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  • Writer's picturecherylmurfin

48. Your Packing List

No set of writings about the Camino would be complete without a packing list. What do you really need?

My and Joe's list won’t be exactly right for you because what you need and what we found we needed may not be the same -- we went in cool late fall, you might be going in hot summer. But perhaps if you line up several lists found in books and online, as we did, you’ll see what is essential for your journey. And more importantly, what is not. One thing is the same for your list and ours: Everything you bring should fit into a backpack weighing no more than 15 pounds. If you are an avid long-distance hiker who is used to 30-pounds packs over mountains, hats off to you. Go for it. But what you need weighs in at 15 pounds or LESS. Really.

Before you start packing, know that if your journey happens to be on any of the Camino de Santiago routes, you will find these things abundantly available: water, food, rocks to sit on, pharmacies, soap to wash your clothes, etc. When your backpack is weighing in at 20 pounds, rethink the small digital items you are SURE you need. You don't. Skip the extra shoes. Leave the enormous Camel water bladder behind.

For the body:

  • A 30ish liter backpack with a hip belt you’ve had fitted properly to your body

  • 2 pair preferably convertible (pants to shorts) or reversible hiking pants or leggings

  • 2 preferably reversible moisture-wicking shirts (one short and one long-sleeved)

  • 2 sets of undies

  • 3 pairs of wool hiking socks - I like mine silk-lined, Joe took his straight

  • 1 set of silk underwear for sleeping. Joe went without

  • 1 pair of sturdy trail-runners or hike shoes (not boots)

  • 1 pair of flip-flops for showers and wandering around after walking

  • 1 set collapsable hiking poles

  • 1 light fleece jacket

  • 1 lightweight down coat big enough to wear over fleece, warm enough for snow

  • 1 pair full-shoe-covering gators. We got the half-covering ones and were sorry

  • 1 rain poncho well-sealed at the seams

  • 1 wide brimmed hat

  • 1 small roll of duct tape, the answer to everything

  • 1 tube of Bacitracin and a few bandaids

  • 1 role of medical tape

  • 1 packet of Compeed for blisters (But know you'll be able to buy or borrow one from fellow pilgrims)

  • Several gallon-size ziplock bags

  • If you must have water, carry a small lightweight bottle. But know that if you hydrate well before you walk, there will be a place for water within 3 hours for sure

  • The barest essentials of toiletries (leave the make-up at home)

  • Medications you rely on PLUS a prescription in case they are lost

  • 1 sleep sack a little weightier and warmer than silk. Or just sew a sheet into a tube shape. Soak it in Permethrin and let dry before your trip. Insurance against bed bugs.

  • DON’T FORGET: A small, light, nylon daypack for when you realize you can have your larger backpack shuttled forward for a mere 5 Euros and do NOT have to carry it all the way to the end. I should point out here that the original Catholic pilgrims on the Camino carried ONLY a gourd for water, a walking stick and a Bible (if they had one). They allowed the Road and the abundance of hospitality on the Road to care for them. That is part of the point of pilgrimage. Suffering with a heavy pack is not a more blessed or spiritual experience in any religion that frequents the Camino. Even the Catholic Church, which gives points for finishing a pilgrimage, does not give more if you carry a large pack. If you are young and strong and feel carrying your pack all the way would be fun and a great challenge, go for it. If you have creaky joints, save your back and knees and skip the guilt.

For the Soul

  • Time. The Camino Frances route can be done in 34 days. But you miss A LOT of incredible things as you pound out those 15 or 18 mile days. If at all possible, give yourself six weeks to walk. Stop in places you like. Stay a while. Explore. Walk a few 5-mile days.

  • Your sense of humor

  • Openness to adventure and cultural differences

  • A non-judgmental attitude

  • Willingness to listen to strangers and share in exchange

  • Say "Yes" to at least a few albergues (hostels just for pilgrims). They are not The Ritz. You hear people snoring. But this is where you truly connect with other pilgrims and find meaning in your walk.

  • A journal and pen

  • A small sketch pad and pencil

  • A rock representing whatever heart work you bring with you. Or a piece of paper. Or a ribbon. Or not.

  • Photos of your family, your dog, your cat, bunny, gecko, or others you love (see "Regrettable Essentials;" bring them on your phone not in print)

  • Music that moves or inspires you + music that pushes you to move

  • This is what I listened to:

Regrettable essentials

  • A phone and charger (which you should put away and only pull out when you are truly lost or need to see your dog's loving snout)

  • A universal plug adapter

  • A bankcard (plenty of ATMS on the way); Let your bank or credit card know you are traveling so they don’t think someone stole your card and leave you stranded without cash in a bad reception area where you are unable to get hold of them!

  • Your passport

  • Drivers license or other secondary ID

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