There are some basic guidelines that I would recommend when deciding what to pack for your walk and some questions to ask yourself as well. Firstly, it's good to know how you are walking the Camino. By that I simply mean...
Are you walking the entire way? Which camino route are
you walking? Are you just walking for a week? Will you be camping?
Are you in a group or walking alone? Are you walking in winter or summer?
Answers to these types of questions will adjust what you need to bring with you and help answer the all important "what to pack?" question.
If you want to camp, you will be carrying more. A tent, sleeping mat, cooking gear etc and your backpack will weigh more as a result.
If you're in a group, you don't all need to have your own guidebook, or sunscreen or shampoo etc, you can share the weight around and choose who carries each item that you will be sharing.
If you want to walk during winter you will need more warm and water proof gear, as well as other types of gear that is not needed in the warmer months. Yes Spain does get cold!
If you're only walking for a week or even just a few days you can really cut back on things and I would suggest packing ultralight in this case.
Packing ultralight usually means that your backpack weighs less than 5 or 6kg, a great option if you can manage it. Although it could have been lighter, my backpack was around 10kg when it was full, including water and some food.
You might have to get tough with yourself about what to leave out of your bag. It can be hard in our modern day societies to head out with a minimum amount of things for 4 weeks on an adventure. Most of us are simply not used to that. But this is part of the Camino experience and, even more importantly, your body will thank you if you pack accordingly!
I would suggest sorting most of your items out before you buy a backpack (if you don't already have one) that way you can know how much stuff you will be packing and what size backpack you need.
You'll also hear a lot about your backpack weighing no more than 10% of your bodyweight. Unless you decide to pack ultra light (which many do) just take it as a reminder to really think about what you are packing. Do I really need that 5th pair of socks? Do I really need my hair gel? Do I need all that makeup?
Items included in your bag should be items that you will be using (a basic med kit being the only thing that you hopefully won't need to use). A good guideline is to keep it under 10kg, preferably under 8kg if you can. This is not a trip that you want to take overpacked.
A great tip to keep your pack weight down is to take light and quick drying clothes with you (such as shirts, socks, pants etc). Obviously not every piece of clothing has to be light weight and if you are walking in the colder months you'll want items that keep you warm! So a good balance of items is key.
It also pays to keep in mind that Spain and France are modern countries, you can easily find replacements for most things if you have to.
Whatever gear you do decide to take, take it all on several long walks. Are your clothes comfortable to walk in? Is your pack weight ok? Are your shoes comfortable? It's much better to test it all before you go. You don't really want to get rid of things or replace things on the Camino because you are uncomfortable and have packed too much!
To help with your preparations I've included an example packing list over the page. It includes the basic items you will be taking with you and other things to consider packing. A free blank checklist is also available for you to download and print to help with your preparations. Click the image below to go to the camino packing checklist page.
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