What to take on Camino?

I thought I’d cut the contents of my Camino pack to the bone – until I climbed the first mountain out of Valcarlos. On my bunk in Roncesvalles, aching and exhausted, I agonised over what to throw into the huge box of rejects at the back door of the monastery.

In Pamplona I sent ahead a box of discards, large and small: the heavy sleeping bag, thick coat and extra undies went onto Santiago.

Next Camino I almost got it right:

  • small backpack <32 litres
  • light sleeping bag (these two items the heaviest of all so worth concentrating on keeping light)
  • sleeping bag liner – great for warm albergues
  • two pairs hiking trousers, one that I could convert to shorts
  • two T-shirts
  • two hiking shirts
  • two quick dry knickers
  • two bras
  • three pairs socks
  • rain poncho – worth investing in a good one
  • light fleece coat – LIGHT! after a few hundred metres I was overheated in my down coat, even in snow and sleet. The poncho will keep you warm in wet conditions, too
  • one pair well-worn-in boots (I walked in late winter/early spring each time, so didn’t wear sandals)
  • minimal bathroom gear: shampoo for hair, body and laundry; comb; tooth brush and paste; moisturiser for face and hands, which dry out so quickly when outdoors all day; tissues for bathroom stops and drippy nose; deodorant
  • crushable hat. Mine has a reinforced front to keep the rain off my glasses
  • light gloves and scarf for cold mornings
  • walking sticks
  • hiking towel
  • my phone holds wallet, camera, map, accommodation info, plane and train tickets, and allows occasional contact with the outside world
  • lightweight journal and pen – my most precious cargo!
  • passport and Camino credential,
  • cash card
  • daypack which folds into itself, back to almost nothing
  • some nappy pins for the clothesline or to finish drying socks attached to your pack
  • minimal first aid kit – both Spain and France have pharmacies! I take one or two pain relief pills, and a few band aids

Of course the most important things to take don’t go in your back pack. A sense of humour, kindness, patience and a positive attitude top every packing list. And if you don’t have self-awareness and a love of solitude, stillness and silence when you start, you will find them by the time you reach Santiago de Compostela!

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