Homer's Travels: Camino De Santiago: The Packing List

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Camino De Santiago: The Packing List

I've been thinking about the packing list for my Camino walk for ... probably since 2007 when I first heard of the Camino.  As a matter of fact I think I started a list in Google Docs before I retired.  I've added and subtracted from it over the years since then.  The current draft, and that's what it is, a draft, is available here.  You can also reach it by the Camino de Santiago tab at the top of Homer's travels.

When I first put the list together it was much longer.  I put together a list of everything that I might find useful on a long walk like the Camino.  After I'd made the list I went through and marked each item as either Mandatory or Optional.  I ruminated on these classifications for a while taking into account things I'd read about the Camino experience.  One thing you hear about is the shedding of stuff as people go along the trail.  I even heard of people ripping the pages out of books as they read them so that they could lighten their load.  Being a person who doesn't like to throw away his stuff, or destroy books, I have to pare the list as best I can before I fly to Spain.

So, let's go over the basics of the current list:
  • Clothes.  I'll be carrying a minimum of clothes.  Two pairs of pants, three shirts (or two shirts and a base layer), three pairs of socks, and three pairs of underwear.  I will be doing laundry along the way.  Possibly every night.  Very likely by hand.  The shirts and pants I'm taking are quick drying.  One short cut I have heard about is simple walking in the shower with you dirty clothes on and washing them as you shower.  
    • I'll be wearing the same pants I took to Jordan - cargo pants with zip off legs.  This way, if it's warm I have shorts.  I'm still a little up in the air about the shirts.  I'll be taking long sleeve shirts like I wore in Jordan.  The shirts I have have lots of pockets and are vented so you don't overheat. One issue is just how cool it will be.  I have heard that it can be quite chilly, especially in the morning, so I am thinking about substituting a base layer for one of the shirts.  The base layer can be worn by itself or under another shirt giving me a few options.
    • I'll be taking three brand new pairs of OmniWool Merino Wool socks.  OmniWool is similar to SmartWool but is slightly cheaper and has a slightly higher wool content.  They are thick, durable, moisture wicking, warm, and wear well.  I've worn them for over two years now and I like them very much.
    • A light rain/wind breaker jacket will add one more layer of protection against cold and rain.
    • My Tilley hat ... naturally.
  • Shoes.  Possibly the most important piece of equipment for walking the Camino are your shoes.  I'm currently walking in New Balance MW977 shoes.  These shoes are amazing.  Lighter than you typical boot.  Waterproof.  They hug your feet and my orthotics fit them snuggly and comfortably.   I've walked a lot in these shoes and have yet to get a blister.  I am considering buying a new pair a month or so before the Camino (a month before to give me time to break them in, of course).  Unfortunately I can't find the 977s on the New Balance website but they appear to have been replaced with the MW978.  If I just wear my current shoes, I would be worried that they may wear out before I make it to Santiago de Campostela and shoes are just too important for this adventure.
    • I'll also have a pair of flip flops/shower shoes to wear in the shower, of course, and at the end of the day when my feet need to air out a bit.  This particular pair are actually described as post-exercise shoes with added arch support that my feet seem to like.
  • Back Pack.  My Go-Lite Lite-Speed pack is compact and light.  I wore it on my steamboat trace hike and found that the weight rested comfortably on my hips as a pack should.  It has a pocket for a water bladder.  It's small at 49.13 liters (3,000in3) but large enough for what I'll be carrying.  I expect rain so I have a pack cover.
  • Hydration.  I thought about this one for a while.  I even asked about it in a post.  I decided to go with a two liter bladder.  I don't like the fact there isn't an easy way to tell how much water you have left but experience has shown me that two liters is enough for the 12 mile hike, the length of the average Camino stage.  I will supplement the bladder with water bottles purchased/filled along the way.  Not knowing the quality of the water along the way, I will probably also pack water purification tablets.
  • Gadgets and gadget food.  I'm taking two gadgets that, as a geek, I do not consider to be optional.
    • I can not go to Spain without a camera.  To keep the size down I will be taking my old Canon Powershot S5 is.  It's still a great camera and the camera plus the bag is less than half the weight of my new T1i.  I will take two 16 GByte memory cards which should give me some 8,000+ pictures or about 200 a day.  I hope that will be enough.  The camera also runs on standard AA batteries which is a plus in my book.
    • I will be carrying my GPS with a chip loaded with Spanish maps.  The site that helped me generate my stages also provides a GPS GPX file, loaded with the trail, albergues, and points of interest, that will be loaded in the GPS as well.  The GPS will allow me to geotag my pictures when I get back and will allow me to record all the distance traveled, average speed, and elevation numbers that makes the number geek in me happy.
    • I will be carrying 22 pieces of gadget food (i.e. Batteries).  I'l be carrying Lithium batteries as they are lighter and have a longer runtime in my GPS and camera.  I have considered just buying batteries along the way but I am not sure how common lithium batteries will be and I don't really want to deal with the much shorter run time of regular alkaline batteries.  The number is based on the distance (481 miles), my average speed (3 MPH), and the maximum runtime of my GPS (23 hours on a set of two lithium batteries).   So fourteen batteries will be needed for the GPS and another eight to cover the camera.  The one good thing is the weight of the batteries will decline as I shed the spent batteries along the way.
  • Journal and pen.  I expect to find internet access along the way at internet cafes and similar places but I have no desire to post during my walk (except for the occasional e-mail to the Wife and maybe a Facebook status update if I feel like it).  My plan is to keep notes about what I experience, how far I walk, the people I meet, the sights I see along the way in a notebook.  I'm looking at buying one of these Rite in the Rain Spiral Notebook.  I just need to decide on a size and page count.
  • Multitool.  I'll be taking a Leatherman Skeletool with me.  I kind of hemmed and hawed about this for a while.  It never hurts to have a knife, with tools attached, along ... except if you want to carry your bag on the airplane.  I'm not convinced that my backpack could be acceptable as carry-on (it's a little bigger than the size limits).  Wanting a knife in that bag makes the carry-on vs check it decision a little easier.  Of course, if there's a time that lost luggage would be disastrous, this would be it.
  • Miscellaneous Necessities. This covers a lot of stuff.
    • A headlamp for those days that I start out before sunrise ... or arrive after sunset.
    • A small first aid kit augmented with extra ibuprofen/acetaminophen, moleskin, and band aids.
    • A camp towel for drying off.
    • A light weight, fleece sleeping bag.  The one I'm looking at is not much more than a fleece blanket with zippers.  It's rated down to 50°F which isn't that cold but I should be sleeping indoors and I can always sleep in my clothes for extra warmth.  I've heard this is a must as some albergues do not have linen for the beds.
    • Toiletries and medicine.  We all should shave and brush our teeth, even after walking half way across Spain.  I'll be taking a compact toothbrush, toothpaste, a bar of soap (I can buy more along the way), shampoo, a couple disposable razors, shaving cream, laundry soap of some type, and my triglyceride/cholesterol medicines.
So that's my tentative list.  I still have to make some purchases and I will debate the multitool probably up until the time I go to the airport.  Let me know in the comments if you think I forgot anything, if you think I don't need something, or you just want to express your welcome opinion.


  1. Take the multitool. It might come in handy and once on your belt it won't weight much. Besides, losing luggage is not that common nowadays.

  2. Two quick suggestions: in terms of water, what's the environment along the trail like? If it's drier than you're used to, you might dehydrate faster, in which case the 3-liter might be better. (I also prefer a larger reservoir since, unlike bottles, it keeps the weight centered).

    Add duct tape, either a small roll or a length wrapped around a pencil. Handy for fixing, at least temporarily, just about anything (i.e. that broken zipper, the ripped strap, the hole in the sleeping bag, etc., etc., etc.)

  3. MMC: It is!!!

    Mom: Still haven't bought everything that I'll be taking so I havn't weighed it yet.

    Godefroy: I'm leaning that way.

    GH: I have a three liter but I'm concerned about the extra weight.

    Duct tape ... check.

  4. Have you looked online for the shoes? Endless has limited sizes and it would be worth checking Amazon and Ebay. Zappos doesn't have them...

  5. JaG: I have. Several places sell the 977s but not my size. I found a local store that were selling the 978s. They were on sale and I had a gift card so I got them 33% off the normal retail. The 978s are almost identical to the 977s so I think they'll be fine.