I googled about a million Camino de Santiago packing lists before starting my pilgrimage. I wanted to get it right – after all, the Camino takes around 36 days, and crosses nearly 500 miles. It’s not short.
Because the Camino is so long, it’s extremely important to pack the right gear. It’s equally important to pack light – every ounce counts when you’re carrying a backpack.
In my Camino de Santiago packing list, I’ve included recommendations on the best backpack, footwear, clothing, and more. I’ve also included what didn’t work for me, so you’ll know what not to pack.
I hope you’ll find it helpful. Buen camino!
Here are few important things to consider when choosing a backpack:
a. Size matters. A 40-liter backpack is probably ideal — not too big, not too small. Originally I bought a 33L backpack, but later returned it because it didn’t fit my sleeping bag.
b. Hip straps are essential. Hip straps alleviate pressure from your shoulders, and help distribute the weight evenly.
c. Get your bag fitted by a professional. Go into REI or a similar store and have a professional help you adjust your bag. This will save you a lot of pain later.
d. Fully loaded, make sure your bag is a reasonable weight. As a rule of thumb, your packed backpack should weigh no more than 10% of your body weight. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, make sure your bag weighs around 15 pounds.
e. Buy from a brand with a lifetime warranty, such as Osprey. Osprey bags are high-quality, durable, and come with a lifetime warranty — there’s a reason they’re so popular on the Camino. I recommend buying an mid-sized Osprey bag such as the Osprey Fairview 40L Backpack.
Other bag essentials:
A rain cover – If your bag doesn’t come with a rain cover, make sure to buy one. Additionally, ensure your rain cover fits your bag before beginning the Camino – mine didn’t fully fit, so sometimes my bag got wet.
Permethrin spray – Before the Camino, spray your bag, clothing, and sleeping bag with permethrin in order to prevent bed bugs. Don’t bother bringing the permethrin with you, as one spray should last the whole Camino anyway.
2-3 caribiners – Clip a few caribiners to to your bag so you can clip your clothes to your bag and dry them in the sun as you walk. I did this all the time! These are the ones I brought.
Proper footwear is absolutely essential on the Camino – nothing will send you home faster than ill-fitting shoes.
In the Camino forums, pilgrims always debate about which shoes to bring. There are three main choices: hiking sandals, trail running shoes, or hiking boots. I recommend hiking sandals. They’re lightweight, comfortable, and the least likely to give you blisters.
Whatever you do, don’t pack hiking boots. Almost every pilgrim I met wearing hiking boots got shin splints or terrible blisters.
A few more tips: break in your shoes in before the walk. And go to REI and have a professional help you find the right shoes. My shoes were a full size too big, which ended up being perfect, as your feet tend to swell throughout the day.
Hiking sandals – I worshipped my hiking sandals. Yes, they were dorky, but man, were they comfortable. The ones I bought were similar to the Keen Whisper sandals, which are popular on the Camino.
You may be wondering – did my feet get wet? Nope! And I even walked with them the rain. (Thick merino wool socks help a lot.)
3 pairs of merino wool socks – Merino wool is excellent for hiking because it’s comfortable in any temperature and naturally resists odor. Plus, it doesn’t itch like traditional wool.
Flip flops – After walking all day, it was so nice to be able to change into a pair of flip flops. They’re also great for the communal showers in the pilgrim hostels (albergues).
You will need a sleeping bag on the Camino. Most albergues don’t provide sheets or provide flimsy disposable sheets, so you’ll need a sleeping bag to stay warm at night.
This sleeping bag cost $35 and worked great. Pro tip – buy a cheaper sleeping bag so you can throw it out if necessary after the Camino. I ended up getting bed bugs (so gross), so I was very grateful I didn’t have to throw out my more expensive sleeping bag.
I’d highly recommend bringing a silk liner as they can prevent bed bugs. I’ve used this one for years.
Note – if you’re walking in summer, you’ll probably just need a silk liner, not a sleeping bag.
You don’t need a lot of clothes of the Camino. You only need two outfits. I also recommend bringing a third outfit — a t-shirt and pair of shorts — to wear while you’re washing your clothes.
Whatever you do, DO NOT PACK COTTON. It takes forever to dry and stinks to high heaven.
1 GORE-TEX rain jacket – For the Camino, I invested in a GORE-TEX rain jacket from Arc’teryx. I prefer GORE-TEX as it’s more breathable than nylon, which is what most rain jackets are made of.
1 lightweight insulated jacket* – This Patagonia Nano Puff Insulated jacket is hands-down one of the best investments I’ve ever made. It’s lightweight, warm, and breathable. On the Camino, I layered it under my rain jacket on cold or rainy days.
1 pair of zip-off, water-resistant hiking pants – Zip-off hiking pants are the best for quickly-changing weather – when it gets hot, just zip ’em off.
1 pair yoga pants with side pockets – Having yoga pants was a godsend. I could sleep in them, layer them under my hiking pants, and wear them after walking without looking like a total dork. Ones with side pockets (like these ones) are great for walking because then you can have your iPhone handy.
1 pair of athletic shorts – Great for hot days, sleeping, and wearing while washing my other clothes.
1 cotton t-shirt – to wear after hiking and while sleeping.
2 sports bras
1 regular bra – Is having a regular bra essential? No. But wearing a sports bra for 36 days was a little much for me. Plus, you can wear your regular bra while your sports bras are in the wash.
3 pairs of athletic underwear – I bought three pairs of ExOfficio athletic underwear for the Camino and am now obsessed. They’re SO comfortable and dry crazy fast. A must-have.
Sunglasses with UV protection
Waterproof gloves – The last week of the camino was very rainy, and I would’ve killed for waterproof gloves. Learn from my mistake.
*You may not need if you’re walking the Camino in summer.
These are the toiletries I packed for the Camino. When I ran out of products, I went to the pharmacy to pick up more. Spanish pharmacies will have everything you will need, so there’s no need to overpack.
Travel-size face wash
Toothbrush & toothpaste
Razor with extra blade
Facial sunscreen – Elta MD SPF 46 is the best sunscreen I’ve ever used. It’s a solid sunscreen (meaning it contains zinc oxide), which is essential when you’re in the sun all day.
Sunscreen for body
Heavy-duty moisturizer – All of the wind and sun can take a toll on your face. I used this amazing Dr. Hauschka moisturizer every night which enormously helped my skin. Plus, it was nice to have a touch of luxury in such austere conditions.
Wet brush – This Wet Brush breezily removes tangles and is very lightweight. I will never stop singing its praises.
1 loofah glove – I never felt fully clean on the Camino – my legs were often covered in vaseline, and the water pressure was usually poor in the albergue showers. I would’ve killed for a loofah glove.
I tried to keep my first-aid kit to a minimum as I knew I could buy things along the way. Here are the bare essentials.
Vaseline – If you learn nothing else from this packing list, please, please, take this piece of advice. To prevent blisters, liberally coat your feet in Vaseline every morning. While you’re walking, stop and take your socks off every few hours for at least ten minutes to dry out your feet, and then apply even more Vaseline. Once I started doing this, I never got blisters again.
1 large needle and 1 spool of thread – If you do end up getting blisters, I recommend threading them – here are instructions on how to do so safely. Make sure to sanitize everything – your hands, feet, the needle and thread – before attempting.
A small pair of scissors
Anti-inflammatory cream – massage your calves with this cream every night after walking. It will save you from muscle pain down the road.
OB Tampons – Light, compact, and eco-friendly.
Food and Water
Protein bars – I was so happy to have a stash of protein bars for the first week of the Camino. These RX chocolate sea salt bars are so delicious, which is why they didn’t last longer.
3L water reservoir – My water reservoir was by far one of the best things I packed, but something very few other pilgrims had. It’s SO nice having a water reservoir, because you can take a drink whenever you want.
In the morning, I usually filled it halfway as there are many fountains along the Camino. For longer stretches without fountains (like the Meseta), I filled it up all the way.
Small water bottle – I also brought a lightweight, 24-ounce water bottle to use after walking. This one was perfect.
Walking poles – These lightweight Black Diamond walking poles were a last-minute purchase, but I was so glad to have them. If I do another Camino or long-distance walk, I will 100% be bringing my poles.
Walking poles are helpful for several reasons:
a. They let you walk faster by propelling you forward
b. They take pressure off your back by they distributing the weight better
c. They support you going downhill
d. They’re helpful when your feet are hurting (you can use them as crutches, basically)
1 small purse – I used a small, cross-body bag to store my phone, money, and chapstick. Obviously not a necessity, but I enjoyed having it. It was also useful when we went out in the cities.
Extra-large travel towel – Honestly, I freaking hate quick-drying travel towels. But you need one on the Camino as very few albergues provide towels. Here’s the extra-large one I brought.
3 large Plastic ziplock bags – One for toiletries, one for medical supplies, and one for miscellaneous reasons (you can use it to store food, for example).
1 large packing cube – I used a lightweight packing cube to organize my clothes.
Notebook and pen
Eye mask and ear plugs – As you’ll be often be sleeping in dormitories with up to 300 beds, an eye mask and ear plugs are essential. This eye mask come with ear plugs.
European wall charger – Bonus – buy a wall charger with two USB ports so you can share with fellow pilgrims.
1 iPhone cable – I loved having a super long iPhone cable so I could charge my iPhone while in the top bunk.
Wise Pilgrims App – I used the Wise Pilgrims app religiously. It tells you which towns have pharmacies and post offices, and how far it is to the next town or fountain.
What I didn’t end up needing
I didn’t end up needing any of these items, so I shipped all of these items ahead to Santiago de Compostela (instructions on how to do that here).
Poncho – I brought both a rain jacket and a rain cover for my bag, rendering my poncho useless. Some pilgrims prefer having a poncho. Your choice.
Toiletry caddy – I kept all my toiletries in a large Ziploc bag and that worked fine.
Lock – I didn’t end up using a lock because I kept my only valuable item (my iPhone) on me at all times.
Imodium – I didn’t end up needing these. Plus, you can buy it at the pharmacy.
Power bank – I was so glad I didn’t bring my power bank to charge my phone. I wouldn’t have used it enough to warrant the weight.
Digital camera – My iPhone worked fine for taking pictures.
Headlamp – If you need a light in the dorm, just use your phone. But if you’re hiking in summer, you should probably bring one as pilgrims tend to start walking when it’s still dark out (it gets much hotter during the day, so it’s better to get an early start).
Have you ever done the Camino de Santiago? What was the most essential item in your Camino de Santiago packing list?
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