I have cycled two Camino’s and walked one. I am far from the perfect pilgrim but I am passionate about walking and cycling the Camino and to this end, you are welcome to read my advise (or not).
- Relax and just do the Camino. The more I read about the Camino – the more nervous I got. Some pilgrims post information on forums and they might not have prepared properly or never walked around the block and then you read how difficult it is etc. If you walk fair distances regularly before you go and you are in good health – you should be fine. That brings me to the second point.
- Walk, walk, walk. You will be walking consecutive days without rest, with a backpack and about 25 – 31 kilometers a day. I walked about every day (about 8- 10km’s) for 3 months prior and climbed Table Mountain once a week. I did long hikes on weekends, a month before I started the Camino. I can think that yoga and Pilates will also help but, I am not a big fan of the gym so I do a few yoga stretches each day to keep my core strong to help my back. They say you should carry your pack and walk a camino stage or two with the pack, but hey, I live in Camps Bay and it will look super strange walking around with a backpack, the neighbours might think I am running away.
- I guess half the people wear hiking boots and the others wear hiking shoes or trail running shoes. I have worn Saucony trail running shoes for about 9 years now and if I will wear them to bed and out to a ball if I can. So you probably understand that I think they are fabulous and I really like them. Well, I never had any problems with my feet and I have difficult feet. If I had to guess, the most blisters on the Camino are from boot wearing feet. My friend Ives, wore his boots for months before the Camino and he had blisters on blisters the size eggs. I would be wary of walking the Camino Norte in trail running shoes, due to the rain and mud. I took a spare pair of inners in case my shoes got wet and then I would have dried the shoes overnight and worn the dry inners the next day. Luckily I never had to put this to the test.
- My friend, recommended that I buy the Osprey Exos 38 backpack, which was absolutely perfect. A lot of pilgrims had the same pack. Supposedly your pack should not weigh more than 10% of your body weight. I packed the absolute minimum and bought what I needed while I was there. On hind sight I would have taken a warm jacket but it depends on the weather while you are there.
- My rain jacket was my life saver as it helped to keep me warm. My jacket had zips under the arms which is great when you are building up a sweat in cold wind or in the rain.
- I packed 4 quick drying t-shirts – two of which were nice enough to wear to restaurants (one plain black and one plain grey). I had a pair of hiking pants, shorts and a pair of very thin jeans. I had two sets of underwear and 4 pairs of thick trail running socks, of which I lost one. Other important items are a buff, fleece, ear phones, good ear plugs (to try and block out the snoring), eye mask (to block out the light when the eager beavers decide to get ready at 5am in the morning). It is best to take a double, fast charging USB plug and a very long cable. I usually take the basic first aid kit but the most important for me is a box of Allergex. I use it when I get a scratchy thought, a runny nose, when I get bitten by bed bugs or whatever or when I need something to help me to sleep. I never travel without vaseline, which I rub onto my feet each morning. For a luxury item, I usually take a tiny sample of perfume and coconut oil. The coconut oil controls my unruly hair, works great to massage my feet and I use it as a moisturiser. An excellent sun block, sun glasses and a cap is imperative for me. I like to pack some protein powder and a few protein bars. I always have a few different size zip lock bags. I don’t use poles, therefore I can unfortunately not comment on that. I packed my sleeping bag (470 grams) and I used it a lot. There are blankets (some of questionable cleanliness) in most albergues or you can rent one. If you are not taking a sleeping bag and you are planning to sleep in albergues then you have to have a silk sleep sheet.
I hope this helps, there are comprehensive packing lists available on the Camino forum. You will be able to buy most items in the cities in Spain – so keep calm and just enjoy the process, from packing to actually walking. Buen Camino!