15 Things people forget to tell you to pack on the camino de santiago
Enshrinement to the relics of Apostle James
I researched, and then researched some more when it came to creating the perfect packing list that wouldn’t break my back (literally) on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The Camino is a historic 500-mile pilgrimage that has it’s pilgrims walking an average of 10-15 miles a day, carrying all of their supplies on their person (unless you use a backpack service such as Xacotrans).
With under 20 lbs in my Osprey Porter- 46 Liter backpack, I thought I surmised the creme de la creme of contents, complete with a box of Clif Bars to calorically sustain me due to allergies (check out my article on traveling the camino being gluten and dairy free). With that said, there were items that I didn’t think of to pack, which either were not listed on any of the camino resource websites or not recommended at all. However, with a good dose of trial and error, and with 20/20 hindsight, I found the following items to be necessities. After I sent out a survey to fellow peregrinos (pilgrims), who I met along The Way, about their experience, I have comprised the following list of items you may want to consider making room for on your Camino:
Sadly, bed bugs are a very real thing on the Camino, and they are a pilgrim’s worst nightmare (other than foot blisters). It can not only slow them down, but it can even prematurely send them home if they have a bad enough case. They also spread like wild fire. This is why I recommend a bed bug spray to use immediately on the beds when you arrive at albergues, hostelerias, hostels, pensions, paradors, camping, hotels, etc. We weren’t attacked on the Camino, but I came across plenty of pilgrims who were. In trying to avoid the same thing happening to us, we looked and looked for spray, but couldn’t find any. At one point, we asked a pharmacist who responded, “No tenemos chinches en Espana!” (We don’t have bed bugs in Spain!). though I offended her, and her country. Oh well. In my heart of hearts, I think evading any sort of infestation was all due to doTERRA’s essential oils, historically and naturally used as repellent, due to their strong scent. Which leads us to the next item.
In consulting with my essential oils guru friend, Virginia, this 8-vial keychain allowed me to take the following recommended oils with me.. :
- Lavender (two vials worth!)– I don’t have enough good things to say about lavender. It’s a bed bug preventative, blister aid (!!!), great for rashes, sunburn, stress, and helps you somewhat sleep through the snores and ongoing flatulence heard and smelled in the albergues. I would also usually put lavender or peppermint on pilgrims with bites, which seemed to soothe these areas.
- OnGuard- For immunity against sore throats that can occur after walking in the cold and through torrential rain. It’s also naturally warming, and can be used as a hand wash when mixed with water. I would throw this on each time I, or someone else mentioned that they were feeling like something was coming on.
- Melaleuca/Eucalyptus- Good for blisters, wound care, rashes and also a natural antiseptic.
- Peppermint (two vials worth!)- Like lavender, I don’t have enough to say about about peppermint, which is why I brought two vials worth. It’s naturally cooling, can be used as a breath freshener, and is great for headaches, nausea, congestion and motion sickness. I usually would start my day by putting a drop in my mouth, and behind my neck to wake me up.
- Digestzen- Good for constipation, diarrhea, and upset stomach. Just saying!
- TerreShield- Bug preventative! Need I say more?
- I also brought doTERRA’s Deep Blue roll-on, because it’s fantastic for sore muscles, and also makes you smell like you just took a shower: a Camino rarity.. BUG BITE SOOTHING CREAM (IVEREST) – If you are prone to mosquito or other bug bites, like moi (it’s because I’m so sweet. ha.)… Then this is the truly the best thing out there, and the only cream that actually quells the itch. My friend Laurie gifted this to me prior to the Camino, and thought it serve as dead weight in my backpack, but it ended up being quite the contrary. I, and many other peregrinos squeezed the living light out of this cream over the course of our pilgrimage.
Light box of tooth paste tabs, rather than an entire tube of heavy toothpaste. Did I mention that they are light weight? Someone on the Camino had them, and I thought it was ingenious addition.
I’m not saying Spanish food is bland.. But I’m not saying it isn’t. Living in California, I am blessed to have diverse cuisine at my fingertips. And in visiting the bigger cities on the Camino, I was sad to see that there were often few if any restaurants that weren’t Spanish. How many different ways can you make paella? Sheesh! With that said, I kept thinking, most of the meals would exponentially taste better if they had Sriracha drizzled on them. This Sriracha key chain would have worked just fine.
Depending on when you decide to complete the Camino, you may have to deal with some torrential and potentially very cold rain… And I mean, pouring rain that leaves your feel standing in a perennial pool of water, and then being forced to sit a bar you don’t want to be in, just so that you can wait for your shoes and socks to dry. It’s part of the experience, yeah yeah.. But getting bronchitis, like I did at the very end (luckily) could have maybe been prevented with a pair of rain socks to go over my regular socks, like some of the other pilgrims had. Side note: how is it that in Spain you can purchase Xanax, or other like drugs over the counter, that are under lock and key here is the US, but you can’t purchase antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription? Seems like they need to get their priorities in order.
Did I mention torrential rain, and drenched legs? A rain coat only covers so much, my friends.
Shorts that can be worn both during your walk and at night in bed, in early spring and even in the fall (walking for miles will make anyone feel warm). Albergues will sometimes turn up the heat, and or not have great ventilation. These shorts will prevent feeling overheated, and are great for wearing straight out of the shower.
Sometimes it’s difficult to come across a laundromat, or an albergue with a washer AND dryer (I still don’t understand why dryers are such a rare commodity in N. Spain). And 10 hours is by no means enough drying time for your clothing, and/or liners, which is why some pilgrims will go a few days or weeks without washing anything. This is why additional sleeping supplies are a necessity, plus they are relatively light.
And I mean 5-6 pairs! Why? You are walking an average of 10-15 miles a day, and didn’t you just read about dryers being a rare commodity? Also, the torrential rain? Plus, you may want to layer on in order to prevent blisters.
Not some microfiber ‘travel’ towel that is so itchy you’d rather air dry naked in front of of your fellow peregrinos. But a soft, lightweight, absorbent towel. This is one of the few luxuries you should afford yourself on this trip.
Need to take a quick bird bath? Wipe off some, or lots, of sweat? Clean your hands? Or, clean yourself post nourishing some plants (pee, etc.)? Then carry wipes with you!
Are you a tea person? A person who can’t live without tea, not including Lipton? Then I would bring a box, or two with you. Though, keep in mind, markets in the bigger cities will have options for you too.
For those walking the Camino Frances, I found out about this app a quarter of the way through, and kicked a rock for not finding out about it sooner. Not only does it work offline, but it gives you a history of each town, city and village you pass through. There is a an accommodation directory (over 900 options on the Camino) that found me gems of albergues off the beaten track, and options to book online with some too. If GPS is enabled, it will actually display the distance from every point within the app (albergue, church, city, bar, etc.) including photographs, maps (elevation too!), and comments from other peregrinos. Now go download it!
It was too late before I finally realized that the peregrinos using vaseline underneath their socks were the one without blisters, not limping, and not buying second skin products such as Compeed at every stop. Plus they did not have to stay an extra day or two in town to let their foot/feet heal, or even worse, have to return home due to a severe infection. Do yourself a favor, and liberally apply vaseline to your feet before throwing on socks for the day. More info: http://coolhikinggear.com/using-vaseline-to-prevent-foot-blisters
I hope this list serves to be helpful to you, or anyone you know interested in the Camino. For any other questions related to the Camino, and/or essential oils, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com
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