The Top 5 Things on My Packing List

When you walk the Camino there are the things you choose to leave at home, the things you wish you would have left at home, and the things you would never think of leaving at home. Having heard many stories before my first Camino about people who were either mailing forward or leaving behind the things they wished they had left at home, I put a lot of thought into what I would take with me. I did not want to carry one ounce more than I needed to, but I also wanted to choose things which would function well and make the journey as comfortable as possible.

My second Camino gave me the opportunity to hone this list even further. I wanted to share five items that made and stayed on the list that I would not think about leaving behind the next time I walk. Here they are:

PaceMaker Stix Pair of Extended Life Vulcanized Rubber Replacement Tips Paws Ferrules

I know that is a mouth full, but they are worth the words. My first pair was lost in deep mud while crossing the Pyrenees on the first day of the Camino in 2014. I replaced them with some small rubber tips that I pick up in Pamplona two days later, but those wore out before I reached Puenta La Reina. The rest of the way to Santiago, I was accompanied by the click, click, click sound of the tungsten steel tip of my walking poles. In 2018, hoping for a bit more silence, I repurchased these Paws. I took the precaution of putting a few wraps of electrical tape on the tips of my poles so these would have a much snugger fit. They did not come off and I walked from St. Jean to Sahagun without them wearing out. They definitely quieted the walk, gripped well on all surfaces, and may have even helped to absorb some of the shock of planning my poles, over and over again. Upon my arrival home, I immediately bought a new pair and put them away for my next Camino.

REI Co-op Travel Sack Sleeping Bag

I know many people will carry bag liners to save weight, but the idea of being trapped in a tube, with no way of sticking my feet out drove me crazy at the thought of it. I looked around for something that was lightweight and had a zipper. I found the Travel Sack, which suited me perfectly. Bag liners can weigh between 11 and 14 ounces. In its stuff sack, my Travel Sack weighs 1 lbs. 13 oz. That is a pound heavier, but it is worth it to me. It is my one real luxury item, and since I spend 7 to 8 hours in bed, 30 nights in a row, this seems like a good place to treat myself to a little extra weight for comfort. The Sack seems to be the inner and outer shell of a sleeping bag, minus the fill. Because it unzips, it is perfect for those nights when the temperature climes because of the body count in the room and the unwillingness of some of your fellow pilgrims to open a window. On cool nights it zips up tight, keeping you warm enough. Add an extra layer or two and you will get downright toasty. I bought two more after my first trip, incase my children ever decide to walk with me, and so I am well supplied. Unfortunately, REI no longer sells the Travel Sack, though I am sure you can find something similar

Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sacks

Before my first trip, I had read many complaints on the forums about pilgrims rifling through their plastic bags early in the morning, waking everyone up. I did not want to be that guy, and I also wanted to find a way to keep thing dry, even if my pack got soaked. I searched around and found these lightweight dray sacks by Sea to Summit. They are a bit pricy, but last well, and definitely keep things dry and well organized. They come in various sizes and colors. I use a different color for different types of items I carry, so I can find what I am looking for in my pack easily. I use a 4 liter for my Travel Sack, an 8 liter for my clothing, and a 2 liter for a gear bag, caring small items and electronic cords and chargers. Because they are air tight, you can compress your clothing or sleeping bag before sealing it and reduce the bulkiness of the items. They are not noisy like a plastic bag, and definitely are much more durable. I don’t carry everything in one of these. My Tevas, poncho and fleece jacket all reside outside a dry sack. Add a sturdy Ziplock bag for your journal and pilgrims’ passport and you are all set.

Osprey Kestrel 48 Pack

Honestly, this is the one item on this list that I have seriously thought of changing out, but every time I research other packs, I talk myself into keeping this one. My main reason I think about getting another is because of the weight. This pack weighs 3 lbs. 4 oz. It is not super heavy, but it is not a light either. I would love to find something under 2 lbs. I have looked at some that have met my goal weight, but what I would have to give up to save the 20 oz. seems like too much. I like the fact this has nice cushioning on the hip belt and shoulder straps. It is comfortable to wear and is adjustable harness fits my 6’2” frame quite well. I like the fact it has several load, compression and stabilizing straps that allows me to adjust the load and the feel of the pack on my back. While it says it is a 48 liter, it compresses much smaller than that sounds. When needed, the extra space allows me to hold everything internally. There is no need to have stuff dangling off the back of this pack. I like that it has a separate compartment for the sleeping bag, which makes quick work of packing up in the mornings, and thought it is not full of pockets, the ones it does have are quite convenient and make keeping things organized quiet easy. If it were not so comfortable, I would have replaced it already. But when you have carried a backpack as far as I have carried this one, without it causing pain, it just seems well worth the extras 20 oz. The total weight of my pack, fully loaded, is 15 lbs. 11 oz, or just a hair over 7 kilograms.

Brooks Adrenaline GTS, Superfeet Insoles,

and a Little Extra Cushion

There is nothing I have put more thought into than my footwear. After much deliberation and many hours of walking in various kinds of boots and shoes, I chose to walk in trail runners. On my first Camino I wore a pair of New Balance MT1210, which worked wonderfully, but as fate would have it, by the time my second Camino rolled around they had changed the design so significantly, I had to find something new. After a new round of trying on way too many pairs of shoes, I chose Brooks Adrenaline GTS. Technically, they are running shoes, not trail runners, but with the exception of the lack of a Vibram soul, they performed quite similarly. What sold me on this type of shoe was the fact that so much of the Camino is on paved or gravel roads. Yes, there are mountain passes and steep, rocky sections, but I have read these make up only 10% of the trail you will walk on. Given this reality, I wanted to choose something that suited the other 90% of the Camino. To these shoes, I added Superfeet Green insoles for support and under them a thin, lightweight cushioning insole for a little more comfort. I bought the shoes a size too big and a bit wider than I would normally wear. This left ample room for my feet and insoles. I did not get any blisters because of my shoes. The combination was light weight, comfortable, and dried quickly. The fact they were light was a major part of my decision. Studies show an extra pound on the feet equals 5 pounds on your back. This can cause you to burn between 5% and 10% extra energy depending on the terrain. The fact these were much lighter than hiking boots more than made up for the extra weight I carried because of my Travel Sack and Backpack. I walk in these same shoes every day. They last about 500 miles, which is perfect for the Camino. Your footwear is such personal choice, you will have to experiment to see what works best for you, but for me this has done the trick for two Caminos and the equivalent of another 8 to 10 around town.

There are other things I would probably not trade out of my packing list, like the app I use instead of a guide book (Camino Pilgrim) or the white noise app I use to block out the snorers (Relaxio), but these are the ones I would struggle to leave at home. You may not want to take these things on your Camino, but hopefully my list will help you think through what you will choose to carry. I would love to hear about the one thing you would not leave at home.

Buen Camino!


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