What to pack for the Camino de Santiago?

We have spent today getting ourselves organized for our month long walk doing the Camino de Santiago. Most people spend a fair bit of time getting themselves prepared for such a long journey even purchasing special gear.  We will make do with what we have on hand, using our regular back packs even though they are much larger (65L) and heavier(2.5 kg) than they should be and we’ll wear our standard hiking clothes and shoes.

Weight is the big issue when undertaking such a colossal hike; we’re gong to feel every ounce that we are carrying for 780 km.  The rule of thumb is to carry no more than 10-15% of your body weight. So my goal is to carry a pack between 7 – 10 kg in weight.   I did a test run at Trove and was discouraged to find that I couldn’t get the pack lighter than 10 kg.  I knew I needed to be more ruthless but I couldn’t see what should go.

Today I made my final decisions but it was a challenge without a scale. Chris devised a clever system to at least determine which item was heavier.  While knowing the weight would have been better, this system did help me make some critical decisions.  I think my pack weighs about 9 kg now but I can’t be certain.  It’s definitely not more than 10.

For those of you who may be considering this hike in the future, click here to see my complete packing list.  It seems pretty skimpy on the clothes. Basically, I’ll be wearing the same clothes each day and washing clothes each night.  I’ll have one change of clothes for the evening.  I will use one t-shirt and my running shorts as pj’s.  I have a long sleeve base layer in case it gets cold but left the bottoms behind (tough decision, let me tell you). We’ll be traversing mountains and it can still get chilly – hope I don’t regret leaving the bottoms behind (ha ha).  I’m bringing a sleeping bag and sleeping mat – total weight 2.3 kg.  These items are not an absolute necessity because most hostels will have at least basic bed linen.  But the sleeping bag will give me a lot of comfort because it is very warm and cozy so I’m reluctant to leave it behind. The sleeping mat will give me the flexibility to sleep outdoors (gasp!) in the event I don’t find an available bed one night.  Anything I haven’t used within the first week, will probably be posted to Santiago de Compostella to hold until I get there.  I’m also bringing my walking sticks – remember one of my poles snapped in two when I lost my balance during a river crossing in Patagonia? Luckily, my sister brought me a replacement pair when she came to Italy and took the old ones home.

Christina’s gear including what she is wearing.

The weighing system was pushed to its limit with full packs,
but it did demonstrate Chris’ pack on the right is heavier,
if only by a few pounds.  He’ll also be carrying his camera around his neck. 

Tomorrow is another travel day for us.  But first, we must go to the post office to pack our extra stuff into boxes and ship them to the post office in Santiago de Compostela where they will sit until we pick them up at then end of June.  It is called “poste restante” and apparently most post offices around the world provide this service.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed that our stuff makes it there safely as we’re sending all our electronics (lap tops and extra camera equipment).

We will then travel by bus to a little town on the border of Spain and France called Irun (NOT to be confused with Iran).  The bus will drop us off on the Spanish side and we’ll walk over to the French side where the town is called Hendaye.  From there we catch a train to Bayonne and then another train from Bayonne to St. Jean Pied de Port.  It’s quite a rigamarole to go less than 300 km, but hopefully we make all our connections so that we can begin our camino on Tuesday morning.

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 Buen Camino!

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