What does one take with him on a month long trek? If you take into account you have to carry your stuff on your back for the whole 800 kilometres this is not an easy decision at all.
Packing of our hiking backpacks took quite some effort during the preparation period. It all started by choosing just the right hiking shoes and backpacks.
Choosing a pair of good quality, comfortable hiking shoes is the most important thing. My guidelines were comfort, weight, ankle support, waterproof material, durability and breathability. Also keep in mind that your feet will probably be a bit swollen after a few weeks (one size larger is better than a perfect fit). For a short while I was also thinking about light running shoes but gave up the idea because of lack of water resistance and ankle support.
If you are leaning towards a lighter shoe, imagine walking on a muddy trail for 8 hours while sinking into thick mud over your ankles with every step. Without rain it is a whole different story, but unfortunately weather in May can be quite unpredictable.
It is advisable to keep the weight of the backpack under 10 percent of one's weight. However, if you weigh 50 kilograms (110 pounds) it is almost impossible to stay under 10 percent. In the end we both ended up with 2 kilograms over the recommended limit.
We chose one 34 litre and one 55 litre backpack. 55 litres was more than I needed, but it came in handy when we had to redistribute our stuff for airport regulations compliance.
Only when we were happy with our backpacks and shoes, we started thinking about what exactly to put on the checklist. This is what I took with me:
|Personal ID card||1||Y|
|Personal ID card paper copy||1||Y|
|Credit cards (Maestro, Visa)||2||Y|
|Mobile phone & charger||1||Y|
|Digital camera & charger||1||Y|
|Camino de Santiago Guidebook||1||N|
|Trekking sandals (e.g. Teva)||1||Y|
|Sleeping bag (lightweight)||1||Y|
|Rain-coat / poncho (lightweight)||1||Y|
|Long sleeve shirt||1||Y|
|Trekking zip-off pants||2||Y|
|Multifunction scarf (Buff)||1||Y|
|Towel (large lightweight)||1||Y|
|Towel (small lightweight)||1||Y|
|Medical bag (pills, bandage, anti-inflammatory gel,|
anti-blister accessories, rehydration pills, etc.)
|Toiletries (toothbrush & paste, toilet paper,|
shaving foam & razor, body & hair shampoo, etc.)
|Body & face cream||1||Y|
|Lip gloss (protective)||1||Y|
|Water bladder (2L)||1||Y|
|Swiss army knife||1||Y|
A few comments on the above checklist:
I also took a mosquito repellent with me, but it proved to be useless - during the day I was walking too fast for mosquitoes and during the night there were usually many other targets in the same room.
A head-lamp is not essential, but may come in very handy if you start walking before sunrise. A mobile phone with built-in flash can serve as an emergency replacement.
A music player can also be easily replaced by your smart-phone. All you need is a pair of earphones and enough of free memory on your phone. I did not use it even once, but it did help M. to get over one of many steep hills on the way.
I chose not to pack a paper guidebook. I used a digital version on my phone. I also found one of many free Camino phone applications to be very useful.
My medical bag included:
- painkillers with anti-inflammatory effect (e.g. Ibuprofen),
- anti-allergy pills,
- anti-inflammatory gel (e.g. Voltaren),
- rehydration pills,
- magnesium & potassium powder (for muscle regeneration and cramp prevention),
- plasters (e.g. Compeed - worth a higher price),
- blister prevention stick-gel (e.g. Bodyglide, Compeed),
- elastic bandage.
In the end my backpack weighed 9,5 kilograms (21 pounds) - that is without any water or food. This could be easily fixed by buying a lighter backpack and changing my heavy DSLR camera for a compact version. The empty backpack and my heavyweight camera weigh 4 kilograms (9 pounds).
If you travel to the starting point of your Camino by an airplane, be careful not to pack any prohibited items into your carry-on luggage. Since we had quite a few such items on our checklist, we decided to declare one of our backpacks as checked baggage. It is usually quite a bit cheaper if you think of this at the time of booking.
Feel free to comment on this checklist and offer a suggestion of your own if you think I left something out.