What I brought with me on the Camino de Santiago

There’s nothing worse that having to lug a big bag across the North of Spain. Guidebooks on the Camino suggest that your bag shouldn´t be more than 10% your body weight. That´s easier said than done. Thanks however to my old ultra running gear box, and a bit of ex-mountain marathon experience, I managed to make my bag light enough to run with.

Happy with my rucksack and gear, following yellow Camino arrows.

Everything went into my Inov-8 Race Pro 30 litre. It was a brilliant choice. Its a really comfortable bag to run with, balancing so well that there at times I had to double check I hadn’t left stuff behind in the hostel by accident, so light it felt on my back. I also had a rain cover for it just in case, and I definitely needed it when there were camino downpours. I didn´t bring a poncho for such eventualities. My raincover and rainjacket were enough.

My lovely inov-8 30 litre bag, hanging out with my Inov Roclite shoes.

I was really glad that I brought everything in Sea to Summit drybags of different sizes and different colours (had 5 in total). After one day of full on rain, I think I was the only person that had a backpack with fully dry contents.

Dry bags, especially those made by Sea to Summit, were great for keeping gear dry.

Clotheswise, I had wet pants and rainjacket, and ran with 2 jumpers, a salamon t-shirt, and 3/4 length tights. I brought 2 pairs of smartwool socks (though only really needed 1 pair of socks I washed them every night). I had a hat, buff, and gloves, and was glad I brought them. I then also had trousers, shorts, a spare t-shirt, and 2 more jumpers for wearing once I got into the hostel. Believe me, I used them all.

Shoeswise, I wore Roclite inov8 315 trail runners during the day. I don´t think the camino needs boots, but then again others swear by them for protecting their ankles and saving them from wet socks. At night, I had a pair of vibram five fingers to slip into. You would not believe the amount of comments I got about my vibrams, everything from jealousy to hysterics. But I didn’t care. They were extremely light in the pack and saved me from having to carry extra socks.

My lovely Vibram Bikila created much of a stir.

I had the best sleeping bag in the world, the Rab Neutrino 200. At 595g, it was a perfect weight, came with its own dry sack and was incredibly snug and warm.

I took along John Brierley´s “A Pilgrim´s Guide to the Camino Santiago”, which most English pilgrims were using. Everyday, I cut out the maps inside and had them to hand to check exactly where I was on the trail. And I threw my stamp book inside that for safe keeping to get access to the albergue hostels.

John Brierley’s Camino de Santiago Guide, available from findhornpress.com

Other things I brought were a penknife, first aid kit (lots of compeeds, plaster tape, extra strong nurofen). I had to pick up strepsils and cough medecine on the way, what with picking up a cough from some other hostel dweller. I used a 600mk plastic bike water bottle all the time. However there were some sections where you couldn´t get water for 15km, so I used a 2 litre camelbak on those days.

I brought a camera and its battery charger (which I never used). I had a small torch, which was useful when I wanted to leave before everyone else got up and wanted to check around to see if I had everything. I also wore a watch which helped me gauge when I´d be arriving into villages. Was really glad to also bring along my ipod. There was wifi in a lot of hostels I stayed in. It meant I could pick up emails and make skype calls home. I also had videos and kindle books saved on it so that I could pass away some hours in the evenings with my own home entertainment if I didn´t feel like socialising. Only disadvantage was I dropped it from a top bunk bed one evening and completely shattered the screen. It surprisingly still worked, but I had to look carefully through the fissures sometimes to see what was displayed below.

My cracked ipod screen after it took a nose dive off a hostel bed. Still worked though.

Toiletries wise, I took mini bottles of everything. I knew I´d be away for a while, so didn´t want to have to rough it in that department. I ended up buying on the trail lots of soap. I seemed to go through it like nothing normal. I also did handwashing every night, so bought a bar to handwash with.

And the only other thing I carried was food, bought from happy supermercado experiences. Its heavy stuff, so I only brought enough to last a few hours. A bit of chocolate, some nuts, a banana, and maybe a sandwich if I wanted to avoid stopping along the trail.

There was another advantage to keeping my bag contents to an absolute minimum. It reminded me that I actually don’t need that much to live on a day to day basis. Never a bad thing to remember.

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13 thoughts on “What I brought with me on the Camino de Santiago

  1. i found your page very useful. I’m leaving for the camino in 5 days and would have packed way too much. I’m used to back packing in the rocky mountains of Montana and was going to bring more than required on this journey. thank you so much for taking the time to outline the essentials.

    happy trails,

    Johnny Hamilton

  2. Thanks for a great post on the Camino. I am intending to walk the Camino for the last 2 weeks in Septemeber and the 1st 2 weeks in October. I am just wondering where would you recommend in starting and finishing for approximately a 28 day walk? Do you know is there anyway to avoid getting blisters in the walk? Thanks again. By the way your blog is very inspiring:)
    Namaste.

    ~ TW

    1. Difficult questions. For a 28 day walk, it totally depends on the speed you go / number of kms you do a day. Have a look at the camino forum recommended in the blog post and it can give you lots of advice. Here’s a link about 27 days: http://www.caminodesantiago.me/can-i-walk-from-st-jean-to-santiago-de-compostela-in-27-days/

      Same with blisters – I got them, patched them up, and it was no problem. Check out this link: http://www.caminodesantiago.me/tip-blister-prevention-and-foot-care/

  3. Thank you for posting this information. I am running the Camino from Sept 16th so great to benefit from your experience. Did your bag qualify as cabin baggage as the size H – 51cm
    W – 24cm
    D – 22cm just falls foul of Ryan Air 55/40/20
    I am on a very tight budget!
    Also another runner’s blog advised that a silk sleeping bag liner was enough because blankets were available. Do you think a bag is necessary?

    1. Hi Ian, good to hear you’re running the camino. In answer to your questions:

      1) My bag would have qualified as cabin baggage no problem with Ryanair. I flew out with them, Dublin to Biarritz. However I actually checked my bag in and paid 15 Euros because I really wanted to bring a penknife. In the end, I’m glad I brought the knife as I ended up doing lots of repairs on my feet and needed small, sharp scissors. But I saw lots of people getting off the plane with their rucksack as handluggage. My bag was 30 litres and I had a bit of extra room on top for a sandwich and a few bananas: http://www.inov-8.com/New/Global/Product-View-RacePro-30.html?L=26
      2) Yes, there are blankets in the majority of hostels. I didn’t see anyone just going with a sleeping liner though. Maybe in July/August when its really warm, but I wouldn’t have done that in April/May (so best check weather for that time of year). Also bear in mind that some hostels have heating and some don’t (you can get the list in St Jean Pied-de-Port and keep an eye on the chauffage tick box list). There was one place I slept without heating (and it was raining that day) and this poor Korean girl was huddled in her sleeping bag with a blanket and was still cold. I’m actually glad I brought my bag as it was super warm. There were some days when it was so miserably cold and wet whilst I was on the camino that I was really glad to be able to get into the the bag and heat up again very quickly.
      Overall, in terms of weight, I’d be very minimalist if I was travelling for 2-3 days. But we’re talking a few weeks here, so a few creature comforts are important. And for me, a major creature comfort is making sure I stay warm. So I had trousers and 2 jumpers as well as my rainjacket, buff, gloves and hat to wear after being on the trail. All extra weight, but I’m glad I brought them so I stayed in good form for the 3 weeks I was on the trail.

      Hope this helps. Happy to answer other questions you might have.

  4. Summarized: How much weight & volume did it make & is there anything you could’ve left behind?
    And finally, for something like the Manaslu trail challenge, where it goes up to 4460m, is there anything else you would take?

    1. Total weight was around 6kg, which doesn’t include food or water. It fitted into a 30 litre rucksack (the Inov8 ones are the best for running with).
      Could have left behind the battery charger for my camera and the torch. Everything else I needed. What I was really glad about was my sleeping bag that I bought especially for the trip. Cost a bit but was less than 600g and was super warm.
      Is there a mandatory gear list for the Manaslu Trail Challenge? Do you have to carry your bags on the run?

      1. That’s a serious mandatory list. Wonder if they’ll check if you have toilet paper and strepsils with you at all times? Not sure why they are making penknifes mandatory. And why you would need a survival bag in addition to your sleeping bag, I don’t understand either. The only thing I’d add is spare clothing for the evenings.

        Seeing the mandatory list is so comprehensive already, I’d just try to and go very lightweight on all the items listed e.g.
        Mini red light about 25g: http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/Models.aspx?ModelID=8749
        Petzl e+lite headtorch, 27g, as you won’t be running at night anyway: http://www.peteblandsports.co.uk/cgi-bin/trolleyed_public.cgi?action=showprod_PE3
        Rab Neutrino sleeping bag, 595g: http://www.webtogs.co.uk/Rab_Neutrino_200_Down_Sleeping_Bag_102058.html
        Inov8 pack, 30l, 702g: http://www.inov-8.com/New/Global/Product-View-RacePro-30.html?L=26

        Sounds like a cracking race though!

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