Ah, the fun part! I am so excited to walk you through how I got in walking shape and packed for the Camino de Santiago. By this time you have likely decided on how many days you set aside for the pilgrimage, which means you have a rough sense of how many miles you plan to cover each day. You also know how much time you have to prepare for the walk. First, I would consider purchasing your Camino attire and equipment so you can train in your clothes, shoes and get accustomed to your gear before you head out. Then I would build a training plan to get your body physically prepared for the Camino.
Packing for the Camino de Santiago
Click here for my comprehensive packing list.
Think of packing for the Camino de Santiago like a bull’s-eye target ring. Start with the bull’s-eye of your most essential items, and then work your way out, ring by ring. The number one goal for packing is minimizing the weight you are carrying on your back. I cannot emphasize this point enough. Each person will need to decide for him or herself how many ‘rings’ they pack, but let’s start with the basics.
The Bull’s-Eye. This is your hiking clothes and gear you need to get from point A to point B. I would pack two hiking outfits. Pants or shorts, tops, sports bras, underwear etc. Double the number of pairs of socks because you may want to change pairs during the day to keep your feet dry and prevent blisters (read [this] to learn more about blister care). Two hiking outfits allow you to clean one outfit in the evening and give it 24 hours to dry. Your fellow pilgrims will thank you for your penchant for good hygiene!
Next are your layers. Depending on the time you of year you go, you are going to want layers. The weather can dramatically shift from each region to time of day. In Navarro, I wore a long sleeved wool shirt as a layer, which protected me from the sun (bring sunscreen). By the time I made it to Castilla y Leon I was wearing my quick dry shirt, wool shirt, fleece jacket, scarf, and waterproof jacket with my gloves. Do some research ahead of time to understand average temperatures across the different regions of the Camino de Santiago.
This is pretty obvious, but your gear is critical. You are going to want excellent broken in hiking shoes, a backpack and trekking poles. See the Product Reviews section of the site for more information. I also count panty liners, re-sealable bags, and toilet paper as essential gear. Okay ladies, here is the deal with panty liners. The majority of the time you are going to have to place to squat along the Camino. Depending on your drip-drying abilities or your toilet paper supply on you, panty liners are a godsend. The miracle of the Camino! The re-sealable bags are the best because they are so versatile. I had a ‘waste’ bag I kept in my bag for used tissues, food, and any other refuse. It is such a bummer to see trash all over the beautiful Spanish countryside, so please don’t litter!
The next ring is for when you are on the Camino but off the path. You are going to want entertainment, like an eReader and journal. If you are staying in hostels or B&Bs, you won’t need to carry as many of the lodging and eating basics you do when you are staying at an albergue. Focus on picking sandals, a lounging outfit and something to sleep in at night. If you are staying in an albergue, you are going to want a sleep sack, flip flops and quick dry towel for the shower and eating utensils.
The last ring depends on your travel plans and your creature comforts. I was staying on in Europe after I completed the Camino and I was using a transfer service, so I brought cute travel clothes, more shoes, and two of my favorite things: a golf ball and tennis ball. I used those balls to roll out my feet and legs each night. It was heaven!
For a comprehensive packing list, click here.
How to Start
I would start out by buying hiking shoes, socks, walking outfit (pants, shirt, layers), walking sticks, backpack and water receptacle. Begin training with these items and see how you feel. Try to go out for walks at different times of day to see how comfortable the layers are in varying temperatures.
For some pilgrims who plan to make a larger vacation out of this trip, I would consider shipping a suitcase to your final destination, perhaps to Santiago de Compostela or even the next city so you may pack items unrelated to trekking that are more comfortable. For me, I used a daily service to move my large backpack to my next destination. In that bag I had my street clothes, toiletries and other items that I didn’t need during my daily walk but appreciated having in the evening. It is really a personal preference. At the end of my five-week journey I trashed multiple items like my shoes, shirts and fleece and went on a celebratory shopping trip to Zara in Santiago de Compostela. It felt so nice wearing new clothes after 35 days of the same two outfits! Also, I started the Camino in late September and finished at the end of October so I needed warmer clothes for the winter weather ahead of me.
First off, consult a doctor. Seriously. I was 35 when I walked the Camino and I consulted a doctor. I am in great shape and don’t have any heart problems, but at the time I had a minor medical procedure and by consulting my doctor I found out I was not allowed to carry more than 20 pounds. The average backpack’s weight is about double that so I knew I needed to find an alternative to the typical way people do The Way.
Once you get signed off from your doctor, get moving! Go for walks in your neighborhood or hit the treadmill at the gym. Cross training activities like swimming or taking fun cardio classes are great ways to mix up your routine. I love using ClassPass as a way to mix up my workouts. If you have ever trained for a race, you should gradually build up to the levels you expect to walk daily on the Camino. If you overdo it you can injure yourself. So go slow. Here are a few things I did to prepare for the rigors of the Camino (the amount of time/miles/weights you will need to figure out on your own):
- Walk at least 3x per week (with hills/incline)
- Do cross training activities 2x per week
- Lift weights at the gym – specifically strengthen your legs, core, and back
- Foam roll and stretch frequently
- Give yourself a rest day each week to allow your body to recover
If you have the resources, I would recommend working with a trainer to develop a workout plan tailored to you.
Hope you enjoyed this review on prepping and packing as much as I did! Actually, I am so inspired that I am going to hit save now and go for a walk. Next time I think we are ready to get on the road! ¡Viva España! If you liked this post and want to learn more, please sign up for the newsletter to stay informed of more posts on la princesa del Camino!