Pack (Tripp)


                                                      What To (and Not To) Pack

                                                      Richard W. Tripp, Jr. 2011,    



- The first thing that an American needs to realize when planning to walk the Camino de Santiago is that it is not a wilderness trail. Unlike the Appalachian Trail, the Camino will pass through villages and towns every few miles, as well as farm yards and pastures. Pilgrims normally stay inside a hostal—not outdoors. There will be an opportunity to take a shower every night, normally with hot water. There will be places to buy coffee and other refreshments as well as meals. If you wish to prepare your own meals, there are rudimentary kitchens in most refugios.


  General Rules and Guiding Principles

- You will carry everything on your back for miles. Minimize weight!

- You will be in the open and will travel every day, regardless of the weather. Be prepared for heat, cold, rain, wind and sun.

- This is not a trip through the wilderness. You can replenish supplies. Carry basics and replenish consumables on the road.

- A basic planning decision is whether to buy meals or cook meals. Cooking involves planning and weight. Buying involves money. See Buying and cooking your own under What to expect for more information if you are thinking about cooking.


  Packing List

- For help and reference, I have included a Camino Packing List that you can download, print and markup.

- on this site  

  list (Tripp)


  Specific Guidance


  First Aid Kit

- Standard First Aid kits have extraneous items but are convenient because of compartmentalization, instructions and lots of useful items. Buy but customize. Alternatively, buy a sturdy zippered bag and use small plastic bags and containers to separate items.

- Need stuff for innards: diarrhea and constipation

* analgesics (aspirin)

* anti-inflammatory painkiller (motrin, ibuprofen)

* sun screen (and hat, sun glasses)

* bugs are not a significant problem; however some type of repellent is handy

* care for feet is a major factor: blister kit, moleskin, athletes foot, wet feet

* damage to nails

* scratches, abrasions, scrapes, bruises, minor cuts

* tube of lubricant, such as petroleum jelly, to counter chafing and chapping


  Clothing and Gear

- The basic rule is: two sets: one to wear, one to wash and dry; anything else is luxury. You will need to wash and dry clothes every day unless you intend to repeat the medieval experience.—if you do, don’t expect others to be very friendly. Light-weight, fast-dry clothes are essential. Layer clothes; adjust the layers to stay warm or cool. You will dress and change with minimal privacy. Have appropriate clothing.


  Shirts and Trousers

- I strongly recommend convertible trousers and shirts designed to roll up the sleeves. if you are buying new clothes for this, get both the same but in different colors. Both of these items commonly have multiple pockets. If the trousers/shirts are the same, they will have similar pockets and you can develop habits concerning what goes where.


  Camp Shoes

- Think “light” but you will need something to wear while your boots are airing at the end of the day. I used sandals but they did not protect me from the cold and water on some days. I have also used the Vibram Toed shoes but learned that they don't work well if you have a bandage over a blister


  Rain Gear

- Get the best money can buy - light, warm if needed but with ventilation to release the heat your body will generate by walking. There are two ways to go. One is with a poncho that covers you and your backpack. The other is with a rain jacket that you wear with your back pack secured over it, and a rain cover for the back pack. You need a combination capable of keeping you and your backpack dry in a strong wind. There are drawbacks to both. I used a poncho during my first trip and found it protected my upper body and the backpack but was useless from my waistline down. It was easy to don and remove while standing, a very useful attribute in warm weather with frequent showers interspersed with sunshine. A rain jacket or anorak under the backpack is more complicated to don and remove, requiring a dry spot to place your backpack for the transition. However it is useful when you have stopped in a town and wish to explore.

- Rain Gear Labeling. Water-repellent means that the fabric has been finished with a water-repellent chemical. While drops will roll off, in a downpour, water will eventually soak in. Water-resistant fabrics have a coating that will protect you in a light to moderate rain. Waterproof fabrics should stop all water from getting through, but this is incompatible with breathing to let moisture out.

- My friend from the Netherlands had the best poncho I saw. It was lightweight, breathable and long, covering his backpack and reaching down to below his knees.

- Consider gaiters to protect your shoes from water entry from the top.


  Ear plugs

- They will preserve your sanity, whether in refugios or in pensiones. There are a lot of snorers on the Camino, and windows in hotels are usually open for fresh air, which admits sounds from the surroundings, including barking dogs and other animal noises. A friend ignored my advice, thinking to herself that she could sleep through anything. After two sleepless nights buying ear plugs became her highest priority the third day.


  Laundry detergent

- A product that comes in a tube is wonderful. If you cannot find it before you go, such a product, Norit Viaje, is available in Spain. There are similar products sold in stores that sell camping gear in the US. Label your container to help it get returned if someone else decides to use it or you forget it in the rush.



- Most places have lines to hang clothes to dry but an extra one is always useful. Also bring something to fasten articles of clothing to your backpack so they can dry as you walk if necessary. I made up a couple of short nylon cords which were cut short, ends fused and one end pre-tied in a loop. They were useful in drying a wet towel while I walked in one instance and a pair of shoes in another. The cord doesn't take up much space nor weigh a lot, so take more than you think you will need. I took plastic clothes pins the last trip. I noticed some people who used large safety pins which I thought was very good idea because they didn't take much space and weighed nothing. In addition, for bulky socks, the sock was never doubled over which helps drying.



- Remember that towels need to dry also, so get a quick drying one. You will be traveling every day, wet clothes or not. If your towel is not dry when you set off in the morning, you face drying it as you walk or drying off at the next stop with a cold damp towel.



- Consider a microfiber robe. When you shower, you will have a very small,  supposedly dry, space outside of the wet area of the shower. It will have one hook, possibly two, to hold the clothes you are wearing when you enter and the clothes you will wear when you leave, plus your towel and then there is your bottle of shampoo and whatever else you may need. During my last trip, I decided it would have been much easier if I had a robe to undress under in the dorm area, with a pocket to carry my shampoo. All it would need is one hook and I could dry off after showering, put on the robe and complete dressing in clean clothes under my robe in a completely dry area of the dorm.



- A miniature flashlight comes in very handy when you need to go to the bathroom in a strange place in the middle of the night.


  Shoes or Boots

- The most important purchasing decision for your comfort and the overall success of your journey is the shoes you buy. People wear a wide variety, including what appeared to me to be sturdy running shoes. However, I strongly recommend lightweight waterproof boots that provide ankle support. You should expect to walk in rain and on uneven terrain.



- Almost as important as the boots, they need to keep your feet dry and also will need to dry overnight. Get self-wicking socks to promote the removal of moisture from your feet.



- Buy one as light as possible but sized for what you will carry. I found a capacity of 3,500 cubic inches was adequate for my needs. Be sure to get one that fits properly and rides on your hips. Have a professional help you adjust it to your body. Remember you will be wearing it for hours at a time. The effect and stress on your body is different from wearing a shoulder supported back pack with a load of books for short periods of time.



- You will need sun and rain protection for your head. I generally do not like hats in but found one to be essential on the camino. I bought one with a band to keep it from flying off in the wind and with flaps to protect my ears. Although on my second trip I had a hood on my rain jacket, I did not like the reduced field of view and preferred to use my hat. I have seen others use a wide variety including a Japanese man with a conical Asian straw hat.



- If you wear glasses, you need to protect them and have someplace to store them. You will need also to shift between sunglasses and normal glasses. In normal life, I never had a problem with a softpack. However, I strongly recommend using a lightweight hard glasses case. Before you leave, in the comfort of your home, figure out where you can attach your glasses case to your backpack where your sunglasses are accessible for quick changes.


  Internal bags

- Use internal mesh or stuff bags to help separate items inside your back pack. Plastic bags of assorted sizes are also useful for further separation. Do not make the mistake of having too many small bags inside your backpack.


  Toilet paper

- A roll of toilet paper is essential for use where there is none. It should be packed at the top of your backpack where it is easily accessible and protected from water by a plastic bag.


  Sleeping Bag

- Since you will sleep inside, you do not need a sleeping bag to provide much warmth. A bag suitable for outdoors in the cold will be hot and weigh more than necessary. The REI Traveler Sack +55 is one example. Others are available


  Pilgrim Staff

- Most pilgrims carry a staff. You can buy one on the Camino but you may prefer to buy a modern light weight extendable walking pole or stick before you go. I found mine to be very useful when walking in steep or slippery terrain. I used it several times to help me when I had to duck or bend to bypass obstructing bushes when there was limited dry ground to traverse a section of path which was mostly water and mud.


  Sewing Kit

- A small sewing kit is useful but not essential for repairs to clothing.


  Sleeping Mat

- Since refugios generally have thin mattresses, a sleeping mat is not needed, unless you plan to be traveling at the peak of the season when refugios may be full. If you want one, try sleeping on it at home a couple of nights to see if it is really worth its weight.


  Scallop Shell

- A scallop shell is the symbol of pilgrims to Santiago and you will want one sooner or later to fasten to your back pack or clothing. Depending on where you live in the US, it may be very difficult to get one before you depart. However, they are frequently available in shops along the French Route.


  GPS Unit

- A GPS (Global Positioning System) unit is unnecessary and, except for possible use on an unmarked route, would be more trouble than it is worth. The various caminos are sufficiently waymarked that thousands of people follow them without problems every year.

- I have not used GPS waypoints now available on the web to upload into a GPS unit, but here are a few links:

* El Camino de Santiago en GPS.

* GPS Waypoints for the Camino

- Power would be an additional problem. A solar power unit and adaptor would be awkward and add weight. Replacement batteries of adequate quality are difficult to find except in larger cities and towns. Using rechargeable batteries means carrying a 220 volt charger and having a place to plug it in when you stop at night.



- Some people believe in traveling simply and consider a camera an unnecessary distraction from the intent of the camino. It does add weight and is a distraction but it offers a way to record aspects of the camino to bring back home and refer to the rest of your life. A camera on the camino should be lightweight and inexpensive. Whether it is 35mm or APS is immaterial since replacement film and developing is inexpensive and readily available for both. I strongly recommend a camera with a zoom. There will be many aspects where a zoom is needed to capture the detail you want. See “Photo Developing” in "What to Expect" for additional considerations.

- An important consideration is ready access while you have your pack on. I missed several shots and never tried to take others because it took too long to get my camera out. In 30 seconds a scene can change completely and no longer be interesting.



  retour à Q.Pratique Départ



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