“So i’m getting things in perspective! One week, yes seven days until the adventure begins. We spent six, (yes!) 6 hours today, packing and unpacking our back packs. Between a few arguments, (Kev saying take it out, me saying put it in), i managed to reduce the pack from 11 to 9 kg. (Apparantly tiger balm, zen ointment, deep heat, voltarin and ice gel are overkill! lol!)
I was on top of it, until a friend said “Basically you’re walking from Brisbane to Sydney”.
“OMG” i responded, “I really haven’t thought this through. Worse still, our first day of 8km wouldn’t even get us to our local coffee shop!”
All those sore muscle creams might end up back in!
Laugh and go forth. This my friend is LIFE and is best lived FORWARD!!”
We are thankful to the people who helped us during our Camino prep.
Our dear friend Max, a Vietnam vet, sat us down regularly in the months before our departure. In his caring and forthright manner, he declared “the most important items for your trek are your shoes and your pack!” And he was absolutely right!
Over the following months, Max would take us through tips on foot care good enough for months in the jungle, dealing with injuries, carrying gear the right way, looking after your mates, dealing with the mental pressure and physical pain, and general survival tips! We love Max, his generous heart and his famous stories!
Image: Kev and our kits
In the months before our trip, we visited the outdoor hiking specialist shop K2 Base Camp located in a hiking shop precinct in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. Going to a shop staffed by outdoor adventurers who kit out people to climb Mt Everest was very reassuring for novice hikers doing their first hike across Spain.
They affirmed that the Camino de Santiago really is a soft landing in comparison to other hikes in the world. We wouldn’t have to carry our food, long term water supplies or accommodation. There were villages every 5 to 8km and the greatest distance between towns was about 17km. Yet it is still not to be underestimated. A lot of people end their Camino with injury after the tough first day through the Pyrenees. So good preparation and suitable equipment was essential.
We arrived at K2 Base Camp early on a public holiday when virtually no one was in the store. The assistant talked us through the walk, the gear, our preparation etc. He showed us the key things to look for in each item. What was essential and what was not. He fitted us with shoes and backpacks. We searched the shop for additional items.
Image: my poles, shoes, knee supports and shorts
At the end of three intense hours, and with the addition of prior research, we had the information we needed to find the right equipment at the right price. So the sales assistant suggested that rather than buying everything immediately, that we scour the surrounding hiking shops and then come back to them. Not only would help us to find the best quality items for us at the best price, it would also help us feel reassured with our purchases.
Needless to say, after numerous hours of searching over the next few weeks, and acquiring a few small items, we ended up back in K2 buying most of our gear!
A quick side note for Australian travellers, check the current guidelines for duty refunds. At the time of writing, only items purchased within 60 days of departure can be claimed. This can add up to a nice little holiday bonus!
Image: A pharmacy in Pamplona
There are a couple of changes i would have made to our final kit, but very few. They were:
- Camera – i wouldn’t have taken one. Instead i would have invested in a mobile phone with a good camera. As we walked with full kits, we just didn’t need the extra weight and took pics very quickly. It was much easier to whip the phone out of a side pocket. This would be different if you are a serious photographer.
- First aid gear – all the way along the camino, in almost every village and small town, there are pharmacies. With 250,000 plus people walking the camino each year, guess what they specialise in? Yep – hiking! So i would have taken fewer items.
- Toiletry gear – yep, less would have been taken. Take small amounts and purchase/refill as needed. You end up so exhausted and sharing communal showers, you just don’t have the time and energy for much primping.
Image: My bed set up in Najera (a shelf bless!)
Our final packing list
I’ve amended it to include only the items i would take again.
- Back pack
- Back pack rain cover
- Back pack duffle bag (Kev only for long haul flights)
- Sleeping bag and compression pack (some hostels didn’t have blankets and we were wary of bedbugs)
- Silk sleeping bag liner (highly recommended)
- walking poles (highly recommended for novice hikers)
- Reading glasses
- Hiking towel
- Disposable plastic water bottles x 2
- Bath plug
- Ear plugs
- Swiss army knife / nail scissors
- Day pack (collapsible/light)
- Dry bags (we packed items in separate bags for dryness and ease of quickly packing and retrieving items)
- Plastic zipper bags for storage of small items in the larger dry bags
- 2 x Garbage bags (carrying wet laundry etc)
- Clothes pins and travel clothes line (We used these a lot as we laundered the hiking gear most days. Some people used safety pins for pegs. The facilities at the albergues were very busy so often full!)
Image: Pamplona laundry day
Light weight, quick dry clothing.
We had one set of hiking gear for day time and two night time clothing options.
- 1 x Hiking boots (GET THEM PROPERLY FITTED!!)
- 1 x Hiking sandals (optional but great to rest feet at night)
- 1 x thongs (for showers)
- 4 x hiking socks (change halfway during long days)
- 1 x trouser shorts (sarah)
- 2 x long trousers (kev)
- 1 x t’shirt
- 1 x long sleeve shirt
- 1 x leggings (sarah)
- 1 x Compression shorts or leggings
- 1 x hiking dress (sarah)
- 2 x singlets
- 4 pairs undies
- 2 x Sports bras
- Sarong (really useful, slept in this with singlet)
- Rain jacket
- Fleece vest
Image: Overkill? Maybe? Nah!!!
- dental floss
- small bottles of shampoo and conditioner,
- sunlight soap
- Toilet paper (just one roll, these can get taken from the albergues by the morning)
- Compact mirror
- Lip balm
- Hair bands
- Soap container
Image: Bedbug prevention spray / bed freshener – fabulous!
First aid kit:
- Small sewing kit or needle and thread
- Sore muscle creams eg voltarin, Tiger balm, zen ointment, Deep heat etc
- Pain killers
- Tablets for nausea/vomiting, and diahorrea
- Talc powder
- Compeed blister dressing (only take a few, you can buy more)
- Small tea tree / eucalyptus / lavender oil spray for beds (bedbug prevention – you can buy more tea tree essential oil at pharmacies along the way)
- Band aids – fabric strips
- Dettol gel
- 1 x Bandage
- Light weight ankle and knee supports (I would probably suggest buying these along the way)
- Pressure stockings (for flights)
- Alcohol wipes
Image from http://www.fabulous-femme.com
- Mobile phones
- Sim cards
- Phone charger
- Small torch and batteries
- Electricity adapter for France/Spain,
- Google Translate app
- Store photos and documents in the cloud
- We used a phone plan from the UK
- Snacks for the walk, purchased at villages along the way eg fruit, nuts,chocolate, etc
- Water bottles – (to balance the weight, i carried two disposable bottles that i refilled)
- Orange juice (lots of bars serve freshly squeezed OJ)
Image from: http://www.mytravelpeer.com
Minimise this as much as you can, access most docs electronically
- Airline tickets
- Cash passports / credit card
- Cash (small euro notes)
- Money pouch / coin purse
- Pilgrim passport
- Pebble from home to leave at the Cruz de Ferro
- Note paper and pens
- Camino guide book
- One book to read (couldn’t help myself, I took Hemingway “The Sun also rises”)
- Travel insurance contact info
Don’t settle when buying your gear. If it doesn’t feel right then listen to your intuition. I took a long time in choosing the shoes, so glad that i did. I didn’t get any blisters as they were properly fitted. Wear your shoes around for sometime before you go. Good shoes are really worth the investment. If they don’t feel right, then get some others if you can.
If you’re writing about your trip, it’s a tricky balance between documenting the experience and being present to it. I found there wasn’t time for blog posts or writing. Daily Facebook posts were as much as i could manage. It allowed me to capture some memories and sort through the photos.
One final tip on packing – don’t over-stress about it! You can always leave stuff at the albergues if you take too much or pick things up along the way at the numerous hiking shops, pharmacies, shops etc.
Love to hear if you have any other items you’d include (or not) for your long hiking trips.