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Stuff I took on the Camino (July - August 2007) - mostly US


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Hey all:

I did the Camino from St. Jean to Santiago, July 14th to August 24th. I brought most of my stuff in the USA, but also supplemented my gear (or replaced it) with purchases in France and Spain. Here's what I took, bought on the Way, got rid of, and walked into Santiago with:

One Confier-Green Gregory Baltoro pack, medium, 70-liter - too big. "You Americans have too much," half-joked an attractive female Slovanian pilgrim - perhaps I could've kept up with her if I'd gone lighter, because she was pretty cool. But at least it was comfortable and had lots of cool features such as: front and side zippered pockets; water bottle holder sized for a Nalgene 32-ouncer; waterproof bottom; top, front, and bottom access; and roomy lid pocket. I've heard that a 50-liter pack is ideal, but I saw lots of 60 liter ones on the Way. And mine got even better as it got lighter.

One Osprey Airporter backpack bag - used to protect my Gregory on the flights to and from Europe (keeps the buckles from getting caught in the baggage claim treadmills, and also prevents the loss of items that may detach from the pack or fall out of the pockets. Probably could've used a tough garbage bag, though. Ended up mailing it to Santiago from w/some other stuff.

Two Leki Ultralight walking sticks - Got these at a small outdoor shop in Bordeaux, France. The clerk showed me how to use them, and they were a big help when attacking hills (able to use my upper body to help climb), and descending rocky slopes (helped me keep my balance and avoid falling when the path was slippery). Plus, the clicking sound on level pavement got to be comforting after awhile. Also got them to fight off the rumored hordes of ravenous dogs, but the ones I saw were sleepy and bored-looking.

One pair of fingerless bicycling gloves - bought these at a sports shop in Bayonne to protect my hands from blisters (due to the walking sticks) or from gravel due to stumbling. Made an interesting tan pattern on my hands.

Two 32-oz. Nalgene Narrow Mouth water bottles - bought one at the Bordeaux store, and it fit into a pocket on my pack that must've been designed for it. Bought the second one at Planeta Agua in Logrono because I heard that drinking more water helped to prevent blisters, and also wanted to ensure I had enough water with me while I crossed the meseta. Probably only needed one, but the other did come in handy.

One backpack liner - bought it at the Bordeaux store. Figured there was nothing worse than having a pack full of wet, heavy clothing. However, it reduced the usefulness of the front and bottom access zippers to nil. Probably could've just used a big garbage bag, though.

Two Eagle Creek packing cubes - kept my gear organized and neat, and probably cleaner, especially when unpacking on funky albergue floors.

Five Eagle Creek zippered pouches of various sizes. One for repair gear, one for foot stuff, one for vitamins & herbs, one for laundry gear, and one for dirty clothes.

One Petzl Tikka Plus headlamp - good for finding my way around the albergue for late-night bathroom calls, night reading, or walking the trail in early morning before I got over that and began sleeping in.

One pair of titanium-frame perscription eyeglasses with transition lenses (along with case) - kept my eyes shaded during sunny days, and helped me to actually see as well.

One small Eagle Creek daypack - after securing a bunk at an albergue, this was very handy for keeping important stuff in while wandering around. Very compact pack - crunches up quite small.

One PacSafe Waist Wallet - kept my credit cards and big bills in it (and passport as well, later on). Don't wear it while hiking though - sweat will seep in and soak your stuff (except for the cards, thanks to a small ziplock plastic bag included w/the waist wallet).

One super-absorbant camp towel - light, quick-drying, and small (wish I'd brought a bigger one, but it was OK).

One PacSafe cable lock - used it to secure my Eagle Creek daypack w/valuables to bunk bed posts at night, right next to my head.

Two TSA zipper locks - used them to lock the zippers on my daypack. I'm big on the proverb, "trust God, but tie up your camel."

One North Face 40-degree synthetic sleeping back (with stuff sack) - unzips into a thin quilted blanket. Kept me warm at night, and very comfortable if, like me, you don't like sleeping in a cocoon.


One REI brand hat w/brim - cotton w/coolmax liner. Kept the sun off of my ears, face and neck. On very hot days I wetted down my bandanna and wrapped it around my head under the hat to keep cooler.

One ExOfficio bug-repellant bandanna - used it as stated above, and also put it around my neck to keep the sun off and take advantage of its bug-repellant properties (don't know how effective that feature was after a couple of hand-washings, though). But wearing it and the hat, along with being American, helped earn me the nickname of "Caballero."

One French-brand zip-up rain poncho - it covered both me and my pack. I bought it in Bayonne, and it came in handy during a couple of rainstorms. Kept it in my pack's top pocket when not in use. I liked the zip-up model because it seemed easier to get on than the pull-over type, and when unzipped and attached around my neck it felt like an old-style pilgrim cloak :)

One pair light Spanish-brand boots - got rid of my too-heavy pair from the US and got these at the Planeta Agua outdoor store in Logrono (they are Camino specialists and were a big help to me). Spent a rest day breaking them in, and after Logrono I only got one small blister. Had to have them repaired in Leon, though - the back ankle stitching blew out on both boots. At least the repair shop was cool - they quickly fixed them while I waited, and only charged 5 Euros.

Two pairs of thin liner socks - one bought at REI, the other was a Coolmax pair I got at the Logrono Planeta Agua (I liked the Coolmax ones best).

One pairs of thicker Thorlo outer wool socks - both from REI. I used the 2-sock method while in the Marines, and it worked OK here as well.

Three sets of boot inserts. Brought a pair of Superfeet inserts, then bought a pair of 8 euro inserts from a small sports shop in Burgos, finally bought a pair of silicone inserts from a pharmacia in Leon. Ended up liking the 8 Euro pair the best - the Superfeet were a bit too hard, and the maxipads wouldn't stick to the silicone gel pair.

Two pairs of North Face lightweight pants with zip-off legs - loved these pants, although as I lost weight they began to sag a bit, thus making the legs too long. Eventually unzipped them and went w/the shorts mode. Good pockets, easy to wash and dry as well.(spilled an entire glass of red wine on the khaki pair in Bayonne, but it wiped right off with a damp rag).

One pair of gym shorts - to wear in case I was washing my 2nd pair of North Face pants.

Two pairs of ExOfficio boxer-briefs - black, quick drying, comfortable, and seemed to help prevent chafing (went commando in the evenings, though).

Two REI T-shirts - black, quick-drying synthetics. I found that layering helped keep me warm enough in the mornings while still being cool enough for the daily trek.

Two outer polo-type shirts, one North Face (navy blue) and one ExOfficio (dark green) - also quick-drying, and they didn't look half-bad, either.

One pair of El Cheapo strap-on sandals - bought them for 13 Euros in a small town zapateria. Kept icky stuff off of them in the shower, and allows them to breathe after a hard day's hike (gotta have something to wear while the boots air out).

One REI fleece vest - good for a pillow or wearing around town/albergue on cool summer evenings (especially in Galicia).

One pair of foot support socks - bought at a pharmacia to help support my flat feet and prevent blisters.


One "A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago" by John Brierley - kept it in a plastic grocery bag in my front pocket, and my French credencial fit nicely into the cover flap. This book was indispensable for me on the Camino. Great maps, good accommodation info, informative text on sites, travel tips, some Spanish words and phrases, and a spiritual component as well.

One Credencial - got it for 6 Euros at the tourist office in Bordeaux. Nice fold-out design. kept it in a plastic zip-lock baggie inside my guidebook.

One big scallop - got that at the pilgrim office in St. Jean and tied it to my pack, just so people wouldn't think I was homeless (don't laugh - some of them infiltrated the Camino - heck, wouldn't you if you were in their shoes? Cheap eats, cheap beds, look like everyone else - paradise. Indeed, the Camino is the only vacation where I managed to actually save money).

Two BodyGlide anti-blister and chafing sticks - helped to prevent blisters by preventing friction (also bought a tube of anti-friction stuff in Spain, but never really used it).

Two tiny tins of Bag Balm - great for cuts, rashes, lip gloss, and to keep your mucous membranes moist (rub some inside your nose before going to sleep).

One bottle of DEET bug repellant - bought in Bordeaux. Wish I'd used it in the albergue at Castrojeriz , but at least I took the brunt of the nocturnal mosquito attack and kept my bunkmates untouched.

One 3 oz. bottle of Purell hand sanitizer - they don't have this stuff in Spain, so bring it with.

Two sticks of lip sunblock - to avoid that desert-island chapped look.

Twenty-four plastic clothspins - plastic is lighter than wood. You can get these at most fine supermercados for under a Euro. A number of albergues didn't have them, or had limited amounts to go around.

One 4 oz. bottle of Campsuds - for washing clothes as ecologically safe and sound as possible.

Two flexible rubber drain plugs (from the two Lewis N. Clark laundry kits I brought). Sometimes the laundry sinks at the albergues had no plugs.

A bunch of large safety pins - for repairs, and to pin wet socks on your pack to dry while walking the next day.

One electric toothbrush and toothpaste - my funky teeth need an electric toothbrush.

One Canon A570IS digital camera - for documenting those special Camino moments. Small, light, easy to use, took great point-and-shoot pics, and ran on two AA-batteries.

Eight-pack of Energizer Lithium batteries - didn't even have to use them all. Indeed, the camera ran pretty much on one set of two the whole time. I went ahead and changed after 30 days, but mainly to get rid of some weight and avoid running out of power at an inopportune time.

One M-Rock camera case - great travel case. My Canon fit perfectly into it, and the case also held two spare AA batteries and an extra SD card.

Maxipads - not for me, silly, but for my boots. As the woman who ran the Roncal albergue in Cizur Menor said when she put them into my boots, "we have to find cheap and easy solutions on the Camino." Amen to that. Used the big ones with lots of drop icons on the package, available at many supermercados. And now I'm not afraid to buy them at the store - so there! :)

Small travel compass - for those touristy times when you're trying to find your way around strange cities with a map.

One Leatherman Micro - used for various purposes, like trimming dead skin from blisters, trimming nails, and cutting Compeed to size.

One small bottle of Iodine - helped to sterilize popped and torn blisters. Got it at a pharmacia.

Various packets of Compeed - kept my feet going until I didn't need it anymore. Used it to protect blisters after a day's hike. Tried doing that during the day, but it tended to melt off after walking for awhile.

One tube of foot powder - brought along a mostly full bottle I bought in Haarlem, The Netherlands back in 2003. Kept the area between my toes nice and dry.

One travel sewing kit - never used it, but loaned it to an English woman to fix a tear in her huge, cheap pack.

One set of extra boot laces - never used them, but they'd come in handy if you broke a lace out on the meseta. Can also use them as a clothesline.

Two travel clotheslines - came in handy here and there, mainly in 2-star hotel rooms. Eventually tossed the one that was weaker.

Two bottles of sun block (one 15 SPF (replaced w/a 20 SPF spray bottle), and one 50+ SPF for burned spots) - used it until I left the meseta, and after the baking I got there I was tanned enough that I didn't need it much anymore.

Two tubes of after-sun lotion - used it everyday to avoid that leathery feeling.

One tube of cortisone lotion - for heat rashes and mosquito bites.

One tube of antibiotic ointment - for cuts and blisters, to prevent infection.

Two tubes of Preparation H - no way was I going to try and explain needing some of that to a Spanish pharmacia tech...:)

One small bar of Dove soap - in a plastic bag (and later in a plastic travel soap container I found in the "Please Take" pile at a Rabanal albergue. Funny how often the albergues didn't have soap of any kind.

Spare toilet paper in a plastic baggie in my front cargo pocket - came in handy after leaving Cizur Menor and getting the runs while climbing that big hill. That was the only day I didn't drink vino tinto, so after that I always had at least a couple glasses throughout the day...:)

Two tubes of pain-relieving gel (and one spray bottle) - bought "Reflex" spray and gel, and an Ibuprofen-based gel brand in Spain after running out of Super Blue Stuff I brought from home.

Various vitamins and herbs - a men's multivitaming from GNC, a Glucosamine/Chondroiten/MSM pill, an allergy pill, an aspirin, ibuprofen, Pepto-Bismol, and antacid tablets. Wanted to ensure everything kept working smoothly, although I think vino tinto and orujo was the best medication on the Camino (along with Ibuprofen and analgesic gel).

A couple cigars in metal or glass tubes - very nice for unwinding after a hard day's trek. They go great with vino tinto, and no one had any problem with them in Spain.

One Pocket Pilot map of Paris - flew in and out of CDG, and ended up spending my last three nights in Europe in Paris as a tourist.

Two credit cards and one ATM card - having spares came in handy when my ATM card was rejected in Ponferrada. The Camino is mostly a cash-based economy, so it was important to be able to get Euros when I needed them.


One Bivvy Sack - left it in Roncesvalles. With albergues, hotels, pensions, etc. all over, it was useless.

One REI Hiker's First Aid kit - mailed it to Santiago. Plenty of pharmacias with everything you need, and the albergues have kits as well.

Extra shirts and socks - mailed to Santiago or gave away. Only needed two sets of each item on the trail - one on me, one in my pack.

Extra packing cubes - left in Zubiri and Cizur Menor. As I got rid of clothing, ended up needed only two.

One Marmot nylon rain jacket - gave away in St. Jean. The rain poncho was all I needed, and the jacket wasn't breathable so it made me sweat - ick.

One silk sleep sack - left it in Cirauqui. The 40-degree sleeping bag was all I needed.

One REI carry-on bag - left in Arre. The Eagle Creek daypack was enough.

One REI pack cover - left in Zubiri. The rain poncho was all I needed.

Shaving gear - threw away or mailed to Santiago. The Camino is a good time to experiment with facial hair.

Deodorant - threw away. Everyone stinks on the Way - get used to it.

Books - left them at albergues. Well, took one or two, but was careful to choose small ones and leave them behind when finished reading them. Didn't have much time to read anyway, but I love reading, so I enjoyed it when I could.

One PacSafe Neck Pouch - didn't like it. Felt and looked like I was wearing a bulletproof vest (Euro-types probably thought I was a paranoid American). Also got permeated by sweat that soaked my passport, international driver's license (which I never used), and other stuff). After that, I kept it in my daypack, along with my waist wallet & some other stuff.

One REI short-size self-inflating sleeping pad. I never had to sleep outside or on the floor, even during the July-August high season. But knowing what I know now, I would've brought a foam-style pad instead. One, a foam pad probably would've been lighter, and two, I would've used it to lay on the ground while taking rest breaks like my German friends did with theirs (figured mine would spring a leak due to rocks or hard vegetation).


One iPod 4GB Nano (included case, USB plug, Euro power plug adapter, and earphones) - you didn't think I was going to get rid of it, did you? Used it on the flights to and from Europe, and here and there to brush up on Spanish and French (put some lingo lessons on it - the locals like it when you at least try to speak in their native tongue). Nelly Furtado counts as language prep as well - right?


I started off with way too much stuff - over 20K in my pack. After the first day I began to leave stuff behind, give it away, or mail it on to Santiago (I was also doing some touristy stuff and wanted extra clothes and gear). I finally got down to a decent weight, but I had to endure a lot of unnecessary pain. At least I wasn't under a time crunch, so I was able to slow down and recover. But perhaps it was good for me - I became aware that I carry too much baggage in regular life as well.

So, I'd say it was worth the pain to internalize a better way of thinking (hopefully I'll remember that this time next year). And remember - you're not going to the Arctic Circle. Spain has plenty of stores where you can get stuff you need or forgot to bring (well, it might be tough to get perscription painkillers and meds, so don't forget to bring those along with the documentation in case you need more). Buen Camino! :)
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