Training and packing for the Camino
The final steps of Camino preparation are to train and pack. For any long-distance walking trip, it is essential to train by taking practice hikes with your gear based on your goals of average kilometers per day. For example, if you plan to hike the Pyrenees stage, which is mostly strenuous, you will want to do practice hikes averaging 12 – 16 kilometers per day in similar mountainous terrain. For route stages that are more level such as the Meseta, you should practice with longer day hikes of 25 to 30 kilometers per day. Make sure the shoes that you bring on your Camino are comfortable and already broken-in. Hiking boots that are above the ankle provide the best support, but running shoes may be an option if you are used to hiking with them. Feet may swell a shoe size on long distance hikes—buy accordingly.1
When it comes to packing for the Camino, carry only essential items in a lightweight backpack, so that you will be able to walk long distances without putting extra strain on your body. Although some first-time pilgrims might be tempted to pack emergency “just in case” items, they should keep in mind that Spain is a first-world country and provisions along the routes are plentiful. It is highly recommended to select and pack gear so that your backpack weighs 10% of your total body weight.
Sound impossible? I thought so too. Here’s what I’ve learned. Limit clothing to just two pairs of each item: one outfit that you wear and one clean set to change into. Hand-washing facilities and drying lines are common in albergues and some even offer washing machines and dryers. At the end of each day, most pilgrims hand-wash their undergarments, socks and shirts and hang them to dry overnight. If the climate is cold, rainy or damp, clothing might not air dry completely, but the clean change of clothes will be ready for the next day’s walk.
Fortunately, a great variety of lightweight, quick-drying clothing has become widely available at most sporting good and travel stores. The basic items you pack should be customized as needed. For example, you might opt for a sleeping sack instead of a sleeping bag if you travel in the warmer months. Or you might bring walking poles or find a walking stick in the forest to help distribute your weight as you walk.
The concept of packing light with just the minimal essentials might prove to be the biggest psychological challenge for many people. Some pilgrims start out by packing way too much, making their daily walks uncomfortable. Pilgrims can always lighten their load along the way by donating unnecessary items in the albergues or mailing heavy items to Santiago where they can be picked up at the end of the journey. Ironically, when pilgrims understand that lightening the load lifts a heavy burden, both literally and figuratively, they might just realize they don’t need all the “stuff” they accumulate in their homes. I have found in my research that all sources and pilgrims agree, the Camino provides.
Peregrinos, do you stick to the 10% weight limit? Digame in the comments below.
PS. Here’s a video that I found amusing and helpful about packing for the Camino.
Packing list review / Revisão da mochila para o Camino de Santiago (4:45 minutes)
If you know of other helpful Camino videos or resources that should be included on The Camino Provides, please email me at email@example.com.
Up next: What inspired me to want to walk the Camino? – Part 7 and final post of this series.
1. Alcorn, Susan. Camino Chronicles: Walking to Santiago. Oakland: Shepherd Canyon Books. 2006. Print.
2. Packing list photo from: The Minimalist Camino de Santiago Packing List