The Camino de Santiago (Spain) and 88 temples of Shikoku (Japan) are pilgrimages like no other. They are journeys that requires physical and mental preparation. As seasoned pilgrims and avid backpackers, we are here to help you navigate the overwhelming world of gear and gadgets to create the perfect packing list for your adventures.
Backpack: 30-35L (in winter up to 40-45L)
First, let’s address the elephant in the room: the backpack.
Choosing a backpack is like choosing a partner for a road trip – you want someone who’s reliable, won’t complain too much, and can carry their weight.
Remember, the bigger backpack you get, the more unnecessary stuff you’ll be tempted to carry. It’s like trying to resist a buffet – the bigger the plate, the more food you pile on it. So, if you don’t want to end up carrying a kitchen sink on your back, stick to a smaller 30-35L backpack. Trust me, your back (and your sanity) will thank you later.
Make sure to choose a backpack that is comfortable and fits you well. A backpack with a ventilated back is essential to prevent a sweaty back. You don’t want to arrive at your destination with a wet T-shirt sticking to your back, do you?
We recommend a lightweight backpack with adjustable hip straps to balance the weight of your load and take the pressure off your shoulders. Plus, it can double as a makeshift dance partner if you’re feeling particularly festive in one of the local bars.
And don’t forget to bring a rain cover for your backpack. Trust us, you don’t want to arrive at your destination with all your belongings soaked. It’s like carrying a swimming pool on your back.
Also, remember to switch your backpack from back to front from time to time. Not only does it help you relieve your load, but it also makes you look like a ninja warrior, ready to take on any challenge the pilgrimage throws at you.
And if you’re planning to use a backpack delivery service along the pilgrimage, you can bring a big backpack or even a suitcase and walk with a day pack carrying only valuables, water, and snacks.
Our top picks are:
No matter what backpack you choose, just remember to pack it efficiently and test it out beforehand. You don’t want to end up with a backpack that’s more of a burden than a help.
The most important thing you’ll need on the pilgrimage is a comfortable pair of shoes. Invest in a good pair of hiking boots or shoes, and break them in before your trip. Trust me, you don’t want to be dealing with blisters on Day 1.
Your feet are going to be doing most of the heavy lifting on the Caminos, so it’s crucial to choose the right pair of shoes. One option we love are trail running shoes. They’re lightweight, breathable, and have excellent traction, making them perfect for the varied terrain along Camino de Santiago or Shikoku pilgrimage.
Of course, everyone’s feet are different, so it’s essential to find the shoes that work best for you. Regardless of the type of shoe you choose, make sure to take one size bigger and break them in before your trip. Wear them on hikes or walks around town to make sure they’re comfortable and won’t give you blisters.
Our top picks are:
Ah, clothing – the most important decision you’ll make after choosing your walking partner (your backpack, of course).
When it comes to clothing, think light and quick-drying. The Camino de Santiago and Shikoku pilgrimage are not the time to bring out your favorite cotton t-shirts.
So, what should you bring instead? For starters, pack two short-sleeved shirts and one long-sleeved shirt. The long-sleeved shirt will come in handy for cooler weather and sun protection.
Our top picks are:
And speaking of cooler weather, don’t forget to pack a fleece or sweater for those chilly mornings.
We don’t have a favorite fleece or sweater to recommend, but it could be something like this one:
For bottoms, consider bringing one pair of gym leggings. They’re lightweight, easy to wash, and won’t take up too much space in your backpack.
Our top picks are for women is this one.
And when it comes to underwear, don’t underestimate the power of a good pair. For both men and women, look for underwear that fits snugly, dries quickly, and is breathable. Trust us, it will make all the difference on those long Camino walks.
Our top picks for men is this one.
Ladies, don’t forget to pack a hiking bra for extra comfort and support.
And finally, the pièce de résistance of your Camino wardrobe – socks. It’s recommended to bring at least three changes of socks, preferably made of merino wool. These materials don’t hold moisture like cotton does, which can lead to blisters and discomfort.
Our top picks are:
Flip flops are a must-have item when staying in albergues, as you cannot stay with hiking shoes. They are also lightweight and easy to pack.
Last but not least: shower towel. We fell in love with the Sea to Summit Airlite towel, a light and compact option for travelers who want a quick-drying towel that takes up minimal space in their luggage.
Ah, rain gear – the essential Camino fashion statement! You never know when the skies will open up and unleash a torrential downpour, so it’s always best to be prepared. Here are our top recommendations for staying dry on the Camino de Santiago and Shikoku pilgrimage:
- Consider investing in a pair of waterproof convertible hiking trousers with zip-off legs. Not only are they versatile, but you can transform them from pants to shorts with a simple zip. Plus, they’ll keep you dry and comfortable in wet conditions.
- During the summer months, a light poncho can be more than enough to keep the rain off. Not to mention, you’ll look like a fashionable adventurer straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.
Our top picks are:
- If you’re traveling in a season other than summer, a waterproof jacket or raincoat might be your best bet. Look for something lightweight, breathable, and packable – you don’t want to be weighed down by heavy rain gear.
Our top picks are:
Extras for winter
- Lightweight thermal base layers are a must for staying warm and comfortable on chilly days.
- A fleece top is a versatile layer that can be worn alone or under a heavier jacket for added warmth. And don’t be afraid to pile on the layers – you can always take them off if you get too hot. Just try not to look like the Michelin Man.
- Hiking shoes or boots are a must for winter Caminos, and they should be more heavyweight than your summer footwear. Look for shoes with good insulation and a sturdy sole to help you navigate icy or snowy terrain.
Our top picks are:
- Don’t forget to pack extra pairs of wool socks for added warmth and comfort. And if your toes are still feeling chilly, you can always add a pair of toe warmers or hand warmers inside your shoes.
- Heavy fleeces or jackets are a must for staying warm in colder temperatures. And if you really want to stand out, why not opt for a bright red parka like the Michelin Man?
- Don’t forget to pack a wool hat for added warmth – bonus points if it has a pom-pom on top. And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even knit your own hat during your downtime on the Camino.
- If you’re planning on camping or staying in albergues without heating, a sleeping bag is a must for staying warm at night.
Our top picks are:
- And last but not least, don’t forget to pack gloves and mittens to keep your hands toasty warm.
Food and drinks
When packing for a long hike or travel, don’t forget to bring a reusable water bottle and Tupperware to help reduce waste. And don’t forget a knife/multitool, spork, and some snacks for those moments when hunger strikes on the road. These essentials can help you stay hydrated, fed, and prepared for any situation on your journey.
Accessories are the cherry on top of your Camino gear. They can make your journey even more enjoyable and comfortable. Firstly, a cap or a flexible hat is a must. Not only does it protect your face from the sun, but it also covers those ears that can get red and painful from too much sun exposure.
Another essential item for your Camino is sunglasses. These will protect your eyes from harmful UV rays, as well as snow glare if you’re walking during winter. Make sure to choose a comfortable pair that fits your face well, so you’re not constantly adjusting them on your walk.
Walking poles are also a great accessory to have on the Camino. They can help maintain a good posture throughout the day, whether you are carrying your bag or not. Plus, they can take some of the pressure off your knees and joints, especially during steep descents.
First aid kit
Nobody likes to think about getting injured on their Camino, but it’s always better to be prepared. Here are some recommendations for what to include in your first aid kit:
- Small scissors
- Elastic bandage
- Antiseptic cream: because nobody wants an infected blister.
- Tape: For securing bandages or preventing blisters from forming in the first place.
- Hand sanitizer
- Hayfever tablets
- Bug spray (for summer): Mosquitoes and other bugs can be a real nuisance, especially during the summer months.
- Multivitamin tablets: To keep your body fueled and your immune system strong.
- Any prescription medication you may need: Don’t forget your daily meds or any special prescriptions!
Taking care of your feet is essential when walking long distances like the Camino or Shikoku pilgrimage. Blisters are a common issue for walkers, but with the right tools and techniques, you can avoid them altogether.
Blister plasters are an absolute must-have for your Camino. They provide immediate relief and protection to blisters, preventing them from getting worse. It’s also a good idea to pack some extra plasters, just in case.
Vaseline is another excellent tool to prevent blisters. Apply it to your feet before putting on your socks, and it will reduce friction and prevent blisters from forming. Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of smelling like a delicious petroleum jelly sandwich.
Remember, taking care of your feet is no joke on the Camino. You’ll be using them all day, every day, and if they’re not in good shape, your journey can quickly become a nightmare. So pack some blister plasters, slather on some Vaseline, and you’ll be good to go!
Camping gear (only for Shikoku pilgrimage)
While camping along the Camino de Santiago is not a viable option due to legal restrictions and the affordability of albergues, the Shikoku pilgrimage presents a unique scenario. On Shikoku, the cost of accommodations can be comparatively higher, and, therefore, we explore the possibility of camping as a practical and budget-friendly alternative for pilgrims seeking a more economical way to experience this sacred trail. We bought ultralight gear:
When it comes to toiletries for your Camino journey, it’s important to keep it simple and pack only the essentials. Remember, every gram counts! Bring everything in travel sizes to avoid carrying extra weight. Here are some must-haves for your toiletry kit:
- Toothpaste & toothbrush: You don’t want to neglect your oral hygiene just because you’re on the Camino!
- Small sunscreen / sun cream: Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by applying sunscreen every day. Don’t forget to reapply every 2 hours.
- Sun lip balm (SPF 30): Your lips can also get sunburned, so bring a lip balm with SPF 30 or higher.
- Moisturiser: The summer heat can dry out your skin, so pack a small tube of moisturiser to keep your skin hydrated. We use almond oil that can also be useful for foot massage after a long day walking.
- Soap / Shampoo: if possible opt for compact and lighter shampoo and body wash bars instead of different bottles of liquid shampoo and body wash. Like this one for men or this one for women (Yves Rocher also have a concentrated version of it)
- Small comb: Keep your hair neat and tangle-free with a small comb.
- Small shaving cream and razor.
Bringing a smartphone on the Camino can be a lifesaver in more ways than one. Not only can you use it to capture memories, but it can also be your lifeline to the outside world. Plus, with the plethora of Camino apps available, you’ll have access to maps, weather forecasts, and even a community of fellow pilgrims. Just make sure to bring an EU adaptor (for Camino) or universal adaptor (for Japan) and the charger to keep your phone charged and ready to go. And don’t forget to pack small earphones so you can groove to your favorite tunes or listen to an audiobook without disturbing your fellow pilgrims.
Also, bringing an Ebook reader on the Camino can be a great way to carry multiple books without adding extra weight to your pack. We use Kindle Scribe that you can also use as a journal and write on it. And for the adventurers who want to capture the Camino from a unique perspective, a GoPro camera can be an excellent addition. Just imagine capturing the breathtaking landscapes and the camaraderie with your fellow pilgrims in stunning high definition! Just remember to bring extra batteries and memory cards for your GoPro, so you don’t miss any of the memorable moments.
Don’t forget to bring a power bank with you on your pilgrimage! You never know when you might need to recharge your phone or other electronic devices. Plus, with a power bank, you won’t have to worry about finding a charging point when you’re staying in an albergue or out in the middle of nowhere. Just make sure to charge your power bank before setting off on your journey, and you’ll be good to go.
Last but not least, a chargeable headlamp with a red light option is a great investment for the Camino and Shikoku pilgrimage. The red light will help you navigate in the dark without disturbing your fellow pilgrims.
Documentation is a crucial aspect of your travel preparations, whether you’re embarking on the Camino de Santiago or the Shikoku pilgrimage. Make sure you bring a valid national passport to enter the countries where your pilgrimage might commence. Don’t forget to bring your credit card, debit card, and some cash, as most shops and restaurants along the Camino and Shikoku may accept credit and debit cards, but some small shops and accommodation may only accept cash. And remember, it’s always a good idea to call your bank before you leave to let them know you’ll be using your card abroad. When it comes to traveling abroad, using International Travel Cards can be a great way to save money on transaction fees. In fact, some cards charge little to no fees at all, making them a smart choice for budget-conscious travelers. We use Wise and Revolut.
Also, don’t forget to pack your driver’s license if you plan to rent a car to explore Spain or Japan before or after your Camino. Lastly, it’s always a good idea to have international medical insurance or a European Health Insurance Card, as you never know when you might need it. We always recommend IATI travel insurance, as it has great coverage and exceptional customer service. If you purchase the insurance through this link, you will receive 5% discount on your policy.
In conclusion, thoughtful packing is key when preparing for your journey. To add an extra touch for Camino de Santiago, tie a scallop shell to your bag. And for a peaceful night’s sleep in the sometimes noisy albergues, don’t forget to bring earplugs. If you’re walking past the Cruz de Fierro, bring a small stone from your home to lay down your burdens before receiving a blessing in Santiago de Compostela.
For the Shikoku pilgrimage, don’t forget to take into account the traditional white attire worn by ohenro pilgrims (you can buy it at the starting point at temple 1). This attire typically includes a white robe, conical hat, and satchel.
With these tips in mind, we wish you happy packing and Buen Camino!
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