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The 3 Keys to Fitting Your Life in a Backpack

July 23, 2010

Want to walk the Camino with a backpack weighing less than 20 lbs? It’s more than possible, and your back will thank you for taking the necessary steps to ensure you don’t herniate a disk.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your backpack light on a long pilgrimage like the Camino; next to foot care, it is probably deserves the most attention when planning your trip. Luckily it’s not too difficult to accomplish an under 20 lb load. Use these 3 strategies to help get the weight-monkey off your back:

1) Sacrifice the unnecessities

Don't end up hunched over (and going the wrong direction): pack light!

You don’t need 10 pairs of underwear just in case. Underwear can be washed. You don’t need your hairdryer or formal clothing. Everyone on the Camino looks a bit grungy after a few days, and the locals don’t expect pilgrims to wear tuxedos to dinner. During the first week of walking, many pilgrims can be seen abandoning their extra possessions like they’re aboard a sinking ship. They’ll leave expensive thermal jackets, books, and shoes behind at hostels, hoping to relieve their aching backs. Trust me, chucking off extra weight will become a rewarding hobby by day two.

2) Get the Lite version

Go to the travel section of your local Target or Wal-Mart and you’ll see travel versions of already lightweight items – toothbrushes, wallets, shampoo. How much weight is a tiny toothbrush going to save you anyway? Half an ounce? Instead focus on the big weight/space hogs on your packing list. This would include clothing, footwear, and your sleeping bag. (Nearly everyone sleeps indoors on the Camino; you don’t need a bag tested for the weather conditions at the summit of Mt. Everest.)

3) Buy after you fly

Spain is not a 3rd world country. They have clothes, food, and drugstores aplenty. Don’t worry about running out of toiletries or not being able to find Ziploc bags; Spain’s Supermercados have almost everything your local grocery store has, just on a smaller scale. English-language sections of bookstores can be found in the larger cities.

Perhaps the most important pilgrim’s resource of all? Pharmacies. They are everywhere. When you run out of whatever your using to treat your achy muscles and blistered feet, look for the green plus sign. You’ll get medicine that is as good or better than what you’ll find in the states, so leave the medicine cabinet at home.

In my next post I’ll get into more concrete details on exactly what to pack and where to find it.  I’ll show you my Original Camino Packing List, my Hindsight Camino Packing List (which changes my original list based on my pilgrimage experiences/horrible mistakes), and a few extra items you may want to consider packing. If your antsy to get started, check out the other Camino resources I linked to in my first post – the Camino forums are an especially good resource for packing help.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Karin permalink
    August 1, 2010 5:43 pm

    Loved your comment about Spain not being a 3rd world country!! Have you been spying one me?? Those were my exact words to those I went on Camino with! I intentionally pick things up when I go away, and have them as my “souvineers” after the fact. Still have Italian baby powder from the last trip!

    Buen Camino & keep posting! (and writing??!)

  2. Dylan Romero permalink*
    August 1, 2010 10:55 pm

    Great minds think alike… or at least hear the same questions from prospective pilgrims. 🙂

    Necessities as souvenirs is a great multi-use strategy – way better than some useless knickknacks.

  3. August 4, 2010 2:17 am

    We are enjoying your lite packing tips. All very useful and no matter how many times it is said, pilgrims still overpack!

    A note on walking poles – useful for those olderpilgrims with joints to protect!!

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