This is a very subjective and much debated area, though the basic rule is always “if in doubt, leave it out.” A good rule of thumb is ‘carry no more than 10% of your body weight’.
Below we give a list of kit, split into:
Do also visit the Pilgrimage to Santiago Forum run by Ivar Rekve for the current conversation about equipment.
If you are into crafts or handy with a sewing machine you may be interested in the todocaminosantiago.com website which has some very ingenious suggestions for making or customising lightweight kit.
And don’t forget, CSJ members are offered 15% discount by Cotswold Outdoor (please contact the Office for the discount code if you don’t have this included in your welcome pack).
- Rucksack: 35 – 60 litres, depending on how much kit you need to carry. Make sure all straps are adjustable and well-fitted to your own hips and shoulders: there are different designs for men and women. Go to a specialist shop where they will give you good advice, and load it with the appropriate weight to test it properly. N.B. it’s not the capacity that matters so much as the weight you put into it. A waterproof cover is sometimes included, this is a useful item to have if you don’t have a poncho – see waterproof gear below. Don’t buy an ill-fitting backpack just because it’s cheap.
- Water-Resistant liner bag for your rucksack. You can buy these from 95p up to about £20, the more you pay the more sturdy/waterproof/sealable they are likely to be. Or use some large heavy-duty refuse bags. Alternatively (and rather more expensively), you could buy a selection of folding dry bags which are guaranteed waterproof even in immersion. It is much easier to keep your kit organised using a variety of these smaller bags, and smelly dirty or damp washing can be sealed up away from clean clothes. Another possibility is a rucksack protector bag (to secure and protect your rucksack during air travel), some of these can be used as a water resistant liner and some as rain covers.
- Lightweight sturdy boots or walking shoes. What you choose is up to personal preference, but we would definitely suggest boots if going in winter, late autumn or early spring, or over very rough terrain, or if you have ankle problems. Some people don’t like wearing goretex boots in hot, dusty conditions. Again, go to a specialist shop for advice and fitting. A good shop will allow you to take boots home for a few days to wear around the house, though not outdoors, and take them back if you’re not happy with them. Don’t be tempted to buy boots that don’t quite fit because they are cheap.
- Socks. One pair, two pairs, liner socks under walking socks, lined socks…there is an endless choice of combinations and types, take advice when you buy your boots. One point to remember, lined socks can take longer to dry than 2 separate pairs.
- Sleeping bag and/or liner (sleeping bags are essential in Spain, but not in France, where blankets are provided and a sleeping bag liner is enough). 1 season sleeping bags are fine for summer months, but 2, 3 or even 4 season bags will needed for cooler months, check with the retailer if you need advice. Choose the lightest weight sleeping bag you can afford. Sleeping bag liners are usually cotton or silk.
- Good waterproof gear – light poncho or rainjacket for the summer, a more windproof jacket if walking in winter. Waterproof trousers optional, particularly in summer months.
- Stick or walking poles. Buy fully adjustable poles or from a specialist shop so these can be fitted to you. Remember some people use neither, or buy a stick in the first few days of their pilgrimage.
- Reflective vest – If you are cycling or walking on roads in darkness or poor visibility, wearing a reflective vest compliant with standard EN471 is a legal requirement in Spain. Reflective clothing or backpack covers are also a good idea in hunting season. Lightweight reflective vests are very cheap – they can be purchased in the UK as cheaply as £1.25 – and are readily available in garages and supermarkets in Spain.
The following lists are suggestions only and should be adapted to the seasons and to your own needs and preferences. Some people advise carrying no more than 10-15% of your own body weight. Remember to take account of your day’s supplies, especially water (1 litre of water weighs 1kg). You should be able to get your base weight (i.e. without the day’s food and water, but including the rucksack itself) down to 10-12 kg. If you are planning to camp or wish to carry an emergency tent on some of the less-developed routes, you will need to factor in the weight of a lightweight tent, sleeping mat, camping gaz stove (go for the standard #C206 190g cylinder type, since the fancier styles aren’t available in Spain), and cooking/eating utensils.
There are many types of high-tech shirts and underwear available, most very quick drying. Newer to the outdoor market are those made from merino wool or that have silver threads woven into them, which are claimed to absorb body odours for up to three weeks. You ought to have no trouble in washing clothes daily although wet weather can cause problems in getting things dry.
Summer Clothing List – in addition to main equipment listed above:
- 2- 4 pairs walking socks, or 2 pairs thick socks, 4 liner socks
- 3 sets pants (boxer shorts can chafe, best avoided).
- 2 soft sports or seam and adjuster-free bras (ladies only….).
- 2 pairs walking trousers or shorts (lightweight zip-off trousers give you plenty of options).
- 3 shirts or t-shirts (lightweight long-sleeved shirts protect against the sun).
- Maybe something to sleep in – t-shirt and pants do for most people – but very light weight cotton or silk pyjama bottoms or nightshirts can be considered.
- 1 or 2 thicker layers such as long-sleeve fleece jersey or jacket.
- Broad-brimmed hat and possibly a cotton scarf or a lightweight tubular cycling scarf to protect your neck from sun.
- 1 pair lightweight flip flops for showering and crocs or lightweight sandals for evenings.
Winter Clothing List – in addition to main equipment listed above:
- 2- 4 pairs walking socks, or 3 pairs thick socks, 4 liner socks.
- 3 sets pants (boxer shorts can chafe, best avoided). Consider taking some long base layer pants or runners’ tights.
- 2 soft sports or seam and adjuster-free bras (ladies only….).
- 2 pairs walking trousers.
- 3 long sleeved base layer t-shirts.
- Maybe something to sleep in – but the base layer long underwear and t-shirts would be ideal.
- A selection of long-sleeved fleece jerseys or jackets or technical over shirts to make a selection of warm layers.
- Lightweight down jacket for keeping warm when not walking.
- Fleece or knitted cap.
- Scarf or lightweight tubular cycling scarf.
- Waterproof gloves.
- Gaiters for walking in deep mud or snow.
- 1 pair lightweight flip flops for showering and lightweight shoes or sandals for evenings.
- Emergency bivvy bag.
- Passport, EHIC card or its equivalent, travel insurance documents, travel tickets, pilgrim record/credencial, credit cards, money, etc in a waterproof pouch and/or secure money belt. Make sure that emergency contact details are recorded in your passport and/or pilgrim record.
- Mobile phone (essential if you are walking alone and/or on one of the less-frequented routes or in winter) and useful as an alarm clock.
- Spare spectacles if you rely on your glasses for everyday life. Sunglasses are useful to have.
- Guide book (essential on less-frequented routes).
- Compass (if you are walking alone and/or on one of the less-frequented routes or in winter).
- Whistle (if you are walking alone and/or on one of the less-frequented routes or in winter).
- Basic toiletries to suit your own needs (This could include soap (can double up as clothes detergent) or shower gel, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, comb or brush, tissues, disposable razors, tampons, handcream, nail file, nail clippers, alcohol hand cleaning gel, lip balm). Be sure to check airline rules on liquids and sharp objects if carried as hand luggage. Even if not travelling by air, hand luggage size toiletry containers save weight.
- Medicines, prescription or over-the-counter, to suit your own needs (This could include compeed or zinc oxide tape or natural sheep’s wool for blisters, a length of Elastoplast that you can cut to the required size for small injuries, vaseline or similar for anti-blister lubrication, insect repellent, antiseptic cream, sun cream, painkillers, antihistamine, anti -diarrhoea tablets, laxatives and rehydration sachets). Please note that plasters are very expensive in Spain.
- Roll of toilet paper.
- Towel (preferably a light-weight sports or travel towel).
- Universal bath/basin plug.
- Water bottle, min 1lt (consider the value of an aluminium one, which can double as a hot-water bottle, if walking in cooler seasons).
- Swiss Army Knife (corkscrew, scissors, tweezers all come in handy) but don’t forget to check that it is small enough to comply with airline/Eurostar hand luggage rules.
- A length of string or paracord (clothes-line; emergency boot-lace; etc).
- 6 large safety pins (much safer than clothes-pegs, especially if you need to dry your socks etc. on your rucksack as you walk along).
- Needle and thread for running repairs.
- Small plastic bottle of detergent for washing your clothes – top it up as and when you get the chance – or use your soap instead.
- 12″-18″ square of bubble wrap (weighs nothing and provides a miniature ground sheet for when you have to sit on wet ground).
- Wax for your boots (if you are wearing leather footwear).
- Very small torch .
- Ballpoint pen.
- Lightweight New Testament or one thin paperback (there’s surprisingly little time for reading). Or take a Kindle.
- Small camera – or use your phone if it has a good camera.
- Chargers for electronic devices and plug adapter.
- Pocket dictionary/phrasebook.
- Plastic spoon or spork for picnic lunches or albergue cold suppers.
- Thin pillowcase (some albergues may provide pillows which aren’t always as clean as you would like, some don’t provide any pillows, just stuff the case with your clothes).
- Small quantity of dried fruit, nuts, cereal bars for snacks and emergency rations.
- Earplugs if you are sensitive to snorers.
- A small spiral immersion heater (with an appropriate plug or adapter) and a camping mug for making hot drinks – essential for winter pilgrims and those who can’t do without a morning cuppa (don’t forget the teabags!)