When you decide to walk the Camino de Santiago, one of the first things you will be researching for is what to pack for your walk. You should keep in mind that when you are looking for opinions, that if you were to ask 20 fellow pilgrims what to pack, you most likely will get 20 different answers.
While you will find wildly different suggestions on what TO bring, those same 20 pilgrims will most likely agree on one thing: remove as much as possible to reduce the weight you carry while walking the Camino.
While you may already know the many benefits of traveling light, you may still want to know exactly what to bring and what NOT to bring (and why).
When we were preparing for our Camino, we came across several detailed packing lists offered by other blogs, but it was sometimes difficult for us to know if these blogs were making genuine recommendations.
What we appreciated more was when people told us what NOT to bring.
We walked the Camino in 2018 and found that we were happy with many of the choices we made about what to bring and what we left behind. Thanks to the research that we did beforehand as well as taking time to consider what our true needs would be on the Camino, we were able to decide what gear would (and would not) make us happy while walking.
After walking the Camino, we wanted to share our list of the top 22 things that you do NOT need for walking the Camino de Santiago. The purpose of this list is to help you save weight on the gear that you bring so you reduce the physical demands on your body. We also found by carrying less stuff, we had more time to focus on the journey we were making on the Camino.
As mentioned earlier, every pilgrim has unique needs and desires for what they choose to bring with them on the Camino. If one or several of the items on this list brings you immense joy, then by all means bring it with you. The main motivation for our suggestions is how much freedom (and clarity) we found by traveling light and we wanted to encourage you while you are preparing to walk your Camino.
Top 22 Things NOT to pack for your Camino
There are several reasons that we support you leaving your laptop at home. The first is the weight that you will save (laptops weigh a couple of pounds at minimum, and bringing the power charger will add another pound). The other reason is the time you will free up. By not bringing your laptop, you will not have as many distractions (although your phone could still be a distraction, more on that later).
We found the Camino to be one of those experiences where you want to be fully present while living it.
The many forms of entertainment we gain through our laptops (and phones) tend to be an escape mechanism, a way to stay entertained. We loved being free of the distractions of the laptop and would encourage you to consider what it would mean for you not to bring your computer.
For those that have no choice and need to bring a laptop for your Camino for work (or other reasons), we recommend purchasing the smallest netbook that still fits your needs (to save on weight). Even better would be to use a small tablet (7” or 8” screen) because they will be lighter and most likely will use the same charger as your cell phone.
Taking the time to transfer your files over to a lighter laptop (or onto cloud storage) will make your legs, feet and shoulders happy with the weight savings.
While you will most likely want to remember your Camino walk with a couple (or more than a couple) of pictures, unless you are an influencer on Instagram who needs to capture flawless high quality photos documenting every beautiful moment of the Camino, then you won’t need to bring a camera.
Most smartphones these days have more than adequate camera features that will work just fine on the Camino for taking pictures.
If you plan on using your smartphone as a camera, you will want to look into carrying a dry bag (a bag that will keep your electronics dry) for when it rains.
If you plan on bringing your camera, it may be wise to do some practice walks with all of your gear (backpack and all) before leaving for the Camino. This way you will build up more endurance for carrying the extra weight.
3. Heavy Rain Jacket
There are plenty of lightweight options for protecting against the rain that do not involve the extra weight of a heavy rain jacket. Even though you will leave the heavy rain jacket at home, you will want to pack something for when it rains.
We brought this lightweight (but durable) poncho for our Camino. It worked perfectly for us because it was big enough to cover us (and our backpacks) in the event of rain, and it was small enough to easily store in our backpacks when it was not raining. The total weight was about 1 ounce for the poncho.
4. More Than 3 Pairs of Clothess
In a recent post about packing lightweight on the Camino, we mentioned how we only brought three pairs of clothes along for our Camino pilgrimage in 2018. We realized that two would have been enough for us, but we also realize that some may want that one extra pair of clothes for a variety of reasons. We could see the case for 3 pairs of clothes, but anything over that will most likely be unnecessary weight.
Another note about clothes: do your best to find the lightest clothes you have available to you. Start with what you wear regularly, most of the time these will work just fine.
We read in a couple of places online that cotton was a bad choice (for several reasons but mainly because it takes longer to dry), but Kyle wore cotton shirts the entire Camino and never had a problem with them.
The only exception to the 3 pairs of clothes rule would be underwear and socks. We found that 4 pairs worked well for us.
This does not mean that you will be wearing your birthday suit when you sleep (your fellow peregrinos most likely would not appreciate this :) ). What we mean to say is that you do not need to bring a set of traditional pajamas.
Instead, find a pair of comfortable shorts that can double up as a pair of shorts for walking the Camino as well as the pajamas you wear each night.
Also, the comfortable shorts will most likely be lighter than traditional pajamas would have been.
6. Mosquito Net
This tip is for those who plan on camping on their Camino. You have probably read that there are some bugs (flies, bed bugs, ants, butterflies) on the Camino. However, most pilgrims agree that mosquitoes are not a problem and therefore would not warrant bringing a mosquito net.
We agree with this, because we walked the Camino in the summer on some pretty humid days and did not see a mosquito the entire time. It seems like a good idea to us to leave the mosquito net at home.
7. Swiss Army Knife
It depends on what kind of Camino experience you are planning on having, but for 99% of the people who walk the Camino, you will not have any use for a Swiss army knife.
Most of the functions of a swiss army knife will not be needed on your daily walking routine. There are wine openers available at most albergues or restaurants near the albergue. Same goes for can openers (there are so many food options on the Camino that it would be extremely rare if you would have to resort to eating canned goods). Most pilgrims do not need a knife or pair of scissors for cutting things. And finally a screwdriver would just be added weight.
Another note on the Swiss army knife (or multi-tool) is that if you are flying and plan on only bringing your backpack as a carry on, you will not be able to get it past airport security.
The case could be made for bringing a Swiss army knife (or similar multi-tool) if you are camping, but even then it is hard to think of times when you would need it.
8. Water Filter
We have seen it recommended in several blog posts that you should bring a water bottle with a water filter. We believe it is not necessary to bring a water filter.
The main reason is that if you are concerned about the quality of your drinking water, you will have abundant access to bottled water at every turn of the Camino. Every shop will carry it. Grocery stores carry larger versions of bottled water. You can walk the entire Camino without having to drink from the tap.
Speaking of tap water along the Camino, most find it good quality water. We have not seen anyone commenting on a blog or forum that they got sick from the water on the Camino. We are sure it can happen, as everyone’s stomach is used to different kinds of bacteria depending on what country you live in.
We drank tap water while we walked the Camino and had no problems.
9. Regular-Size Towel
You may have already found out that most albergues will not provide towels during your Camino walk. It may be tempting to bring your comfy, regular-sized towel to do the job.
While regular-sized towels are great for drying you off quickly, the biggest downside is how bulky (and many times heavy) they can be (every ounce of extra gear matters when walking the Camino). Some full-size towels also take a while to dry.
Micro-fiber towels can be a wonderful solution so that you do not need to bring a full-size towel.
We brought this set, and were very happy with these towels. We purchased a size that was big enough for a quick use after a shower, and also light enough that they dried quickly when wet. We never felt like we were simply drying off with a wet hand towel. And we were happy with the weight (and space) we saved!
10. Heavy Duty Backpack
What we mean when we say a heavy duty backpack is simply a heavy backpack. The Camino is not a hike in the traditional sense (ie. in the middle of the forest or on the top of a mountain), so your backpack needs are not the same as if you were trekking it in the wilderness.
The best recommendations we have seen is to bring the smallest backpack possible. There are plenty of high quality backpacks available that will fit the bill.
We went to many stores searching for the right fit for us, and eventually found this backpack sold at Target. The backpack we purchased was small, with plenty of compartments to separate everything, with a bottle holder, secret zippers for personal items like passports, extremely affordable and durable. We knew it was a right fit for us when we saw “weekend getaway” listed as a use of the backpack. It was specifically designed to hold only a couple of pairs of clothes.
11. Camping Stove
This again is only for those who are planning on camping on the Camino. We wanted to point out that the modern-day Camino is designed with pilgrims in mind. This means that you will have every opportunity to find food, lodging, clothing, and medications almost every day that you walk the Camino.
With every variety of food available (many on-the-go food choices, grocery stores, convenience shops as well as restaurants), you will not need to bring a camping stove.
If you do feel like going to the grocery store and doing some cooking while you are walking the Camino, keep an eye out for albergues, hotels, apartments and pensions that have kitchens available for guest use.
Besides your passport (and any other supporting travel documents), wallet, phone and e-reader, there is little need for any additional valuables as you walk the way of St James.
Keep any valuables that you bring with you safe (possibly in a secret pouch you wear around your waist, leg or ankle). If something is lost while you walk the Way, ask around, and many times it will turn up (as most pilgrims are good about reporting something they found that was most likely lost).
13. Noise Cancelling Headphones
As a music lover who enjoys hearing things in surround sound (Kyle), it pains me to recommend leaving your amazing headphones at home. While I love listening to good music (with good quality headphones), I realized that the benefit of bringing a large pair of headphones did not outweigh the space they took up in our backpacks.
Any set of small earbuds will do the job for your Camino pilgrimage.
You may find that you don’t listen to as much music as you meant to because you are enjoying being in nature or find yourself talking at length to complete strangers from around the world, or taking in the silence you find while walking.
14. Regular-Sized Flashlight
As with many things on this list, smaller is better. You most likely will never need the extra light that a large flashlight produces.
Most of the time a larger flashlight will be a hindrance, especially if you are staying at municipal albergues in the dorm-style rooms. You will find very quickly that too much light will bother your fellow peregrinos. Do their eyes a favor and bring a small (not-too-bright) LED flashlight.
15. An Extra Pair of Hiking Shoes
We highly recommend bringing a second pair of walking wear with you to the Camino, just don’t make them another pair of shoes.
We brought flip flops with us on our Camino as our second set of footwear and they were perfect for the job. You will see this recommendation mentioned in other blogs and forums and we couldn’t agree more.
Don’t skip on the flip flops to save weight.
We would not recommend only bringing one pair of footwear. After a full day of walking in your shoes, you will want a shower, a change of clothes, and a change of footwear.
Flip flops work perfectly because you can wear them to walk around town after a long day of walking. Flip flops also work great if you get a blister while walking the Camino. This happened to Kyle a couple of days in. After discovering the blister, Kyle switched to flip flops and this helped the blister to heal faster.
16. Portable Phone Battery
This is another item that you will see listed on several packing list blogs. We did not bring one, and we don’t think you will need one either.
There are places to plug in your phone every day on the Camino. Even if you are using an app that drains the battery on your phone, you can still do other things to help your battery life last longer.
We found that if our battery life was low, we would dim our screens and this helped them last a lot longer. You can also check to see what apps are running in the background and turn these off.
Lastly, remember that you can always turn your phone off and follow the arrows (and other pilgrims) successfully to Santiago de Compostela. There are plenty of waymarkers to point you in the right direction.
17. Large Containers of Shampoo
You are probably noticing a theme, with any item that is a necessity, do your best to find the smallest version available.
We realize that the smaller containers of shampoo may cost about the same as the large containers. We found more benefit in packing lightly and simply repurchasing small containers of toiletries as we needed them along the walk.
18. Water Bottles Larger Than One (1) Liter
You may be wondering how big of a water bottle to bring on the Camino. We decided on a 1 liter bottle which ended up being the perfect size.
Some recommend backpack water bladders or large 1.5 liter water bottles. We don’t think either of these sizes are necessary because of how frequently you will come into contact with water sources (either local tap or water bottles sold along the way).
If you agreed with our previous comment about not bringing many valuables along for your walk, then you will not need the use of a padlock.
20. Bug Repellent
As mentioned earlier, we did not see a mosquito the entire time we walked the Camino. We were glad that we left the mosquito repellent at home and would recommend that you leave your mosquito repellent at home as well.
There is one exception to this rule. If you are sleeping in municipal albergue dorm-style rooms, then you will want to make sure to treat your sleeping bag for bed bugs. Make sure to treat the liner, sleeping bag (and backpack, while you are at it) before leaving.
You can also pick up bed bug repellent while you walk the Camino.
21. Multiple Chargers for Electronics
When considering what electronics you will bring along on your Camino, do your best to bring gadgets that share the same kind of charger.
For example, between the two of us, we brought our cell phones, Kindles and a tablet. All of these used the same wall charger.
As a general rule of thumb, if you can find something that has dual uses, these tend to be the better option when compared to two single-use items.
Books are one of the heaviest items you may choose to take with you on the Camino. Even though we love physical books, we found that replacing them with an e-reader while we walked the Camino worked just as well.
Choosing to read your books on a Nook, Kindle or tablet will save you a lot of space and allow you to read more than one book during your Camino. If you look into any of these options, you will most likely find some good promotions to save on the cost of the ebooks.
Another great option for ebooks is to check with your local library. Many libraries offer their members free access to thousands of ebooks. You can check with your library to see what they offer and how to check out the ebooks on your e-reader.
Sometimes it is easier figuring out what to pack by knowing what NOT to pack and why. We hope that you enjoyed our top 22 items not to bring on your Camino de Santiago. We will be implementing all of the tips on this list the next time we walk the Camino and hope you try them out too.