Gear for the Camino

I start hiking the Camino de Santiago in six days. I’m posting this second blog entry from home in part to ensure that the blog process will work via my smartphone. Today’s topic is gear.

The Camino is a different kind of long distance hike. Certainly a lot of lessons learned from thru-hiking in the U.S. apply, but some adjustments are necessary too.

Base Weight

My base weight is coming out to 13+ pounds. Nearly a pound of that is “consumables”: guidebook pages I’ll dispose of as I go, and prescription medications I’ll consume. In fact, this is a pretty typical base weight for me for a summer backpacking trip.

More Clothes, Less Sleep Stuff

As compared to the backpacking trip, however, for the Camino I’m carrying a bit more than double the weight of clothing and about half the weight of “sleep system” stuff: no tent or sleeping pad as I’ll sleep in Hostels and Albergues. Since I’ll be hiking in October, however, I am bringing a 45-degree rated down quilt. Hiking in September of 2013 my wife and I found that some facilities offered blankets and some didn’t, and the ones that did sometimes ran out. I also find it worth carrying a nice inflatable pillow.

Hostels and Albergues require some sort of European style sleeping sack, both to protect you and to keep their beds clean(er). In 2013 I was glad that I had an insect proof version of that.  I used a Sea-to-Summit insect shield bag liner.  Bed bugs are a possibility on this journey.

So that’s the sleep system weight; why the increase in clothing? After all, I’m sleeping indoors!

Why So Much Clothing Weight?

Partly it’s because of how cold it could get in October (it is, after all, Northern Spain). Partly it’s because in the Albergues you absolutely have to have separate indoor footwear. But it’s also because of the “style” shift from normal U.S. type of backpacking. On the Camino you shower every day, wash clothes most days, eat in cafés and just generally act a bit more like a civilized human being (whether or not you actually are one).

For all that, the weight you need to carry is not bad.  Given that October won’t be hot, not much water, a liter or less. With so many villages along the way, not much food either, though decent stores are few, so you can end up carrying more food for a while after you find one. But factor in that the trail is pretty flat most of the time and you can understand that the walking is quite pleasant.

Check Bag or Carry-on?

One decision I’ve been waffling on is whether I want to pack to bring everything on the plane as carry-on. That means in particular no knife and no trekking poles. But counting total number of “take off and then land” hops on this overall journey, I have six. And I’m using my Mariposa Plus backpack, not a terribly robust and durable unit.

So I’ll go carry-on. My recollection from 2013 is that there were only a few days when I really wanted poles, and they were more often carried on my backpack. If I can’t often enough borrow a knife from my gullible friends, I’ll buy a cheap one in Pamplona. A knife really is useful on the Camino, and one with a longer blade than the tiny one I use for backpacking: to cut bread, spread butter, that sort of thing.

I’m going with just one pair of pants and a pair of light shorts. Two long-sleeved button up shirts and two long-sleeved capilene 1 pull-on shirts. I figure I’ll wash clothes (mostly hand-wash) almost every day.

I’m Ready!

I fly initially to Paris on Sunday where I’ll meet up with Lucky and start to get over jetlag.   Looking forward to it!

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Comments 7

  • Bob Rogers : Sep 21st

    I don’t know about international security but I’ve seen people with full backpacks, including treking poles, doing the carry on thing. They were collapsible and were no taller than the backpacks but what poles aren’t. That might be worth a phone call to TSA.

    • Brian Lewis : Sep 28th

      This is Brian Lewis…
      In fact, both my friends Lucky and Milky did this and got away with it. From talking to a TSA person on my last trip, however, I think it’s a crap shoot. And any poles I’d be willing to lose would be to heavy to want to mostly just carry on the Camino.

      • Bob Rogers : Sep 28th

        So, I’m guessing you didn’t? I don’t see any poles in your pics. 🙂 It’s probably easier to get away with on domestic flights. I almost never remember to take mine even on weekend hikes tho the few times I do remember I actually use them. They are one of the later additions to overall gear tho they may be cheapies and heavy. I don’t remember where I got them or what brand they are.

  • Scrappy Malloy : Sep 22nd

    Ahh what an adventure. The Camino is a dream of mine. Have fun amigo.

    • Brian Lewis : Sep 28th


  • Vonrak : Sep 23rd

    Please keep us updated. Thank you.

    • Brian Lewis : Sep 28th

      Four days into the trip now and I’m very happy with my gear choices.


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