My ultralight Camino packing list

by Jes Scott
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My ultralight Camino packing list

There are many ways to travel along the Camino de Santiago. These packing tips are meant for you if you are walking in the summer and plan to carry your own pack.

Some of the benefits of packing light are:

  • Save money, as you’re going to buy less stuff.
  • Save energy for other things, like hanging out with friends, exploring cities, reflecting on your journey.
  • Prevent injuries, as walking will be easier on your body.

Packing light is especially good for people who are:

  • petite
  • carrying extra body weight
  • have a chronic injury or illness
  • haven’t walked very far in a while
  • providing assistance to someone else, such as kids

The contents of my bag photographed in Santiago.

Why listen to me?

I am a petite woman with chronic back pain. I just finished my second walk along the Camino Frances. The first time, I didn’t get so far due to an injury. My injury was partly caused by overpacking.

This time, I walked 800km from St. Jean to Santiago! My backpack was so tiny, I could easily jump up in the air while wearing it.

It weighed around 7.5 lbs without snacks or water. (Weight went up and down as I used and replaced things, like shampoo and sunscreen.) Could have gotten lighter if I spent more money on my sleeping bag, but I did not.

I also have 10+ years of hiking and backpacking experience. My systems just keep getting smaller and lighter, as I learn from others and try things out.

And last of all, many online Camino packing lists are written people before they walk. Or by outdoors stores that want you to buy all their stuff. I actually carried all this stuff to Santiago! I took a free hour in Santiago to go to a park and take pictures of all my stuff. So you are seeing photos of my scuffed shoes, sweaty tank top and chewed up toothbrush.

About this post

First, I will share a quick packing list. Then I will talk a bit more about my packing hacks in depth.

Part 1: My ultralight Camino packing list

Walking gear

  • Trail running shoes. Not GORTEX. Plenty of ventilation.
  • Walking sandals, like Teevas or Chacos.
  • 30-35 L backpack. Must have comfy hip straps.
  • Rain cover for your pack
  • Water bottle
  • Collapsible hiking poles
  • Guidebook, if you are carrying one. I used an app — it’s lighter!

Sleeping system

You need something that will keep you comfortable in a wide range range of indoor temperatures. This is probably not a sleeping bag you use for camping.

Popular options include:

  • a sleep sheet
  • a sleep sheet and small fleece blanket
  • a small, lightweight sleeping bag designed for warm temperatures (kind of expensive)

See my “tips and hacks” section below for more thoughts on this.

You also need:

  • Eye mask
  • Ear plugs

You do not need a camping mattress unless you plan to sleep outside. This is not going to accidentally happen to you. There are plenty of places to stay.

Clothes

  • 1 pair of walking pants or shorts. No jeans or cotton.
  • 1 t-shirt or tank top for walking. Yes, just one.
  • 1 long sleeve shirt. This is for warmth and to keep the sun off.
  • 1 comfortable outfit to switch into after walking and to sleep in. Many women wear sundresses.
  • Raincoat or plastic poncho
  • 2 pairs of summer hiking socks
  • 2-3 pairs of underwear
  • 1-2 sports bras, if applicable

Sun protection

  • Good quality sunglasses
  • 50+ SPF sun screen
  • Chapstick with sunscreen
  • Hat with wide brim

Carrying your stuff in town

  • Small fanny pack to hold your money and passport. You should have this stuff on you all the time, unless it’s in a locker. I know a fanny pack might seem kind of dorky, but everyone is doing it! 🙂
  • Very small and lightweight day bag for town. Most people had little drawstring gym bags. I used a reusable shopping bag because I had it on me.

Toiletries

Full-sized bottles, glass jars and bulk toiletry bags should be left at home. You are going to be refilling this stuff as you walk, several times.

  • Quick dry pack towel
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Tiny brush or comb
  • Bar soap
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Nail clippers
  • Razor
  • Glasses, contacts, contact solution and case
  • Prescription medications

No laundry soap. You are going to buy it along the way or use bar soap.

No makeup. It will run off your face with all the sweating you are about to do.

Small first aid kit

You will be able to buy everything you need in Spain. So just bring a few things you already own if you like.

  • Pain killers
  • Bandaids and antibiotic cream
  • Athletic tape
  • Small scissors
  • Knee or ankle support

Electronics, cameras, books and entertainment

Just bring one thing: your smart phone. Your phone is your camera, your guidebook, your music, your books, your way to connect with home.

And an adapter for Europe. Don’t carry a universal adapter. They are very heavy.

Part 2: Packing hacks and tips

Trail Shoes

Spare no expense on your main walking shoes.

My first Camino I brought light, well-broken in hiking boots with ankle support and waterproofing. My entire feet became covered in blisters. Don’t make the same mistake! The Camino is a walk. A very hot walk in the summer. Mostly along well-trodden dirt and gravel paths. Often along sidewalks and roads.

This time, I brought trail runners. There is saying that 1 pound of weight on your feet is like 5 pounds on your back. So I chose my shoes by picking up all the trail runners in the nearest outdoor store store. I tried on the lightest ones.

I also looked for tons of ventilation. I bought the ones that fit best in a slightly larger size. Your feet may swell on the Camino, as you are so hot!

Trail runners are not designed to last that long, so don’t go overboard on breaking them in. I mean, by all means try them out and make sure they work. But save the miles for the Camino.  My shoes were completely destroyed by the end of 800 km.

Walking sandals

My secondary pair of shoes were walking sandals. I bought Teeva shoes because they are very lightweight and also sort of attractive. Chacos are also popular because they are so sturdy. But they are much heavier.

Walking sandals are better than flip flops, because you can also walk on the Camino with them too if you get tired of your main shoes. And they are more supportive when you’re walking around town.

Socks

Bring two different pair, in case one style doesn’t work well on the Camino. It’s hard to test what will work ahead of time, as it’s hard to replicate conditions of the Camino at home.

You need two pairs of socks because you are going to switch them in the middle of the day when they get drenched in sweat or rain.

You don’t need more than two pairs because you are going to wash them in the sink every day.

Side note: It’s so important to keep your socks and your feet clean! I washed my feet twice a day, in addition to my daily shower. Infections, salt rash and blisters are really quick way to being miserable and even ending up in the hospital.

Backpack

After shoes, this is the next most important piece of gear.

Your bag should not be bigger than 30-35L. Or else you have way too much stuff. Or you have special circumstances like carrying medical equipment or stuff for someone else, like your kids or someone dependent on you.

The bag needs to have hip straps. It should be as lightweight as you can afford. Osprey is the best but most expensive. Then Dueter. Then a store brand like REI or MEC. Mine is an women’s Osprey Tempest 30.

Women specific bags are smaller & fit shorter people better. It’s not just about the colour.

Get professional help fitting a bag at a reputable outdoors store, if you haven’t bought many before. Don’t let them sell you a higher volume bag. These larger bags are also much heavier! And you will fill it up with stuff…

Clothes

Spend the least amount of money on clothes as possible. Avoid buying new stuff because you are going to completely destroy your clothes. Also make sure you really love how they look and feel. You’ll be seeing a lot of them. Synthetic get really smelly in a way that you cannot wash out. Wool does not. You should not hike in cotton, but its OK for town and sleeping.

Also do not bring TWO or more of anything besides underwear and socks. You are going to hand wash clothes every day along with everyone else.

And I LOVED my sundress for after walking. It helped take a break from being a stinky pilgrim.

Sleeping system

If you own or can afford a warm, lightweight sleeping bag, great. These types should compress as small as a 1L water bottle and cost $150-250.

If this is out of your budget, then you can use the same hack as I did.

I picked up a very cheap sleep sheet made from polyester. (Silk ones costs 10 times as much. People buy these because they allegedly prevent bed bugs and are more comfortable. That was not quite convincing enough for me to spend $100 on one.) This is for hygiene purposes, as albergues don’t usually clean the beds or their blankets every day. It also is very comfy when its really hot out.

I also picked up a cheap, small blanket. Mine was wool, but fleece works too. I carried this blanket for times when albergues didn’t provide them. I sleep cold, so this was important for me. You could also leave your cheap blanket behind if you find you aren’t using it. When I was really cold, I put my rain jacket on top of my blanket.

If the sleeping bag you are looking at purchasing is bigger than a small blanket, think about why you are buying it. Especially if it costs more than $30. You don’t need to sleep in a sleeping bag!

Toiletries

Do not bring full-size shampoo bottles. Bar soap is lighter than body wash, and doubles as laundry detergent.

Guidebooks and apps

But I did not carry a guidebook. As I could not figure out how to get one shipped to me while I was on the road. And I don’t like carrying things. So I used an app. Unlikely normal hiking conditions, you do not need a paper map for safety reasons. The Camino is very well marked and full of people who can point you in the right direction.

The most popular app is Buen Camino.  I used Camino Pilgrim, which is free on Android. My favourite feature is that you can create a customized schedule that shows exactly how far you will walk each day where you stopped along the way.

Electronics and entertainment

I feel like this is one of the areas people bring way too much stuff, me included on my first Camino.

If you are lucky enough to have purchased a smart phone in the last few years, it is the only thing you will need.

Your smart phone has a great camera — probably better than any point or shoot you could buy for a reasonable amount of money.

If you want to read books, try downloading the Kindle app for your phone. I know it’s not as nice as a paper book. But you really won’t have much time to read anyway.

You don’t need an external battery pack. They are heavy and probably require seperate cables for charging. If you really need to charge your phone on the road, just pop into a cafe and use your regular phone charger for a little boost.

What about you? What’s one thing you wish you had NOT brought with you?

Leave a comment below! Let me know how it works out. And if this post is helpful, please share it!

 

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19 comments

Claire August 1, 2018 - 12:09 pm

I wish I had this packing list before I hiked the Camino! I followed a packing list out of my guide book (which was otherwise great) but I had too many unnecessary things with me. Great post!

Reply
Jes Scott August 16, 2018 - 5:44 pm

Same thing happened to me on my first Camino. Why is it so hard to bring less?!

Reply
Anonymous August 1, 2018 - 12:30 pm

Very helpful! Thanks!

Reply
Kelly J Segura August 1, 2018 - 12:37 pm

Thank you for taking the time to post this.

Reply
Coming home. And clearing out. – We Belong Outside September 1, 2018 - 9:12 am

[…] I arrived in Spain to walk the Camino, I cut my stuff down to about 8 pounds. I sent everything else ahead to so that I could pick it up when I finished the Camino. Everything […]

Reply
lnuhn September 3, 2018 - 3:56 pm

This is such a great list! Thank you. I am going to be walking in May of 2019. Since this is a bit before summer what should i add as far as clothes? Only a lightweight fleece perhaps?? Buen Camino!!

Reply
Jes Scott September 3, 2018 - 4:05 pm

I would not add much! This May I think it rained quite a lot, so you would get better use out of a raincoat than I did. Maybe a light fleece? You can always just check the weather and buy one very close to the date, or even once you are there. There are so many shops. 😃

Reply
Barb November 17, 2018 - 8:16 pm

Planning on doing the Camino May 2019. Can’t seem to get my gear weight under 17 pounds. Did your weight include your backpack, how much did it weigh. Also, did your list of clothes include the items you wore or just the ones you were carrying? Thanks

Reply
Jes Scott November 18, 2018 - 5:53 pm

It did include my backpack. I bought a new one (which was smaller and lighter than my old one) for my second Camino. The Osprey packs are very nice. My weight did not include the clothes that I wore hiking, food or snacks.

Reply
bleeingramBrenda February 24, 2019 - 10:21 am

Such good advice. I did St Jean Pied de Port to Burgos and all of a sudden had such bad plantar fasciitis in both feet that I had to come home. I have never experienced it before. I think my oversized/weight backpack, lack of good arch support in a heavier boot, and need to continually stretch contributed to the perfect storm. I had a 36L bag and cutting to a 28L and overall taking less. I’m heading back to continue walking in Sept. Like others, I took way too much the first time – even though I had read the warnings. I’m 67 yrs and although active and fit, did not take into account how that weight would impact low back and down legs to feet….especially if you have old injuries – they can bite you in the butt.

Reply
Leilani Robertson-Hoyt March 12, 2019 - 11:24 am

When I was on the trail last March, I had a very lightweight summer sleeping bag but I really needed something heavier (lightweight down would have been great). Many of the albergues don’t have much heat. Something to consider if not going in summer.

Reply
Jes Scott March 12, 2019 - 12:34 pm

Very true! I imagine March could be a lot colder.

Reply
David Smith March 30, 2019 - 10:40 am

I’m going in August so I think I’ll skip the blanket – if I need one I’ll just buy one. I’m a big guy so I’m carrying enough weight without carrying it in my backpack too!

Reply
sharon April 23, 2019 - 12:34 pm

Thanks for the list I will be on the Camino in less than five days so it’s much appreciated since is my first time walking the Camino

Reply
debhorst April 24, 2019 - 5:43 pm

Brilliant list. Question though, as I have not seen this come up yet. Do you wear hard or soft lenses and did you find it hard to find contact lens supplies as you walked? I wear hard lenses and I need both cleaner and pure saline and I use a lot of i especially saline! Certainly don’t want to carry six weeks worth…

Reply
Jes Scott April 24, 2019 - 9:15 pm

I wear soft contact lenses. There are very nice pharmacies all along the Camino Frances, so I had no problems buying solution as I went. Pharmacists usually spoke English, or I could just show a photo on my phone of what I wanted. Not sure if they will have what you need, though. But in general, I found the selection of personal care products in Spanish pharmacies to be much higher quality and better variety than at home.

Reply
Laura Jane June 9, 2019 - 4:54 am

Advice on a travel pillow? Do the Albergues provide? Should I bring a pillowcase?

Reply
Jes Scott June 9, 2019 - 6:46 pm

They provide pillows! I just put my sleep sheet on top of the pillow. Many albergues provide single use sheets and pillowcases for hygiene purposes, but not all. If you do want your own pillowcase, Spanish pillows are a much longer and a bit higher volume than North American ones. So you want to get one over there instead.

Reply

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