I completed my first Camino de Santiago on 01 August 2022, 18 days later, I am already planning my next one. Once bitten, twice not so shy! My mind is in overdrive when I think about all of the adventure that awaits. But I’m also starting to think about ladies packing advice when walking the Camino de Santiago:
Clearly packing is completely personal, we all have particular creature comforts, but I hope the below provides some useful advice for anyone about to embark on the Camino. (EEEEK, you’re going to have so much fun!) If you’re still undecided, check out my blog on ten reasons to walk the Camino.
Firstly, a short note on the backpack. If you’re planning to walk every day, please do NOT take a bag any bigger than 40L. I promise, you will regret it if you do! I opted for a 30L – the Osprey Tempest 30L to be precise. This is a really great bag, loads of handy pockets and if (like me) you’re petite, this is a great bag as it comes in a smaller size option to fit snugly for a shorter lady.
Secondly (I’m embarrassed to admit this), I packed my hair straighteners! I have very curly hair and my vanity took over. Within two days, I wished I hadn’t taken them and eventually I had to ditch them. You won’t have time, you won’t care what your hair looks like and you will not even have access to plugs. If anyone reading this is even considering a straightener, I deplore you, don’t do it!
If you are injury free, don’t suffer from ankle issues etc, and you are walking any of the Camino de Santiago routes in summer, you do not need hiking boots. I saw many pilgrims being forced to carry their heavy boots on their backs when they had come to this realisation. In the Summer it is too hot and unnecessary to be wearing anything other than trainers. I went for trainers last time and I’ll be doing the same again. New Balance or Hoka are great options for ladies walking the Camino in the summer.
The other option is walking sandals. I’ve not tried them but I met some who loved them and others who deeply regretted choosing this option.
Whatever you choose, try them on a couple of long hikes before you take them with you! I cannot emphasise this enough. After 20km, you will quickly identify whether the shoes are Camino ready or not and far better to this before you get on the trails!
Two Words –Pop Socks! A friend gave me this tip before I left the UK and I could not be more grateful. Although I did get a couple of blisters towards the end of the Camino, I managed about 20 days of blister free glee after opting to wear a pop sock under my hiking sock. I passed this tip on to loads of fellow pilgrims and they also loved it. A veritable Pop Sock pyramid scheme.
I highly recommend a lightweight pair of flip flops for the evenings. There is no greater feeling than removing your hiking shoes at the end of a long day and sliding on some flops. *Joyful music*. You could also take a lightweight pair of canvas shoes in cooler months.
Clothing – Camino de Santiago Ladies Packing Advice
For walking, I opted for two of everything. Shorts, sports bras, t shirts, shorts and socks. This worked, as I could wash my clothing in the evening and hang it to my bag to dry the next day. I’ll be sticking to this approach for Camino round 2! In the summer, don’t forget a sun hat too.
Last time, I packed an absolutely useless waterproof jacket. Next time around, I’m going for a Poncho.
When you’re not walking, you will want a clean change of clothes for the evening. I packed two options – a short playsuit (linen so it didn’t matter if it creased) and some denim shorts, alongside one white t shirt. Next time, I’m definitively not packing anything white – total disaster. I’ll also not be packing denim again, much two heavy. I’d suggest a lightweight dress, or trousers, yoga leggings could work well too and don’t forget a lightweight jumper.
For underwear, I packed three pairs of knickers (quick dry) and a bikini with a top that could double up as a bra. Don’t forget pyjamas, or something you can comfortably wear in a communal room in an Albergue.
Toiletries – what to pack
This is where things get tricky. If, like me, you are used to having an abundance of toiletries, the Camino will challenge you. Toiletries are totally personal, but here are my top tips:
i) All in one soap – yup, it’s a thing. You can get it on Amazon. Soap that washes you, your hair and your clothing. It’s marvellous. Pack it in a plastic zip lock bag (not a heavy soap dish!)
ii) Sachets of Conditioner OR a leave in conditioner – a bottle of conditioner may be too heavy, but a few sachets of conditioner or an intensive hair mask are easier to carry. Next time, I’m going for a leave in conditioner spray that I can also use as a serum.
iii) Mooncup – carrying tampax or sanitary towels is heavy, a mooncup is not. I’d also recommend this for ease as sometimes the toilets on the trail are infrequent.
iv) Moisturiser for body and face – an all in one moisturiser will save space and weight in your bag, for me this as non-negotiable especially to moisturise my feet.
v) Suncream – goes without saying. I find a spray easier to use on the trails and lighter to carry too. I love this Le Roche Posay sun stick as it’s lightweight, easy to put in your bag and is a solid stick (meaning it doesn’t count towards your liquid allowance on the plane.)
vi) Bug Spray – during the night, you won’t be in control of whether windows or doors are open. If you don’t want to get bitten then I’d suggest taking a small spray.
v) A trek towel – this will come in super handy along the way. A quick dry towel is a necessity.
You won’t always be able to get access to a plug in your Albergue, so I would highly recommend taking a spare battery pack for charging your phone on the go. A long charging cable can also come in handy. I also took wireless headphones – this may not be for everyone, but I found these invaluable for listening to podcasts during long days on the trails and for blocking out noise at night in the Albergue. A travel adaptor is also required, unless you already have European plugs. Or, if you just have your phone charger with you you can buy a European plug for that.
Handy Bits and Pieces
i) Pegs – something strong to attach clothing to your bag when it’s drying and to hang clothes on the line at the Albergue.
ii) Small plastic bags – one for your dirty clothing and some smaller ones just in case!
iii) Ear plugs and eye mask – Albergues are noisy and lights go on and off at different times as everyone is on a different schedule. You will not make any friends by moaning about this!
iv) Blister Plasters – of course you can buy these in the different towns along the Camino, but if you have a favourite brand (Compeed for me!) then it’s worth having them handy.
v) Ibuprofen – again you can buy these easily, but I like to have some in my bag just in case.
vi) Bottle opener – most wine in Spain has a cork not a screw top. If you’re a wine drinker, then a bottle opener can be useful.
vii) Waterproof bag cover – it will rain and you want to be able to cover your bag quickly to keep things dry.
viii) A deck of cards – something you can play with your walking buddies during breaks or at the Albergue at night.
ix) A lightweight canvas bag – this is super helpful when you arrive at the Albergue in the evening and want to go out without your backpack, also to grab food shopping etc.
x) Walking poles – if you choose to take them. Read more here about that.
xi) A sleeping bag or sleep sheet – read more here for our advice on whether you need a sleep sheet or sleeping bag.
Packing your bag
Finally, a quick note on packing your backpack. There were three packing hacks that I loved when walking the Camino.
Firstly, it is extremely helpful to separate your bag so that you can get quick access to anything you need in the albergue, without taking everything out your bag. I called this my “albergue bag”. I used just a small carrier bag to separate everything, but I know some people love packing cubes.
Secondly, I love the little pockets around my hips in my backpack. This is great for stashing your phone, lip balm and suncream, as well as anything you need during the walk.
Finally, I loved using a water platypus which slotted into my bag. This meant I could access my water as I walked without stopping.
Would you like more information on preparing and training for the Camino?
Read more about general preparation here and for a detailed guide on training for the Camino, click here.