With less than two weeks to go before I fly off to Europe to walk the 825 kilometer Camino del Norte, I had better get packing! The packing list is done and I have been gathering items for a few weeks now, but I still don’t have everything. It’s possible that I have mastered the the art of procrastination! Sometimes I want to give my head a shake, but at least I’m getting things done. Hopefully by the end of the weekend I will have everything together inside my pack and weighed.
Weight will be a huge factor for such a long and arduous journey, up and over mountains, along Spain’s north coast, so finding double uses for things and packing only the necessities will be important.
Here is what I have included on my packing list.
Walking Packing List
- 36 litre Osprey backpack
- Black Diamond hiking poles
- La Sportiva waterproof trekking boots
On this pilgrimage, I have decided to take a smaller 36 litre Osprey backpack. On my first pilgrimage along the 800 kilometer Camino Frances I took a 55 litre pack. Not good considering I filled it with unnecessary items which quickly made it too heavy at 15 kilos (33 lbs). Luckily, before I began walking from St. Jean Pied de Port, a helpful hospitalera convinced me to mail three kilos (6.5 lbs) of items seven days ahead to Logroño, but when I arrived I needed to let go of four more kilos because my joints ached so badly. This time, on the Camino del Norte, I want to keep my pack weight down to no more than 8 kilos (17.5 lbs including water) which was perfect for the remainder of the Camino Frances.
Hiking poles were necessary on the Camino Frances and will be on the Camino del Norte too. Even though I don’t normally hike with poles, they take a lot of pressure off the lower back, hips and knees when walking long distances for 30 plus days straight. Those kind of distances while carrying a heavy pack wear on the body. This time, though, I am bringing poles that clamp instead of twist to tighten. My twisting ones would sometimes untwist while I walked.
Stiff-soled trekking boots were recommended to me by an orthopedic doctor because I have bunions. My La Sportiva waterproof trekking boots are perfect. They have 3/4 shank soles so my big toe joint doesn’t flex while I walk. I feel no pain while wearing these boots and I didn’t get any blisters walking the Camino in them either. The soles also have a slight curve at the toe for easy walking. They kind of roll with my step rather than slap the ground.
Rain Gear Packing List
- Rain jacket
- Rain pants
- Rain proof pack cover
- Water proof stuff-sacks
I have opted against a rain poncho because I’ve heard they are a pain in the butt when it’s windy. They blow open and the rain still gets in. Not only that, but they make pilgrims look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame since they are meant to wear over top of a backpack. Instead, I am going to take a good rain jacket, rain pants and a rain-proof pack cover. If I absolutely need a poncho, I will buy one along the way.
The waterproof stuff-sacks will provide additional protection for things like my clothes and electronics if water somehow does get in my pack.
Sleeping Packing List:
- Sleeping bag
- Yoga pants and t-shirt
I struggled with choosing a sleeping bag for the Camino del Norte. On the Camino Frances in September and October I found that I didn’t need one as albergues offered blankets. Happy to part with more weight, I mailed my down-filled sleeping bag off to Santiago from Logroño. Unfortunately, I experienced a nearly sleepless night in an albergue which didn’t supply blankets. I slept only the last two hours before dawn, face-down on a top-bunk mattress, in all of my clothes and rain gear, before being poked in the feet and told to get up and get going. Lesson learned! It’s definitely important to bring something! Plus, it’s nice to have a barrier between my skin and the not-so-clean blankets. Eventually, I bought a fleece sleeping bag liner which was perfect.
Apparently, though, the Camino del Norte can be cool and wet in May and I have heard that many albergues do not offer blankets. A good light sleeping bag, rather than just a liner, will be necessary. After long days of walking, I want to be comfy!
Yoga pants and a t-shirt are perfect sleep wear and can also be worn during the day. The yoga pants will make a good barrier between my skin and rain pants too.
Clothing Packing List:
- Merino wool socks (3 pairs)
- Underwear (3)
- Short-sleeved merino wool shirt
- Long-sleeved merino wool shirt
- Walking shorts (with zip-on legs)
- Evening outfit (skort/shirt)
- Bathing suit
- Teva sandals
- Yoga pants and t-shirt (shown in sleeping packing list)
Merino wool wicks sweat away from the body. It also doesn’t absorb odor and smell bad after a heavy workout like other fibres do. For this reason merino wool anything is perfect for long distance treks like the Camino. I also considered bringing a down sweater-jacket for warmth, but changed my mind since I will be walking into late spring. Layering should be sufficient enough to stay comfortable.
The buff is a must for keeping messy ocean-frizzed hair under control.
Shorts that convert into pants is a great two-in-one option when trying to pack light. Finding double uses for things is important. For example, instead of bringing mitts you can wear merino wool socks on your hands.
After a long day of walking it’s nice to get out of walking attire into something nice and comfortable, so I am bringing a skort and a light shirt.
Teva sandals are light-weight sport sandals which I found comfortable to wear at the end of the day during my first Camino. Another option are the extremely light Crocs, if you can look past the style 😉
Electronics Packing List:
- Ear buds
- Camera (including 2 batteries, a battery charger and 2 memory cards)
- Small camera tripod
- Cords (for tablet and phone)
- Duracell back-up charger
- European plug adapter
Since I am a blogger I will need something to blog with. The tablet is the lightest option, however not the most convenient without a proper keyboard. It is good for downloading books though, like the Northern Camino’s guidebook. I have also downloaded Spanish Made Simple and a novel.
My phone will be handy to have even though I am bringing my tablet. It replaces my iPod for music, it takes great panoramic photos and the translator apps installed on it will be useful. Plus, because it is small it will be very accessible from inside my pocket when I need it.
I am also taking a small Cannon SX700HS point and shoot camera. It holds a micro SD card and adapter, so I will be able to transfer photos from my camera onto the tablet and upload them to Dropbox, providing WIFI is strong enough. I will bring an additional micro SD card and battery for back-up. I also found the coolest little tripod so I can avoid balancing my camera on my pack to take self-timed photos.
The Duracell back-up charger will be handy in instances when I am unable to charge and really need to.
A standard travel adapter plug is required in order to use Spanish wall outlets for charging.
Toiletries Packing List
- Shampoo and conditioner (in small bottles)
- Glycerin soap (for body, face and laundry)
- Scrubby hand mitts
- Tooth brush, tooth paste, dental floss
- Face cream (transferred to plastic container)
- Feminine Hygiene Products
- Sunscreen (small bottle)
- Nail clippers
- Microfiber towel
- Pony tail elastics and hair clip
We all have small luxuries we can’t go without, right? I like my face cream and make-up, so I’m bringing it! Instead of laundry soap I will take a bar of glycerin soap which will also double as body and face cleanser. My face may really hate it since my skin is quite sensitive, but I’ll give it a shot!
I still need to pick up some scrubby hand mitts which will be great for lathering in the shower. For drying, a microfiber towel is a preferable option to cotton since it is light and quick-drying.
For us ladies, I’ve heard feminine hygiene products are expensive in Europe, so it’s probably a good idea to bring a supply. Update: I have been informed that these products are quite affordable in Europe. Bring a few anyways, but if you need to re-stock you’re not breaking the bank! 😉 See European prices.
Extras Packing List:
- Money belt (with passport, credit card, bank card and Euros)
- Hydration System
- Safety pins
- First aid kit (Band-Aids/Compeed/Imodium/Gravol)
- Knee brace
- Plastic all-in-one utensil
- Ear Plugs
- Head lamp (and back-up batteries)
- Camino Credencial
A money belt is a must in order to keep money, cards and my passport protected. I wore mine on my first Camino all the time, but when I traveled in South America I got lazy and didn’t. Well, my money got stolen in South America and didn’t on the Camino.
I also learned that it is good to disperse money around the body. In South America, after my money belt, which wasn’t on me, got stolen I resorted to stuffing my bra with bills. Great if you want to look more endowed, but embarrassing when you need to take money out in public, like perhaps in front of a Starbucks barista or border personnel, like I had to. Again, lesson learned! So, instead, I will keep bigger bills, cards and my passport in the money belt under my clothes, but will also keep a few smaller bills in one pocket and the change in another. This way I will be organized and won’t draw attention to my money belt while in public.
At night, I feel most comfortable keeping my money belt in the foot of my sleeping bag. That way it is still with me, but my waist gets a break from wearing it.
Keeping hydrated is important and because I’m more likely to drink water if it is more accessible to me, I’m bringing a hydration pack that fits inside my backpack. It has a hose that fastens to the shoulder strap of my pack so I can walk and drink at the same time. It sure beats having to stop and take my backpack off to retrieve a water bottle!
Safety pins are great for hanging laundry on the line, but also for hanging laundry on my backpack while I walk in case things don’t dry overnight.
In my tiny first aid kit, there will be a few Band-Aids, Compeed, Imodium and some Gravol for emergencies. There are farmacias along the way where I can purchase other first aid items if required. I will also bring my knee brace, just in case.
Mom gave me a plastic all-in-one utensil which functions as a knife, spoon and fork. It is very light and if it can cut a baguette, cheese and meat then I will be happy. It doesn’t need to cut neatly. It just needs to be able to do it. I’m not fussy!
At some point I know I’m going to be bunked up in a dorm with a snorer, so ear plugs are a must-have if I plan to get some sleep!
A head lamp was required on the Camino Frances when I got lost after sundown descending the Pyrenees between France and Spain. Yep, it happened! Would I change it? Nope. It was my first valuable Camino moment. You can read about it in my 2013 journal, First Day, First Camino Moment. The head lamp also came in handy when I left albergues early in the morning before sunrise.
Ahhh, yes! And this precious piece of card stock, my Camino Credencial. It will be protected inside a Ziploc bag so it endures the journey still looking handsome! It won’t look so blank by the end. It will be filled with stamps from each albergue I will stay in between Irún and Santiago de Compostela. It will be proof that I completed the pilgrimage, so I can get my Compostela. 🙂
Well, I hope this list of items will be sufficient for the journey. I am open to suggestions from other pilgrims, especially those who have walked the Camino del Norte in May. I will also certainly report on what would have been nice to have or what wasn’t necessary as I go.
Two things I learned when I walked the Camino Frances in 2013, is that I really didn’t need as much as I thought I did and I sure appreciated the small luxuries like laundry machines and a hair dryer after going without them for so long 😉
What I love about the Camino, is the simplicity of it; of walking for 30 plus days in a row, carrying only what I need. For me it’s about slowing life down and uncluttering my mind. It emphasizes what is really important in my life, the non-tangibles like friendship, camaraderie, spirituality, synchronicity, learning about self and others, learning from others. It emphasizes the importance of the journey.
Thank you so much for this! I am heading away for my first Camino in September this year. There are so many different packing lists out there and I am scouring them all for advice. One question, togs? Is that for showering in? Or are there other places you can use them?
Fantastic! Will you walk the Norte or the Frances for your first Camino? September was a really beautiful time to go on the Frances.
Togs…do you mean the bathing suit? I think I’m being hopeful that it will be warm enough in June to perhaps swim in the ocean 🙂 But, no, not for showering.
Tania i wasn’t sure about some things and fret I read your blog you have helped me a lot! Thank you so much I think I do have almost everything, I got a small lamp but it’s not got my head I think I will buy it one, can be have a razor in hour bagback. I am from Colombia but right now I am in Boston and I will leave from here and I am taking only my back pack I bought one for women in REÍ and it’s 40 liters. I have the poncho nd the pants I wasn’t sure about the pants but you are right! I didn’t know that it’s any merino wool tshirts too, I will check otherwise I will take some that they are light and already have them. Thank you so much It’s gonna be my first Camino and I will love to star and finish it! Any more recommendatios for the Frances I will start on May 2 in a month!!! Andrea
Hi Andrea! So sorry for my late reply. You must be getting excited about your upcoming Camino! It’ll be fantastic. Spring is lovely there. I started walking the Camino del Norte last May 6th. I also walked on the Frances and the Camino San Salvador…they were all lovely, but each had very different terrain. There were lots of red poppies and yellow flowers along the French Way and the Meseta was beautiful. Definitely bring rain gear since you will get rain at some point. Merino wool shirts and socks are great. Try and keep your pack light. Don’t bring unnecessary items and try and find double uses for things (eg merino wool socks can double as mitts). I found a head buff was handy too. Just think light (eg small comb instead of hair brush, maybe a bar of soap that doubles as shampoo, etc.). Remember, you can buy things along the way if you run out or need something. On the other hand you can mail things to Santiago if you bring too much, but it’s best to start light. I’m sure you’ll quickly learn (like many of us have) that you don’t need as much as you think 😉
Long overdue comment. Thank you!!! When I started planning my 2017 Camino with my two teenage daughters, your packing list and blog of your prior Camino were so very helpful. I eventually read a lot of posts and Camino articles, but it was your descriptions that first got us going. We still talk about going back to do it again.
Now, a long overdue reply! I’m so glad you got lots out of my blog. Sounds like you and your daughters caught the Camino bug. The Camino seems to affect everyone the same way like that. One time is never enough! 🙂
I walked the Camino del Norte in September several years back. Of course I cannot predict your weather, but when I was there it was 80-85 degree on average and never rained. Our group was roasting and sun lotion & hats were the most needed items beside dry socks. Women were wearing tank tops & shorts. Many gave up their boots for sport sandals to air their feet out. My year may have been very unusual for the hot weather.
I will say that the scenery along the coast is amazing. Take lots of photos. Bien Camino !!
Wow! Sounds lovely. The ocean must have been a relief to dip into with that kind of heat. I’m not sure I’ll get that in May, but you never know. I’m definitely expecting some rain though, but thought I’d slip the bathing suit into my pack just in case.
I’m definitely bringing sun screen and I have thought about bringing a hat, in addition to my buff, and sunglasses too. I may still add those to the list.
Thanks Cally! And I will definitely take lots of photos. I’ve seen some photos of the route and I am in awe!
Hi Tania, thanks for sharing this good informations with us ! I have done the Camino Frances twice and are now planning the Camino Northe in June/ July. I am looking forward to follow you on Instagram . Buen Camino from Norway
Thanks Heidi! I’ve heard you get the best weather on the Norte in June/July. I hope you have a wonderful journey! Buen Camino to you too 🙂
I took a bikini. It served as emergency underwear if others weren’t dry!
Great idea!! Always got to find double uses for things 😉
I’ve read that bikini tops make good hiking bras because they’re designed to be wet. In any case I’m hoping to do the del norte in the next year or so, but will be hiking with a 55 L pack since I plan to be traveling for a year or so. I was thinking I’d send things ahead to Santiago if my bag ended up too heavy.
Looks like a great list and I’ll look forward to reading about how it goes!
Yes, good idea to mail things ahead if you find they are too heavy. If you haven’t already, check out Ivar’s service on the Camino forum.
Hoping to do Camino del Norte in September. Looking forward to reading about your progress. Buen Camino!!!
Thanks Mary! I hope you get to go this fall. Buen Camino to you as well 🙂
Thanks Kieran! 🙂
Excellent list Tania. Only thing I wouldn’t be without is a hat. Being outside all day even if the sun isn’t bright will take it’s toll on your skin. I look forward to reading your blog.
Thanks Sally! Yes, you are right. The buff might not be enough without a brim. I will go looking for a hat today 🙂
I love this post. Can I hire you to join me in October?
Very appreciative of your detail and photographs. This is one of the best pre-pack postings I’ve seen, and I’ll be sure to reference it.
My Camino begins October 1st, 2016. All of you who’ve completed the journey are heroes in my books. I hope to be in your company soon.
Thank you Craig! I’m happy to hear that about my list. There may be some very slight changes to it before next weekend as I pack, weigh and unpack. I will keep everyone posted! 🙂
You are going to love the Camino. For me, it was life-changing. I wish the same for you. October is a beautiful time on the Camino. Will you walk from St. Jean Pied de Port?
Hire? Hmmm…would you like a travel writer for your website? 😉
Tania, Wow ! You have helped me so much. I’m leaving to go on my journey in September 2016. And your packing list was great, it helped me soooo much. One question , and I know I sound vain, but my hair gets very frizzie when it gets wet. And there is no potion out there that contains it. What if I brought a small flat iron with me ???? I can let it air dry during the day, but I need to use the iron in a few places so I don’t get hunted down like a wild lion. Enjoy your next walk
Thanks Dorothy! I’m so happy the list was a big help to you. I love your analogy of being “hunted down like a wild lion”. Lol! I understand your dilemma. We all have things that are difficult to part with. I certainly do, but honestly I think you are better off leaving the flat iron at home. It’s difficult enough to keep a pack light with only the necessities. I’m also going to lighten my pack even more to save my hips and joints. It’s currently 15 lbs. The important thing is to look after your body so that you are able to do the journey. You may find carrying the extra weight of the flat iron more of a burden. Maybe it would feel really liberating to let go of it for a few weeks. Have you thought about using a buff instead? Or, if your hair is long, tying it back?
I’m thinking about embarking on this amazing journey next year, but not sure if I should be anxious about doing it on my own? 38 at the moment, and have done loads of traveling on my own, so not too keen on joining an organized group.
I think you should do it! Feeling anxious about it is normal. I felt it too before I embarked on my first Camino journey. Read my post called, The Fear of Going Alone. I think you’ll like it and I hope it gives you some inspiration to go. It does feel scary when you think of doing something outside of your comfort zone, but when you’re actually in the moment of “going”, the fear melts away and a feeling of excitement and adventure replaces it. If you begin planning this journey, all the little pieces will come together like they did for me and you’ll be wondering what the heck you were afraid of. You never know what lays on the other side of that fear. It could be something amazing!
Hi Tania Your information is fabulous! I am from Australia and my daughter and I will do the Camino 2018. We will be celebrating milestone birthdays ( 21 and 50!) So we thought what an awesome way to celebrate … I’ve started to plan now as I am beyond excited! Thank you and I look forward to following you and your adventures…
Thanks Denielle! I hope you and your daughter have a fabulous time. What a wonderful thing to do together!
One thing I can recommend about the Norte is to start from Irun. The first two days were beautiful, so you won’t want to miss that section. Also about San Sebastian, it’s very busy and touristy. It was named “the cultural capital of the world” for 2016, so it was crowded and there were many festivities. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a place to sleep there after I arrived. It would have been a good idea to book ahead, but as it turned out, I had to bus 18 kilometers out of the city to sleep, then take the bus back to San Sebastian the following day. I did stay there that night though. It is a lovely city and worth staying at for an extra day if you can.
I only walked a section of the Norte, from Irun to Deba, then detoured back to the French Way. Having walked the French Way the first time, I missed the pilgrim spirit and camaraderie which, in my opinion, didn’t seem to be as abundant on the Norte. I’m not sure that my decision to reroute to the French Way again was a good one for me, but in the end my journey taught me a lot. There is much to write about!
I only returned from Europe at the beginning of August and am just starting to settle and to think about the blog again. I posted about my journey on my Facebook page, My Meseta, because running a WordPress blog on a tablet with slow WIFI wasn’t working. Take a look if you like. I will transfer all of the info plus more of my thoughts to the blog in the coming weeks. I will post a photo gallery of Norte as well.
The thing I found most useful and versatile on my Camino Frances (and so valuable ever since, that I never travel anywhere without it) is a silk sarong in a beautiful deep olive green. Very light, squishes down to nothing in your pack, but has so many uses. Used it to cover the pillow where provided in albergues, or to wrap my spare clothes when no pillow was provided; provides a degree of modesty when showering, especially in mixed gender showers; washes and dries very quickly; can be a tablecloth for a trail side picnic, a coverup after swimming, a light shoulder wrap For cooler evenings; protection for shoulders when the sun is shining, etc, etc. This was really my only luxury in an otherwise very minimalistic Camino world. Fantastic investment – choose a dark color which does not show marks!
That’s brilliant Jan! Something I will put on my list for the next trek 🙂
Thank you so much!!! I’m getting ready!!
Nice article. Practical suggestions which we agree with, after our Frances in 2018. Especially keep your pack light. Sending kit ahead or storing is costly. You can buy more if needed!
Covid delayed our next but we walk the Norte in May & June in 2023. Buen Camino!
Btw, we have also planned some of S.America for 4 months at the end of the year.
Hi Vincent! I’m so glad you found this article helpful. If you want to learn more about the Norte, visit my mom’s blog at https://throughourlookingglass.ca/. My parents have done more walking on the Norte than I have. Also, they’ve got some writings on the Primitivo and San Salvadore routes as well. Buen Camino to you both! 🙂
Enjoy South America too! Which countries are you going to travel in?