Packing for the Camino sometimes feels like it should be a Mensa test. Trying to compare other people’s lists and suggestions can be rather frustrating, especially as a first timer. I must have studied at least 10 different lists but the one thing I kept in mind was that my bag needed to be 10-15% of my body weight. For me, it was a good guideline on what I can comfortably (ish) carry on my back. And it pretty much worked. I did wish my bag was about 5lbs lighter but it wasn’t necessary. If you are interested in seeing my actual packing list, check it out here. But for now, here are two “Top 5” lists:
Top 5: Areas in Which I Could Have Trimmed
- Toiletries: Okay, I don’t mean leave them all behind but you need less than you think. I took two small TP rolls as people kept saying how often one “goes” in the bush. I never ever needed to go wild and even if I did, a bar was always close by. Also didn’t need as much contact solution as I thought I would – I forgot that my contacts were ones that I could wear up to 5 days straight at a time! Didn’t even need to bring my LUSH body cream bar as I could have periodically bought small cheap flat tins of lovely Nivea cream.
- Moral of the story: take enough to get you through a week or two and then replenish in bigger towns/cities. Take enough of what you absolutely must have – I only like gel toothpaste so it was important that mine lasted for the 5 weeks.
- First Aid Kit: This I definitely could have cut in at least half. Don’t need to have both Advil and Aleve. Don’t need electrolytes. Didn’t even need the compeed. Correction – I used a piece of it once on a little blister and absolutely hated it. Waste of time. All it did was fall off and make a mess of my sock.
- Moral of the story: same as Moral #1. Also, take what you wouldn’t want to be caught dead without. For example, I’m allergic to fresh pork and in Spain, it could be hidden in anything. I got caught twice and thank goodness I had my Gravol. Also had a weird allergic reaction to something in the air of the La Rioja countryside so Benadryl was good.
- Utensils: Unless you plan to picnic often, forget it. I didn’t use my collapsible bowl or spork, and I used my collapsible cup only once (at the Irache wine fountain)
- Moral of the story: a good swiss army knife, a water bottle, and an average of 20-25 euros a day for food. Done.
- Electronics: Keep it to a minimum. I should have left my point and shoot camera backup behind as well as the charger for my little e-reader (really does hold a charge for 3-5 weeks, depending on how much you use it).
- Moral of the story: um…there isn’t one. Just keep ‘em to a minimum. Less weight and less potential for theft.
- Miscellaneous: Towel Tabs or Purell, not both. Backpack lock wasn’t necessary. Paper soap (laundry and body) really do not work. One small absorbent towel, not two.
Top 5: Luxury Items That Made Me Happy
- Phone: I brought it for emergencies but when my unlock code didn’t work, it became my alarm clock (on vibrate). It was awesome especially because I slept with earplugs and an eye mask – not once did I wake up due to other people’s noise. Phone is also becoming necessary as more and more pilgrims are calling ahead to book a bed – as much as I don’t like it, I will do the same next time I walk in order to not have the idea of scrambling for a bed looming over my day’s walk. And yes, twice I got caught without an albergue bed (yay for hotels) and twice I got the almost last bed.
- Camera: Some say “just use your smartphone’s camera”. I just can’t. Not even an option. But I did take a small SLR and only two lenses, a wide angle and a telephoto. I used both and I came home with about 4500 pictures.
- Foldable laundry basin: If I had to leave behind one of my luxury items, it would be this one. But I did like having it with me. I used it when all laundry areas were full and I used it to soak my feet as a reward for all the hard work they did.
- Tevas and Flip-flops: The Tevas were for end of day wandering and the flip-flops were for the shower and nightly bathroom trips. It was great to have separate shoes especially wandering around towns with wet flip-flips would have be ew. Also, Tevas allowed me to wear socks (classy) on cold days. Flip-flops always dried by the next day.
- Thin cotton scarf: This was a last nanosecond addition and it ended up being something I used every single day. Used it for warmth, to cover my head in towns/cities when it was dripping, and for general dab of style when finished with a day’s walk.
One thing I did wish I had was a little umbrella – you don’t really want to wear your poncho in a town when out exploring. And photographing.