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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.