The Camino de Santiago, or “The Way of St. James” in English, is a pilgrimage route that has become a great backpacking adventure for many. There are a variety of routes you can take, as well as methods of traveling. The general gist is that you walk through the countryside, mountains, plains and towns of Spain to the west coast and the city of Santiago, where the church housing St. James’ remains lies.
It is a great way to see great sights, meet new people, get plenty of exercise and hike along beautiful pathways. It is relatively inexpensive as well, and you don’t have to be Catholic or religious to participate.Since you’ll be doing all your traveling by foot, and you have to carry everything you need with you, the most important thing to know is how to pack. I walked the route in 2016, and I can pass on the tips I picked up that I wish I knew at the start.
First, when it comes to packing, keep everything light and small as possible. When you think you’ve cut down on the size and weight of everything you have packed, go even further than that. When I started the route, I thought I had prepared as well as I could. I was wrong, and I learned some added tips from veterans of the pilgrimage.
I wound up cutting off all the tags from any of my clothes, and we ditched some of our toiletries as well. All we had was a medium-sized bottle of shampoo that we used to wash our hair, and as soap, and as laundry-detergent for when we washed our extra changes of clothes. When we ran out, we would buy a new large bottle in town and split it between us in our smaller bottles. For other toiletries like painkillers, we got smaller bottles or salve sticks and replenished them as we went. Visit this website for an example of a smaller sized salve stick that we stretched out for the whole trip to help with sunburns, aches, pains, calluses and blisters.
When it came to food, we also would only buy small lunches or snacks that we would eat that day. Some lunches we could buy and eat in towns as we passed through. We would also buy dinners and make them in our hostels that night, or dine at cafes and restaurants in larger towns or cities.
I also wound up ditching the original backpack, as it was too big. It was too tempting to fill it with more stuff, and wound up being uncomfortable and too bulky to carry. Force yourself to pack lighter and less stuff by restricting yourself to a smaller pack, and your legs, feet and back will thank you on your long pilgrimage.
The other major tip is that the most important thing to get right is picking your hiking boots. If there’s one thing you splurge on, it should be this. It is worth spending more to get the highest quality footwear, as they will get heavy use on rough terrain. They need to be higher boots that cover your ankles, so your steps are more stable and you won’t roll your ankle on loose gravel or rocky hills.
They also need to be durable so they aren’t falling apart in the middle of nowhere. And most importantly, they need to be comfortable so you don’t get tons of blisters. Make sure the boots you buy fit comfortably when you try them on, and then make sure they’re broken in before you start the pilgrimage. When you’re walking all day, it matters a lot.
I saw more than a few fellow pilgrims who had to buy new boots along the way, or who dealt with pain and blisters in their feet and had to quit early because their boots weren’t good for their feet. Getting a good pair of boots is the one thing I am happy I got right.
That is honestly all the necessary things to know when packing for the Camino. There is only so much you can bring with you anyways, which can make it easier. Just remember to keep it small, light, and with a great pair of boots and you have everything you need to enjoy the backpacking trip of a lifetime. Buen Camino!