The weight of your backpack is one of the most important things to get right before you head off on any long distance hike, including the Camino. Combining simple items with useful technology, and keeping your packing
as basic as possible, are good rules to follow to keep your pack weight down. The 10 items listed
below are all very lightweight, very affordable (in some cases basically
free!), and very useful on the road to Santiago.
In my mind, this is an essential item to take with you. It is invaluable when you stop for the day, as you are able to leave your main backpack beside your bed and explore the city/town you are in with just the essentials on your back (ID, jersey, water bottle etc). It's also useful if you pay to have your main backpack transferred by car to your next stop, and it can be used as a bathroom bag as well. The good news is that drawstring bags are affordable, lightweight, and can be packed away virtually anywhere in your backpack.
TIP: A soft shoulder strap drawstring bag would be a good choice if you plan on walking long stages without your main backpack, however if you plan on just using it to wander around towns/cities, and as a bathroom bag, then a basic and lighter drawstring bag is best.
No, that is not a typo! An ice cream container lid is good for two main reasons; if you are carrying a bit of food with you and you decide to sit down somewhere in the countryside, you have both a plate and a lightweight chopping board at the ready - just be careful not to slice through the lid and onto your leg or other body part! The grooves around the edge of the lid are also good for collecting any juice running from cut tomatoes or other foods. As you can see below, I found it to be extremely useful as we would often sit and eat along the side of the trail somewhere. The humble ice cream container lid can slide easily into your bag, weighs next to nothing, and if it breaks it's no big deal; plus the best way to acquire a lid is to buy and eat some ice cream! Definitely a win-win!
These are great for
housing any important documents you are carrying, especially on rainy days! Make sure
they are big enough to fit your passport, Camino Credential (pilgrim
passport) and any other important items at risk of being damaged by
liquid. Put the documents in a water proof part of your backpack for added security.
A headlamp or torch is another must have item for Camino life! Often needed if the lights are out in your room before you go to bed, if you have to go to the bathroom late at night, or if you are getting up
before other pilgrims and turning on the room light is not yet an option. To avoid disturbing others, make sure that the headlamp or torch that you buy has a Red LED light on it; this is an important feature because when you switch it to this mode it still gives you enough light to see what you are doing, but it doesn't flood the entire room with harsh bright
light! For the Camino the Petzl e+Lite (pictured below) would be a good choice; it is seriously small, extremely lightweight (27g with
batteries! that's less than 1oz!), has the all-important Red LED Light feature, comes
with a waterproof case, and is very affordable.
TIP: Buy a couple of replacement batteries as the type of battery used might be hard to find in the smaller towns along the Camino - the batteries weigh about the same as a small coin, take up very little space, and are very cheap to buy.
An alternative, or companion, to the headlamp is to download a torch app on your phone. Just make sure you do your research before you download any and look for a Red LED type feature on the app. Iphone users can check the itunes store, and android users can check the amazon app or google play stores.
As the name suggests, a Spork is a spoon and fork - as well as a knife - combined. If you buy a good brand they are sturdy and extremely lightweight. Very useful if you plan on preparing/eating some of your own meals along the trail or at your nightly accommodation.
It's always useful to have a few of these when hiking; they can hold together a bandage, keep a rip in your clothes together, and on the Camino they can even turn your backpack into a walking clothes rack! Pin any damp items to the outside of your bag and let the sun dry them while you walk.
If you're a light sleeper, or find it difficult to fall asleep with noise around you, take a couple of pairs of ear plugs - especially if you are planning on staying in albergues or other shared pilgrim accommodation. There are a lot more snorers in the world than I realised!
A lightweight and sturdy multi tool is clearly very useful for a number of things, and is a handy item to have in a basic medical kit. The main uses on the Camino would be; to use the knife attachment to cut and prepare food when you are taking a break (in conjunction with the ice cream container lid), using the nail file and picks for personal grooming, and using the scissors for any number of reasons. I took one mainly because we wanted to prepare a lot of our own meals along the way - although the one I had was far too big and heavy. A multi tool like the Leatherman Micra would have been a much better option - as it is very affordable, has a good range of tools, and most importantly is small and lightweight, weighing just under 80g (2.8oz).
TIP: For my next Camino I will be taking the Leatherman Micra multi tool with the Petzl e+Lite headlamp and a spork. It means I have a headlamp and most of my tools/utensils covered, all at a combined weight of approximately 115g! (4oz).
This has a very similar use to the ice cream container lid above. The big difference though is that the bowl can not only be used to eat from, but to store food in as well (salad, rice, stir fry meals, biscuits etc). For example, if your accommodation has a kitchen where you are allowed to make your dinner, make a bit extra and store it ready for the next days lunch.
TIP: Don't pack one before you go, simply buy a
"ready to eat" meal or soup that comes in a plastic bowl somewhere
along the Camino, heat up and eat the meal, wash the bowl out and voilà!
a lightweight "upcycled" container that is handy for meals and
Sockliners are used to draw moisture away from your
feet and help prevent blisters. They are thin and lightweight, but
whether you take some or not will depend on your hiking shoes/boots as
well as individual preference. Keep in mind that your feet will sweat and swell up in shoes - especially with the amount of walking that you do every day - so sockliners maybe a wise purchase.
Researching items and packing for the Camino should be fun. It not only gives you a project to work on but also builds anticipation for your upcoming adventure. If you are finding packing for the Camino - or any project you are currently involved in for that matter - to be a frustrating experience, Tim Ferriss recommends two questions to ask yourself; Am I making this harder than it needs to be? What would it look like if it were simple?
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