Packing for the Camino sometimes feels like it should be a Mensa test. Trying to compare other people’s lists and suggestions can be rather frustrating, especially as a first timer. I must have studied at least 10 different lists! One thing I kept in mind, though, was my bag needed to be 10-15% of my body weight. For me, it was a good guideline on what I can comfortably (ish) carry on my back. And it pretty much worked. I did wish my bag was about 5lbs lighter, but it wasn’t necessary. If you are interested in seeing my actual packing list, check it out here.
TOP 5 AREAS IN WHICH I COULD HAVE TRIMMED
Toiletries: Okay, I don’t mean leave them all behind, but you need less than you think. I took two small TP rolls as people kept saying how often one “goes” in the bush. I never ever needed to pee in the bush and even if I did, a bar was always somewhere near by. I also did not even need to bring my body cream bar as I could have just bought small cheap flat tins of lovely Nivea cream along the way.
Moral of the story: take enough to get you through a week or two and then replenish in bigger towns/cities. Take enough of what you absolutely must have – I only like gel toothpaste so it was important that mine lasted for the 5 weeks.
First Aid Kit: This I definitely could have cut in at least half. I didn’t need to have both Advil and Aleve. I didn’t need electrolytes and I didn’t even need the compeed. Correction – I used a piece of it once on a little blister and absolutely hated it. Waste of time. All it did was fall off and make a mess of my sock.
Moral of the story: same as Moral #1. Also, take what you wouldn’t want to be caught dead without. For example, I’m allergic to fresh pork and in Spain, it could be hidden in anything. I got caught twice and thank goodness I had Gravol. I also ended up having a weird allergic reaction to something in the air of the La Rioja countryside, so Benadryl was good to have on hand!
Utensils: Unless you plan to picnic often, forget it. I didn’t use my collapsible bowl or spork, and I used my collapsible cup only once (at the Irache wine fountain).
Moral of the story: Take a good swiss army knife, a water bottle, and an average of 20-25 euros a day for food. Done.
Electronics: Keep it to a minimum. I should have left my point and shoot camera backup behind as well as the charger for my e-reader (really does hold a charge for 3-5 weeks, depending on how much you use it).
Moral of the story: um…there isn’t one. Just keep ‘em to a minimum. Less weight and less potential for theft.
Miscellaneous: Towel Tabs or Purell, not both. I found that a backpack lock wasn’t necessary. I also found that paper soap (laundry and body) did not work at all. Pack only one small absorbent towel, not two.
Moral of the story: if something can do double duty, take it over the single duty item. And for the lock, it wasn’t that I trusted the “Spirit of the Camino” – I just always kept my valuables on my person; everything else can be replaced if taken!
TOP 5 “LUXURY” ITEMS I BROUGHT THAT MADE ME HAPPY
Phone: I brought it for emergencies but when my unlock code didn’t work, it became my alarm clock (on vibrate). It was awesome especially because I slept with earplugs and an eye mask – not once did I wake up due to other people’s noise. A phone is also becoming necessary as more and more pilgrims are calling ahead to book a bed – as much as I don’t like it, I will do the same next time I walk in order to not have the idea of scrambling for a bed looming over my day’s walk. And yes, twice I got caught without an albergue bed (yay for hotels) and twice I got the almost last bed.
Camera: Some say, “just use your smartphone’s camera”. For me, that wasn’t an option. But I did take a smaller camera and only two lenses, a wide angle and a telephoto. I used both and I came home with about 4500 pictures. I suggest looking into the Sony Alpha line; these small mirrorless cameras are amazing!
Foldable laundry basin: If I had to leave behind one of my luxury items, it would be this one. But I did like having it with me. I used it when all laundry areas were full, and I used it to soak my feet as a reward for all the hard work they did.
Tevas and Flip-flops: The Tevas were for “end of day” wandering and the flip-flops were for the shower and nightly bathroom trips. It was great to have separate shoes especially wandering around towns with wet flip-flips would have been ew. Also, Tevas allowed me to wear socks (classy) on cold days. As for the flip-flops, I found they always dried by the next day.
Thin cotton scarf: This was a last nanosecond addition and it ended up being something I used every single day. I used it for warmth, to cover my head in towns/cities when it was dripping, and for a general dab of style when I finished a day’s walk.
AN EXTRA TIP
One thing I did wish I had was a little umbrella – you don’t really want to wear your poncho in a town when out exploring!