How do I know what is essential equipment? (and what not)?
There is so much to learn if you haven’t done any really long distance walks. Joining a walking club may help although most are focused on day or multi week walks often carrying all the camping gear; tents, water food and clothing.
Camino routes in Europe, especially the Camino Frances are well served by a range of accommodation options usually within an easy days walk and often more frequently. There are exceptions usually on the more remote routes like the Via De La Plata from Seville to Santiago with stages of over 30 km with no food or water in between.
So what is the essential equipment?
Boots or trail hiking footwear.
Footwear I think is the one essential item you can’t afford to get wrong. If whatever you have on your feet isn’t designed for long distance walking and fits properly then your chances are less than average of successfully completing the Camino Frances.
Consider it is 800 km long, which is 800,000 metres. If your stride is say half a metre for each foot then each foot will strike the surface 800,000 times; a total of 1,600,000 in total. If the stride is shorter then you will be approaching 2,000,000 steps.
Thats a lot of work for your toes, arches, heels, ankles, knees, hips let alone the muscles and tendons.
Boots and trail hiking footwear can provide a barrier between your feet and the surface, with inserts and socks cushion your feet and offer some protection from rain, mud, cold, heat, rocks, brambles etc.
Some walkers prefer to wear sandals which have the advantage of being lighter however there isn’t the same protection for the feet. Some sandals have toe caps which help to reduce stones and sand getting under your feet. There is even less protection when it is muddy and cold.
Historically only great saints and sinners walked bare footed!
I strongly urge you to ignore brands as a starting point as different manufacturers target different foot shapes. Some focus on people with narrow feet, others with wide feet; some focus on a square toecap, others on ankle support; lightweight, full leather uppers, synthetic lightweight uppers. Avoid going into a store saying, “I want x brand”
Major brands will have wide and narrow fittings but not all stores stock the full range as it increases inventory costs and creates storage problems.
So don’t be put off if you find the right brand and style but the range is limited; try elsewhere.
For more information on boots and footwear please check this link:
As most, but not all, people carry a backpack choosing the right style, weight, volume etc is fundamental. The backpack needs comfortably fit your body shape & height. It will contain all the clothes you are not wearing, rain gear, sleeping items, water, toiletries and sundry items needed for washing clothes etc.
Some people manage with amazingly light loads of around 6 kgs in 30 Lt backpacks. A more common size is 40-50 Lt. One problem with a bigger volume is the temptation to take more “stuff”. So the target of 8 kgs soon becomes 10, 12 or even 14 kgs. Thats all OK if you are very fit and used to such weights; most are not and the albergues in the first 200 km have hundreds of items discarded to try and save weight. I have included a packing lists in Chapter 6 of Camino Ready. Backpacks, Boots & (no) Blisters.
Some people choose to carry a small day pack with essential items only and have their main backpack or similar luggage transported for them each day. The most popular routes are well serviced for most of the year by companies that specialise. Note however some close down in early winter and don’t reopen until March. The Spanish Postal Services offers a year round daily transport option.
Please follow the links in the Navigation area on the right for details on Essential Equipment and much more.