Packing for the Camino

This post has been extracted from my Camino page because the most common question we have gotten from friends was about what we carried. They already knew something about the Camino itself and most wanted to understand how we managed to “go so light”. FWIW: We also posted our take-aways from the camino, and a photo journal.

Jackie and I really enjoy embracing radical simplicity when walking the Camino. It helped us experience life as a pilgrim. We felt free and liberated during the walk. Post Camino, I am still living out of onebag, though using more stuff than when walking the Camino

My original packing list had a base weight of 5.5lb and fit into a 14l bag. At the end of the trip I updated my camino 2023 lighterpack list to include everything I carried on the heaviest day including several items I won’t take in the future. The picture below is nearly everything I carried or wore:

On the walk I picked up some skin lotion and a 15l folding messenger bag to used after this trip (we don’t There are a few items I added at the last minute (packing for fears) that aren’t in the picture. When Jackie’s Achilles tendon started to hurt I carried a few of her items. This raised my “base” pack weight to 7lb. The heaviest total weight was 11 pounds when I was carrying extra water and a fair bit of leftover food / snacks.

Everyone I have talked with that wasn’t an experienced light-weight onebag traveler or ultralight backpacker said they brought too much stuff. They often either gave away the unnecessary items, shipped them home or to Santiago. Several people told me that any item not used by the time you got to Burgos isn’t needed, and you should get rid of it. I encourage everyone to treat the Camino like a pilgrimage and leave behind excess baggage and live in the moment. I have some general notes about packing light aka onebag travel which might be helpful to someone packing for the Camino. There are people who go even lighter such as such as Tim Evans’s 7L fanny-packing list.

Example Summer Packing List

It’s pretty warm in the summer and you don’t need to bring a lot.

  • Hiking clothing made from thin nylon, polyester or merino wool which can dry overnight. My recommendation would be:
    • nylon hiking pants that are quick dry like Outdoor Research Ferrosi, prAna Brion or a hiking dress
    • fast dry shirt that is high UPF like ArcTeryx Cormac, OR Astroman, Mountain Hardware Crater Lake, or if UPF 15-20 is enough for you, the very comfortable OR Echo
    • non cotton underwear made from merino or polyester
    • trail running shoes or hiking sandals that fit you well with a roomy toe box, I like Inov-8 Trailfly G 270 and Luna sandals
    • Non cotton socks, I like Xoskin toe socks (2 pairs)
  • Clothing to wear while your clothing are drying and to sleep in such as a pair of fast drying running shorts and light weight merino wool tee
  • rain gear: light weight poncho
  • insulation: a alpha direct hoody, 100wt fleece, or merino/alpaca/cashmere sweater
  • sun hat: something with wide brim or veil such as those made by sunday afternoon
  • small first aid kit focused on foot care: compeed bandages are great for protecting skin about to blister
  • toothbrush
  • water bottle such as reusing a smart water bottle
  • nylon or silk sleep sack and a light blanket or quilt or a 50F rated sleeping bag
  • small travel towel
  • phone, charger, and cable
  • light / comfortable pack to hold the above items

When needed (which is less frequent than you might expect) you can wash you hiking clothing in a sink, shower, or machine if one is available. That’s all you need.

Hiking poles are not generally necessary, though if you are used to using them, bring them… just remember they have to be checked baggage when flying. If everything else you are bringing is carry-on, you can use a cardboard “poster tube” to ship your poles.

If the spring and fall you would want to add additional insulation, and extra pair of socks in case they don’t fully dry over night, and maybe rain pants or a rain skirt.

Pro Tip: Don’t bother with “dress up” clothing while walking the Camino. Restaurants are used to pilgrim attire: shorts, tee shirts, slides/sandals. If you need fancy clothing on a trip paired with your “Camino”, ship them to Santiago to be stored until you are done, no reason to carry them while you are walking. There are a number of services such as Casa Ivar which can help. Jackie and my first stop after the Camino was the UK. After after spending a week in Paris before walking the Camino, we posted our extras including “dress up clothing” to a friend’s home in the UK.


The single most important item you bring is footwear. I think minimalist shoes are the best way to go IF you have used them for at least six month. Otherwise I would generally recommend wearing trail runners or hiking oriented sandals. Sandals are often seen as people recover from bad blisters which makes me wonder if they won’t be the best “shoes” to start with. I have written up a brief comparison of boots vs trail runners. It’s important that you use whatever footwear you have selected (or identical models) for an extended time before the Camino to give your muscles a chance to adapt. For example, going from traditional shoes with a heel to zero drop trail running shoes is a good way to end up with achilles tendonitis. For people who are prone to getting blisters I would recommend sizing up your shoes by 1 size and wear 2 pairs of socks: a thin liner made of coolmax or nylon closest to your foot, and a thick wool sock worn “inside out” so the fuzzy part is against the shoe, and the smoother side is facing inward toward the liner and your foot. Another good option are Xoskin toe socks. I have zero blisters after walking thousands of miles in Xoskin toe socks. I had pre-blisters from other socks heal while wearing Xoskin socks while doing 15 mile days.


The second most important item is your backpack. People who complete the Camino generally use outdoor oriented pack which are between 20-40L in volume. For people carrying less than 10 lbs, there are many good options. If you are carrying more than 10 lbs you will want a pack that has a hipbelt which is capable of transferring the majority of the weight to your hips rather than just stabilizing the pack. I have a post about selecting a good trekking pack.

Sleeping “Gear”

Most people who are going to sleep in the albergue dormitories bring a light weight sleeping bag (rated for 40-50F) which removes the need to worry about sheets and blankets. My recommendation would be to use a silk or nylon sleep sack which is paired with a light weight quilt or blanket. When it’s warm you can use just the sleep sack. A good quality down backpacking quilts can cost $300, but if you only need enough insulation for sleeping inside (say rated for 55F), then there are a number of light weight down or synthetic outdoor blanket / quilts which are less than $100. Costco sometimes has a down throw blanket for around $25. A classic poncho liner, aka woobie is another option. Some folks find that just a sleep sack combined with their outwear can work. Clothing which are warm enough for “light work” in 40F (a typical spring morning) should be warm enough for sleeping indoors when the room is >=60F. I used a sleep sack and a piece of Polartec Alpha Direct 90gsm fabric which was used as a blanket at night, and as a scarf, shawl, vest, or poncho liner during the day. I wrote up a description of this in a post about my poncho system. Keep in mind that many of the dormitory sleeping areas are mixed gender, so you should have some clothing to sleep in.

Keep it Light

For people who are used to luxury & comfort, don’t just prepare yourself to “rough it”, but embrace a simple and more communal experience. It is especially important to minimize what you bring because you will be carrying everything for many miles each day. If your bag feels heavy before you start walking, you are bring too much and it will get worse as the days progress.

Conventional wisdom is that people should carry a backpack that’s <20-25% of their body weight. There were several experiments run by the US and by the Swiss military. The key finding IMHO was that on extended (8+ hour) exercised that fit / trained individuals had a measurable increase of fatigue and a drop in agility when they carries more than 10-12% of their lean body weight. For the average western, this would 8% of total body weight. In a well designed pack I feel no more tired at the end of a 20 miles walk carrying <12% of my lean body weight as compared to carrying no pack at all. The caveat is that I have some issues with my shoulders. If the pack does a good job transferring weight to my hips I can carry between 15-20 lb with no pack related fatigue. If all the weight is all on my shoulders I need to keep the weight to 6%, around 8lb or the shoulder pain starts to fatigue me. My wife found her sweet spot is around 6lb.

Some people ship their bag(s) town to town via a transfer service and carry a small daypack which holds only what they need for the day. This costs 4-6Eu for one time, and around 150Eu for an entire journey. I would recommend not planning to do this as a regular practice, though it can be useful if you are trying to recover from an injury or fatigue. If you going to use a transfer service I would recommend using a duffel which does not need to be expense. We saw a number of people using $4 Ikea frakta duffels. Realize that mistakes can be made, and you might find your transfer bag misplaced for a day or two. For people who are finding lodging as they go, using a transfer service can add stress and complications since you don’t know where to ship your bag on days you don’t have a reservation. Warning: Several traditional alberques have banned “suitcases” or transfer services from delivering because the alberques exist “to serve pilgrims, not tourists.”

It’s better to bring twice the money you think you need, and half the stuff. It fairly easy to pick up items that you forgot, lost, or are damaged along the way. Worse case is a 20 minute taxi ride to a larger town. Several of the town along the Camino have a Decathlon store, which is the Ikea of outdoor equipment and clothing. There are also a number of stores which cater to nearly all the needs of pilgrims (shoes, clothing, backpacks, toiletries, etc) such as Boutique du Pelerin in St Jean Pied de Port, Caminoteca in Pamplona, Pilgrim Oasis in Carrión de los Condes, etc. Most of the towns have a small store near or on the Camino route which sell comfortable shoes (almost all sell Hoka) and some other items that pilgrims might need.

Food and Water

Unlike backcountry backpacking, you rarely need to carry much food or water because you will be in the next town before you need more. Generally .5-1L of water will be enough if you periodically stop at a cafe / food trunk for a drink and make use of the fountains. You will want more water on the hottest days. Before walking, you might figure out how much water you need. I discuss this in my post about water treatment and containers. You might want to carry some food with you when entering a less populated area on Sunday because the groceries / cafes / restaurants might be closed or have hours which are incompatible with your schedule. I liked granola bars and Laughing Cow cheese which doesn’t have to be refrigerated. Of course, if all the food options are closed you can treat it as a day of fasting.


There are a few items I might add in the future:

  • Pad to sit / sleep on. There were sections of the trail without benches, rocks, or tree trunks to sit on. A pad could have been useful. Also in the case of not having a bed to sleep in, having a pad could be useful because some of the churches and alberques will let people sleep on the floor if there are no free beds in town.
  • Penny Whistle. Small and light to carry but allows producing music. There were several places that instruments were pulled out and singing commenced. Typically the instrument was a guitar, but at one location a women played a penny whistle which was beautiful.

Jackie’s Pack

The following is a picture of the contents of Jackie’s backpack for the Camino. She used a 10 year old Camelbak hydration pack which was retired at the end of the Camino. Jackie runs colder than me so she brought more insulation that I did.

OuterwearClothingMisc Other
Uniqlo Down Jacket
Montbell Insulation Skirt
Ikea Rain Poncho
Montbell Umbrero Hat
Macpac Nitro Alpha Direct Hoody
Montbell Windbreaker
2 Yoga Pants
Decathon Dress
+2nd Decathon Dress
Underwear (not shown)
Leg Warmers
Waterproof Socks
Wool Socks
+Compression Socks
Trail Runners

+Merrill Sandals
Cell Phone, Charger , Cable
Toothbrush / Paste
Moisturizing Sunscreen
+Ankle Brace
+Knee Brace
+Tiger Balm & CBD Lotion
small fabric shopping bag
Notebook, Pen
Sleep Sack
Initial Items, Items Offloaded, “+” indicates items added. Buff wasn’t used. Waterproof socks used only a few times. Leg warmer not used after compression socks was purchased. Jackie didn’t bring first aid… she made use of the kit I brought.

I am not in control. I am not in a hurry. I walk in faith and hope. I greet everyone with peace. I bring back only what God gives me. – Murray Bodo, The Pilgrim’s Credo