Monday, 29 May 2017

El Camino: What to Take

Some practical suggestions with thanks to Connie!

NOTE: You can stay in hotels which makes towel/sleeping bag unnecessary. You can hire companies to carry your bag forward if you really want to take a lot of stuff. You can even use a company that will book your accommodation and forward your bags.  That's one way to go. We didn't go that route. 

Backpack. Ditch that 2007 pack you bought to hike the Inca Trail. It might have been state of the art at the time but it isn't now. Get yourself over to MEC or Camper's or Atmosphere. Buy a pack that is really light and easy on the back. MEC calls these smaller bags "overnight" bags but you can get enough gear for your 10-15 days into the small bag if you do it right. Get the staffers to adjust the straps for you. You want a pack that is 35-40 liters in capacity. No larger. Seriously. One with pouches on the waistband, a side pouch for your water bottle, one easy-access top compartment and a waterproof cover.

With the old grey backpack that was ditched en route
Clothes Three changes should suffice although I took 5. One pair of shorts, one pair of capris, one pair of lightweight nylon pants, a longsleeved shirt, two sleeveless shirts and two t-shirts. Ok, I actually took 3 long sleeved shirts and ditched 2 of them. Take lightweight drip dry stuff since you will need to wash it and have it dry every second day. Some people sleep in their clothes. I think that is yucky. I took leggings for sleep time. Also a fleecy jacket and one of those super light down jackets you can stuff into a bag and the lightest breathable waterproof jacket you can get or a cheap poncho. The lightest you can get. Really important-good socks, like the light or medium weight PhD socks from MEC. Are you picking up what I am laying down? Go light!

A Belt  Because by the end your pants will be falling off.

Walking poles I found them indispensable. Ours were the Black Diamond ones that telescope down and click into place, not the "screw down and lock" kind. A German lady will tell you the metal tips make a clickety-clack the villagers don't like and you should buy the rubber tips like she has. In fact she will tell you the metal tips are illegal. You can get the rubber tips at MEC I believe. I liked the clickety clack so take that, cranky German lady! 

Sleeping bag. If you are staying at albergues (which I recommend for at least a few nights), they do not all have blankets, so if you go in spring (which I also recommend) it gets a bit chilly at night. Take the smallest and lightest sleeping bag you can find. Doesn't need to be warm. We had one from Camper's Village and found another at Atmosphere. If you go in late spring, summer or early fall, a sheet will do. You do not need a sleeping mat or air mattress.

Toiletries  Hairbrush. Folding toothbrush. Small toothpaste. Solid round shampoo in a square tin as sold by LUSH (doubles as laundry detergent). Small sunscreen. Small Purell. Antibiotic cream. Tiny sewing kit. Tweezers. Blister band-aids. Bring lots of those. Painkillers- I always take a combination bottle of aspirin, advil, mersyndol and naproxen with some benadryl for allergies. And some Imodium, just in case. Never used it though.

Towel The super absorbent kind that rolls into a teeny pouch. 

Toilet paper


Footware  Hiking boots- I have a wonky ankle so I bought boots with a lot of ankle support . Most of you won't need that. Make sure they roomy as you feet may swell and they will take a beating. One guy we met said his feet hurt every day. BREAK THOSE BOOTS IN!  I thought I had by walking 3 km every day for 10 days, but you should really walk with your fully loaded pack for a good 10 km at least twice.  Otherwise you could get blisters like I did. Plus lightweight shoes or sandals because after 20 km, you need to remove those boots. I had a pair of super light Skechers and hubby took his Birkenstocks.

Electronics  Some people don't take a camera, but we love taking photos and a camera phone doesn't cut it. But I would consider a smaller, lighter camera that could go in the waistband of the backpack. Phone. Get yours unlocked and buy a SIM card that is good for Spain and Portugal. You can get a good plan with lots of data for cheap at the airport or any cellphone shop.  We went with Orange. Sometimes access to Google Maps is needed, or your phone for that matter. Kindle. Travel adapter. Cordless multiple outlet extension device so you can recharge multiple items at once. No more chargers than absolutely necessary.

Headlamp For those early morning getaways. Some people used their camera flashlight.

Waterbottle  Light plastic, large.

Large ziplock bags Just because.

Hat  One with a large brim as the sun is intense.

Pilgrim's Passport. Also called a "credencial." Order it online from the Canadian Company of Pilgrims. You will need to stay in the albergues and you will need to get it stamped with a "sello"  twice a day for the last 100 km at albergues, bars and cafes and churches along the route in order to get your compostela at the end. It is fun to collect the stamps as each one is unique.

Guidebook The Germans used a yellow guidebook called "Outdoor:The Way is the Goal". There are lots of others. We used John Brierley's Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino Portugues. A must have.

Weird thing we took and would take again  Tiny projector. We have one the size of a deck of cards that connects to your phone. We watched movies on it, including The Way with Martin Sheen.

What we should have taken: Noise cancelling headphones or earplugs for the snoring in the albergues.

What we should have left behind: The Ipads. The numerous electronic chargers. The sweat-inducing crappy waterproof jacket.  A skirt. Some dressy shoes my hubby carried and I never wore. The umbrella. The bathing suits.  

Oldest cross on the camino