CAMINO FRANCES – Packing List (2017)

To decide what to pack in a backpack for a hiking trip for 5 weeks, can be a huge challenge!

Berto has done research for months to find the best possible packing list for our Camino journey. And then, to convince me that I should not pack “for in case”, was another challenge!

The first tip on packing for the Camino that we’ve found on different websites, was that your backpack should not weigh more than 10% in comparison to your body weight. When I’ve heard this, I immediately informed Berto that I will have to gain more weight in order to pack more ๐Ÿ˜› … but that is unfortunately not how it works!

You can therefor see that it was a real challenge for me to pack the minimum. The first thing I’ve learned from the Camino was that you should only pack what you will need and not “for in case”.

This is not the ultimate packing list, because in retrospect there are a number of things we would now change. But we will use this, our first long distance hiking trip, to gain knowledge on what you really need … and sometimes you learn the hard way!

Our Deuter Aircontact backpacks. Berto’s backpack (the grey one) is a 55 + 10 and mine a 50 +10

We’ve already had these backpacks that we have used on several hiking trips in South Africa. During these trips we sometimes had to carry our tent, cooking sets and food as well, and the Deuter backpacks worked well for these excursions.

  • Conclusion: Change! We will definitely invest in smaller backpacks. The smaller packs can then be used as carry-on luggage (to avoid the scenario of us being separated from our backpacks again, as it happend on this Camino). We will then also be forced to pack less – Berto’s backpack weighed 7kg and mine 6kg (mine was definitely too heavy).

Berto’s clothes (left) & Corna’s clothes (right)

We’ve each taken 2 sets of hiking clothes and an extra set as casual wear. We had zipped-off trousers and all our clothes are quick drying and synthetic.

  • Conclusion: Keep! Our clothes worked really well. It was a daunting thought to only take 3 sets of clothes for 5 weeks, but in the end it was a good decision. Though we’ve only used our rain jackets 3 or 4 times on this trip, it is an essential item to pack to protect you against rainy conditions.
Our toiletry bags. Yes, mine is on the right!

Although my toiletry bag is much smaller than the one I normally use, this one was still way too big!

  • Conclusion: Keep (for Berto), but a definite change for Corna! You really only need shampoo (to use for hair and body wash), toothpaste, toothbrush and a razor. Ear plugs also comes in handy when you sleep in a dorm which you share with 30 other pilgrims ๐Ÿ˜‰. The small spray bottle of sun protection that Berto had, was great. He clipped it onto his backpack and it was sufficient for both of us for the whole trip. But the rest were luxury items which was not really needed on our hiking trip.
A complete medical kit!

This may look like a little pharmacy, but we’ve used everything! One can however buy pain tablets, plasters, etc. in Spain and it was therefor not necessary to take everything from home. It does not matter how small a town is on the Camino route, you will always find a “farmacia”.

  • Conclusion: Keep some and change some! Next time we will buy most items in the country we’re going to. But we will ALWAYS make sure to pack the Leukotape P plaster and Merthiolate (for blisters!)
Our travel towels and little stones to place at Cruz de Ferro

Do not take your big bath towel from home. Invest in a travel towel – it’s light and quick drying.

  • Conclusion: Keep! The travel towels worked perfectly and was always dry the next day. The stones were also very small and it was a special moment to leave these at Cruz de Ferro on our way to Santiago.

Tiny washing line and washing powder (left). Headlamps, batteries, s-hooks and shoe laces (right)

Since we’ve only taken 3 sets of clothes, we knew we had to frequently do laundry. We were not sure about the facilities at the albergues and therefor took the washing line and washing powder with. The LED lenser SEO5 headlamps were money well spent!

  • Conclusion: Keep some and change other! The tiny washing line worked great when the albergue’s washing lines were full. But we’ve always received washing powder from the albergues and we could probably leave ours home next time. We’ve used our headlamps on numerous occasions – maybe we can only pack in one next time. The batteries we could have bought in Spain. The S-hooks came in handy (we’ve used these to put my hiking boots at the back of Berto’s backpack!) We did not use the shoe laces, but they don’t really take up any space and has no weight – if you need them, it’s nice to find them in your backpack.
Important cutlery

We’ve packed and re-pack our cutlery section! And eventually only kept a few items.

  • Conclusion: Keep! We’ve used our knife almost every day, as well as our spoons to eat. The two tiny film containers worked well for salt and pepper. And we never go anywhere without our Cederberg bottle opener!

K-Way Extreme lite 500 down sleeping bags and camping pillows

Before we’ve got on the plane to Spain, we’ve sprayed our sleeping bags (actually everything) with Vital protection (internationally known as Permethrin) to protect us against the notorious bed bugs! It worked … not a single bed bug bothered us ๐Ÿ˜„.

  • Conclusion: Keep some and change others! The sleeping bags are great! The K-Way Extreme lite 500 down folded up very small and only has a weight of  470g! This is a definite keeper! The pillows however were too big and we’ve always received pillows at the albergues and hostels. If we do take pillows with on a next trip, we will buy smaller ones.

Berto (left) and Corna (right)

Shoes are a well-discussed topic on any Camino forum! Do you take boots, trail runners or sandals? This was a difficult decision to make (for Corna anyway). Her Salomon boots worked well in South Africa on short hiking trips, but on the 2nd day on the Camino, she changed them for her hiking sandals. Berto, on the other hand, walked with his Salomon boots without any problems – no blisters and later felt like a second skin! Flip flops are great to use in the shower and to wear after a long day’s walking to give your feet a breather.

The other pair of shoes on the photo (blue Crocs for Berto and colourful Rock Spring shoes for Corna) were used to fly with and to wear after the Camino in Santiago and Madrid. We’ve made use of Ivar’s service in Santiago by posting these with other non-essentials to Santiago before we’ve started with our Camino.

  • Conclusion: Keep and Change! Berto will definitely keep his boots! For him this is the ideal hiking shoe! He will probably ditch the sandals – only wear them once in Leon. Corna will leave her Salomon boots home next time … but still not sure what to replace it with. The hiking sandal worked well, but after 650km it needed to be replaced with new sandals. This is still a thought in process …
A kindle, a real book and camera

We both like reading. Berto prefers to read his books on the kindle, but I like the feeling of a real book in my hands. But my book added 500g extra to my backpack! Berto used his small Sony Cyber Shot digital camera to take photo’s, while I’ve used my iPhone S (for photo’s and to stay in contact with our family and friends).

  • Conclusion: Keep and (unfortunately) change! The small Sony Cyber Shot camera worked well, so did my iPhone for photo’s. The kindle will probably come with on the next hiking trip, but I’m afraid the book will have to stay at home. Though the storyline of the book was perfect for me on a difficult stage of the Camino, it was not worth the extra weight! Maybe time to buy another kindle ..

And this was our packing list for our Camino 2017. A whole lot of keepers, but other items that will not make the list again. With a next long distance hiking trip we will have at least a comparison to make – we now know what works for us and what not.

See updated packing list: PACKING LIST โ€“ PORTUGUESE CAMINO โ€“ 2018


9 thoughts on “CAMINO FRANCES – Packing List (2017)

  1. Great packing advice although I know you both scaled down considerably for your next Camino

    Thank you both so much for a wonderful read, it has passed another insomniac night most pleasantly for me and, again, many congratulations on your fine achievement, you are both obviously very determined people but you have left me with a bit of a problem.

    I now only have one more of your Caminos to read and it looks like it is only nine days, that won’t last me long. I think I shall save it for a little while as I don’t want to run out. I demand that you do another 700 km. camino immediately so I can read about it!

    Seriously though, thanks again, this really has been an education in so many ways. Before my health problems I used to walk a lot, although nothing on this scale and I really felt like I was walking with you most of the time.

    Buen Camino.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Fergy for your sweet comments … and for reading (once again) a whole Camino in one day (or night ๐Ÿ˜‰).
      I don’t know about another 700km walking trip – suddenly that sound quite far! But as we’ve mentioned at the end of each Camino … we don’t know whether we’ll walk another one (and surely won’t mind if that opportunity is presenting itself again …)
      You have now earned 2 “reading” Compostela certificates … therefor Buen Camino ๐Ÿ‘ฃ๐Ÿ‘ฃ

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I shall consider myself honoured and I would offer only one small piece of advice. Go for it as hard as you can as long as you can.

        I was walking regularly until I was 59 and then my health went like a bolt out of the blue, I hope most sincerely but do what you can when you can.

        As John Lennon once famously said, “Life is what happens when you are making plans.

        OK, I have been up now for about 36 hours and need a kip. I see you have very wonderfully responded to a lot of my comments so it is a bit to get through.

        Also, I have to get up early tomorrow to go and get a Chinese virus vaccination because I am old and not in the best of health. I think it is a bit silly because I have already had it and have anti-bodies but I am not going to fall out with them.

        Whenever I get back tomorrow, I shall read the rest of your most welcome comments. Writing as you do, I do not quite understand why you would be in the slightest bit interested in my meagre tales.

        Yes, I have walked 700Km. – over a period of about a year!

        Speak soon.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you for the best piece of advice we’ve heard in a long time (and thank you Mr Lennon ๐Ÿ˜Š). And yes, we love reading your stories … it makes us smile and that’s good for one’s health!


  2. Interesting and practical post. Due to covid it’s some time since we trekked but like you we have Deuter backpacks. Ours are the Futura Pro 34 (probably new versions by now). We last used them in Chilean Patagonia to do the W track. I personally think I should have bought the next size up because I had my camera gear in a separate daypack and it was a pain to organise when it rained but otherwise it was ideal. The guy who sold them to us was a very experienced trekker and he gave us lots of good advice about what to NOT take and how we can survive with a minimum on a trek and he was right. It certainly helps if you can send other gear on to your destination separately. Happy walking.
    Some other wet day I am going to read your Portuguese Camino blog with interest as this alternate trail appeals to Karen and I. Happy walking. Cheers, Mark

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Deuter backpacks are great … we use them a lot here on our South African hikes. But they are quite big and that’s why we bought new (smaller) backpacks for the Portuguese Camino. They worked well, but are not as sturdy as the Deuter packs. My backpack weight on the Portuguese Camino was 2kg lighter than the Camino Frances and it certainly made a difference … but you can really only pack the bare essential (when you’re walking a trail with many towns in-between, it’s easy(ier)). But out in the wilderness, this become a challenge!
      Our favourite of the two Camino’s are definitely the Portuguese Camino … it’s a bit off the beaten track (and the coastal route from Porto to Santiago is very scenic)!
      Thanks again for reading and happy walking to you too, Corna.


      1. Itโ€™s good to get another walkerโ€™s opinion so my thought of doing the Portuguese Camino is reinforced by your experienced opinion. Will read about your adventures next week. We have another heavy rain forecast for 3-4 days next week which isnโ€™t good for the parts of our state Victoria which are already flooded. Fortunately we live on a hill so I will be reading care free. Cheers Mark

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You definitely won’t regret doing the Portuguese Camino … it’s a bit industrial from Lisbon to Porto (but there were beautiful stages too)…all part of the journey! More rain forecast – my goodness! Good luckโ€ฆ and stay on that hill!


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