The Camino de Santiago is a life-changing experience for most, we know many people that were planning this pilgrimage for years, preparing, reading, training. To make sure you enjoy it, take the right gear, don’t overload your backpack, have comfortable shoes that you can walk in for days, etc.
We learned this during our own painful experience. We’ve completed several different Caminos de Santiago routes. In total, in the 2018/2020 Camino season, we walked over 3500 km across Spain, Portugal, and France following different Camino routes. We’re planning to continue our Camino saga in the nearest future.
Our completed Camino de Santiago routes
- Portuguese Camino from Lisbon – May 2018
- Camino Primitivo – June 2018
- Camino del Norte – October 2018
- Camino Finisterre & Muxía – November 2018
- Via de la Plata (214 km from Seville to Mérida) – April 2019
- Camino Inglés – May 2019
- Camino Francés – September 2019
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We’re experienced hikers and walk a lot in the mountains with much heavier backpacks, before our first Camino we thought it was super easy to walk from albergue to albergue with a light backpack, carrying only clothes, with many restaurants, and coffee shops on the way.
After the first week on the Portuguese Camino our feet were destroyed, we both had huge blisters, basically, our feet were just one big blister! All because we didn’t have proper hiking shoes and decided to walk long distances. In the first four days, we walked more than 140km here after we decided to slow down and even had a day off in Fatima. Don’t make the same mistake, take your time especially in the beginning, let your body get used to it, and don’t follow somebody’s itinerary if it’s too tough for you, walk shorter days, rest, stay longer and you’ll enjoy the Camino de Santiago much more.
We walked the Caminos in different seasons throughout one year (we on purpose skipped the high season – July and August, as we don’t like crowds), in this post you’ll find packing tips for different weather and seasons.
The Camino de Santiago is not your normal hike in the wild where you have to carry camping gear and food which is a good thing as it’s possible to pack light. Every night pilgrims stay at albergues, no tent and camping mat is needed, all you need or we’d recommend bringing with is a sleeping bag. In our experience the two most important things to have on the Camino are a comfortable backpack and a pair of good hiking shoes – these two you’ll use every day and if even one of them doesn’t fit well or uncomfortable it can completely spoil your Camino.
Documents to take with on the Camino
A passport or an ID for European citizens – you’ll need it for checking in to albergues and hotels.
The Credential (Camino passport), a small paper book with your name where you collect stamps from albergues, hotels, churches, restaurants, etc. along the way. You can get a Credential at a Camino de Santiago office in your country or at albergues/cathedrals or churches on the Camino. You need the Credential to stay at public albergues (where only pilgrims are allowed to stay) and to get your Compostela in Santiago.
The Compostela is a certificate that pilgrims get for completing any route of the Camino de Santiago. In order to get it, you have to walk at least the last 100 km to Santiago.
If you need practical information for planning the pilgrimage check out our post that contains useful tips for planning and walking the Camino.
Camino de Santiago essential gear
I walked with a 40L backpack it was more than enough especially if you’re not planning on carrying a laptop as I did. Campbell walked with a 50L backpack but would be totally fine with a 40L pack. Remember, the bigger backpack you get the more unnecessary stuff you’ll fit in. If you walk in summer you can get away with a smaller 30-35L backpack.
For hiking in winter or late fall/early spring when you need warmer clothes a 40-45L backpack for men and women will be big enough. Make sure your backpack has a rain cover or buy a separate one it’s always great to have it especially if you walk off-season.
On the Camino routes, there are several companies that offer a door-to-door luggage delivery service. Correos, Camino Facil, and Pilbeo are the three main companies that offer luggage transfers on different Camino de Santiago routes. It works very easy; you leave your backpack in the morning at the reception of your albergue/hotel they pick it up and drive to your next accommodation place. The service costs 5-6 Euro per backpack per stage.
If you’re planning to use this service on the Camino you can bring a big backpack or even a suitcase and walk with a day pack carrying only valuables, water, and snacks. Make sure your daypack is comfortable for long walking and has padded straps, and pickets to fit a water bottle. Osprey Talon 22 Men’s Hiking Backpack or even smaller Osprey Daylite 13L Daypack are great options for a day pack.
Suggested backpacks for women
Suggested backpacks for men
Don’t underestimate the importance of hiking shoes, in the end, you’ll spend most of the time walking in them. We’d recommend walking the Camino, especially if you’re planning to walk a long distance, in proper boots not in running shoes or sneakers – they (or your feet) just won’t make it. We tried on the Portuguese Camino to walk in our running shoes. They were very comfortable in the beginning but after a couple of days of walking on cobblestones and asphalt, our feet were destroyed.
For very hot weather hiking sandals can be a good alternative to the boots. Modern hiking shoes usually have good ventilation but sometimes it just gets too hot and it’s nice to put on sandals for a while.
If you buy a new pair wear them before you go on a hike even super quality new shoes might cause blisters.
Suggested hiking shoes for women
The last five Camino routes and a couple of hiking routes in Nepal I walked in Salomon Ellipse 2. They’re comfortable and light. Exactly what I wanted a pair of shoes that can be worn for both walking the Camino and hiking in the mountains. My feet got wet a couple of times when we got a pouring rain with strong wind on the Northern Camino and the Camino Finisterre. It happened partly because I wasn’t wearing gaiters the water from my pants ran down into the shoes. I didn’t get any blisters even though the shoes were new and I hadn’t worn them before. This model is a bit narrow if you have wide feet they might be too tight.
For walking the Camino off-season when it rains a lot and on some routes, you can even get snow I can recommend Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX boots. These shoes are amazing for more challenging hiking routes and walking in bad weather conditions. I’ve done Everest Base Camp Trek and Annapurna Base Camp trek in them and for hours walked in deep snow and my feet stayed warm and dry.
Suggested hiking shoes for men
Campbell’s walked four Camin routes and several hiking routes in Canada in his Salomon X Ultra hiking shoes. These shoes are a great option; light, durable, relatively waterproof, comfortable, have a good grip. For walking off-season when you can get a lot of rain and occasional snow a high-cut model might be a better option.
Campbell just like me bought a new pair of waterproof hiking boots Salomon Ultra 3 Mid GTX for trekking in the mountains. He hasn’t done any Camino in them yet but for hiking in heavy rain and through snow and mud these boots are amazing. They are very comfortable and light, stay dry for hours and keep your feet warm especially if you wear merino wool socks.
In our experience, most albergues provide blankets but usually, without covers, I prefer to use my own sleeping bag, and if it’s really cold I use a blanket over it. A light sleeping bag with a comfort temperature limit +12°C/55°F will be good enough.
If you walk the Camino in summer (July, August) when it gets quite hot, instead of a sleeping bag you can pack a silk liner. We walked a couple of Caminos in June and sometimes it was too hot at night for using a sleeping bag. If you get cold you can always use a blanket over your liner.
If you’re not planning to stay at hotels (private rooms) instead of albergues you don’t need to carry a sleeping bag, all hotels and guesthouses provide blankets and bedding.
We usually use trekking poles when we go trekking in the Andes or in the Himalayas. For walking the Camino we don’t take poles but I know many pilgrims use them. Trekking poles are great if you have knee or hip problems, shin splint, etc. They help a lot to reduce stress on joints. For some Caminos with many ascents and descents e.g. the Camino Primitivo or some parts of the French Camino (walking over the Pyrenees), the poles will be very helpful.
This item we always take when we go traveling. Quick-dry towels are very light, pack small, dry quick (as you can guess from the name), durable, and come in many different colors. We’d suggest marking your towel with initials or a picture at some albergues with many people I spent some time trying to figure out which towel on the washing line was mine.
We definitely prefer carrying a water bottle over a water bladder. A bottle fits in a side pocket, it’s easy to take it out and refill, even if it leaks it won’t make everything inside your backpack wet. We like using water bladders on day hikes though. Tap water in Spain and Portugal is drinkable we usually don’t use any filters. I didn’t drink tap water in the Meseta part of the Camino Frances as I’d heard from other pilgrims that they had stomach problems there from drinking tap water. If you have a sensitive stomach, pack a water filter for the Camino.
Having a headlamp on the Camino is quite useful. In albergues lights are usually turned off quite early if you want to read or find something in your backpack you can use a lamp. In the morning if you want to leave early while others are still asleep it is quite helpful as well. You can use your phone as well but it’s more comfortable to wear a lamp than to walk or pack holding a phone in your hand.
We advise having a neck bag or a waterproof pouch where you can keep your documents, phone, money, and credit cards. Always take it with when you leave an albergue, most albergues don’t have lockers. Don’t be too careless we’ve heard some stories from other pilgrims whose money or even Credentials left unattended disappeared. We have never had any issues but always try to be careful with valuable items.
8 essential items to pack for the Camino walk
Miscellaneous items to pack for the Camino
You’ll be fine if you don’t pack any of these things but they will make your journey easier and more comfortable. If you’re like me and rather under pack than overpack, don’t worry if you need any of these on the Camino it’s very likely you’ll be able to buy it along the way.
We always take our Swiss knife when we go hiking, road tripping, or just traveling. Usually, it’s difficult to find a sharp knife in albergues we always used our knife for cutting, opening cans as well as for opening packs slicing when having lunch on the way. Remember if you use a budget airline and your ticket includes only hand luggage you can’t pack a knife.
In Spain and Portugal like in most European countries, power sockets are Type C. If you’re coming from the US, UK, Australia, Canada, or some other countries outside Europe you’ll probably need an adapter that can be used as a multi-plug as well.
You’ll very likely to get at least on snoring person every night staying at albergues so earplugs will be quite useful.
You can use a stuff sack for better organizing your backpack especially if it has only one compartment and is top loaded – it’s easy to take a stuff sack out and put it back. You can use it as well to separate your dirty and clean clothes.
Some albergues have lockers but don’t have locks if you want to store your valuables in there bring your own padlock.
Some albergues have washing machines (sometimes even have dryers), some only basins and washing lines. There are never enough washing pegs. You can use pegs to hang some wet stuff from your backpack as well. They are quite useful if you carry a pack of coffee, oats, etc. for keeping it to closed.
You can bring your own travel clothesline from a twisted cord that doesn’t need pegs. You can be put it up anywhere – it has suction cups on both ends. Many places have washing lines but there are never enough washing pegs instead
We didn’t have one and never really needed it but if you like to be ready for “just in case” take a small travel sewing kit, it’s small and light, in a small plastic shell.
Bed bug spray
We were quite lucky and had bed bugs only at 3 albergues out of hundreds we’ve stayed. If you walk a busy Camino route in the peak season and stay at albergues you might get bed bugs. We haven’t used bed bug spray ourselves but saw people using it. It’s not a 100% guarantee but it will help to keep them away.
Eye mask for sleeping
In case you want to go to bed while lights are still on or want to sleep in the afternoon an eye mask will be useful.
Clothes to pack for the Camino de Santiago
Camino outfit for women
We’d suggest having one. In northern Spain (especially in Galicia), it rains quite a lot throughout the year. If you walk in July or August the chances of rain are smaller you can get away with a rain poncho, it’s small, light and will protect you and your backpack from any rain. For the rest of the year, a rain jacket is a useful thing to have.
We walked the Portuguese Camino in May and didn’t have a lot of rain but on the Coastal Route it was quite windy we were glad we had our jackets. I used my rain jacket and a poncho a lot on the Camino Primitivo in June and on the Camino del Norte in October.
I prefer hiking in yoga pants, they are comfortable and light, stretch a lot, dry quick and pack small. I always pack two pairs of pants: one pair of stretchy pants and one pair of normal hiking pants. For summer you can pack one pair of long pants and a pair of hiking shorts or knee pants though I prefer walking in long pants even in summer for sun protection.
Depending on what you prefer to wear for hiking it can be a hiking shirt or a running T-shirt. I don’t like shirts for the Camino I usually pack two running T-shirts; one with long sleeves and one short-sleeve. For walking in summer you probably won’t need a long-sleeve one, rather pack two short-sleeve T-shirts. I wouldn’t recommend walking in a top even if it’s hot. Always make sure your shoulders and neck are covered or put suncream otherwise you’ll get bad sunburns.
It’s always nice to have a soft and warm fleece. Even in summer if you start walking really early in the morning it might be a bit chilly. We usually wear fleeces after hiking when we go out for dinner or drinks in the evening.
For a long walk like the Camino, it’s very important to have good durable socks that protect feet and prevent blisters. Our first Camino we walked in normal socks and got bad blisters. From many experienced hikers we heard about merino wool socks that are great for walking; comfortable, soft, help to prevent blisters, dry quick, don’t absorb odors, and easy to wash. We decided to give it a try and since then we’ve been walking and hiking only in merino wool socks – no blisters, no sticky socks, no itching.
For the summer season, it’s a must-pack item. Most of the Camino routes go through open areas without any shade, you will have to protect your head from the sun. I don’t like hats and prefer wearing a cap it’s more comfortable for me.
Headwear or buff
For some extra sun protection for your neck pack a buff. It’s a multi-use item you can use it to cover your neck, face, head, to put your hair up, etc.
Women’s hiking clothes for the Camino packing list
Underwear and clothes for changing
I’d recommend sports bras over normal bras – they are definitely more comfortable for hiking. I usually pack two pairs of running bras and three or four pairs of panties. I wash my underwear and socks every day, it doesn’t take long and it dries quick.
In case you go out for dinner or a drink. You can do without it but I’ personally like wearing a different outfit every now and then. I usually pack a funky T-shirt and a pair of shorts or a simple summer dress. If we walk in colder months I don’t bring any extra clothes it takes too much space.
Highly recommended to take a pair of flip flops to wear in albergues, your feet have to rest from wearing hiking boots all day. In summer you can wear them outside as well it’s too hot to walk around in shoes.
Clothes for women to pack for the Camino
Camino outfit for men
I’d definitely recommend packing trekking pants for the Camino. A pair of quick-dry light pants will work great. For summer you can bring a pair or long trekking pants and a pair of hiking shorts or as an option to buy a pair of convertible pants with zip-off legs.
Campbell usually wears Columbia hiking shirts or running T-shirts on the Camino. hiking. They’re great; light, comfortable, breathing, dry very quick, and easy to wash. Pack two shirts or you’ll have to do laundry every day.
It’s nice to have a soft fleece to wear in albergues or if you go out in the evening. We usually pack our fleece for the Camino. For summer, Campbell brings a fleece vest for off-season a long-sleeve one.
Just like me, Campbell wears merino wool socks for long-distance walking and hiking. He bought his first pair just before we walked the Camino del Norte and since then has been walking only in merino wool socks. He usually packs two pairs of socks. There are many great things about them; last long, prevent blisters, keep your feet warm and dry, don’t get smelly even after two full days of walking.
For walking in summer a cap or a hat is a must-have item on the Camino. Wearing a hat works better for sun protection as it covers your neck as well. Campbell prefers wearing a cap over a hat, to protect his neck he wears a buff. Sunglasses is another important thing to add to your Camino packing list.
Men’s hiking clothes for the Camino
Underwear and clothes for changing
Pack 2-3 pairs of underwear for the Camino. Most albergues have washing basins and washing lines you can wash your underwear and socks every day if it’s necessary.
Clothes for sleeping
Extra clothes for changing
If you’re planning to walk one of the coastal routes in summer, definitely pack a pair of boardshorts. On the Camino del Norte and on the Portuguese Coastal Route there were many nice beaches great for swimming and chilling.
Campbell usually packs one casual T-shirt that he wears when we go out or after the shower. It’s optional, if you want to carry as little stuff as possible you can get away without an extra T-shirt.
Flip flops is a great thing to pack for the Camino. It’s an amazing feeling when after a long day of walking you take off your hiking shoes and put on flip flops. They’re great to have for wearing in albergues, on the beach and outside in summer.
Men’s clothing items for the Camino packing list
Warm clothes to pack for walking the Camino off-season
If you venture to walk the Camino in winter you’ll definitely need some extra warm clothes which means your backpack being fuller and heavier.
Fleece hiking pants
Smart wool shirt
If walking in cold months a merino wool hiking shirt (men’s model) will be a great item to pack for the Camino. It’s light and thin can be worn under a fleece if it’s really cold. It keeps your body warm, doesn’t absorb odors, and easy to wash and dry.
Very handy to have a thermal shirt and pants (men’s model) for the cold season you can use it for both, sleeping and, if it gets really cold, for wearing it under your hiking clothes. In winter you can wear them for sleeping. We never pack it for summer and there was no need even on dull and rainy days it wasn’t that cold.
A great item to have for sleeping and wearing after the shower is one toe socks that you can wear with flip flops. It’s not necessary for summer but nice to have for colder months.
We didn’t pack gaiters and did regret it on the Camino Finisterre in November. It rained very strong and a lot, we didn’t have waterproof hiking pants, and once our pants got wet water ran down into the shoes. For walking the Camino the off-season, gaiters will be very useful. If you walk in winter and get caught in the snow, gaiters will work as well.
Don’t pack thick gloves, a pair of thin fleece gloves will be fine even if it gets cold it’s unlikely it’ll go far below 0°C/32°F during the day.
In fall/winter you’ll definitely need a beanie, mornings and evenings are quite chilly.
Electronics to take on the Camino
It’s all up to you to decide whether to make your backpack heavier by packing a big camera with lenses or keep it light and take photos with a phone or a GoPro. In the end, the Camino is about personal experience and it’s your choice of what kind of experience you want to have.
Probably the most useful device you can pack for the Camino. You can use it for navigation, using Camino apps, taking photos and videos, using social media, listening to music or audiobooks, alarm, etc. Whichever to buy Samsung or iPhone is up to you, I, personally prefer Android.
We used to walk carrying our big mirror camera but the quality of the footage with it wasn’t good enough for making YouTube videos. We decided to buy a new GoPro HERO8. Since then we’ve been using it for taking videos and even photos. It’s very small, light, waterproof, and easy to use. On the last couple of Caminos, we had our GoPro and phones no camera at all. and are happy with Another cool and small thing that will help to capture your Camino. It’s very easy to do editing with the free GoPro Quik app just connect your GoPro to your phone and in 10 minutes you’ll get an awesome video with music.
I got my first Garmin Fenix watch as a present from Campbell 2 years ago and since then I’ve been using it a lot when we go hiking, walking, running, or just training in the gym. It’s amazing how much information you can get from it: distances, speed, elevations, calories, heart rate, recovery time, maps, etc. The watch works great for any activity; hiking, running, cycling, swimming, surfing, etc. We loved my watch so much that decided to buy one for Campbell as well. Now we both have it.
If you like photography and aren’t satisfied with the quality of the phone and GoPro photos then a small digital camera like Olympus OM-D is a great option. It takes really good photos, ok videos, and it is small and light.
Campbell always packs his Kindle when we go traveling or hiking. It’s a great thing to have on the Camino especially if you’re walking alone. In the evenings you’ll have plenty of time to read. It’s not always easy to find a book in your language (unless it’s Spanish).
With the Kindle, you can download as many books as you want. I’d suggest buying a Kindle Paperwhite in this case you won’t need extra light for reading in the dark. If you read a lot it might be worth joining Amazon Kindle unlimited program to get free access to hundreds of thousands of Ebooks and audiobooks.
We packed a power bank for the first two Caminos but never used it. Unless you have a drone or take a lot of photos and videos it’s not necessary to carry it. There are electricity and power outlets in all albergues, restaurants or cafes along the way.
First aid kit & medicine
You walk past several pharmacies every day we were always able to buy some medicine or plasters on the way. If you need to buy something with a prescription you can ask your doctor back home to send it to you via e-mail and print it somewhere. We’ve never had problems buying medicine this way in Spain or Portugal. Sometimes if we didn’t have a printed prescription we could send it to the pharmacy’s e-mail.
First Aid kit – you can buy a ready-made kit, take out some unnecessary stuff and add whatever extra you need. This kit has plasters, bandages, a safety pin, scissors, even a mini sewing kit, and many other useful items.
Good plasters (toe plasters) are something you’ll definitely need on the Camino. Tip! If you have spots on your feet where you usually get blisters, try to prevent them by putting in some vaseline and a plaster. If you already have blisters you can use Compeed blister plasters, special plasters that you can put on your blisters. It reduces the pain and protects against rubbing. There are special blister prevention patches for shoes as well. We’ve never used them (as I mentioned above merino wool socks work great for us) but the reviews are quite good.
- Alcohol pads for disinfection.
- Imodium – in case you have some stomach problems.
- Anti-inflammatory – to reduce muscular pain, swelling, e.g. Ibuprofen.
- Aspirin – in case you get cold or flu.
Books and guide books for the Camino
Here you can find guide books for different Camino routes as well as some Camino related books that you might enjoy reading before or during the walk.
- A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago; Camino Frances by John Brierley, 2019. Paperback.
- Camino de Santiago Maps from St.Jean Pied de Port to Santiago by John Brierley, 2019. Paperback.
- A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino Portugues; Lisbon, Porto, Santiago by John Brierley, 2019. Paperback.
- A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino Inglés: & Camino Finisterre Including Múxia Circuit (Camino Guides) by John Brierley, 2019. Paperback.
- Camino del Norte: Irún to Santiago along Spain’s Northern Coast (Village to Village Map Guide), 2019. Paperback & Kindle.
- Camino del Norte and Camino Primitivo: To Santiago De Compostela and Finisterre from Irun or Oviedo (Cicerone Guides), 2019. Paperback & Kindle.
- Camino Primitivo, Oviedo to Santiago on Spain s Original Way (Village to Village Map Guide), 2018. Paperback & Kindle.
- Walking guide to the Via de la Plata and the Camino Sanabres by Gerald Kelly, 2020. Paperback and Kindle.
- The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho. Paperback, Kindle & Audiobook.
- Ordinary Magic: Promises I Kept to My Mother Through Life, Illness, and a Very Long Walk on the Camino de Santiago
- The Walk of a Lifetime: 500 Miles on the Camino de Santiago by Russ Eanes. Paperback & Kindle.
- Walking to the End of the World: A Thousand Miles on the Camino De Santiago by Beth Jusino. Paperback & Kindle.
Recommended Camino apps
- Camino Pilgrim – Frances. A personal scheduler for the Camino Frances. Free. Available for Android
- Camino de Santiago companion (Camino Frances). Free. Available for Android and iPhone.
- Free Camino de Santiago Guide (Camino Frances). Free. Available for Android & iPhone
- Camino de Santiago Guide (Camino Frances & Camino Finisterre-Muxia). US$3. Available for Android and iPhone.
- Way of St.James (Buen Camino), includes Camino Frances, Camino del Norte, Camino Primitivo, Camino Portuguese from Porto, Camino Ingles, Camino de Invierno, Camino Sanabres, Camino Finisterre-Muxia. Free. Available for Android and iPhone.
- Maps.me an offline navigation map that has many hiking and walking routes all over the world. Free. Available for Android and iPhone.
Camino de Santiago planning resources
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