Caminos de SantiagoThe Camino de Santiago is a life-changing experience for most, we know many people that were planning this pilgrimage for years, preparing, reading, training. To make sure you enjoy it, take the right gear, don’t overload your backpack, have comfortable shoes that you can walk in for days, etc. We learned this during our own painful experience. We’ve walked six different Caminos de Santiago routes so far; Camino Portugués from Lisbon, Camino Primitivo, Camino del Nort, Camino Finisterre-Muxia, Camino Inglés and Via de la Plata (214 km from Seville to Mérida). In total, in the 2018/2019 Camino season, we’ve walked 2430km on different Camino routes. Next year we’re planning to continue our Camino saga and to walk the Camino Francés and to finish the Via de la Plata.
Watch our new Camino light packing video 2019!!!
We’re experienced hikers and walk a lot in the mountains with much heavier backpacks, before our first Camino we thought it was super easy to walk from albergue to albergue with a light backpack, carrying only clothes, restaurants and coffee shops on the way. After a first week on the Portuguese Camino our feet were destroyed, we both had huge blisters, basically, our feet were just one big blister! all because we didn’t have hiking shoes and decided to walk in our trail running shoes. I must say that on the first four days we walked more than 140km here after we decided to slow down and even had a day off in Fatima. Don’t make the same mistake, take your time especially in the beginning, let your body to get used to it and don’t follow somebody’s itinerary if it’s too tough for you, walk shorter days, rest, stay longer and you’ll enjoy the Camino de Santiago much more.
Our completed Caminos de Santiago routes
- Portuguese Camino from Lisbon – May 2018
- Camino Primitivo – June 2018
- Camino del Norte – October 2018
- Camino Finisterre & Muxía – November 2018
- Via de la Plata (214 km from Seville to Mérida) – April 2019
- Camino Ingles – May 2019
We walked the Caminos in different seasons throughout one year (we on purpose skipped the high season – July and August, as we don’t like crowds), in this post you’ll find packing tips for different weather and seasons.
The Camino de Santiago is not your normal hike in the wild where you have to carry camping gear and food which is a good thing as it’s possible to pack light. Every night pilgrims stay at albergues, no tent and camping mat is needed, all you need or we’d recommend bringing with is a sleeping bag. In our experience the two most important things to have on the Camino are a comfortable backpack and a pair of good hiking shoes – these two you’ll use every day and if even one of them doesn’t fit good or uncomfortable it can completely spoil your Camino.
Travel insurance for the Camino
Walking like any other outdoor activity involves a risk of getting an injury or losing some of the gear. It’s always recommended to have travel insurance when you go away. The Camino de Santiago is not an exclusion though it’s not a high altitude wild hike through remote areas it’s still a physically challenging experience and injuries are quite frequent. Make sure you will be able to get medical assistance any time you need. It’s quite handy to have insurance in case of a gear or device break/loss you can always claim it back. It makes the walk less stressful when you know you’re covered in case of any unpredictable emergencies. Let your insurance company worry about you and your stuff while you enjoy walking the Camino.
There is not much you need for the Camino.
Passport/ID for European citizens.
Credential (Camino passport) – a small book that confirms you’re a pilgrim where you collect stamps from albergues you stay in (some bars and restaurants have stamps as well). You need it first of all to be able to stay in albergues and second to get the Compostela – a certificate about completing the Camino de Santiago. Note! To get it a pilgrim must walk more than 100km on the Camino. You can buy a credential at your regional Camino de Santiago office, some cathedrals on the Camino routes sell them as well. In case you don’t find it, we saw some pilgrims that for some reason couldn’t get a credential walking with a spreadsheet (A4 format) where they were collecting stamps.
Camino de Santiago gear
I walked with a 40L backpack it was enough especially if you’re not going to pack a laptop as I did. Campbell walked with a 50L backpack which was big enough though he had our mirror camera with two lenses in a camera bag packed inside as well. Remember, the bigger backpack you get the more unnecessary stuff you’ll fit in. For hiking in winter or late fall/early spring when you need warmer clothes we’d recommend a 50L backpack for men and women. It’s possible to walk only with a day pack if you arrange a delivery for your luggage from albergue to albergue, it costs between 4 and 5 Euro per backpack per day. In this case, a small 20L backpack will be more than enough. Make sure your backpack has a rain cover if not buy a separate one.
Backpacks for women
Backpacks for men
We advise to have a neck bag where you can put your valuable stuff and take it with every time you leave an albergue, most municipal albergues don’t have lockers. Don’t be too careless though it’s a pilgrimage somebody can steal your money if you leave it unattended. We didn’t have any issues but heard a few stories about stolen money. As an option you can take a pouch it’s small, waterproof (will keep your passport, money, and credential clean and dry). I don’t think it’s necessary to wear it while you’re walking unless you’re planning to leave your backpack unattended for a while but when you go out of albergues you can take your valuables with. For the period of walking, you can just put it into your backpack.
In our experience most of the albergues had blankets but it’s just nicer to have your own sleeping bag. These blankets without linen don’t look very appealing I believe you can use them for some extra warmth in winter over your sleeping bag. A light sleeping bag with comfort temperature limit +12°C/50°F will be enough unless you walk in cold months than it’s better to have a bit warmer sleeping bag that goes to +5°C comfort. From my winter experience in Spain (mainly in Barcelona, Madrid, and Valencia) most of the places don’t have any sort of heating and it gets quite cold at night, I always slept with several blankets. After our upcoming Camino del Norte pilgrimage in October-November, we’ll update you more on temperature.
We aren’t used to walking with them at all but I know for people with knee or hip problems they help a lot to reduce stress on joints. For some Caminos e.g. Camino Primitivo with many ascends and descends, we’d definitely recommend taking trekking poles.
This item we always take with on all our travels. Quick dry towels are very light, pack small, dry quick (as you can guess from the name), durable and come in many different colors. We’d suggest marking your towel with initials, pictures or something like that, at some albergues with many people I spent some time trying to figure out which towel on the washing line was mine.
We definitely prefer a water bottle over a water bladder, because it fits nicely in a side pocket, easy to take out and refill, even if it leaks it won’t make anything inside your backpack wet. Tap water in both Spain and Portugal is drinkable we didn’t use any purification or filters. I know some of you prefer using a bladder for hiking as it’s easier to drink out of it. We tried a couple of times hiking with bladders but it didn’t work out well, first of all, because unlike a water bottle you have to fit bladder inside your backpack it takes extra space, plus it might leak and all you have inside will get wet.
In albergues lights are usually turned off quite early and if you want to read, unpack or find something in your backpack a headlamp is very useful. Same in the morning if you want to start walking really early you’ll have to get dressed and pack in the dark.
We always take it with on hikes, road trips and just traveling. Usually, it’s difficult to find a sharp knife in albergues we always used our Swiss knife for cutting, opening cans as well as for opening packs slicing when having lunch on the way. Note! Don’t forget if you fly only with hand luggage no knives will be allowed.
In Spain and Portugal, they use Euro Plug outlets if you’re coming from the US, UK, Australia, Canada or some other countries outside Europe you’ll need an adapter that can be used as a multi-plug as well.
You’ll very likely to get at least on snoring person every night staying at albergues so earplugs will be quite useful.
You’ll be fine if you don’t pack any or some of these things but they will make your journey easier and more comfortable.
Silk liner/sleeping sack
As an option instead of sleeping bag for walking the Camino in the hottest months, you can pack a silk liner to use it for sleeping if it’s really hot at night. We did have a couple of nights like that on the Portuguese Camino if you get cold you can always use a blanket.
You can use a compression stuff sack first of all for better organizing your backpack especially if it has only one compartment and is top loaded – it’s easy to take a stuff sack out and put it back. Second, if you want to separate your dirty and clean clothes it’ll be quite handy as well. As an option, you can buy a mesh stuff sack for the same purpose. Plus, compression sack can be squeezed your clothes will take less space in your backpack.
Some albergues have lockers but don’t have locks if you want to store your valuables in there bring your own padlock.
Some albergues have washing machines (some even drying machines), some only basins and washing lines though there are never enough pegs. Plus you can use pegs to hang some wet stuff from your backpack while walking.
Another option to bring a travel clothesline from twisted cord it doesn’t need pegs and can be put up anywhere – it has suction cups on both ends.
We didn’t have one and never really needed it but if you like to be ready for “just in case” take a small travel sewing kit, it’s small and light, in a small plastic shell.
Bed bug spray
We were quite lucky and didn’t have bed bugs anywhere we stayed but if you walk a busy Camino in high season you might get them in some albergues. We haven’t used bed bug spray just saw people using it, it’s not a 100% guarantee but it will help keep them away.
Sometimes there are not enough utensils or if you want to have lunch somewhere on the way it will be handy to have a spork or plastic fork and spoon.
Eye mask for sleeping
In case you want to go to bed while lights are still on or want to sleep in the afternoon an eye mask will be useful.
Notebook and a pen
Take a notebook in case you want to make some notes, write down names of places or some handy Spanish/Portuguese phrases.
Suggested gear for Camino de Santiago
| Sleeping bag | Silk liner | Backpack | Stuff sack | Power adapter | Pouch | Trekking poles | Water bottle | Towel | Swiss knife | Headlamp | Spork | Padlock | Sewing kit | Earplugs | Eye mask | Travel clothesline | Notebook | Bed bug spray |
Clothes for the Camino
Don’t underestimate the importance of hiking shoes, in the end, you’ll spend most of the time walking in them. We’d recommend walking the Camino, especially if you’re planning to walk a long distance, in proper boots not in running shoes or sneakers – they (or your feet) just won’t make it. We tried on the Portuguese Camino to walk in our running shoes that were very comfortable in the beginning and not too hot but it destroyed our feet in the first couple of days. For very hot weather hiking sandals can be a good alternative to the boots. Modern hiking shoes usually have good ventilation but sometimes it just gets too hot and it’s nice to put on sandals for a while. Note! Wear socks with sandals barefoot in the heat you’ll get blisters immediately. I just got for myself a new pair of Salomon Ellipse 2 hiking shoes; comfortable and light. Exactly what I wanted a pair of shoes that can be worn for both road walking and hiking in the mountains – a compromise between two. I have walked the Camino del Norte and Camino Finisterre in them (about 1000km in total) and they worked great, my feet got wet three times when we got a terrible storm with strong wind, it happened partly because I wasn’t wearing gaiters so the water from my pants ran down into the shoes. I didn’t get any blisters though the shoes were new and I’d worn them before very little. This model is a bit narrow if you have wide feet they might be too tight. Other similar options to look at – KEEN Targhee II and Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof or a bit cheaper model – Columbia Dakota Drifter.
Hiking shoes for women
Hiking shoes for men
For walking in the warm season – Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof or Salomon X Ultra Prime are good options for you; durable, waterproof, comfortable, have a good grip. For walking in winter one of the high-cut models might be a better option – KEEN Targhee II Waterproof or more budget – Columbia Granite Ridge. If you buy a new pair wear them before you go on a hike even super quality new shoes might cause blisters. It’s very unlikely you’ll walk in the snow on the Camino even in winter but it can happen.
For a long walk like the Camino, it’s very important to have good durable socks that protect feet and prevent blisters. Our first Camino we walked in normal socks and did get blisters. From many experienced pilgrims we heard about merino wool socks that are great for walking; comfortable, soft, help to prevent blisters, dry quick, don’t absorb odors and easy to wash. We decided to give it a try and next Camino walked in these socks, they worked great, no blisters, no itching or hurting.
We’d suggest having one, if you walk in July or August chances of rain are pretty small, though in Galicia it can rain any time. For other months rain jacket is a handy thing to have. We walked The Portuguese Camino in May and didn’t have a lot of rain but on the Coastal Route it was quite windy sometimes we were glad we had our jackets. We used our rain jackets and ponchos a lot in June, on the Camino Primitivo it rained almost all the way in both Asturias and Galicia. If you’re going to hike in winter, take warm water and windproof jacket.
If you’re going to walk in hot months (July, August) you might not need a jacket at all. As an option you can take a rain poncho – it’s small, light and will protect you and your backpack from any rain. I like ponchos with sleeves that come with a backpack pocket no need to worry about your stuff getting wet.
Suggested summer clothes for women
| Rain jacket | Fleece | Running T-shirt | Running T-shirt | Yoga pants | Knee hiking pants | Rain poncho | Jeans shorts | Pajama shorts | Pajama T-shirt | Sports bras | Panties | Socks | Cap | Sunglasses | Hiking shoes | Flip flops |
I prefer hiking in yoga pants, they are comfortable and light, stretch a lot, dry quick and pack small. For summer I’d suggest taking one pair of long pants and a pair of hiking shorts or knee pants though I usually walk in long pants for sun protection even when it’s hot. For walking in colder months or in winter a pair of thicker hiking pants with fleece inner will be fine, for extra warmth you can always put thermal pants underneath. For men – for summer thin hiking pants that convert into shorts, for winter thicker hiking pants with fleece.
For ladies – depending on what you prefer to wear for hiking it can be a hiking shirt or a running T-shirt. I don’t like shirts I packed two running T-shirts; one with long sleeves and one with short. For walking in July and August you probably won’t need a long sleeve one, rather pack two short sleeve T-shirts. I wouldn’t recommend, even if it’s very hot, to walk in a top – make sure your shoulders and neck are covered or put suncream otherwise you’ll get bad sunburns. For men – Campbell always hikes in Columbia shirts, they’re great; light, comfortable, breathing, dry very quick and easy to wash. Pack two shirts or you’ll have to do laundry every day.
Always nice to have a fleece even in summer, most people start walking early morning when it’s usually still quite chilly. We wore fleeces on both our Caminos; in May on the Portuguese Camino and in June on the Primitivo but mostly after hiking when we went out for dinner or drinks.
Suggested summer hiking clothes for men
| Rain jacket | Hiking shirt | Hiking T-shirt | Hiking pants | Rain poncho | Board shorts | Pajama T-shirt | Pajama shorts | Boxer shorts | Buff | Hiking belt | Hat | Sunglasses | Socks | Hiking shoes | Flip flops |
For summer I’d suggest to take a cotton T-shirt and shorts for sleeping and changing after shower for women. For men cotton shorts and a vest/T-shirt. For winter you can use a thermal shirt and pants for sleeping for women and long fleece pants and a thermal shirt for men. A great item to have for sleeping and wearing after the shower is one toe socks that can be worn with flip flops. It’s not necessary for summer but nice to have for colder months.
Extra clothes to change
In case you go out for dinner or a drink. It’s optional; for summer I packed one T-shirt and a pair of shorts. A good alternative for guys are board shorts, you can wear them as a change and for swimming (if you walk one of the coastal Caminos). For winter we didn’t take any extras like warm clothes take too much space.
For ladies. I’d recommend sports bras over normal bras – they are definitely more comfortable for hiking. Pack three-four pairs of panties, same with boxer shorts. On both Caminos, we had a washing machine at least in every third albergue (except the part of Camino Portugues from Lisbon to Porto where facilities, in general, are poorer than to the other routes), plus many albergues have drying machines as well, we almost never did hand washing.
Highly recommended to take a pair of flip flops to wear in albergues, your feet have to rest from wearing heavy hiking boots all day. In summer you can wear them outside as well it’s too hot to walk around in shoes.
Suggested spring/fall clothes for women
| Rain jacket | Fleece | Running shirt | Running T-shirt | Hiking pants | Yoga pants | Rain poncho | Pajama pants | Pajama T-shirt | Sports bras | Panties | Socks | Cap | Sunglasses | Hiking shoes | Flip flops |
Cap or hat
For summer season it’s a must-have item, most of the routes go through open areas without shade, you will need some sun protection for your head. I prefer wearing a cap it’s more comfortable for me. Campbell always hikes in a hat which is better for sun protection as it covers a bigger area.
If you walk one of the routes along the coast in summer, take a swimming costume or bikini. Plus there are hot springs or thermal baths as well on some Caminos.
Headwear or buff
For some extra sun protection take a buff. Campbell was wearing it on the Portuguese Camino almost all the time. It’s a multi-use item you can use it to cover your neck, face, head, etc.
For summer definitely, pack sunglasses though on some Caminos e.g. Primitivo in June we didn’t get many chances to wear them.
Suggested spring/fall clothes for men
| Rain jacket | Fleece | Hiking shirts | Hiking pants | Hiking pants | Rain poncho | Pajama T-shirt | Pajama shorts | Boxer shorts | Cap | Buff | Hiking belt | Sunglasses | Socks | Hiking shoes | Flip flops |
If you venture to walk the Camino in winter you’ll definitely need some extra warm clothes so prepare for your backpack being fuller and heavier. If you walk shoulder season; early spring or late fall pack more warm items like for winter it’s very likely you’ll need it.
Smart wool shirt
For walking in cold months a merino wool hiking shirt will be great; it’s light and thin, can be worn under a fleece if it’s really cold, keeps your body warm, doesn’t absorb odors and easy to wash and dry.
Very handy to have thermal shirt and pants for the cold season you can use it for both, sleeping and, if it gets really cold, for wearing it under your hiking clothes. We didn’t take it for summer and there was no need even on dull and rainy days it wasn’t that cold. We both have packed thermal underwear for walking Camino del Norte in October with an idea to wear it mainly for sleeping.
We didn’t pack them and did regret about it when we were walking the Camino Finisterre in November, it rained very strong and a lot, we didn’t have waterproof hiking pants and once our pants got wet water started running down into the shoes. For the off-season, gaiters will be quite handy. Some of our fellow pilgrims tried to make them out of plastic bags but with a strong wind, it didn’t work at all. If you walk the Camino in winter and get caught in the snow (it happened to our friends that walked the Primitive Way in late October) gaiters will work as well.
Don’t pack thick gloves just a pair of fleece gloves will be fine even if it gets cold it’s unlikely it’ll go far below 0°C/32°F during the day.
Same as with gloves take a beanie for cold days.
Suggested winter clothes for women
| Warm jacket | Fleece | Running shirt | Merino wool shirt | Hiking pants | Fleece hiking pants | Rain poncho | Gaiters | Thermal underwear | Sports bras | One toe socks | Panties | Socks | Gloves | Beanie | Hiking shoes | Flip flops |
Suggested winter clothes for men
| Warm jacket | Fleece | Merino wool shirt | Hiking shirt | Hiking pants | Fleece hiking pants | Rain poncho | Fleece pants | Thermal top | Boxer shorts | Beanie | Gloves | Socks | One toe socks | Gaiters | Hiking belt | Hiking shoes | Flip flops |
Gadgets and devices
It’s all up to you to decide whether to make your backpack heavier by packing a big camera with lenses or keep it light and take photos with a phone or maybe pack a GoPro for taking videos. In the end, the Camino is about personal experience and it’s your choice what kind of experience you want to have.
Probably the most useful device you can take on the Camino you can use it for navigation, Camino apps, taking photos, using social media, listening to music or audiobooks, alarm, etc. Don’t know about you but we prefer Samsung over iPhone. I recently bought a new phone Samsung Galaxy S9 and quite happy with it.
If you still don’t trust the quality of your phone photos take a digital camera like Olympus OM-D, it takes good photos and ok video, plus it is small and light. We always take our Canon 80D with but the only reason we do it because we’re bloggers if it wasn’t for that we wouldn’t even consider taking this big camera with two lenses.
Another cool and small thing that will help to capture your Camino. We just bought a new GoPro Hero 6 and are quite impressed with the quality of the footage though we used it mostly underwater. Even the photos are pretty good. If you have a smartphone and a GoPro no need to pack a camera as well. It’s very easy to do editing with free GoPro Quik app just connect the GoPro to your phone and in 10 minutes you’ll get an awesome video with music. Just a couple of months after we bought it they released GoPro Hero7. If you want a budget alternative check AKASO EK7000 it might be not as great as GoPro but costs less than half.
All the videos in this post were taken with GoPro Hero6. Here is another example of the footage we took with it on the Camino del Norte.
Campbell’s best friend, he always packs it when we go traveling. It’s a great thing to have on the Camino, in weeks of walking you’ll have time to read several books and it’s not always easy to find a book in a language you know just download a couple of books and it’s last your for the whole way. I’d suggest buying Kindle Paperwhite in this case you won’t need extra light to read in the dark. If you read a lot it might be worth joining Kindle unlimited program by Amazon you get access to hundreds of thousands of Ebooks and audiobooks with it.
We had one but never used it, there are electricity and power outlets in all albergues, restaurants or cafes on the way, no need to carry a power bank but I know some people always take it with.
- Cream/body lotion
- Humid tissues
- Hand sanitizer
- Toilet paper (never needed)
First aid kit
You walk past several pharmacies every day we were always able to buy some medicine or plasters on the way. Note! If you need to buy something with a prescription you can ask your doctor back home to send it to you via e-mail and print it somewhere, we never had a problem of buying medicine this way in Spain or Portugal. Sometimes if we didn’t have a printed prescription we could send it to the pharmacy’s e-mail.
- First Aid kit – you can buy a ready made kit and take out some unnecessary stuff and add something else. This kit has plasters, bandages, safety pin, scissors, even a mini sewing kit, and many other items.
- Plasters – something you’ll definitely need for the Camino. Tip! If you have spots on your feet where you usually get blisters, try to prevent them by first putting some vaseline on it and then plaster. If you already have blister you can use Compeed – a special plaster that you can put on blisters, it reduces the pain and protects against rubbing. There are special blister prevention patches for shoes as well. We’ve never used them but the reviews are quite good.
- Vaseline – you can use it for blister prevention put it every morning on your feet (some areas) before you start walking. It’ll help to reduce chafing.
- Imodium – in case you have some stomach problems, we never had any issues in Portugal or Spain.
- Anti-inflammatory – to reduce muscular pain, swelling, e.g. Ibuprofen.
- Aspirin – in case you get cold or flu.
Recommended Camino apps
- Wise Pilgrim
- Buen Camino
- Trek Right
Books and guide books
We listed here guide books for different Caminos, plus some related to Camino de Santiago books.
- A Pilgrim’s guide to the Camino de Santiago; Camino Frances by John Brierley. Paperback.
- A Pilgrim’s guide to the Camino Portugues; Lisbon, Porto, Santiago by John Brierley. Paperback.
- Camino de Santiago Maps by John Brierley. Paperback & Kindle.
- A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino Inglés: & Camino Finisterre Including Múxia Circuit (Camino Guides) 2019 edition by John Brierley. Paperback.
- The Northern Caminos (Camino del Norte, Camino Primitivo, Camino Ingles, and Finisterre) by Dave Whitson. Paperback and Kindle.
- Walking guide to the Via de la Plata and the Camino Sanabres by Gerald Kelly. Paperback and Kindle.
- Spain and Portugal map by Michelin. Paperback.
- The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho. Paperback and Kindle.
- Ordinary Magic; Promises I Kept to My Mother Through Life, Illness, and a Very Long Walk on the Camino de Santiago by Cameron Powell. Paperback.
PIN IT FOR LATER!
- Camino de Santiago – all you need to know
- Different routes of the Camino de Santiago
- Camino Portuguese complete guide + Central Route
- Camino Portugues Coastal Route
- Camino Portuguese and Camino de Fatima from Lisbon
- Camino del Norte complete guide
- Camino del Norte walking stages
- Camino Primitivo from Oviedo to Santiago
- Via de la Plata detailed guide & itinerary
- Camino Inglés detailed guide & stages
- Camino Finisterre-Muxía
- Extraordinary pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago