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The Under 20 lb Camino Packing List

July 28, 2010

In my last post I gave you my 3 keys to keeping the weight off (your backpack, not your backside), and in this post I’m going to show you exactly how to do it. By sacrificing the unnecessities, getting the lite version, and buying after I flew, I was able to trim my pack down to a reasonable 17 lb. That 17 lb easily could have been 13-14 lb had I made some minor adjustments, but anything under 20 lb should keep your back from rebelling too much. Follow the links to see what lightweight options I chose.*

ORIGINAL CAMINO PACKING LIST_________________________________

Big Items:

Stuck in a fence

Even a light backpack can get you stuck in a fence

  • lightweight backpack – My pack weighs just 29 oz. while providing great support. I recommend getting fitted for a pack at an outdoor store.Your shoulders will get sore on the Camino, but a well-fitted pack can minimize thediscomfort.
  • lightweight sleeping bag – My bag weighs barely more than a pound. Sure, it’s only rated to 45 degrees F, but you’ll be sleeping indoors.
  • travel pillow – Pillows are usually provided in hostels, but very helpful for plane/train travel. Mine weighs 12 oz. and rolls up to a relatively small size.

Clothing:

  • 2 lightweight t-shirts, one cotton t-shirt – For all your clothing, lightweight is key. Additionally, anti-microbial (less smelly), moisture-wicking (less sweaty), and quick-drying are huge bonuses. Most travel outfitters carry shirts of this type, but if you want a good combo of style and practicality, Prana clothing is super chic, though a bit pricey.
  • micro-fleece jacket – Fleece is both warm and lightweight. Layer it with a water-resistant, wind-cutting jacket to get complete protection on cold, wet, and/or windy days.
  • lightweight rain jacket – I went with a breathable, wind-cutting Marmot jacket weighing 8 oz.
  • 2 pairs of lightweight shorts – I snagged some shorts/swimming trunks – multi-use ftw!
  • lightweight cargo pants with zip-off shorts – You might want 2 pairs of pants and only1 pair of shorts if you’re walking Oct-April.
  • Shoes on a wire in Santiago

    Don't buy shoes you hate so much you throw them onto a telephone wire once you reach Santiago

    beanie – I didn’t see one other person wearing a beanie, but it worked wonders for me on cold mornings.

  • Footwear: FiveFingers and flip-flops – FiveFingers are a somewhat extreme option, but definitely an example of getting the lite version. This also eliminated my need for socks. (1 lb total)
  • long-sleeved cotton shirt
  • 3 pairs of cotton underwear

Other:

  • water bottle – Get a bottle you can hook onto an easily accessible area of your pack. Taking off your back to get your water bottle out will get old by mile two.
  • packing cubes – Packing cubes help separate your clothes and other items into different compartments for easy access. Not a required item, but the convenience to cost/space/weight ratio is impressive.
  • small lock – The Camino felt very safe in terms of theft, but don’t let feelings get in the way of precaution.
  • 2 books and a journal – Two books should tide you over until you can find an English-language bookstore in one of the bigger cities: Pamplona, Logrono, Burgos, Leon, and Santiago to name a few.
  • 2 pens – I ran out of ink three times from all my journal scribblings, but pens aren’t hard to come by.
  • toiletries kit – razor, deodorant, tweezers, toothbrush, toothpaste, bug repellent… adjust necessities to gender
  • Dr. Bronner’s all-in-one soap – I used Dr. Bronner’s to wash my body, hair, clothes, and anything else that needed washing. Heck, you can even use it to wash your teeth! (I’m not that hardcore.) A great example of a multi-purpose item. My favorite type is peppermint.
  • microfiber towel and wash cloth – Microfiber towels save space and drying time.
  • small tote bag – The tote I use weighs less than 2 oz. Great carrying option for short trips away from your hostel.
  • earplugs – Most earplugs don’t work for me. These do. Don’t let a roomful of snoring pilgrims keep you awake.
  • pack mule

    If you need a pack mule, you're doing it wrong

    safety pins – For hanging your clothes when clothes pins aren’t available.

  • headlamp – The average pilgrim wakes up pretty early, which means waking up in the dark — especially in fall, winter, and early spring. A headlamp can serve as a flashlight as well.
  • alarm clock – I used a phone, sans calling ability, to keep track of time and wake up.
  • camera
  • first-aid/blisters kit
  • wallet/passport
  • sunglasses
  • sunscreen

Total weight: about 17 lbs

Weight of big items (backpack, sleeping bag, pillow): under 4 lbs

Weight of clothing (including footwear): under 6 lbs

HINDSIGHT CAMINO PACKING LIST ________________________________

Add:

  • Eating yogurt without a spoon

    My girlfriend also mastered the art of spoonless yogurt ingestion

    packframe poncho – They make you look a little bit like the front end of a two-person camel costume, but you’ll be glad you have a packframe poncho at the first sign of rain – I didn’t have one the first time I was caught in a downpour, and it left me cold and miserable. The next day I bought a poncho and was surprised by how little room it took up.

  • corkscrew – Not all hostels have one, and your bottle of wine will mock you if you have no way to reach its delicious innards.
  • utensils – Although I became expert at eating yogurt without a spoon, I could have spared myself the rigorous learning curve by bringing a set of reusable utensils.

Change:

  • 3 pairs of cotton underwear lightweight underwear – Maybe I wouldn’t have gone for the skimpy man panties (manties) I saw most European men wearing, but cotton boxers took up more space than I expected and took forever to dry. I often had to pin them to my backpack to day the day after washing – not an attractive look. Instead, go for a moisture-wicking and quick-drying option.
  • cotton long-sleeve shirt, cotton t-shirt lightweight long-sleeve shirt and t-shirt – Though I did buy a few articles of lightweight clothing, I thought throwing in a few tradition cotton/poly blend shirts wouldn’t hurt. It did. Washing a sweaty cotton shirt is no fun, and drying takes ages. A moisture-wicking, anti-microbial shirt works wonders for quick-drying and holding the stink at bay. Rely on layering: a t-shirt, long-sleeve shirt, lightweight fleece jacket, and lightweight rain jacket should be the most you ever need. If you’re still cold, you’re probably not in Spain.

Subtract:

I did pretty well here. I took the lightweight packing challenge seriously and only ended up with a few necessary changes and additions, but no items I would consider unnecessities. If there are changes/additions/subtractions you would make to this list, I’d love to see them in the comment section!

YOU MAY ALSO WANT TO BRING___________________________________

  • Camino guidebook – I didn’t bring one and I enjoyed the mystery of not knowing exactly what was around each corner,  but if you want to know what to expect here’s a great list of books that won’t take up too much space.
  • CamelBak hydration system – I prefer water bottles, but the convenience and carrying capacity make this hydration alternative very appealing, especially in the sweltering summer months.
  • Sun hat – If your dome is bare or your skin is sensitive to the sun, a quality hat is vital.
  • Hiking poles – I used a walking stick occasionally, but for the most part I believe hiking poles are an unnecessary hassle. Anything that changes your natural gait is trouble on a long walk. As with prescription medication and cake: use only as needed.
  • Moneybelt A moneybelt is an excellent option for your passport and credit cards, though I confidently rely on the humble pocket for my security needs.
  • Hiking shoes/socks – I went for an extremely minimalist approach to footwear and loved it, but near-barefoot isn’t for everyone. Practice in whatever footwear you plan on using for at least a month prior to the pilgrimage. That said, I’m entirely convinced – from research and experience – that lighter is better. Go for lightweight hiking shoes over the bulky, clunky alternatives. I’ll discuss my personal story regarding minimal footwear in future posts.

Lightweight packing keywords:

moisture-wicking, microfiber, quick-drying, anti-microbial, multi-purpose or -use, waterproof, breathable


* Note: I relied heavily on my local REI, but many other retailers provide the same or similar options to those I listed (Rick Steves’ travel store is another great online option) By all means shop around for the best price.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. Stephanie permalink
    July 28, 2010 4:58 pm

    All that extra room in your backpack came in handy. Perfect for storing the fresh, warm, soft baguettes every morning…mmmmm 🙂 Oh, how I miss that, we need to go back and do it all over again, if not for the walk at least for the bread!

  2. July 28, 2010 12:44 pm

    Great article Dylan. Pretty crazy that you were able to go for so long with so little. I can’t believe I have missed out on your other posts.

    I have been trying to get myself a pair of vibrams while out here in Europe – everyone always looks at me funny when I ask about them.

    I would love to go the minimalist route but I am such a gear junky when it comes to my laptop + photo gear. The closest I have come to it is splurging on a carbon fiber tripod to make things a little bit lighter than they would be otherwise.

    I am also surprised you had so much cotton gear – but I guess you learned your lesson from that experience 🙂

  3. Dylan Romero permalink*
    July 28, 2010 2:45 pm

    Thanks for the comment Zac, glad you liked the post!

    Yeah, I’m not a big techy obviously, so I don’t have to worry about lugging gear around too much – my pics prove my lack of photog skills. 😛

    I definitely learned my lesson about cotton clothing. I thought a few cotton items wouldn’t be that bad, but they were definitely a huge hassle.

  4. Dawn Sanders permalink
    July 28, 2010 2:52 pm

    Thank heavens you kept the corkscrew.

  5. AnnieSantiago permalink
    July 28, 2010 6:03 pm

    I’d leave the 2 books and the lock home. I promise you will not have time to read! You’ll be so exhausted at the end of the day, by the time you wash your clothes and find food, you’ll fall into bed and sleep. The lock will become obsolete extra weight after 2 days, when you realize you have nothing worth locking a pack for.

    Did you take a money belt for your passport and cash? Never ever ever leave it in the pack… I’ve watched thieves slit open a pack and take those goodies with the unsuspecting victim continuing their walk, never knowing they’d been robbed until we yelled. Also, I didn’t see your ziplock plastic bag for taking your passport and cash into the shower… was it there?

  6. Dylan Romero permalink*
    July 28, 2010 6:10 pm

    Thanks for the feedback Anniesantiago!

    The lock did feel fairly unnecessary to me as well, but I guess I didn’t want to encourage unsafe travel. 🙂

    I definitely didn’t take into account that I’m avid reader (it’s like breathing to me), so 2 books might be a little overkill for most, especially since they take up a lot of space and weight. I wolfed down 4-5 books during my walk however.

    Great advice on the Ziploc bags and keeping your passport and wallet on your person at all times. Very important, and something I forgot to mention.

  7. July 29, 2010 2:20 am

    Great post Dylan, very useful for pilgrims planning their first camino.

    For all pilgrims walking this year and for those looking for more information on the Camino de Santiago, also have a look at the new Xacobeo website: http://www.xacobeo.es/en/

    Greetings from Santiago,
    Ivar

  8. David permalink
    July 29, 2010 4:32 am

    Hi Dylan, Thanks for your list. A friend who did the Camino last year suggested nappy pins (if you can still get them) to hang up wet clothes on drying lines, or your backpack, plus many other uses. They are just bigger than safety pins. I will be walking next month but I have done a trial pack, weighing in at 8.2 kg (18 lbs), but my backpack is 1.4 kgs (3 lbs) and the lightest sleeping bag I could get is 0.6 kg (1.3 lbs). My weight also includes a full water bottle (1.4lbs). otherwise our gear is roughly similar. I have 5 tops, including 2 t shirts, 1 long sleeve shirt, and 1 heavier long sleeve shirt with a collar and zip, and a wind and waterproof jacket, but no fleece. My tops are of micro fibre merino wool, which are the only material which deals with my heavy sweating, wicks away moisture, are warm for thickness and weight, and dry quickly. Unfortunately they are expensive. I will be there until the end of October, doing the Frances, Finesterre and Inglis routes. I am also taking a guide book, but no reading books

  9. Dylan Romero permalink*
    July 29, 2010 10:20 am

    @Ivar: Thanks for the link; that’s a great site!

    @David: Nappy pins… hadn’t thought of that. That would work better, especially for larger articles of clothing.

  10. Trevor Huxham permalink
    May 12, 2011 9:15 pm

    Hi Dylan, how much of Dr. Bronner’s soap did you take with you to Spain? And did you have to check your backpack rather than carry it on the airplane in order to take the liquid soap with you? Thanks for any information; I’m hoping to walk the Camino in minimalist footwear next summer and really enjoy reading this blog!

  11. Dylan Romero permalink*
    May 12, 2011 9:49 pm

    Hi Trevor,

    Glad to here you’re planning on tackling the Camino! I brought one of the bigger Dr. Bronner’s bottles — probably about 16 oz, so I did have to check my bag… and of course the bags got lost, which meant an overnight train ride to St. Jean and starting the walk as soon as I got off the train instead of getting in a day earlier.

    But the soap did last all trip (actually until I forgot it at an albergue on the 3rd to last day). If you really don’t want to check your bag, you can certainly find a wide variety of options in the bigger cities — Pamplona, Logrono, Burgos, Leon, etc — but I’m not sure about Dr. Bronner’s.

    Good luck! Let me know how the minimalist footwear works out for you.

    • Trevor Huxham permalink
      May 13, 2011 9:29 am

      Thanks for the reply, Dylan! I’ll have to get the 16-0z. size, then. If I run out, I can always buy more soap on the Camino, like you said—no worries. Thanks for the tip!

Trackbacks

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