Camino de Santiago: Equipment Review

Our original equipment lists updated with our after Camino review (in red). Suffice it to say that we did a fair amount of research in the beginning and were, for the most part, pleased with our choices.

If you would like to read more about our Camino experiences, see our Camino de Santiago page.

ALAN’S EQUIPMENT LIST

Clothing from the ground up:

before-after

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.

For fairly inexpensive boots, these worked wonderfully.  Often I resented having to take my boots off in an albergue because I really appreciated the support.  I did go through two pairs of bootlaces and would carry extras in the future.  

Chaussette Forclaz 500 High Quechua (From Decathlon Catalog)
Chaussette Forclaz 500 High Quechua
(From Decathlon Catalog)
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.

Great call with the “high tech” socks.  They were comfortable and wicked moisture well.  They dried after washing quickly.  The only problem I had was losing two of my four pairs when Tracy’s phone was stolen.  By the end of the Camino the remaining socks were starting to wear through with holes.

Underwear|  Synthetic fabric, fast drying and moisture wicking.  From Decathlon

The quick dying underwear were a good call.  Three pairs allowed me to always have clean underwear throughout the Camino.

Quechua Forclaz 100 Modul Pants
Quechua Forclaz 100 Modul Pants

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.

The pants worked perfectly, they were comfortable and fast drying either after washing or from the rain.  The front zip pocket allowed me to always have my wallet with me.  While I never did shorts, the “zip-off” legs allowed me the wash them separately. The only thing I might do differently was wear one pair and have a pair of shorts for the albergue.

F.11 TDU Belt (5.11 Tactical Catalog)
F.11 TDU Belt
(5.11 Tactical Catalog)

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.

Perfect: lightweight, functional, fast drying.

Quechua T-shirt TechFRESH 100 (Decathlon Catalog)
Quechua T-shirt TechFRESH 100
(Decathlon Catalog)

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.

Worked very well.  The shirts were comfortable and breathe well.  The shirts dried very quickly.  The long sleeve shirt often served as an impromptu “sweater” layered over a short sleeve shirt. 

Bandanas|  Two bandanas, mainly intended to protect my neck on sunny days because all my shirts are all collar-less.

I wore one bandana to protect my neck from the sun.  Although 100% cotton it was always dry by the next morning.  I only needed one bandana.

Jacket Forclaz 700 Quechua (Decathlon Catalog)
Jacket Forclaz 700 Quechua
(Decathlon Catalog)

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.

I liked the jacket, but under the backpack’s straps it retained a lot of heat.  From watching other pilgrim’s I know I would not have liked a poncho flapping in the wind.  I never felt I needed rain pants, and the jacket – without its liner – was plenty warm the few times I needed a jacket.  I did like the feel and  flexibility of Tracy’s jacket more, mine was noticeably stiffer.  I never used the hood, using my hat to ward off the rain.

Alan wearing Tilley T5MO  Hat
Alan wearing Tilley T5MO Hat

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.

Loved my hat. I wore it everyday.  It was great in the sun, great in the rain.  I was perfect for my needs.  So glad I went with the Tilley instead of those terrible floppy hats at Decathlon or a baseball cap. 

On Person:

Ray-Ban Wayfarer, Seiko Black Monster, Hazard 4 Case
Ray-Ban Wayfarer, Seiko Black Monster, Hazard 4 Case

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.

I wore my sunglasses nearly every day. I think the dark polarized lenses were a great call with so much time outdoors.  The hard case was useful and I never worried about my glasses getting crushed in my pack.

Watch|  Seiko “Black Monster” Automatic Watch.  Waterproof, self-winding with no battery, day and date indicator.

I constantly used my watch.  There would be church services, restaurant openings, and other times where having the watch was needed.  The “glow in the dark” function was important for the albergue – no watch light required.  The day-date function was helpful as it’s easy to lose track of time in the low-tech world of the Camino. 

Black Diamond 2012 Syncline Trekking Poles
Black Diamond 2012 Syncline Trekking Poles

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.

I never used trekking poles previously, but I am now the biggest fan.  I can’t guess how many time the poles saved me from a fall.  I do believe there is that weight transfer of the pack to the poles.  The trekking poles were an absolute must.  The only thing I would have done differently is get a 3-section rather than 2-section set of poles that would collapse into a smaller package.

Backpack:

Backpack Forclaz 40 Air Quechua (Decathlon Catalog)
Backpack Forclaz 40 Air Quechua
(Decathlon Catalog)

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.

This pack was perfect for me.  The absolute right size, comfortable, I liked the “dry cool” webbing in the back, it was lightweight and everything stayed dry. I am so glad I didn’t have an older (and heavier) pack available so that had to buy one of the new high-tech packs. For comfort and fit the high-tech packs are the way to go.

Quechua Sac de Couchage Rando 15°C Light XL
Quechua Sac de Couchage Rando 15°C Light XL

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.

Perfect for the trip.  While Tracy would have been happy with a sleeping bag liner, this was just warm enough for me on cool night and I slept on the top on warm nights.
Quechua Sandale Arpenaz 50 (Decathlon Catalog)
Quechua Sandale Arpenaz 50
(Decathlon Catalog)

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.

This was my BIGGEST mistake, I originally wanted some Teva-type hiking scandals which weren’t immediately available here.  I bought this inexpensive pair of sandals for around the albergue.  Never should have done that.  At the end of the day I looked forward to taking my boots off, but these sandals were so lacking in arch support that my boots were more comfortable.  We also didn’t realize how much walking (sightseeing, restaurants, shopping) would happen at the end of the day.  In hindsight I would have special ordered some sport sandals with substantial arch support or even carried the extra weight of athletic shoes.

Camera, iPhone, batteries, and chargers
Camera, iPhone, batteries, and chargers

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.

Great camera, but 90% of my photos were taken with the iPhone.  It was just faster and easier and I could upload photos to FaceBook.  In hindsight I wonder if I would bring it again.

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.

This was a surprise, we carried the phones as a last minute addition and then used the phones as camera and wi-fi “mini tablet” to update on FaceBook and post photos.  We had access to wi-fi every night but two.  I think if I had known I would have brought an iPad mini and live blogged our progress on the Camino. 

Guidebooks and Streamlight Stylus Pro LED Flashlight
Guidebooks and Streamlight Stylus Pro LED Flashlight

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

Useful the few times we needed it (we were not part of the “up at 4:30 am stumbling through the albergue waking everyone up with their headlamps” pilgrims.)  For the few instances it was worthwhile, but if we had no flashlight we would not have suffered. 

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.

We actually met people without guidebooks,  apparently it was to either save weight or “we were told we wouldn’t need one.”  Those people were always at a disadvantage to planning their nest day’s route and several pilgrims mistakenly took a wrong branch of the trail or didn’t know where next albergue might be.  A good guidebook is essential.  

Klean Kateen
Klean Kateen
 –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.

This worked well for me.  There were I few long stretches of trails without fonts and I supplemented with buying a bottle of water and reusing the bottle for those instances.

-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.

This was a surprisingly good idea that made picnic lunches much easier.  

Personal Items:

Passport, Camino credencial, cash, credit cards
Passport, Camino credencial, cash, credit cards

Passport, Camino credencial, cash, credit cards

It was easy to purchase a Camino credential in Saint Jean Peid-de-Port, so pre-purchasing a credential isn’t necessary.  My non-“Chip and Pin” ATM card and American Express card worked well on the trip.

Rosary

Tucked away and traveled well.

Toothbrush, toothpaste, anti-perspirant, disposable razor, fingernail/toenails clipper

All essentials, and we were able to replace items easily to get along the way.

Lush Shampoo Bar
Lush Shampoo Bar

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.

Great idea, didn’t work.  The bar dissolves four times faster than advertised.  I ended up using a combination shampoo/body wash purchased in an albergue.  I’d skip the shampoo bar in the future.

Sun block

Important to have, I used it nearly everyday.  No sunburns.

First aid kit with blister treatments, antiseptic, anti-diarrhea, pain pills, and lip balm

Compeed blister bandages are amazing and a MUST carry.  The pain killers were very much appreciated.  We never had call to use the anti-diarrhea meds.

Safety pins | For use as safety pins, for popping blisters, and serving as clothes pins.

Great tools, I should have carried at least a dozen with a dozen “baby diaper” sized.

Toilet Paper

This was a good call.  Amazing how often an albergue’s rest room would run out, especially the women’s restrooms.

Hair brush

Moleskine Reporter Notebook (Moleskine Catalog)
Moleskine Reporter Notebook
(Moleskine Catalog)

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.

Perfect for notes.  Glad I brought two pens since I lost one along the way.

Serviette randonnée Quechua
Serviette randonnée Quechua

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

Loved this towel, very compact and absorbent, and always dry by the morning.  I wish I had clothes made out of this material.  Absolutely amazing. 

Additional items not previously mentioned

Laundry Soap Sheet– We stumbled into these at the grocery store in Carcassonne, sheets of laundry soap that were lightweight and stored easily in my backpack, they worked well and dissolved instantly.

Organization Cubes- Tracy used our old travel organization cubes from eBags.com – nylon mesh bags to contain our gear in an organized way.  It made life so much easier – in a crowded dimly light albergue dormitory to have “everything has a place and everything in it’s place” so you never forgot anything.  I only lost two spares of socks, but we were rushed and couldn’t follow our routine that morning because Tracy’s phone was stolen and we needed to get to an wifi zone to change passwords for important accounts.

Alan’s backpack at departure weighed in at 20.5 pounds (9.3 kilograms)

Thank goodness for a lightweight pack.  It is totally different carrying a backpack – day in, day out/ week after week – If I had to do it over, I would leave one pair of pants here and get sport sandals with good arch support.  My top 5 favorite items were 1.) my Tilley Hat, 2.) my trekking poles, 3.) my sunglasses, 4.) my iPhone camera, and 5.) travel towel (Thank you Douglas Adam, you are right!)

TRACY’S EQUIPMENT LIST

CLOTHING

 Forclaz 500 Novadry – Brown Hiking Boot by Quechua

Forclaz 500 Novadry – Brown Hiking Boot by Quechua

ShoesForclaz 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.

These boots were amazing, my feet stayed dry through all kinds of weather. I added some Dr. Scholl’s inserts for heel comfort before we left and for most days it really helped. However, in the beginning of our trek or any day after about 20 kilometers my feet didn’t hold up as well as the shoes.

Forclaz 300 Men's hiking jacket, Blue/Red by Quechua
Forclaz 300 Men’s hiking jacket, Blue/Red by Quechua

 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.

Although I thankfully didn’t need it often, this jacket was perfect for the two days we had a slight drizzle and the one day we had a downpour for about 25 minutes. I stayed dry and comfortable and the jacket was lightweight and easily rolled up to store in the backpack.

TMH5 Mash-Up Hat by Tilley

TMH5 Mash-Up Hat by Tilley

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.

I can’t say enough about my Tilley hat. I absolutely love the thing. I wore it in rain and sun and it was perfect. I had ordered it slightly larger than suggested so that I could wear my hair up or down. The head straps even made it easy to clip to the backpack when I wasn’t wearing it!

Organic Cotton Capri by Domyos
Organic Cotton Capri by Domyos

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.

While these were comfortable, I ended up only using them as sleep wear, but a light weight, fast dry pair of shorts/capri would have been easier. Cotton just doesn’t line-dry as fast as other fabrics. 

Convertible Hiking Pant by McKinley
Convertible Hiking Pant by McKinley

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.

The McKinley hiking pant was the one I wore all day, every day. Easy to convert to shorts, lightweight and super, fast drying so cleaning them each day was quick and easy. But I need a new pair — after six weeks on the Camino this year, they don’t fit anymore!

Forclaz 500 High Socks, Hiking Socks, Light Grey/Green by Quechua
Forclaz 500 High Socks, Hiking Socks, Light Grey/Green by Quechua

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.

These ended up to be one of my favorite items. I did blister, but only one toe and that had more to do with my foot structure rather than anything else. I even liked wearing a pair to bed as the ribbed arch support massaged them a bit while I was sleeping.

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.

While I hadn’t found any hiking tops and brought yoga wear, my only regret is not looking harder for hiking tops for their fast-dry ability. One of the tops was a cotton-blend and it never really did dry completely unless we were able to find an electric dryer — which wasn’t often, we line-dried things most of the time.

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.

These were my biggest mistake, they lasted about two weeks and fell apart, but I hadn’t considered what my feet would feel like after hiking 20 kilometers on variable terrain. I was able to find a nice pair of Teva-like sandals with great arch support and used those for the remainder of the trip. Good footwear is very, very important, especially in the evenings after hiking 15 to 30 kilometers. Shoes without arch support make it harder to keep moving day after day and I believe that my poor choice in footwear contributed to my tired and sore feet for the first two weeks.

HIKING GEAR

Forclaz 30 Air Hiking Backpack, Green by Quechua
Forclaz 30 Air Hiking Backpack, Green by Quechua

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.

 This backpack performed perfectly. I love it! I was able to carry everything I needed and still kept cool due to the circulation system. The fit was perfect for my frame and it’s smaller size made minimizing a must which kept the weight from being more than I could comfortably carry. The addition of our organizing cubes (purchased years ago from eBags.com) helped to keep the pack weighted perfectly as well.
Forclaz 500 Light Soft Blue/White by Quechua
Forclaz 500 Light Soft Blue/White by Quechua

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.

I had some reservations about how much I really needed hiking poles and I almost didn’t bother to purchase them for our trip. That would have been the biggest mistake ever. These ended up to be the MOST IMPORTANT item I brought. They alleviate about 25% of the pack weight, keep your hands from getting too swollen and helped to keep three points of contact with Mother Earth for climbing up and down some pretty amazing hills and mountains. The only time that they were stashed in my pack was when we were on the train to and from home. A total lifesaver! The only thing I would do differently is opt for the slightly more expensive version with the cork grips, some days my hands got very sweaty in the heat and keeping my grip if I were to stumble was a worry.

Compact Hiking Towel, Green by Quechua
Compact Hiking Towel, Green by Quechua

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.

At just 42cm wide and 120cm long it was just enough to get dried off with, but I couldn’t wrap my hair up with it. The best feature was that it would dry in less than an hour even when soaking wet. I might opt for a slightly larger one in the future, but only because I have long hair and it was difficult to wrap it in the towel while dressing.

15° Light Hiking Sleeping Bag, Blue by Quechua
15° Light Hiking Sleeping Bag, Blue by Quechua

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!!

We opted for a lightweight bag with a right and left zip option. However, we rarely got to see each other at night since we were often in bunk beds, Alan on top, me on bottom — I’m afraid of heights! Most often I only used mine as a blanket if I got cold, which wasn’t often. I think I may have done just as well with a sleeping bag liner, which is even lighter weight and should be perfect for the hot Spanish summer.

Forclaz 2L Water Bladder by Quechua
Forclaz 2L Water Bladder by Quechua

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.

It took a while to get used to the bladder, but I really loved having instant and easy access to water. This one held 2 liters and easily slipped into the front pocket of my backpack so that nothing inside the pack got wet.

HYGIENE

Lush Shampoo Bar
Lush Shampoo Bar

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.

Although Alan didn’t care for this product, I think that it actually worked great, it just didn’t last as long as I had expected. I would recommend buying twice what you think you’ll need and a container to keep it dry.

Silk Hydration Lotion Sunscreen by Hawaiian Tropic
Silk Hydration Lotion Sunscreen by Hawaiian Tropic

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.

This was my lifesaver! I had never experienced a Spanish summer and didn’t realize just how much hydration I would actually need. While this did a great job, I still ended up having to pickup an intensive cream lotion by Nivea for my hands and forearms which were very dry and flaky from too much sun and wouldn’t hydrate with just the sunblock.

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.

Never even opened these!

Daily Hygiene Stuff | Just the everyday basics

Brush/comb/Hair ties/Toothbrush/Toothpaste/Deodorant/Disposable razor.

Thankfully we were able to replenish things like toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and such when we went through big towns. Six weeks on the road is a long time and we had to bring enough for two — however, we did not realize that there would be places that separated men and women into different dorms or places where the men’s and women’s showers were in different buildings — we only brought one bottle of everything. But not a problem, we still managed to stay clean and fresh!

FIRST AID

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.

Love, love, love the Compeed! I started the Camino with a blister on the back of each heel. One was slightly more sore than the other so I stuck a Compeed on it and left the other one to heal on it’s own. The heel with the Compeed healed faster and without any drying or scabbing, completely amazed by this stuff. But if you cannot find it before your Camino, it’s available at nearly every Farmacia along the way.

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.

These were basic essentials that, while not needed often, were of major importance for healthy feet.

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!

We used nearly an entire bottle of a store-brand version of Aleve, but those first couple of weeks we found more than one reason to use them, aches and pains in places that never, ever get sore. As a bonus we had some type of pain reliever to offer to others who were also suffering!

PERSONAL

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.

Kiara’s collar made it there and back without damage to the shell. I would get comments from time to time, mostly someone mentioning that it was pretty, but it was important to me and I was glad that it made it all the way and back home in one piece.

Glasses/Notebook/Pens

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.

I used these every single day and really enjoyed journaling about our trip. You meet so many new people and go through so many beautiful cities, it’s nice to jot things down so you don’t forget.

Camera and Gear

Nikon AW100 camera
Nikon AW100 camera

–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.

While a really great camera, the only time I used it was after my iPhone was stolen. I thought I would use it far more than I actually did and won’t bother to bring it on my next hike, there are easier options available for a long trip like that one.

–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.

I  NEVER even unpacked them!

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.

This was the best option for photos on the fly. I used it more often because of the flexibility of posting photos to friends and family while on the Camino . . . at least until it was stolen!

IDENTIFICATION

Passport

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.

We brought them just in case we might need them, but turns out that most albergues ask for your passport number when checking you in, so it turned out to be a smart choice.

 Camino Credentials

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.

Managed to get all the way there with just one credential, it’s nearly full of stamps and is a nice souvenir of the trip. Additional ones are available along the way for one to two euro.

 ID

Drivers’ license, passport card, insurance ID.

I brought my Drivers’ license, passport card, and insurance ID and didn’t need any of them. My passport and Camino credential were all the identification I needed.

 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.

Didn’t need this either — even if we had gotten ill it’s just easier to go to a pharmacist and tell them your symptoms and have him dispense the right medications — simple and easy and no doctor visit needed.

 Cards

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.

It was surprisingly easy to find ATM machines and we rarely charged anything other than a hotel room if the albergue was full, which happened only once.

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.

We managed more than a few lunches and a dinner or two, with green apples and chorizo and a few sweet rolls that we found in the local markets. Easy to bring along and the green apples stayed unbruised far longer than any other fruit.

Ziplock bags

Just a couple for keeping things contained and dry. I plan to rinse and reuse them for the trip so only taking a couple.

Brought a couple of extras, but never needed them. 

Tracy’s backpack weighed in at  15.4 pounds (7 kilograms.)

This was the perfect weight for me. During our initial training for the Camino, I had one day when my pack was at 20 pounds, the additional weight put so much pressure on my hips that I couldn’t get up on my own the next day. In addition to finding the right balance the use of the hiking poles was great at alleviating some of the weight. While some days I got that lighter-than-air feeling after taking it off, most days I didn’t notice it at all. Balance, for me this trip was all about balance.

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16 thoughts on “Camino de Santiago: Equipment Review

  1. Hi Alan, I’ve stumbled upon your site searching for information on the Forclaz 40 Air backpack, and I believe you’re the first actual user I found! I tried it on the store and I believe it fits my body/back very well (I’m thin and tall), but I was worried about the quality. The fabric seems very thin (all these new backpacks are like that) and I’m taking it for a 2 month spin of South America. Did you have any troubles with holes, chaffing, etc? What’s your feeling regarding the long term resistance of the backpack? I’m not feeling like having to replace it mid voyage… Also, I’m planning on taking a laptop and I’m not quite convinced with the inner pocket (the one supposedly for the water pack). Do you think it fits a 11 to 13 inch laptop well?

    I tried a bit of the Camiño last year, on the basque side, and it is incredible! Hope you enjoyed it!

    1. Miquel, So sorry for the delayed response!

      Thanks for the note! And, yes, we both really enjoyed our time on the Camino.

      Alan’s backpack (the 40) still looks brand new. There isn’t any wear at all even after six weeks of hiking in Spain. Our backpacks (both Quechua brand) were the best investment we made for the Camino, they fit well, handled weather great (with covers of course) and with the use of some packing cubes were easy to load and unload even on early mornings in low light. We didn’t bring laptops with us (just the iPhones for updates to family and friends), but I’ll have him check to see if his laptop fits (it’s a 15″) and get back to you.

      1. Hi Tracy! Thanks for the reply, but in the meantime I went ahead and bought the pack, and did a one week trek in Morocco, it behaved perfectly. It’s actually pretty good and I dare say one of the most comfortable backpacks I ever used, with that ventilation system in the back. The temperature was in the high 40’s so… 🙂 Anyway, your blog helped me decide, so thank you!

      2. Miquel, glad it worked out for you. Alan and I really liked the ventilation as well. Safe travels! 🙂

  2. I remember when you guys were preparing for the trip how amazed I was at the high tech gear. But, even more so than that how lightweight it was and how you had become experts on creative packing, Tracy! 🙂

    1. Mike, thanks for the note! I’ll have the opportunity to use it all again this coming September when my aunt, Deb, and cousin, Reg, join me for a mini-Camino 2 to 3 weeks starting in St. Jean then taking the train from Pamplona to either Leon or Sarria (depending on time) then on to Santiago. Can’t wait to do it again, especially in the company of these two ladies!

    1. Michelle, thanks for the note. I read your blog and checked your bike profile. Hope your summer 2014 is amazing! Sure looks great! We currently live in Carcassonne, France, but are originally from Sparks, NV. I noticed that you’ll be working there this summer. Take the time to go to Sparks Marina, it’s beautiful and a great place to walk or bike. There is even a great restaurant overlooking the marina with excellent food and a nice wine selection.

      1. That sounds really cool! Hopefully we will have a bit of a break to explore Sparks. Thanks for the reply and the tips. Best of luck this year. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts. 🙂

  3. Love the post…. but have to say I only read Allen’s items… I’m a dude after all. Love to do a comparison post one day because I agree with most but a few items… not so much. 🙂 Top comments, i had two hats, my Tilly-like hat and a baseball and no note pads here…. used my iPhone but you commented on using your phone more so you could have used that for notes. I used Evernote as my daily pad.

    1. Jeffrey, you were a rockstar on the Camino, especially with all your gear! There were a few times that we wished we had brought our bigger cameras, especially inside the churches — really missed that internal white balance feature in low light! Neither of us really wanted to carry much so we figured to get by with the bare minimum. But when I go again this year with my aunt and my cousin, I’ll be bringing along the iPad mini – although I’ll still probably go old school with the pen and note pad, don’t really like typing on the iPhone/iPad keyboard.

    2. We talked that we should have had an iPad Mini. I didn’t realize how common free WiFi was on the trip. Maybe we should have just “live blogged” the trip as we went.

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