buen camino


Instead of waiting around until September for my masters to start, I’ve decided to embark on a relatively impulsive adventure! I first heard about the Camino de Santiago working as an au pair in Spain in 2010. I put it on my list of things to do, and am leaving this week to try and complete the 800 km journey. I heard conflicting reports about the weather in northern Spain, but have prepared myself for all eventualities and will just stick it through, can’t get worse than the rain here! I am not doing this for any religious reasons, just wish to enjoy the outdoors, some solitude, the nature, and meet some interesting fellow travellers. Listening to advice from friends who have undertaken this “quest/mission” I have packed a fairly sturdy bag of around 5 kilos. Having packed extremely frugally, I hope to keep everything under 8 kilos. If I am walking around 30 km per day, I sure can’t carry any more!!! Below is my list of things I’m taking and the considerations involved in taking each piece. I still need a decent hat, if there are any suggestions?

My packing list:

  • decent walking shoes. Other suggestions included lightweight trail running shoes. I’m sticking with an ancient, well-worn pair of relatively light, tried and tested hiking boots. The main considerations are that they need to be either waterproof/dry relatively quickly, a little big so your feet don’t rub if they expand in the heat, don’t give you blisters but still feel secure, firm and comfortable.
  • lightweight backpack. I picked up a new one from Low Alpine. It was important for me that the bag was light (1.2 kg), had a nice frame to allow air to circulate behind my back, some pockets, wasn’t too expensive and could pack all my gear inside and fit correctly. You will be walking for hours on end with it, it is so important that it fits well and sits comfortably. I tried another bag, but it rubbed my neck saw so was replaced. In terms of size, my backpack is 32 litres. Everything fits nicely with some extra room, if you plan to take more items fine, but the bigger the bag the bulkier heavier and more annoying generally. On the other hand nothing is worse than a bag where everything has to be stuffed in. Around the 38 – 40 litre bags are more commonly found. I waited until I had most of what I was going to take, then bought a bag to fit my items, plus a little extra.
  • water bladder. I wasn’t to sure if this was necessary, but it is handy to take a drink without stopping to remove your backpack. Also easy to keep track of how much you are drinking – important when you are doing so much exercise, especially in warm weather.
  • bumbag. Recommended by a friend, useful to have extra pockets in front of you, to keep your guidebook/maps/compass whatever.
  • bridgedale hiking socks (2). Odour repellent, comfortable, pressure points and apparently good for 10,000 km. We’ll see.
  • guide book. Even though it’s apparently signposted for idiots, its handy to have information about the route, the cities/villages/towns/hovels, places to stay, distances and decent maps. In my case John Brierleys book will be my bible for the next few weeks.
  • sleeping bag. Try and keep it light, compressed. Mine is again an old tried and tested 800g sack for temperatures between -4 and 20 degrees C. Its not the Arctic, it should be fine in Spring/Summer.
  • trousers (2). I’m most comfortable in yoga/jogging pants. I have another pair of lightweight hiking trousers. In spring I’m not expecting abnormally warm temperatures, just is case though, the trousers zip into shorts.
  • t-shirts (3). lightweight thermal quick-dry stuff. Helly Hansen, although a little expensive, is so worth it. I use their dry shirts all the time.
  • fleece jumper (1). Friends suggested a sleeveless vest. I am opting for with sleeves as I’m travelling a month earlier. If it gets too cold, layering everything else will have to do.
  • PJs (1). Another blog suggested not taking these. I prefer to have something relatively fresh to get into at the end of the day. Instead of conventional PJs I have regular small clothes I can wear in emergencies. Again, lightweight quick dry.
  • underwear (4). Cotton chafes, takes ages to dry. Synthetic fabric is the way to go, also hand washing will become a regular occurrence.
  • raincoat (1). Galicia is probably one of the rainiest areas in Europe. Just saying.
  • flipflops. So your feet don’t have to sweat in their virtual sauna all day.
  • suncream. With my pale skin, freckles and numerous moles this isn’t something to skimp on. At least factor 30. I am sticking with the 50+. Just to be sure.
  • minimal toiletries. Is the facecream really necessary? A bar of shampoo/conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush, bobbins,
  • first aid kit. Just in case. Better safe than sorry. Also a needle and thread for any blisters.
  • walking sticks. Again something I wasn’t sure of until I went walking with them. With the right technique it takes so much strain off your knees, keep your posture better, and in case you are really fidgety (guilty) gives you something to do with your hands.
  • other. camera, phone, charging cables, sun hat, light scarf, important documents
  • optional. sunglasses, painkillers and other such medication, waterproof trousers, thermal emergency blanket, anti-bedbug sheet,

Continuously washing everything is the key. I will be sweaty and exhausted. So will everyone else. It’s not a fashion show. But I am so incredibly excited!!