What to Pack on My First Thru Hike on the Camino Frances?

What to Pack on My First Thru Hike on the Camino Frances?

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So you are thinking about doing the Camino de Santiago: Camino Frances trail? This trail will take you through some of the most beautiful parts of Spain (and France), introduce you to wonderful people from all around the world, and fill your soul with adventure. If you haven't  read any of our other Camino de Santiago articles then I recommend checking them out as they provide some usfeul information.

What we usually find from hikers unfamiliar with the Camino is that they over pack. The Camino Frances is a relatively easy hike through and through. For beginner thru hikers I will be talking more in depth of why something should be brought, but for experienced hikers you may want to read this compressed version here. Here is a basic packing list for hiking  the Camino Frances during the summer.

Scroll to the bottom for the complete list or check out our compressed version for experienced thru hikers.

 

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Weather in Spain

In Spain the days are long, hot, and with harsh sun, but the nights get very cold. For most of the northern part of Spain this is going to be the case.  Mostly it will be dry, but when it rains it pours, so you will need rain gear.

Hiking Clothing (base layer)

Female

  • 2 synthetic shirts
  • 2 synthetic shorts or leggings
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • (optional) sock liners
  • 2 quick dry underwear 
  • Hat/cap
  • Trail runners or hiking shoes
  • Sports bra
  • Beanie (optional)

Male

  • 2 synthetic shirts
  • 2 synthetic shorts
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • (optional) sock liners
  • 2 quick dry underwear 
  • Hat/cap
  • Trail runners or hiking shoes
  • Beanie (optional)

 

We will start with hiking clothing. You will need at least two hiking outfits. One will be the outfit you wear and the other the outfit that is out to dry, being washed, or in your pack.  Summers are hot but mornings are chilly in Spain, but in general we recommend shorts and t shirts. Short sleeved articles will keep you cool during your walk and when it gets cold you can always throw on a jacket. Some alternatives can be convertible hiking pants or a long sleeve shirt. A beanie can come in handy to keep you warm or shade your eyes when sleeping.

For men, underwear can be either 2 pairs of quick dry underwear. Underwear, for some people, can prevent chaffing if their shorts are not double ply. Wearing them can be person preference, but we suggest you bring some anyway.

For woman we recommend a sports bra. Like underwear for guys it can be completely option to wear a bra, but for some women with larger breasts it may be more comfortable to wear one. You can take one or two depending on how dependent you are to a bra. No cotton bras! Instead go with a synthetic material.

Avoid cotton at all cost. I recommend synthetic material. The moisture wicking ability of nylon or polyester will prevent your wet shirt from zapping the heat off your torso. Synthetic materials also breath well, are inexpensive, durable, light, and thin. Nylon is a soft silky material which can aid in preventing chaffing. Cotton can make you cold and cause you to chafe. 

I personally do not use sock liners but instead buy hiking specific socks. These work well for me. I usually get blisters from hikes, but when wearing the hiking specific socks I have yet to get any. Some people advocate liners if you are using hiking boots.  Ultimately you want to have at least 2 pairs of socks. I brought an extra pair just in case one ripped or did not dry properly. Do not hike in wet socks!

The Camino Frances is relatively an easy hike with a few hard climbs, so in my opinion the best footwear you can have is something that is light, comfortable,  broken in, and not over used. I always hike in a pair of quality trail runners (adidas makes some stylish shoes but there are better more expensive options as well). They breath well, are light, have some ankle support, and have stiff and cushioned bottom. 

Lastly I recommend bringing some sort of head wear. This will keep the sun out of your eyes and off your face. You do not want to look like a lobster when you get into town.

Keeping warm (mid layer)

  • Thermal layer (down or fleece jacket)

You have a few options here when it comes to keeping warm. A popular option is a compressible down or bubble jacket. These are light, do not take up much room, and keep you very warm, but come at a cost.

If you do not have one laying around already then another alternative is a fleece jacket. Fleece jackets will keep you very warm and will cost a fraction of the price. In the summer time you can probably get away with a light fleece, but you can use mid weight fleece as well.

Shell (Outer layer)

  • Rain jacket/poncho
  • Bag weather cover/dry sack

Your mid layer might advertise that it is water proof and windproof, but take it from experience, research, scientific studies, my mom... mid layers should not be exposed to the elements, specifically the down jacket. You will need to carry rain gear. This can be a rain poncho or thin rain jacket. A rain jacket will not only shield you from the wind to keep you warm, but shield your mid layer or base layer from getting wet and zapping your heat. 

I will extend this idea of water protection to the backpack. You do not want your dry cloths to be wet when you get to town. If your backpack did not come with a weather cover, then you can buy one or you can buy a dry sack for your stuff. The 'poor mans' alternative is to place a garbage bag in your backpack and then place all the contents in this. Do not believe the manufacturer when they say the pack is water proof and do not over estimate the water resistant label. In a down pour water will seep into your pack, so it is important to have an additional layer of protection.

Casual Clothing

Female

  • Dress or shirt and pants
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Flat bottom shoes/Sandals
  • (optional) swim suit

Male

  • Nice shirt
  • Jeans/long pants
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • sandals/loafers
  • (optional) swim suit

Once you get into town you usually wont be allowed into the sleeping areas of the albergues in shoes. In this case I brought a pair of sandals that I can use to walk around or even shower with. It is nice to kick off those trail runners or boots and lounge in something else. An alternative can be some comfortable loafers.

Secondly if you plan to walk around the town, hit up a bar, or have dinner in a restaurant then you will want a casual outfit. For me this consisted of jeans, a nice shirt, socks (my third, extra pair), and underwear. I only brought one outfit, since I would only be wearing this if I chose to optionally go out for a few hours. These casual cloths can be either reused, washed, or changed out for a clean hiking shirt. 

For Females they can wear dresses which will take up less room then pants and a shirt, although nights are cold in Spain, so unless you wear a jacket at night you might be cold.

Alternatively to the jeans one can wear khakis made of synthetic material. Khakis are nice because they do not get dirty easily.

You will be walking through some amazing places. Sometimes a town will be having its festival or maybe you want to check out some roman ruins or a castle. It is a must to pack cloths that will allow you to walk around town and enjoy the scenes. If you plan on doing a lot of sight seeing you might want to bring an additional pair of casual cloths, but in my experience you will be to tired to do any additional walking. Depending on how long your trek is you can bring an additional shirt so that you can change your shirt out but keep the same pants to give the illusion that you have a completely different outfit.

Shoes could either be my hiking shoes or alternatively the loafers. Loafers and sandals both have different alternative uses, but I would only bring one. For women you might want to bring some flat bottom shoes that wont take up much room, but still look stylish. 

Accessories

  • Hiking poles (these can be optional)
  • Sun screen
  • Bug spray
  • Tooth brush
  • Tooth paste/powder
  • Wallet
  • Phone
  • Phone charger (preferably with multiple usb ports)
  • Adapter for charger (unless a country specific charger is purchased)
  • Soap
  • Quick dry towel
  • First aid kit (can just be bandages)
  • Silicon ear plugs
  • Long hair individuals  may want hair ties
  • Scallop shell
  • Pilgrim passport

Some of these items you can find at your destination. Correction, this whole articles list can be bought at your destination. Do not feel like you need to take everything and the kitchen sink with you. For example if you need to travel on plane then maybe you might want to buy some items at your destination.

The first item which is technically optional, but is recommended are hiking poles. I did my first Camino de Santiago without hiking poles. Ones pack is not heavy enough nor is the terrain aggressive enough to completely justify hiking poles, but I can not ignore their usefulness in keeping balance and avoiding unnecessary strain on the legs.

The essential item to bring is your wallet. Like I said you can buy anything and everything in Spain, but you will need money to do so. Spain is not a third world country. If you had enough money you wouldn't even need to bring anything.

Items you will need which fall into toiletries are sun screen, tooth brush, and tooth paste (or powder). You don't really need much else unless you have medication to bring. Maybe you might want to bring bandages or even bug spray. I have never had issues with bed bugs on the Camino, but you can buy bed bug spray if this is something you fear. A simple first aid kit is nice, but note that probably every town you will pass through will have a pharmacy. If you are one who blisters or chafes easily then you might want to bring something for this.

For females if you find yourself hiking on your period then you may need to pack additional items. We will not cover that here but the internet has many articles relating to this specific topic.

You will need to bring a quick dry towel as most albergues do not provide towels. One of these quick dry towels are thin, light, and as the name suggests drys quickly.

Ear plugs are always a good item to bring when thru hiking. There was two cases where I needed them but forgot to bring some. The first was when some rowdy pilgrims were talking very loudly and all night outside the albergue. The second is when the only bed in our destination town was right next to a band (see pictures of "Panorama orquesta  galicia" to get an idea of what I mean by "band") playing during a town festival.

A phone can be good for taking pictures, messaging your family and friends, or in case of emergency. Track your steps, track your distance, or check the time. A smart phone has a million uses. I have written articles about navigation and other apps that do not have internet a smart phone can be incredibly useful in so many ways. I also wrote an article on how to purchase a very inexpensive sim card with data that will work all through Europe.

I recommend bringing a power adapter with multiple usb plugs. This will give you the capability to charge multiple usb devices or allow others to charge their devices in the rooms that have limited outlets. Other pilgrims will appreciate this. Usually the adapter that came with your phone will work in Spain, but you will need to buy an inexpensive $2 adapter (NOT an expensive transformer) to convert the plugs.

Lastly you will need soap. If you want to bring soap with you, even on the plane, then you might want to go with a small bar of soap in a plastic case. Alternatively you can bring a small bottle of liquid soap that will suffice for hair and body.

The Camino de Santiago is represented symbolically by a scallop shell. You will find many pilgrims with a dangling shell on their backpack. The pilgrim passport is a very important item to have when traveling the Camino. If you plan on traveling the Camino and do not know what it is then maybe you should read this article here. I do not mention where to get the passport mostly because I do not know of a reliable source through which one can purchase it outside of Spain. I have picked up my passports in either churches, monasteries, or through certain organizations inside of Spain.

Intermission

We will take an intermission so that I can articulate that the next items are subjective and completely optional. The core of what you need has been mentioned, but there is a wide range of methods for traveling the Camino Frances which I will mention. In these cases more gear may be required.

Optional accessories

Water is not an issue on the Camino. Many towns have potable water fountains build so that the town people can acquire free clean water. Along with these fountains the Camino Frances is littered with super markets, restaurants, and bars that will sell you water on the cheap. In a super market it may run you .15 cents for 2 liters of water. In this case you do not need much water to carry. A liter will be at least enough to get you from either fountain to fountain or town to town. You can either bring your own bottle or just buy a disposable 2 liter bottle.

There is no camping allowed unless in specified locations so you wont need camping equipment. This means no tents or sleeping bags. Albergues (almost) always provide sheets, pillows and a blanket except for the really shitty ones. Most importantly you should plan your trip carefully and get to town early. In July and August there are a numerous amount of people walking. I once had to go to every albergue and ended up getting the last room in the town.

A repair kit whether it be a sewing kit or patch kit for nylon or polyester may or may not be useful on a hike. I have yet to have a critical piece of gear such as a backpack or rain jacket get damaged in a significant way. I do how ever carry with me some duck tape wrapped around a card which can be used in a pinch to repair a minor laceration to a backpack or jacket.

Plan your trip! Know where you are going to stop, how many albergues in that town, and the best reviewed albergues. Set realistic goals for yourself. Someone who does not hike often may want to go about 14 km a day while a more fit individual will go 30 km or more.

If hiking another trail other then the Frances I recommend the (unfortunately paid) app A Wise Pilgrim Guide - The Camino app. This gives detailed maps on the trail as well as super market locations, albergues, hostals, and hotels. I do not recommend this app for the Camino Frances as there are many albergues and arrows that point the way.

You can pick up snacks and food in your first destination. You don't need to be conservative with your food. The longest you will go without seeing a super market or bar (that also will serve food) is a few hours in the worst case. In most cases you might pass something every 15-45 minutes. Some restaurants will have a 'menu of the day' for pilgrims where they will serve you basic but plentiful food for as little as 5 euros, but be aware these are usually at designated hours. 

For breakfast I would usually eat at a bar indulging in a coffee and croissant. I would then buy a loaf of sliced bread, 1 euro package of cheese and deli meat which would be good for 2 sandwiches, and some miscellaneous snacks. The loaf is good for maybe 6 sandwiches. Either for dinner or for lunch I would partake in the menu of the day. Worst case I would eat tapas at a bar. If you are American, do not be turned off by the word 'bar'. Bars are social places that serve good food, soda, coffee, and ice cream. You will find kids at the bar as well.

If you do get bit by those mosquito then I found afterbite to be a life saver. No more annoyance or scratching. 

I am going to say (almost) all sources of water are potable on the trail, but if you want you can bring a sawyer mini water filter if that will make you feel better. In my opinion this is not necessary. 

Backpack

Lastly we come to the backpack. Surprisingly enough this is also optional as the camino has services to carry your stuff along the trail, but you are not this kind of person. If you were then you probably wouldnt be reading an article about packing.

There were two bags that were popular on the trail; a 50 liter backpack by Quecha (in blue and grey) and draw string bags. Yes, people walked the camino in draw string bags. Of course these were people who probably lived in Spain that did not need to travel across the world to get back home, but the idea still holds. You do not need much for the Camino. In my opinion a 30 liter backpack will do just fine.

The reason I left backpack for last it is more advantageous if you should first gather the stuff you are planning to bring, sort through it and get rid of as much as possible, and then buy the smallest backpack to fit those items. The larger the backpack the heavier and the greater the intention to fill it.

Conclusion

I say you do not need much for the Camino, but one might look at this list and think it is quite lengthy. The idea of this list is to pack enough to be comfortable yet maintain a (sudo) minimalist approach to packing for this thru hike.

Unlike other popular hikes around the world this one takes you thru some of the most touristy areas of Spain. The Camino Frances is very popular and lined with towns, so the carry list can range greatly depending on how much money you want to drop.

If you enjoyed this article or maybe thought it was lengthy please drop a comment. If we left something out let us know. Buen camino!

Female

  • 2 synthetic shirts
  • 2 synthetic shorts or leggings
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • (optional) sock liners
  • 2 quick dry underwear 
  • Hat/cap
  • Trail runners or hiking shoes
  • Beanie (optional)
  • Sports bra
  • Thermal layer (down or fleece)
  • Rain jacket/poncho
  • Backpack
  • Bag weather cover/dry sack
  • Dress or shirt and pants
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Flat bottom shoes/Sandals
  • Swim suit (optional)
  • hiking poles (optional)
  • Sun screen
  • Bug spray
  • Tooth brush
  • Tooth paste/powder
  • Wallet
  • Phone
  • Multi-port usb charger
  • Soap
  • Quick dry towel
  • Simple first aid kit 
  • Menstrual as well as extra hygienic items if needed
  • Silicon ear plugs
  • Hair ties (optional)
  • Scallop shell
  • Pilgrim passport

 

Male

  • 2 synthetic shirts
  • 2 synthetic shorts
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • (optional) sock liners
  • 2 quick dry underwear 
  • Hat/cap
  • Trail runners or hiking shoes
  • Beanie (optional)
  • Thermal layer (down or fleece)
  • Rain jacket/poncho
  • Backpack
  • Bag weather cover/dry sack
  • Nice shirt
  • Jeans/long pants
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • sandals/loafers
  • Swim suit (optional)
  • hiking poles (optional)
  • Sun screen
  • Bug spray
  • Tooth brush
  • Tooth paste/powder
  • Wallet
  • Phone
  • Multi-port usb charger
  • Soap
  • Quick dry towel
  • Simple first aid kit 
  • Silicon ear plugs
  • Hair ties (optional)
  • Scallop shell
  • Pilgrim passport
What Should I Pack for the Camino Frances?

What Should I Pack for the Camino Frances?

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