
**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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.