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.