The first question that will occur to you after you read our Camino equipment lists is, “Do Tracy and Alan own stock in Decathlon and Quechua products?”
The answer is, “No,” but when we minimized to move to France, we downsized enough personal possessions that we arrived in France with only one checked bag and our carry-on. We needed to equip ourselves for the Camino from scratch.
The French “Sports Superstore” Decathlon provided almost complete “one stop shopping” to put our Camino gear together. Had we been in the US our equipment list would have contained more REI, Lowe Alpine, and North Face products. Decathlon has a store branch in Carcassonne and it is extremely well stocked with quality equipment and has a very helpful staff who were patient with my very basic command of French and my less than effective pantomime and sign language. (How does one pantomime “a small stuff bag?”) We were very impressed with the quality of the French outdoor equipment manufacturer, Quechua’s, affordable products.
The general rule we read from pilgrims that have successfully completed the Camino is to limit your pack’s weight to about 10% of your body weight but no more than 20-25 pounds (10-12 kilograms.) We have been doing our best to reach that goal. There are lots of Camino equipment lists available on the Internet and we have tried to learn from other people’s experiences and recommendations. While a person may be able to carry more, carrying excessive weight – week after week – diminished many pilgrims’ enjoyment of the Camino and increased their chance of injury. We have read the experiences of many Pilgrims abandoning or mailing home non-essential gear soon after starting their treks. We are trying to start as minimal as possible in the first place.
Our equipment lists radically changed after our two-pound Chihuahua, Kiara, suddenly passed away two weeks before we depart. We were planning to bring her with us on the Camino with additional gear including a tent in the event an albergue did not allow dogs. Our understanding was that the majority of albergues do not allow animals. Very sadly, Kiara is now joining us only in spirit for our Camino.
It is now one day out from our departure on the Camino. We have packed and weighed our backpacks, discarded several more items, distributed shared gear, and finalized our equipment lists.
After we return from the Camino, we plan to post our critique about our equipment and detail what we liked, disliked, should have brought, and should have left at home.
So what gear are we taking on a 500 mile pilgrimage across the entire width of Spain?
ALAN’S EQUIPMENT LIST
Clothing from the ground up:
–Lightweight boots| Quechua Chaussures Randonnée Homme Forclaz 500. There are a lot of advocates for using running shoes and trail running shoes on the Camino on the Camino Forums, but since I’ve sprained my ankles numerous times, I wanted the ankle support of a boot. These are waterproof, breathable, and about 2.23 pounds (1000 grams.) We purchased boots early to thoroughly break the boots in before we arrive in Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port to start our Camino. From Decathlon.
–Socks| Four pairs, Quechua Chaussette Forclaz 500 High. I was very skeptical of “High Tech” socks, but I wanted fast drying and moisture wicking socks and figured “It can’t hurt.” This trip is “all about taking care of your feet.” I’m planning to use the “Wear one, Wash one” method to keep weight and bulk down (with second pair if I need a mid-day sock change – “Wear two, Wash two”) From Decathlon.
–Underwear| Synthetic fabric, fast drying and moisture wicking. From Decathlon
–Pants| Two pairs, Quechua Forclaz 100 Modul Pants (“Wear one, Wash one.”) These are extremely lightweight synthetic fabric pants that are abrasion and tear resistant with water and stain resistance. The pants allow an options to convert them into shorts by “zipping” off the legs (although I’m not really a “shorts” kind of guy.) I wanted fast drying pants that would be comfortable in the heat. Originally I was going wear the Blackhawk Tactical-NonTactical (TNT) pants that I had brought from the States. They are designed for military/law enforcement contractors serving in the Middle East. However, I have lost a fair amount of weight since moving to France and Tracy was concerned that the already loose pants wouldn’t fit at all by the end of the Camino. From Decathlon.
–Belt| 5.11 Tactical TDU nylon webbing belt – 1 1/2″ with Plastic Buckle. Simple, lightweight, flat profile under my backpack’s waist belt. Unlike a leather belt, this belt is fast drying if it gets wet. From LA Police Gear.
–Shirts| Two short sleeve, one long sleeve, Quechua T-shirt TechFRESH 100. Lightweight, fast drying, and wicking t-shirts. “Wear one, Wash one” with an optional long sleeve shirt for sun or insect protection and greater warmth. From Decathlon.
–Bandanas| Two bandanas, mainly intended to protect my neck on sunny days because all my shirts are all collar-less.
–Rain shell/Jacket with removable liner: Quechua Veste Forclaz 700. “Three in one” jacket: waterproof, breathable and ventilated. Has a removable quilted inner jacket. My intention is to use this jacket as wind shell, raincoat with hood, and jacket in one item. My backpack has a rain cover so I can avoid a flopping poncho to cover my pack. Since we are starting at the end of August, I elected to leave the quilted liner at home. If needed, I plan pick up a fleece jacket in Galicia when we approach the coast at the start of October rather than possibly carry the jacket liner for weeks without using it. We will see if that’s turns out to be a good decision. I also decided not to carry rain pants. From Decathlon.
–Hat| Tilley T5MO Organic Cotton AIRFLO Hat. I like a hat with a brim that can serve as a sun hat and can also double as a rain hat. The hat is rated at UPF 50+ for sun protection and is water-resistant. I’ve had great luck with Canadian-made Tilley hats in the past. Tilley hats are well made and they are nearly indestructible. I had to special order out of the UK to get the model I wanted because the choices in sun hats at Decathlon was so mediocre. From Village Hats.
–Sunglasses| Ray-Ban Original Wayfarer sunglasses with prescription, polarized lenses with Chums glasses strap and a Hazard 4 Sub-Pod hard case. I trade out my regular prescription eyeglasses with the sunglasses as the conditions warrants.
–Watch| Seiko “Black Monster” Automatic Watch. Waterproof, self-winding with no battery, day and date indicator.
–Trekking Poles| Pair, Black Diamond 2012 Syncline Trekking Poles with Quechua Nordic Hiking tips. With being 6’04” I liked that the poles adjust up to 57″ (145 cm) for long downhill stretches of trail. I will also carry Quechua Nordic tips to have the option to cover the tips in places where the tip could damage the floor. The pair weighs 1 lb 4 oz (580 g) with a collapsed length of a longish 38 in ( 96.5 cm.) (Tracy’s trekking poles are “three-part” and collapse to a much more compact length.) I’ve used a hiking stick in my youth, but trekking poles will be a new experience for me. Experts say you can shift up to 25% of your weight to the poles, there’s that and the fact I’m just clumsy. The poles may prevent a fall and injury too. From Decathlon.
–Backpack| Quechua ac à Dos Forclaz 40 Air. We wanted to travel as light as possible and wanted smaller backpack to enforce the limits of what we could carry with us. However, with being 6’04” I wanted a bag with sufficient length to let me use the hip belt to help carry some of the weight. With the 40 Air I believe I achieved those goals with having 41 litres of capacity, 3.5 pounds (1550 grams) total weight, with length adjustable shoulder straps. The “Air” in the description is the mesh back to allow extra air flow and cooling. A rain cover is supplied to keep the bag’s contents dry. From Decathlon.
–Sleeping Bag| Quechua Sac de Couchage Rando 15°C Light XL. There is tons of debate in online Camino forums as to whether to bring a sleeping bag, or just a sleeping bag liner, or simply use blankets provided at the albergues. Tracy and I selected light sleeping bags with matching left and right zippers that allows us to zip the bags together or use separately. The lightweight sleeping bags have a 60 degree F. (15 degree C) comfort rating and weigh about 1.7 pounds (760 grams) each. From Decathlon.
–Sandals| Quechua Sandale Arpenaz 50. After the day’s hike I wanted a lightweight option to allow me to get out of my boots. These 1.3 pound (600 gram) sandals should offer a needed relief for my feet at the end of the hiking day. I could have gone lighter with simple “flip-flops,” but I liked that there is some arch support in the sandals. From Decathlon.
–Camera| Olympus TG-820 Tough 12 MP Digital Camera , 5x Wide Optical Zoom, with extra battery and charger. Ask anyone, I am a huge camera and photography guy, however I am embracing the fact I need to minimize weight and that I am performing a spiritual pilgrimage. I am reverting to the basics of my earlier years of shooting a film camera and planning to carefully select meaningful images rather than shooting absolutely everything. The DSLR camera is staying home this trip and I am using “rangefinder-style” camera techniques.
–iPhone and charger| I do not have a phone or data plan for Spain, but I intend to use the iPhone as a “palm top computer” when free Wi-Fi in available to check e-mail, post our progress and photos online.
–Flashlight| Streamlight Stylus Pro LED Flashlight. A 5.3″ x .6″ (134 x 15 mm) mini flashlight weighting 1.64 oz (46.9 g) with 48 lumens output and 6.25 hours runtime powered by two “AAA” alkaline batteries. Most people in the Camino forum say that a flashlight is not necessary, but I wanted a light in the event of a long hiking day. From LA Police Gear
–Guidebooks| A Pilgrim’s Guide To The Camino de Santiago, St. Jean – Roncesvalles – Santiago and A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino Finisterre, Santiago – Finisterre – Muxia by John Brierley. Very comprehensive English language guide with directions, maps, history, advice, and even spiritual insights. A marked difference from the amateurish and embarrassingly poorly edited Confraternity of Saint James’ Pilgrim Guide to Spain – 1 Camino France’ 2013 and the amateurish, poorly illustrated, and outdated Confraternity of Saint James’ Pilgrim Guides to Spain 3 Finisterre 2009. There is also discussions in the Camino Forum about whether or not a guidebook is even needed on the well-marked Camiño Francés trails. That’s a reasonable consideration since these two guidebooks weight about one pound total. There is a wonderfully concise Camino France’ “.pdf” guide you can download at http://www.caminoguide.net/ to save weight and space over carrying a guidebook.
–Water bottle| A single Klean Kanteen 27 ounce (800 ml) capacity stainless steel water bottle. Empty weight of the bottles is 8 ounces (227 grams.) The filled bottle weighs 35 ounces – 1027 grams. Many people in the discussion forums advocate just buying commercially available bottled water and refilling those thin bottles or using a bladder system like a CamelBak or Platypus saving at more than half the weight of the metal bottles.
-Knife and small cutting board | I have a small knife with a small, thin cutting board that will double as a shared plate for Tracy and I for picnic lunches of sausage, salami, cheese, bread, and fruit.
–Passport, Camino credencial, cash, credit cards
–Toothbrush, toothpaste, antiperspirant, disposable razor, fingernail/toenails clipper
–Shampoo, soap| Lush brand “Squeaky Green” shampoo bar and carrier tin. I’m using the shampoo bar as both shampoo and body wash. From Lush Comestics, UK. The idea of a shampoo bar came from YouTube blogger Lindsey Cowie at http://www.youtube.com/user/bathedinridicule.
–First aid kit with blister treatments, antiseptic, anti-diarrhea, pain pills, and lip balm
–Safety pins | For use as safety pins, for popping blisters, and serving as clothes pins.
–Moleskine ruled reporter’s notebook and two pens. | 3.5″ x 5.5″ (9 x 14 cm). I have never done real well with daily journaling, but I wanted to try to take comprehensive notes so I can write detailed posts of our experiences on the trail after we return.
–Travel towel| Quechua Serviette randonnée. Compact 50″ x 16.5″ (120 cm x 42 cm) 3.7 ounce (106 grams) fast drying, microfiber towel. From Decathlon
My backpack at departure weighed in at 20.5 pounds (9.3 kilograms)
TRACY’S EQUIPMENT LIST
Shoes| Forclaz 500 Novadry – Brown Hiking Boot by Quechua
“For regular use while hiking in all-weather on trails with moderate gradients. Waterproof and breathable. Featuring numerous reinforced areas and a two-hook fastening system.” I wanted a boot rather than a trail shoe. Not knowing which conditions we’ll be facing in September and October, an all-weather boot made sense and I tend to twist ankles and knees so having additional support was also important. These boots are lightweight (they weigh less than my walking shoes). We bought them about 10 weeks before we were planning to leave on our Camino and have had plenty of time to break them in. I even really liked the color.
Jacket | Forclaz 300 Men’s hiking jacket, Blue/Red by Quechua
I selected a men’s hiking jacket since the women’s jackets didn’t meet the same specs for rain and ventilation. These jackets are designed for long hikes and can withstand a great deal of rain. It’s also breathable and ventilated.
Hat | TMH5 Mash-Up Hat by Tilley
“This hat is made using recycled yarns from hemp and organic cotton fabrics, each hat has an array of different colors woven into it making each unique. Designed with a medium brim with ¾” ventilation mesh around the crown.” Alan has always liked the Tilley brand hats and I thought that I would like to have something to help block the sun that would be comfortable for all-day wear. We found this one on the US site, but it wasn’t available on the UK site, thankfully a very nice lady at the Tilley UK online store was able to ship one from Canada, then sell it to us after she received it. We were able to avoid a 30% duty tax and I now have my first Tilley hat that isn’t that god-awful greenish-tan color but a beautiful soft grey. I added a black and white polka dot scarf as a hat band so that it doesn’t look like a men’s hat and that I can easily remove to cover my shoulders if we are entering a church.
Pants | Organic Cotton Capri by Domyos and McKinley convertible pants.
These yoga/pilates capri pants are comfortable, moisture-wicking and breathable. They are also soft, comfy and relatively quick-drying. I can use them as a pajama as well.
The McKinley hiking pant converts to a short with zip off legs and is lightweight and fast drying. Since we’re looking at a wear-one, wash-one approach, I like the idea of having two pair of pants that have a range of usefulness – shorts, capris, long pants – this should be enough for both hot and cold days.
Socks | Forclaz 500 High Socks, Hiking Socks, Light Grey/Green by Quechua
While I’ve never really paid much attention to socks, we’ve purchased and have been using these socks for our Camino training. They cost a bit more than I have EVER paid for a couple of pairs of socks, but they are exactly what they claim to be: Lightweight – perfect for summer hikes, Blister Reducing – I have yet to get a blister while wearing them and Breathable – my feet still get warm after 5 miles of hiking, but not nearly as bad as the socks I used before we bought these. I am curious to find out how they handle the Camino. Oddly enough the knitting is different in each part of the sock and each colored area is knitted in a different pattern so that they stay put, move well and have extra padding for the sides of the toes and the heel.
Tops | Assorted
I haven’t really found a particularly great hiking top for women. The men’s shirts have too high of a collar and I have issues with things being around my neck. For comfort and quick dry capability, I selected a couple of tops from the yoga section of Decathlon. Both are by Domyos and are lightweight and moisture wicking. I plan to bring a third top, small strap with shelf bra for sleeping in.
Flipflops | generic style from the grocery store
I wanted something to wear after hiking all day. These are lightweight, fast drying and can be used as a shower shoe if necessary.
Backpack | Forclaz 30 Air Hiking Backpack, Green by Quechua
“For mountain and day hiking in all-weather (hot, rainy, etc.). Weight is distributed between the shoulder straps and belt. A well ventilated back (air cooling label), practical storage (with belt, water bladder and mesh pockets) and rain cover make this a complete hiking backpack. 30 liter volume / weight: 2.3 pounds / full pack dimensions: H 52cm x W 35cm x D 27cm. Load adjuster straps and chest strap. Pockets: 1 inner, 2 outer + mesh pockets, 1 on the belt and pole-carrier.”
After trying on several different sizes and styles, this one fit me the best and didn’t interfere with freedom of movement. We’ve done quite a few training hikes and although I’m still a bit concerned about weight, this pack is extremely comfortable and the ventilated back is very nice. I like the color too.
Hiking Poles | Forclaz 500 Light Soft Blue/White by Quechua
“Three section pole with a collapsed length of 58cm, maximum extended length of 129 cm. Weight: 230 grams. Foam grip. Lined neoprene adjustable loop. Tungsten carbide tips with summer and winter baskets. I opted for two as I have done little long distance hiking and most of the Camino blogs recommend two if you’re bringing them. I started practicing with them during our Camino training hikes about three weeks prior to departure. The poles have helped with a knee that is still sore from a fall a couple of months ago so I’m assuming that they will be a welcome addition on the trip.
Towel | Compact Hiking Towel, Green by Quechua
While just about any towel would do, this one is a lightweight microfiber that is only 42cm wide and 120cm long and weighs only 106 grams. It even came in it’s own stuff bag making it very easy to pack and carry.
Sleeping bag | 15° Light Hiking Sleeping Bag, Blue by Quechua
We opted for a lightweight bag with a right and left zip option. This particular one has a stuff bag that makes it very compact and storable in your pack. Since Kiara will be coming with us we plan to be camping more than most pilgrims since most albergues do not accept dogs in the hostel. Not really knowing what weather we may be facing over nearly 7 weeks of hiking we decided to get one that was not only light to carry but would keep us warm on a chilly night. My favorite thing about this sleeping bag is that it doesn’t have to be rolled up!!
Water Bladder | Forclaz 2L Water Bladder by Quechua
Normally I would prefer my regular water bottle with the dual lined walls that keeps water cold for 30 hours in a hot car, but I opted to try a two-liter water bladder since I’m carrying water for both longer distances and for Kiara as well. I don’t have a lot of experience using a bladder but so far it’s been working for our training hikes and once I cleaned it up with some baking soda and fresh lemon juice the water tastes wonderful if just a bit warmer than I prefer, better than the plastic taste it had at first. This will be the heaviest thing in my pack, but when we know for sure that there are fountains on the trail I can carry less and of course it lightens the load as you use it.
Shampoo bar | Irresistible Bliss by Lush
“A dynamic pink shampoo bar for normal hair. To keep hair looking shiny and full of body, wash with this irresistible bar. The perfume is made with neroli (orange blossom) and jasmine to scent it with incredibly sensual florals throughout the day.” Not that I need to smell good, but I like the idea of a shampoo bar so that I’m not carrying liquids that could get messy in my pack. I have a mini microfiber towel for bathing and storing the shampoo bar, less mess, less weight.
Sunblock | Silk Hydration Lotion Sunscreen by Hawaiian Tropic
I started out with a bottle of Loreal but it had glitter in it. I’d rather smell like a coconut than sparkle all day. This has an SPF of 30, which is what my everyday makeup has, so it should do the trick.
Baby wipes | store brand
These are the generic store brand from Geant Casino, our local supermarket. We may not have access to a shower daily, but I still like to clean up after a long day of hiking.
Daily Hygiene Stuff | Just the everyday basics
Brush/comb/Hair ties/Toothbrush/Toothpaste/Deodorant/Disposable razor.
Blister care | Compeed-style mix/cushioned bandages
Foot care, foot care, foot care. The single most important thing for our trip will be our feet. Blisters can cause an unexpected delay of several days so taking care of blisters when they start is very important.
Basic care | Nail clippers/Nail file/Tweezers
Foot care is everything on a trip of this length, so I’m taking these along as a precaution so that toes and fingers stay healthy along the way.
Pain Reliever | store brand
Just a generic we brought from the US. We have no illusions that this trip will be easy, so I’m bringing a small bottle of Aleve-style pain reliever to reduce muscle ache and pain in case the wine doesn’t quite do it!
Kiara’s Camino Collar
It is customary for pilgrims to tie a scallop shell on their packs to signify their pilgrimage. While Adam and Liz were here we had gone to Narbonne Plage, a nice beach on the Mediterranean and while there Liz found several small shells. She graciously allowed me to select one for Kiara, I selected the one that reminded me of the caramel stripe on Kiara’s face, and using the natural hole in the top of the shell I added a link and secured it to a faux pearl stretch bracelet to create a Camino Collar for Kiara. This has now been added to the back of my pack in remembrance of the little dog I love so much and who would have enjoyed this trip immensely.
I rarely journal but thought that this would be a great way to help jog the memory when I return home from 6 to 7 weeks of hiking so that I have a reference for when I create a digital journal/scrapbook with photos and insights of my Camino.
Camera and Gear
–Camera | Nikon AW100
I’ve had this since before we moved. It’s rugged, waterproof (to 10 meters/33 feet), shockproof (to 1.5 meters/5 feet), freezeproof (to 14 degrees Farenheit). It is 16 megapixel, 5x zoom, can record full HD video and even has GPS with electronic compass. It’s basically perfect for any outdoor adventure.
–Gear | Batteries/SD cards/Charger
I have three batteries, several SD cards (two 32GB, one 16GB, one 4GB and one 1GB) and a lightweight battery charger (with adaptor) that will make up the balance of my camera gear.
iPhone and charger
Just for staying in touch and updates to our progress. We do not have a data plan for the iPhones in France, but free wifi allows us to post updates to Facebook and our blog along the way. I haven’t decided whether or not this will make the final cut, Alan is planning to bring his and he can handle the updates and posts with his. I’m wondering if I could spend 7 weeks completely unplugged . . . hmmm. Since the death of my computer I’ve been given a rare opportunity to spend time without a lot of social networking, it may be a possibility.
Best to have with me, just in case! Rarely have had to show it, but my driver’s license won’t mean anything to French or Spanish authorities.
This is a must for the Camino, it will need to be stored in a ziplock bag within easy reach, especially the last 100 kilometers, as it will need to be stamped twice daily. I am expecting to have more than one by the time we are finished — at least two for the Camino Frances, one for Finisterre and/or Muxia.
Drivers’ license, passport card, insurance ID.
Travel Insurance Info
When we moved out of the country we purchased a year-long travel insurance that covers us wherever we travel. For most emergencies it has better coverage than our US medical insurance, so we’re bringing along the account information and contact numbers just in case we have an emergency.
This is really just as a backup, since Alan will have his – but we’d rather not be far from home without access to any of our bank accounts.
Salami and Fruit
These two lunch staples will be easy to carry, easy to prepare, and easy to replace so we plan to keep a small amount with us for lunches while we hike. Most of our other meals will be available at cafes, bars and albergues along the way.
Just a couple for keeping things contained and dry. I plan to rinse and reuse them for the trip so only taking a couple.
Tracy’s Backpack weighed in at 15.4 pounds (7 kilograms.)
We have reviewed and lightened up our backpacks as much as we think we can. In the words of Hunter S. Thompson, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.” Time to stop over-thinking gear and get psyched up to enjoy our Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.
We will do great with our gear. If we need something else, we will just buy it along the way. If we discover we are carrying unneeded gear, we can just donate it to others.