- Hiking Footwear: I use mid-length Merrell Hiking Boots which last 2000-3000K as I do pilgrimages that long and like the ankle support. That said, you will hear all kinds of opinions as tastes vary greatly. Many walk in running shoes or even sandals. The key is to find a shoe that fits well and is comfortable for you. Having poor fitting shoes could cause blisters which could ruin your Camino. It is recommended to wear a half to full size larger than normal as you will be walking on flat pavement and the feet tend to swell. Sandals or light shoes for evenings. I use Crocs as they are lightweight and easy to take on and off. They can also be easily attached to the outside of one’s pack.
- Medium Size Backpack: I use an Osprey EXOS 48. It is lightweight at 2.27 lbs. and provides ample space. Osprey also has a great guarantee. A Camino buddy walked from Sweden and his broke in France and they arranged a replacement pack at a store on his route. I recommend going to a good outdoors store like REI in the USA and Canada where their trained people will properly fit you. And don’t forget the rain cover.
- Lightweight sleeping bag. I use an inexpensive REI Helio Sack 50. You can always lighten your load buying a more expensive bag. Unless you are walking in winter a thin bag is ample. Throwaway sheets are usually provided at church or municipal albergues so mostly I use my bag as a blanket. For those sleeping in hotels and private albergues you could even skip the bag.
- Headlamp for those early dark mornings.
- Silk sleeping bag liner.
- Light rain jacket. I use a North Fake. North Face knock off bought in Kathmandu for $15.
- Fleece Jacket. I use one of the cheap alternatives from Decathlon( under $20 ) which works just fine for those cool evenings sitting outside enjoying a Meñu del Dia and wine.
- 2 pairs of lightweight zip off hiking pants. I almost always walk in shorts but if you have a cool evening having the zip on legs is nice. I use Columbia or REI Convertible Pants with at least one zipper pocket.
- 2 pairs of socks in summer. 3 pairs in other seasons. I prefer wool.
- 2 underpants in summer. 3 in other seasons.
- 2 lightweight shirts. Short or long sleeve depending on your preference.
- Broad brimmed sun hat. I am currently using a Decathlon lightweight one for $15.
- Small lightweight tote or day bag for walking around town at night.
- Lightweight campers towel
- Commercial walking pole or poles. Be aware that sometimes airline security will take your poles so either check them or purchase some upon arrival. I never felt comfortable with two poles so on my first Camino I used a single North Fake Pole. I have evolved from commercial poles to using a single natural walking stick. It makes me feel more connected to nature and the spirit of The Camino. It’s also handy if you come across an aggressive dog or human. I enjoy the rhythm of looking for one at the beginning of the Camino.
- Suntan lotion and lip balm
- Medical kit. What you put in is personal but essential are Bandaids(plasters), moleskins, or Compeed for blisters. I recommend blister prevention. Good well fitting socks and shoes. Rub Vaseline on my toes and feet and apply surgical tape to my baby toe which seems more susceptible to blisters.
- Toilet kit with a hook of some sort for hanging in the albergues. Small soap bar, deodorant, ear swabs. Shaving cream and razor for men. Toothpaste and toothbrush. Floss. Nail clippers. If possible, get deodorant, shaving cream, and toothpaste in small travel sizes. Walmart has a section in the store with travel size toiletries.
- Water bottle. I use a .75 liter aluminum one from Decathlon. Don’t like to buy bottled water for environmental reasons. I think people exaggerate the need to carry lots of water which is heavy. The tap water in Spain is good quality. I drink about a half liter before I set out and rarely fill my bottle. Water fountains and bars are plentiful along The Camino so I just drink as I go along. Walking the Via de la Plata in the middle of summer carrying more water would be necessary.
- Smartphone. Can also be used for photos eliminating the need to carry a camera.
- Sleeping Mask.
- Ear Plugs. A definitely essential item. The foam ones are of questionable benefit. 3 sets of silicone plugs which work better are available on Amazon for $10.
- Bandana or buff to keep the sun off your neck and the dust from your mouth and nose on hot summer days.
- Dry stuff bag to keep all your clothes in and totally dry just in case rain seeps through your backpack rain cover.
- A few small stuff bags for toiletries, medical kit, etc.
- Zip Loc Bags. Handy for keeping small items dry. I use them for my passport, credentials, and even my money and credit cards. Who needs a wallet.
Debit Card and Credit Cards that don’t charge Foreign Transaction Fees. I use a Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa for Credit and Charles Schwab Debit Card which not only does not charge foreign transaction fees but will reimburse you if the local European Bank charges you a fee. Also, seek out an ATM that does not charge extra fees. Avoid Santander which charges €5-8. Most charge €2-5. I found 2 in Santiago that charge no extra fee: Bank Sabadell and my favorite Unicaja Banco which also allows larger withdrawals, up to €800. Many banks have a maximum of €300, which increases the percentage amount of their fee.
Camino Credentials: Very important. It is a paper booklet that you will have stamped along the way, in order to prove your pilgrimage, when obtaining your Compostela (Certificate of Competion) in Santiago. You will need to get at least one stamp a day, which will typically come from the Albergue (pilgrim hostel) you stay in each night. There are also stamps available at most of the churches, bars, cafes and restaurants along the way. During the last 100K of your Camino, you will need to get two stamps per day.
If you are starting in St. Jean Pied de Port you can get a Credentials at the Pilgrims Office. Otherwise you can typically obtain them online from your country’s Pilgrim Associations. Americans can order them at: https://americanpilgrims.org/request-a-credential/.
I am Irish American hence my preferred Credential is the Irish Passport available online from The Camino Society of Ireland or at their office at St. James Church in Dublin. If you pick it up at the Church you can walk just a few blocks to the Guinness Factory to obtain your first stamp, and have a pint.
- Half Litre Tea Thermos. Everyone seems to have something that is a must for them. For me it is a small tea thermos, being a tea addict. After walking an hour or two in the morning, I stop at a Cafe for a croissant or Tortilla de Patata and a tea. I ask to have my thermos filled with hot water which they almost always do.
- Pinchies or safety pins to hang wet socks on your pack
- Swimming trunks. On those hot summer days, a swim in the river or in one of the albergue pools is heavenly. For guys just wearing underpants is an option.
- Lightweight down jacket for non Summer Caminos.
- Lightweight knit hats and gloves for Spring and Fall.
A Woman’s Perspective. Obviously, I am not qualified to add items for a woman so I asked my partner Mika, who suggested the following:
- Shirts with built in bras, combination shampoo and conditioner mixed, and skin moisturizer.