I completed a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela two years ago but this journey was so important that the more time passes the more it influences my life. Recently, I got asked about the essentials, that is, what a pilgrim should bring to the Camino. I thought this is a really good opportunity to go back in time and refresh my memories. We’ll be soon flooded by articles of the New Year’s Resolutions and walking the Camino might be one of them.
5 Essentials… obvious things to bring
The following five essentials is a must to all who undertake any long or short distance walk
- Comfortable shoes,
- Small and light backpack,
- Container for water,
- Waterproof jacket.
The Camino taught me one basic thing: never bring a new pair of shoes! Use the old ones that your feet are used to. I learned it hard way: bought the new shoes two weeks before walking the Camino and paid the price. The blisters were killing me for the most of the time.
Now, I am an experienced trekker and I never do such things but this time I clearly underestimated the challenge. I thought that after walking the King’s Trail (120km) and completing two marathons I should be just fine. So again: NO NEW SHOES! Have mercy on your feet!
My backpack was only 55 litres and at all times, it weighed less than 10 kg. This is a basic rule if you want to enjoy the journey. This will guarantee comfort and will allow you to focus on more important things. I saved a lot of space by using clothes made of merino wool. They are odour free and it allowed me to limit my clothes significantly.
A hat was extremely useful out of the obvious reasons but I was very happy I brought it because the heat totally surprised me. I thought that the end of September should be calm and cold but on the contrary, it was horribly warm. I suffered for the most part of the walk and the next time I walk the Camino, I’ll do it in late October.
5 less obvious things to bring
The following five things made my walk more enjoyable.
- Sleeping bag,
- Mp3 player,
A very light sleeping bag (600g) ensured comfort during the nights in shelters. Some of them provide a disposable sheet and pillowcase but not all. Besides it’s always nice to lie down, relax and sleep in something that belongs to you.
Mp3 player helped me in a few cases. First, a calm music that I listened to after reaching the shelter helped me to relax and sleep in the afternoon when people around were making noise. Second, when I was crossing the mountains with painfully blistered feet I was listening to the relaxation music that helped me arriving the shelter. There is a great bonus that comes with it: even today I still find this piece of music deeply relaxing. When I feel overstressed I can always listen to it and calm down by remembering my walk.
Flipflops will allow your feet to relax after you reach the shelter and also will keep your feet safe while taking a shower in a shared bathroom.
One more thing to bring
A proper mindset is everything.
After walking the Camino, quite naturally, I listened to other people who walked it. I read a few books and talked to some pilgrims. People tend to underestimate the Camino is what I’ve learned. The fact it leads through the cities, little towns and generally civilised areas make people think it is easy. Many of the pilgrims admitted that they have not expected hardship nor problems but in most cases, they were faced with the sudden difficulties.
Therefore, prepare yourself! Do your research, check the details, plan your trip. Proper preparations are of great importance. At the end of the day, I wonder whether the hardship of this walk is what the pilgrimage is all about? Maybe all pilgrims need to face the difficulties to experience their vulnerability, community with others and learn about their own weakness? Share your opinion in comments.
Do you have plans to walk the Camino in 2017?