Essential items for the Camino de Santiago
The camino is such a tranquil place to be. Through mountains, forests, fields, castles, roman ruins, and old stone towns, the camino shows the best of what spain has to offer. If you are coming overseas then make sure to pack these essential items.
A great pair of shoes
The camino puts the largest toll on your feet. From climbing mountains to the sheer km you will be walking, quality footwear is mandatory. We recommend trail runners or hiking shoes with ankle support. It does not get overly cold in Spain unless your chosen trail takes you through high altitudes, so breathable trail runners are a comfortable option for the Camino. Make sure to break in those shoes before the Camino.
If your coming overseas, your backpack will be your life. Everything you own in Spain will be housed on the sack you don on your back and will be forced to carry it 100 plus kilometers. This is why it is important to use a comfortable and light hiking pack. Most importantly, make sure the pack has a comfortable waist strap and you wear it correctly. If these two are accomplished you will never suffer a sore shoulder or back the whole Camino.
If you want some suggestions on buying backpacks check out our hiking backpack primer and our hiking backpack guide.
We wrote many articles on hiking cloths and layering which we recommend reading. As for hiking cloths I usually wear polyester, merino wool, or nylon shirts with nylon shorts in the summer. In colder months I will wear longer pants but still don the same type of shirts and a jacket on top. For socks, I wear either merino wool hiking socks or my expensive hiking socks that have yet to fail me in preventing blisters. I used a buff for the first time this year and I will never hike without one. I sweat a lot and a buff around my head helps to keep the sweat out of my eyes and from dripping onto my glasses.
Depending on what time of the year you go you may need pack a jacket. I usually take a fleece jacket and a rain jacket. A rain jacket is a must because of how unreliable the weather is in spain. The weather app can tell you its clear and sunny at the moment while you wipe away the rain droplets off your phone screen.
Quick dry cloths such as polyester shirts or exofficio underwear are recommended. The best albergues have washing machines but even if they dont a quick wash in the sink and a hang dry overnight will leave you with fresh cloths for the next day.
Hat and sunscreen
Spain is a sunny country, so unless you like sunburn we suggest wearing a hat. Summer days can be a constant bombardment of sunshine. Just ask my girlfriend who, at the end of the camino, looked like a lobster in human clothing. I personally enjoy wearing a hat because it keeps the rain off my glasses.
Quick dry towel
Albergues are pretty good at giving towels to use (well at least the good ones) but if you are forced to sleep in the last bed in town in the lowest rated albergue you might not get a towel. Also depending on what Camino you take you will often come across rivers and lakes. One might be tempted to jump in on a hot day.
There is something about people who dont know when to shut up and there always happens to be that same person outside your albergue at 1 in the morning. It also could be that loud snorer next to you, or even better, there could be a fiesta the same day you get into town. Earplugs can give you a good night sleep in these quite common scenarios on the camino.
While not mandatory, the Pilgrims passport will net you a certificate for completing the camino. Even if you dont want a neat certificate, the passport is a fun way to collect the unique stamps the bars and restaurants have to offer. Just make sure not to fill the entire passport before you get to Santiago or you wont be able to collect your passport (leave the last square blank).
Getting the passport can be tricky. I personally bought mine from a local church off the camino. There are many sites where you can buy a passport from but I can not recommend any since I never used them. I also can not attest to knowing if any of the monasteries or churches you will pass will have the passport for sale.
If you are traveling a lesser traveled camino, a pair of headphones will help fill those lonely hours. Listening to an audio book or playing your favorite tunes will help highten the dramatic moments of passing through this enchanted country. This also comes in handy when you get to town thinking you will go out to eat but instead lay in bed rubbing your feet waiting for the next day to start.
Dual usb charger
A camera is mandatory on the camino. You need to be able to capture the jaw dropping places you will pass through and share with your friends and family. A clock will make sure you eat at times when the pilgrim meals are served. Music will help pass the time and a phone will help stay connected to your friends and family. Luckily all this can be accomplished on one device. If you are going to rely on a device so much you are going to charge it often, so we recommend a charger with multiple ports because you wont be the only person thirsty for electricity. Charge your iPad or headphones while you charge your smartphone or let other pilgrims charge theirs. Trust me, dual usb charger is freedom like no other.
Albergues may be cheap but they still cost money. Pilgrim meals may be plentiful and easy on the wallet, but they still cost money. Forgot something? Buy it in the many hiking stores on the camino. Unfortunately, even though you can get away with drinking water from fountains, stealth camp in the woods, and eat fruit off the many trees and bushes, you will eventually need to use money for something. If you are an Apple user then you are in luck because every single place that excepts credit card (which is almost everywhere) will accept Apple pay. This is because everyone uses one type of portable credit card reader with built in rfid support. Not only being convenient, this is probably the safest way to pay for anything.
Don’t worry if you forget anything since you can buy everything on this list (except money) on the camino. Buen Camino!