Mastering the Art of Packing: Essential Items, Surprising Regrets, and Unforgettable Must-Haves
Updated: Jun 25
When you have the privilege of getting your luggage transferred we have the luxury of packing a few extras that give you peace of mind for your Camino. Here's a helpful list of things we should have packed, things we shouldn't have packed and things we took and couldn't live without. These are things we will definitely be packing again in the future.
Things we should have packed:
Souvenirs from home - From Australia mini clip on koalas or something like that would have been ideal to give to people along the way. In fact we had a few people ask for souvenirs.
Strapping tape / KT tape / compression bandages or sleeves - definitely was needed for some minor strains. Whilst there is no problems buying this in Spain it probably would have been easier to have it packed from the start
Ibuprofen (should have packed more) - whilst you can also buy this in Spain it is no where near as easy as in Australia where you can buy it from the supermarket. Suggest bringing enough before you depart to save you the hassle of finding the select pharmacies that sell it.
Alcohol wipes - great for a whole range of things, including cleaning items and the soles of your feet / inside shoes.
Compeed - again whilst you can buy these helpful blister packs in numerous places along the way, I think having a pack on you once you start saves you the hassle of trying to find some, when normally it is too late! In Australia, these are available in all major supermarkets so would suggest taking a packet with you when you start.
Swiss Army knife w. Wine/bottle opener - an essential item. Virtually all wines bottles in Spain are corked, so one with a wine bottle / opener is essential. The knife also comes in handy for cutting cheese, bread and fruit along the way.
Reusable cutlery - again just handy for when you stop to eat along the way. We ate a number of rice custards for fuel and were always trying to find a spoon to eat them with!
Coin purse - you will get a lot of coins along the way. I think I had them shoved into pockets all over my backpack. A little coin purse would have been handy.
Rubber shoes - e.g thongs or recovery sandals. Whilst we did pack Birkenstocks and virtually lived in them (yes including wearing them out with socks) some rubber thongs or recovery sandals would have also been great for any spas or showers we went to. We went to an awesome recovery spa in Burgos and had to buy thongs as we didn't have any packed. They only had one size so that was way too big for me and way too small for Ross so that was a good a laugh.
Kettle (if you are a coffee desperado!) - yep no matter what star hotel you will stay in there will not be any tea and coffee facilitites. Of course, if you are staying in an albergue these things are readily available. Some friends we met on the way also from Australia actually packed a small kettle so they could have a coffee each morning! Would I actually pack one next time, no I actually wouldn't but it's definitely a worthwhile thought for those coffee fiends.
Pants that zip off - there is such a change in temperatures whilst you are doing the Camino, not only across the time you are on the Way, but also each day! Having pants that zip off easily for change in temperatures would have been ideal and I will definitely be buying some before my next Camino.
Tiger balm or ice gel - would have been helpful for niggles. We did pack Fisiocream which was great but the ice gel is better. Again you can buy these in Spain but I would prefer to have this ready to go.
Things we shouldn’t have packed:
Protein powder - I thought this would come in handy for an afternoon fuel source but to be honest it was too much of a hassle to shake it all up and drink it. Plenty of other snack options with protein you can purchase from supermarkets along the way rather than bothering with this.
Vital greens - I'd read a book on two ladies who'd completed their Camino and said you'll definitely need some greens as there was such a lack of vegetables on the Maesta. We didn not find this at all, in fact we actually got sick of tuna salads.
Swimmers - I envisaged there would be plenty of places to swim along the way after seeing all the river crossings. Most of the time the water is too shallow, too stagnant or too hard to get down to to swim. The only place we did swim was at Molinseca and the water was freezing. You probably don’t need swimmers on the camino unless your going to a spa.
Shoes/socks that are too worn in - I had done a lot of training for the Camino and to be honest my shoes were probably too worn in and not up for the 800+km. Whislt worn in shoes are essential be sure that you haven't walked too far in them so they can last the distance. Thankfully I recognised this would be an issue before I departed and had another pair of shoes ready to swap into but this could be a problem for you. However plenty of shops along the way to find a new pair, I would just hate the thought of new shoes on the Camino (blisters!!)
Less clothes in general - Given you are likely going to have your luggage transported between hotels the tendency to overpack is high. Honestly, we took way too many things that we didn't need and ended up wearing the same things regularly. If you can, try and have the mindset that you are carrying this on your back and then just pack what you need + a few extra comforts to make your Camino a relaxing one.
Anything too dressy - very casual everywhere - Most people are heading out in the gear they have been walking in. I had a few nice jumpers and an extra pair of jeans, as well as a pair of boots packed. I did not need them at all. I never thought I would have been one wearing socks with Birkenstocks, but let me assure you a few days in that was all I was wearing. Even the nicest bars and restaurants are fairly casual so no need to pack anything fancy.
Travel pillows - We took small blow up travel pillows and I firstly thought we might have a little siesta whilst walking and that also the pillows in the hotels could be uncomfortable. We did not use these at all. A rolled up jumper would be suffice if you really needed something.
Things we couldn’t live without:
Branch chain amino acids - We buy the watermelon flavour BCAA's from Bulk Nutrients in Australia. These were great to add to our water bottles each day for that extra nutrients and hydration. Also a nice change from water all day.
Water bladders - This will be a personal preference, although I felt having the water bladder on your back made it so much easier for access to water and drinking more regularly. Those that just drank from water bottles seemed to drink less as it became a hassle to either that the backpack off to access water or reach around to get it.
Buff - Handy for cool weather to keep your neck or ears warm or also to cool you down. We had many days where we wet our buffs in the fountains and put around our neck for reprieve from the heat.
Hand sanitiser wipes or gel - Goes without saying in this post covid age.
Sterilised pins - These will be essential for popping blisters when necessary. Many say not to pop a blister but I found after leaving mine for a few days that they weren't healing. Once I popped them they healed up.
Sunscreen - some days can get hot and there is very little shade.
Magnesium - We take magnesium every night at home regardless and felt it was essential for weary legs. We also purchase our magnesium from Bulk Nutrients in Australia here. No doubt you can find something in your home country too.
Arm sleeves - see my blog post on getting your clothing right.
Ibuprofen - we found this essential to get us through some days, particularly in the first two weeks when your body is getting used to the constant walking. Also helpful to relieve inflammation if you do get a strain.
The right socks and underwear - Merino underwear is essential, we also loved walking in our Injinji toe socks as well as wearing Armaskins with another sock over the top. I had two very small blisters on my Camino and Ross had none. We put this down to having the right socks on your feet.
Layers - The temperature on your Camino will vary greatly. Make sure you pack a few essentials that you can easily layer for cold mornings and evenings.
Vaseline - I never thought I would rub vaseline all over my feet and then put socks on, but it definitely also helped to reduce friction and avoid blisters.
Sheep wool blister protection - It can be known by different names but this wool is helpful to stuff into socks for any hot spots or to wrap around any toes for extra protection from blisters. Cheap and light so why not pack: https://www.paddypallin.com.au/acti-bliss-the-blister-prevention-wool.html
Battery pack - I needed this to help charge my camera, sports watch and phone throughout the day. You may or may not need depending on what you are taking with you and how you intend to use it.
Sard soap - A block of soap is super handy for hand washing clothing on arrival at hotels. We found one bar lasted us both the whole camino.
Small body wash - Some hotel soaps leaves a bit to be desired. You may want to take a small hotel body wash when you see one for the next place as the quality of amenities can really vary.
Birkenstocks - It's essential to air your feet after a long day in shoes. Birkenstocks or something that can air them with also support are essential. You will end up wearing them everywhere!
Buen Camino xxx