While I still have roughly two months before I head to St. Jean Pied de Port, France to start the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, I have been focusing a lot of time recently with packing. I’d like to start being able to do some practice walks with a full pack shortly, which means I need to get my pack to roughly the same weight as it will be when I arrive. Of course, I could just fill it with rocks for now, but since I already have many of the items with me at home, I thought I’d just finish buying what I need and have it done ahead of time.
As a rule of thumb, most people try to bring around 10% of their body weight on the Camino. For me, that’s probably around 20 lbs. I once did a 75 km hike with a 60 lb pack on my back, and it’s certainly not an amount of weight I’d like to carry again. I also had shoulder surgery approximately two years ago, so I’m trying my best to shave as much weight as I can off. So for me, I’m shooting to be under 15 lbs when my pack is full (including my hiking poles, jacket, etc.).
Here’s a current list of what I’m bringing, along with how heavy each item is (when known). Right now I’m sitting at about 14 lbs, including the backpack.
- 1-Northface Venture rain/wind jacket (outer layer) (330 grams)
- 1-100% merino wool hoodie (mid-layer) (410 grams)
- 2-100% merino wool tee shirts (150 & 190gm/m2) (185 grams each)
- 1-Performance, slightly ghetto looking long sleeved shirt (230 grams)
- 1-Button up, non-ghetto-looking long sleeved shirt (170 grams)
- 2-Performance hiking shorts with pockets (245 grams each)
- 2-Performance quick-dry boxer shorts (90 grams each)
- 2-Pair of merino hiking socks (90 grams each)
- 2-Pair of sock liners (26 grams each)
- 1-Thermal toque (66 grams)
- 1-Pair of lightweight wool gloves (100 grams)
So basically, two lightweight tee shirts, two long sleeved shirts (one meant to be a base layer if I need it, and one for lounging around at night where I can also roll the sleeves up). I’ve been walking around my home town here in 2C-3C weather with just the merino wool tee shirts and the hoodie, and I’ve felt mostly warm, so I don’t think walking in 5C-10C will present me with any issues at all.
The only item I’m currently missing are some hiking pants, but I’m going to hold out another month to acquire some. I was always told to make sure your shorts were above your knees when hiking, and most of the pants I’ve found have the zip point below the knee which seems like it would lead to friction when hiking in shorts. So I may just get a pair of dedicated hiking pants and find a tree to change into shorts if I need to.
The general consensus on the forums in that you really only need two full sets of clothes: one to walk in each day. Once you get to the albergues at the end of the night you simply switch to tomorrow’s set of clothes and wash your current clothes. With luck you’ll wake up in the morning, pack your dry clothes (from yesterday’s walk), and set off in the same clothes you likely slept in.
- 1-Merrell Men’s Moab Rover Hiking Shoes
- 1-Pair of Teva sandals (400 grams)
Before I even started looking at what to pack, I was pretty sure I was already leaning against bringing hiking boots – they certainly do protect your ankles, but they are big and bulky and mostly meant for mountain hiking. Since much of the camino is on a mostly level grade with nice trails, I opted for a pair of hiking shoes. They still have really great grip, but don’t weight nearly as much as a pair of boots.
I am still debating the sandals, and will make a final decision a few days before I leave. If I’m just going to wear them in the shower, I’ll find a cheap $10 pair to bring instead of these. But if the weather is looking decent along the trail, I’ll probably bring these and aim to do some walks in them as well.
Pack & Poles
I have a 40L backpack that I really love, but I long ago cut off the waist straps on it which makes it unsuitable (in my opinion) for a long walk like this. As such, I had to go out and buy another pack.
- 1-MEC 45L men’s backpack (1200 grams)
- 1-MEC 45L backpack rain cover (174 grams)
- 1-Lightweight set of hiking poles (670 grams)
I’m sure I won’t have 45L worth of items in my backpack, but there’s a significant jump in terms of backpack features when you go from 30-35L to 45-50L. For example, the 45L bag had little pockets for water bottles, straps for hiking poles, and waist straps – the 35L I was looking at did not have any of those items.
I really hurt my knee 10 years ago on the West Coast Trail, and ended up picking a long stick up to use for the rest of the hike. I was astounded just how much easier hiking was with that stick, especially going down uneven ground where you could use the stick to take weight off your knees. Most people who have used hiking poles before swear by them, and my one practice run with them so far makes me feel like I’ll be really happy I am taking them along for the hike. I’m told they take 20-25% of the weight off your joints, which I can believe after using them.
The only downside to bringing poles is that you can’t check them on airplanes. Buying them along the route is certainly an option for other people, but since I’m going to need to check my bag I’ll just bring these ones.
Right now my plan is to bring the backpack rain cover, but I also might just get a large poncho and use that instead. Still undecided on that currently.
I’m actively trying not to bring much in the way of technology, but still want to be able to update Facebook and what not (so my family doesn’t think I’m dead), at least every few days.
- 1-iPhone 6S for photo taking and occasional updates (143 grams)
- 1-Amazon Kindle paper white for reading (206 grams)
- 1-European travel plug + fast two-port 11W USB charger (126 grams)
I won’t be bringing a laptop on this trip, partially because I want to use the opportunity to unplug, and also because it would add another 3.5 lbs to my pack. There isn’t much my iPad can do that my phone can’t, so I’m leaving it behind as well.
I might ditch the Kindle and simply use the Kindle app on my phone, but my Kindle can last nearly a month on a single charge, something my phone just can’t compete with. I’m told it’s a constant battle to keep your phone charged since there is a lot of competition for plugs at night, so I might bring this anyways just to make sure I have something to read.
I am considering bringing my Olympus micro four-thirds camera and one or two lenses. I really like taking photos, and I think this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to take some on this trip. But bringing my camera will add another 2 lbs to my pack, and I’m having a hard time justifying it. Plus, it’s a pain in the ass having to pull your camera out all the time to take photos. So unless I can solve that problem (which I might be able to), it’ll probably be staying behind.
And here’s the left over bits.
- 1-Lightweight down, one season sleeping bag (600 grams)
- 1-BPA free water bottle (180 grams)
- 1-Swiss army knife (74 grams)
- 1-Headlamp (112 grams)
- 1-Quick dry travel towel (172 grams)
- 1-Spork Fork/Spoon (9 grams)
- 1-Journal + Pen (100 grams)
- 1-Toothpaste + Shampoo + Sunscreen (200 grams)
- 1-Travel toothbrush (14 grams)
- 1-Bottle of advil – I’ll probably just take 5 pills or so and buy more on the trail (10 grams)
- 5-Sets of 33db reducing earplugs (10 grams)
- 1-Canadian passport + credencial (70 grams)
In terms of sleeping bags, you can either get down or synthetic. Down is warmer and generally lighter, but loses a lot of its heating power when it’s wet. I opted to save the weight and purchased a new down sleeping bag, but I’ll have to make sure I keep it dry.
I might end up ditching the water bottle and simply use a 1L soda/water bottle from a store there to save weight. But not having BPA and other chemicals in my water might be worth the extra weight.
The knife may or may not get used, but I read lots of stories about impromptu wine picnics and what not, and it helped to have a corkscrew. Also, the knife seems to come in handy for lunch time, when there’s a group of people cutting up chorizo and other goods purchased in a supermarket. So for now it’s coming.
I wouldn’t mind trying to be on the road for the odd sunrise, so I thought it was a good idea to bring a headlamp for the early morning darkness.
I also have a few dry bags and a few stuff sacks that I’ll likely bring, I just need to figure out my final packing strategy first. But I’ll probably at least bring a 5L dry sack for the shower so I can stuff my passport, money and all my valuables in it while taking a shower. I also need to find some type of light day pack or small bag for my valuables for when I head into town and leave my backpack behind (which sounds like what most people do when exploring).
So other than a few pieces of clothing, my backpack is mostly ready to go for the camino. As I’ll be in Europe for four months, I’ll also be bringing a suitcase to St. Jean Pied de Port, and will have to ship it to Santiago for when I get there. I’ll pack my backpack and Camino gear in my suitcase for my journey to France, and do a last minute shuffle as soon as I arrive.
It’s almost down to the 60 day countdown now, which means it’s time to start practicing. I’m not too worried about it, as I have walked 6-7 hours a day in many of the countries I’ve been to previously. Granted, I’ve never done that day after day for a month, with a pack, so I’m sure I’ll be hurting on a lot of days. But I’m hoping to be in good shape for a pilgrimage by the time I get on a plane for Europe.