I am delighted to feature another post by the vivacious red-headed wanderluster from the UK, Sheree Hooker, author of Winging the World blog. She was one of 21 pilgrims interviewed about packing for the Camino by the Packing Goods website. You might remember Sheree from her guest post last month, Camino Reflections by an Awkward British Wanderluster. Read her tips below, one of which I disagree with (can you guess which one?). But this is a lesson about choice of gear—what works for some pilgrims, doesn’t necessarily work for others. When a pilgrim is planning what to pack for their first Camino, the options and advice can be overwhelming. In the end, it’s up to each pilgrim to decide what he or she will pack. Still, it’s good to take a sneak peak into the backpacks of other pilgrims!
How I packed for the Camino
By Sheree Hooker
I am the clueless British traveler behind the site Winging the World. The blog was set up to guide those who feel out of their depth when it comes to travel (I do too!) and to show people, through my own misadventures on the road, that anyone can travel even if they are not the most confident person.
I was born and raised in rural Norfolk, England where I am currently residing after returning from a short break away in Portugal. Living in the countryside where public transport isn’t great has always meant that walking has been a big part of my life but it was a long time before I made the transition to hiking. It was only when my partner Tim suggested doing the Camino de Santiago that I began to try to prepare seriously for the venture.
What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all Camino de Santiago hikers bring?
Undoubtedly the most important thing that I brought for the journey was a multiple port USB charger. During our Camino, Tim and I wanted to limit our expenditure by staying in hostels along the way and unfortunately, not all of these provide many plug sockets. Bringing the four-port USB charger meant that we were both able to charge our phones as well as our e-readers at the same time and only use one plug socket in the dorm room. Not only was this convenient for us but I think our fellow bunkmates were pretty happy too!
I planned to walk the entirety of the Camino Francés which totals nearly 500 miles. I wasn’t sure how long this would take, having never tackled a such a big hike before. Despite this, I figured I was likely to get at least one period during the trek. As the years have gone on, the difference between the number of men and women doing the Camino has narrowed and the split is hovering at nearly 50/50. To save myself money on the road and the reduce the weight in my pack, I shunned the traditional disposable period products and instead opted for a reusable menstrual cup. Whilst this item is only relevant to women, it was something that was invaluable in helping me manage my period on the hike.
To help us to prepare for the Camino, Tim and I read through guidebooks and saw sleeping bags recommended a lot. Whilst we knew we would need something to sleep in, (many of the hostels do not provide sheets) we didn’t want the extra weight of a bulky sleeping bag and thought they were likely to be too hot considering the climate. Instead, we opted for sleep sacks. These are similar to sleeping bags except that they are made from sheets so that they are cool to sleep in. The stitching allows you to insert a pillow inside and leave the side open for extra air. The best thing about the sleep sack is that they pack down into a small rectangle – around the same size as a microfibre towel!
The most common pitfall that hikers fall into on the Camino is overpacking. Not only is carrying unnecessary weight going to make you miserable but you are also more likely to become injured doing this. The funniest and most unnecessary item that I saw used on the Camino was a hands-free umbrella. Not only did this flop in the wind but it also seemed to block much of the view down a steep hill. Considering how rocky some of the paths are and how important good visibility is, I would definitely recommend a rain poncho instead!
How do you bring things with you?
During the Camino, I carried a 35-litre pack with an external frame. It was purchased some years previously from Trespass and therefore had already had quite a lot of wear. Bringing this bag was an error on my part. Unfortunately, using an old pack meant that the frame came loose during the hike and offered me zero back support. Although I was determined to finish the trek with my original bag, I suffered from backache frequently and therefore wouldn’t recommend this particular pack. This was still preferable to the wheelie suitcase that I saw one woman struggling with though! Despite the faults of my bag, I felt that a 35-litre rucksack provided just the right amount of room and I always had a little bit of space left for my morning snacks.
I am a big advocate of packing cubes and use them to keep my stuff organised in my rucksack. I had one for my clothes which I rolled up to save space and another for toiletries. I kept all of my electronics in waterproof bags in case of rain and leakages.
What are your top tips for other Camino de Santiago hikers?
My ultimate advice to someone planning to walk the Camino de Santiago would be to pack light and choose a rucksack with an external frame to help balance the weight of the bag. It is important to remember that whilst your pack may feel light for that short hike you did, it will certainly feel heavier after repeated use and strain on your back. Ideally, the maximum weight of your bag should be less than 10% of your body weight. Of course, packing light isn’t as easy as it sounds so it is best to have several packing attempts, each time removing more unnecessary items. It can be helpful to write down the bare minimum you think you will need to do the hike and then add in the luxuries you feel that you couldn’t do without – be warned though, there isn’t many of them!
Taking on a hike like the Camino de Santiago can be overwhelming, so try not to view it in its entirety and instead break it down day by day. If you are still apprehensive about starting your journey, check out some of the blogs and literature by those who have already done it. These will give you an idea of what to expect and why this hike is special to so many people.
See full post, 21 Pilgrims Share How They Pack for Camino De Santiago.
Visit Sheree Hooker’s website.
About the author:
Sheree is a travel blogger at the site. Here she documents all of her travel mishaps and offers tips and advice to other hapless adventurers. The Camino Francés was her first Camino but probably won’t be her last!
Read more about her Camino at Winging the World : Spain and see more great blogs on my Favorite Camino Blogs page. If you have a pilgrim reflection to share or a Camino love story to tell, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS. If you can guess which of Sheree’s points I disagree with, comment below!