I can’t believe it’s finally happening.
Tomorrow morning, I’m going to be strapping on a backpack and spending the following three weeks walking 300 miles through Spain.
Yes, I’m going to be walking the Camino Primitivo, which is 370 km (230 miles) in length, and the Camino Finisterre (120 km/75 miles). It should take around 2-3 weeks to complete. This was the original Camino route — the very first trek that the very first pilgrim made to Santiago de Compostela, way back in 814 AD. I’m so excited to follow in his footsteps.
Have no idea what the Camino Primitivo even is? Basically, there’s a huge network of pilgrimages in Europe and Africa leading from various starting points to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, in northwest Spain. The Primitivo is one of those routes and it starts from the Spanish city of Oviedo.
You likely picture these Camino routes to be full of scorching hot sun at this time of year — I know I did — but the Primitivo is a little different. This trail passes over the mountains of Asturias, which means the walk is likely to be cooler and damper than any of the alternatives. It’s also supposed to be one of the most challenging trails, as there’s a hell of a lot of ups and downs to deal with.
Why would I choose such a difficult route for a first Camino?
Apparently I just can’t get enough of challenging myself.
Anyway! Today, I’m excited to kick off my Camino Primitivo coverage by sharing exactly what I’m going to be taking with me in my backpack over the next three weeks. I had to put a lot of effort into planning to make sure my clothes would cover every weather option while not overloading my backpack.
Let’s start with clothing. I wanted to keep this lightweight and minimal and take as few items as I could realistically get away with.
You’ll notice that I’m predominantly travelling with Icebreaker gear and that’s because it’s so great for hiking in different weather conditions. Icebreaker clothes are made from Merino wool, which is kind of a miracle fibre. It’s breathable, wicks moisture, prevents odours, lasts for years, dries quickly, protects you from the sun, and most importantly: helps you stay warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s warm. It’s perfect for a walk like the Camino.
- One vest top: I’ll be using this Icebreaker Siren tank to sleep in at night or wear during warm evenings where I don’t want to put on my hiking tops.
- Indigo Gymshark t-shirt: This top was something I already had at home and decided to take with me. Gymshark stuff fits me perfectly, is lightweight and inexpensive, and dries very quickly.
- Red Icebreaker 150 t-shirt: This is what I’ll be walking in on warmer days on the trail. I love how breathable it is!
- Blue Icebreaker 200 long-sleeved top: In the chilly mornings and evenings, I’ll be wearing this long-sleeved top to keep me warm.
Clothing: Leggings and Shorts
I have much the same mentality here as I did with my tops. I want to take as few options as possible, but enough to cover me for every eventuality and weather condition. I’m not sure how successful I’ve been with this.
- One pair of lightweight running shorts: I tend to wear leggings when hiking, but hey, it’s Spain and you never know how hot it’s going to be. If I don’t end up wearing them for walking, I can sleep in them at night.
- One pair of 3/4-length Gymshark leggings: These fit me well and are reasonably lightweight. I suspect I’ll be walking in them most days as they’re super-comfortable.
- One pair of Under Armour running tights: These leggings are specifically made for running in winter, so I’m hoping they’ll be enough to keep me warm in cold weather, especially if I have an ankle-length poncho (lol) to block the wind. As an added bonus, they dry hyper-fast.
One thing I didn’t pack is a pair of walking-specific pants — you know, those ugly pants that zip-off into shorts. I hate, hate, hate wearing baggy clothes and hate the feeling of them stretching over my knees and thighs when I walk uphill. I may live to regret it, as leggings won’t be the best for wet and windy weather, but we’ll see how I go. I should at least stay warm once I’ve started walking.
The Primitivo has a reputation for being one of the wettest routes to contend with, so I’ll want to stay as dry as possible.
- I’ll be wearing my Icebreaker Hyperia Lite jacket to keep warm in both the evenings and chilly mornings. It weighs just 340 grams and keeps me surprisingly toasty.
- An ugly poncho: Every photo I’ve seen of the Primitivo shows the trail shrouded in mist, so a poncho is a travel essential here. This one was the cheapest, lightest one I could find from Amazon, and it still receives great reviews. It’s big enough to cover my backpack as I walk, reaches down to my calves to keep my body dry, and has a rain hood to keep the water from my face. I decided on a poncho over a rain jacket as I don’t have waterproof pants and wanted to use it as a windbreak for my legs on wet, windy days. Plus, rain jackets always make me feel hot and sweaty.
I experimented with a whole bunch of different socks before settling on the Bridgedale brand. They were so much more comfortable for me than many other brands.
I’m hoping that the combination of liner socks and hiking socks will reduce much of the friction on my feet while walking. The idea is that the outer sock will rub against the liner sock, rather than your skin, preventing blisters from forming. I tried this theory out on a week-long walk and it was one of the first times in my life that I haven’t ended up with blisters on my heel! I’m a convert.
Merrell Accentor 2 hiking shoes: I adore these hiking shoes so much! I learned from my Hadrian’s Wall hike that hiking boots are 100% the worst footwear I could ever choose (the ankle support bruised my feet to the point where I couldn’t walk) so I knew I wanted to go with shoes instead.
I also knew that Merrell are king when it comes to walking shoes. I tried a few on for size and settled on the Accentor 2 shoes for my walk.
My tip: always size up! Your feet are going to swell up when you’re walking for most of the day, so having a larger shoe will give them more room to expand and prevent you from getting blisters.
Haviana flip-flops: At the end of a long day of hiking, the last thing I’m going to want to do is keep my feet in my walking shoes. I’ll be wearing my flip-flops, then, when I head out in the evenings. Havianas are the most comfortable flip-flops I own, so I’m bringing them with me.
Clothing: Other stuff
A buff: Fun fact: I hate caps and hats, especially when exercising, because they leave my head sweaty and don’t prevent my hair from getting in my eyes. As somebody with unbelievably thick and frizzy hair who won’t have access to hair straighteners on the Camino, I need a solution for my hair. I’ll be wearing my buff as a headband throughout the walk to keep my hair out of my face, and also taking several hairbands to tie my hair up.
I’ll be staying in dorm rooms throughout my time on the Camino, so strong protection against snorers is necessary.
- Ear plugs: You’re going to want the best ear plugs ever for the Camino. I decided to get the ones that Dave’s friend, who works with turbines, recommended. These are heavy duty earplugs and some of the best you can get your hands on. The 3M E-A-Rsoft plugs are my favourites and probably the best I’ve ever used.
- Sleeping mask: I’m a huge fan of CozyPhones for travel and, well, life. They’re basically a soft band that wraps around your eyes and ears. There are headphones inside to listen to music, but I doubt I’ll use them for that, as I’ll likely be wearing earplugs underneath. I find these so comfortable and they help me sleep, so I’m taking them on the Camino, too.
Oh man, I invested hard in my sleeping bag.
See, the problem with sleeping bags for me was that they were simply too long. As a person that’s 5’1”, I found that standard sleeping bags were made for people that are like, 6’7” in length. It seemed ridiculous to bring something so long, as I’d be carrying so much extra weight with me that I wouldn’t even use. Additionally, a lot of the more affordable sleeping bags weighed in at around 1 kg, and I didn’t want to add that much weight to my bag.
In the end, I splurged and bought the Sea to Summit Flame women’s sleeping bag at an insanely ridiculous price of $350. But I love this sleeping bag! It weighs just 300 grams! It packs down so small (banana for scale, obvs)! It’s comfortable down to 4°C/40°F!
This could be an exceptionally poor decision because bedbugs are rife on the Camino and I’d be gutted if they infested my sleeping bag. Buuuut I guess I can put it in the freezer when I get home to kill them rather than throwing it out? Eeep — fingers crossed!
As an aside, I treated both my sleeping bag and backpack with a permethrin spray in an attempt to deter any bed bugs from making my belongings their home.
Toothbrush and toothpaste: In an effort to cut down on weight, I opted to take solid toothpaste tablets for brushing my teeth. You chew the tablets up in your mouth, then brush as you normally would with toothpaste. I actually really like them, even if they taste a little like soapy salt. They seriously lather up in your mouth so you come away with your mouth feeling really clean.
Razor: I’m in the process of getting my hair lasered, but I still deal with regrowth and don’t particularly want to rock the hairy look on my Camino. I’m just taking one lightweight razor for the trip.
Solid shampoo: Lush’s solid shampoo bars are a staple in my travel packing lists, and I love how long they last me. My favourite scent is the Godiva bar, which is shampoo and conditioner in one. These bars last ages — as in, one bar lasted me something like eight months when I was travelling continuously.
Bar of soap: I grabbed a bar of soap from Lush while I was buying some solid shampoo.
Cork case for the shampoo bar: This container is so lightweight! And it absorbs the moisture from the solid shampoo while preventing everything else from getting wet. For a long time, I’ve recommended Lush’s metal tins, but they’ve always ended up getting kind of gross. The cork ones are so much better.
Solid deodorant: No, you’re ridiculous! In my quest for a lighter Camino, I opted for a solid deodorant that I actually ended up really liking. It weighs just 10 grams, has all natural ingredients, and will last for around a month, so I’m super happy with it.
Laundry soap: I’ll be needing to do laundry regularly on the Camino. With only two real clothing options, I’ll be arriving into my albergue each evening, then promptly washing my clothes that afternoon. I’m a big fan of bars of laundry soap because they lasts for ages. Like, months if you’re hand-washing in a sink. Laundry soup is more lightweight than liquid detergent and lasts for longer, which makes this a no-brainer for me. I cut my bar down into a small chunk to save on weight.
Sunscreen: This is Spain, so of course I’m going to need sunscreen! I’ve got a 100ml tube of SPF 50, which should hopefully last me the whole walk. If not, I’ll restock up from stores along the way.
Toilet paper: In case I need to pee by the side of the road? If I do, I won’t want to drip dry in my pants.
Osprey toiletry bag: I considered leaving this behind, but it’ll be useful to be able to keep all of my toiletries in one place rather than having them scattered all over the place in my backpack. I love all things Osprey, and their toiletry bag is no exception. There’s a hook to hang it up in the showers, and a mirror for me to check just how rapidly my hair is expanding without hair straighteners.
Food and drinks
Hydration bladder: I’m a recent convert to hydration bladders and I wouldn’t consider going back to a water bottle.
My Osprey hydration bladder slips in a pocket in my backpack and holds up to two litres of water. When I’m walking, the mouthpiece sits a few inches from my mouth and makes it so easy to stay hydrated when I’m walking. It’s so much better than either carrying a water bottle or having to stop every half an hour to find my bottle and take a sip.
A couple of protein bars: Food won’t be easy to find everywhere on the Camino, so I’m packing a couple of protein bars to take with me whenever I run short of food options. I’ll keep replacing these as I walk.
My First Aid Kit
Oh boy. Prepare yourself for an onslaught of bandaids.
During a recent training walk I ended up with a blister on every single toe and I’ve been scarred by the experience. Because while I was able to walk through the pain just fine — well, sort of — I was also going through ten bandaids a day. Multiply that by the 18-ish days I’ll be walking through Spain and that’s a hell of a lot of bandaids.
Of course, I’ll be able to stock up my supplies from pharmacies along the way, but I also made sure to pack plenty of my favourite brands to make sure I have ones that work well.
- Adventure Medical BlisterMedicKit: This kit is all about preventing and treating blisters. It comes with antiseptic wipes, cleaning alcohol, cooling blister gel, and plenty of unusual-shaped bandaids that’ll fit some of those hard to cover areas.
- Compeed: Compeed felt like a miracle product when recently I developed a huge blister on my big toe. Despite continuing walking every day, my blister was significantly healed every time I checked on it. I couldn’t believe it! This makes it a travel essential when it comes to healing any open blisters. I condensed three packs into one to save space.
- Elastoplast finger-strip bandaids: My favourite type of bandaid! Because I have such an unusual walking style, I tend to find that whenever I apply a bandaid, it’s rubbed off within five minutes of walking. I love these finger-strip bandaids because I can wrap them around each toe twice and they’re so sticky that they never fall off. I’m a huge fan. Again, I condensed three packs into one because apparently I actually am going to take 200 bandaids with me.
- Imodium: The last thing I want to deal with is food poisoning while I need to walk 25 km in a day. I’ll be carrying a couple of tablets of Imodium for any emergency situations on the trail.
- Paracetamol: I prefer paracetamol to ibuprofen, as the latter often makes me nauseated. I’m taking a bunch of Panadol to use at the end of the day if my feet are struggling. I won’t use them mid-walk, as numbing the pain is often what causes injuries.
- Rehydration salts: Walking every day is a recipe for dehydration and that can result in headaches, dizziness, low energy, muscle cramps, and a general feeling of crappiness. I’m bringing a handful of rehydration sachets to ensure I’m staying hydrated and not sweating out all of the minerals in my body.
- All of the vaseline: My preventative technique for blisters is going to be about covering my toes in lots of vaseline every few hours. Blisters form when there’s friction, so Vaseline should eradicate it and help my toes slide around next to each other without rubbing off the skin. Either way, it’s going to feel so gross. I have a 50g tub to take with me.
For me, walking the Camino is all about getting offline and being at one with my thoughts rather than refreshing Instagram for hours all day. For that reason, and the fact that I’m trying to keep my bag as light as possible, I’m keeping things minimal on the technology front. I’ll be taking time off work to walk, so won’t be bringing my laptop with me, and I’m leaving my camera behind, too.
Here’s the technology I’ve decided to bring with me.
iPhone XS: I’ll be using my phone as my camera on the walk, as I definitely want to be able to take photos throughout the journey. My phone will be useful for a few other tasks, too: updating you guys through social media about my increasing amount of blisters, finding directions if I happen to wander off trail, calling ahead to book albergues if I find I’m struggling to get a bed for the night, and researching places to stay in advance.
iPhone earphones: There’s only so much of my own thoughts I can deal with before I start to lose my mind, so I plan on listening to podcasts while I walk, or even to try to drown out snorers. These are just the standard Apple earphones that came with my iPhone.
Kindle Paperwhite: I debated long and hard about whether to bring my Kindle with me, as I really didn’t want the extra weight. But, I know that using the Kindle app on my phone would likely drive me crazy. My phone’s battery life would probably mean having to read books on my phone while charging it in the dorm, rather than sitting outside, and that doesn’t sound like fun. The Kindle battery life is great, so I’m not taking a charger with me.
A super-long charging cable: I’ll most likely be trying to charge my phone every night in the albergues, so it’ll be much more convenient to have a long cable that reaches across the dorm room or up to the top bunk. I bought this ridiculously long 3 metre/10 ft charging cable for my phone. Anker is king when it comes to charging and cables and general travel technology, so I always recommend buying their products.
Fitbit and charger: How else am I going to track my distances? I’d probably would go without, actually, if I wasn’t planning to write a ton of resources about the Camino once I finish. I want to get an idea of how far I walk each day, and also know how many steps I took overall. I’ll take the charger with me as my battery rarely lasts more than a week on a single charge.
Power adapter with 4 USB slots: It makes sense to bring one of these when everyone is likely going to be crowding around the power sockets trying to charge their gear. I’ll be able to charge my iPhone and Kindle while also offering other people my spare two slots to use. This adapter has a European plug, so I won’t have to bring a travel adapter, either.
Head lamp: Whoops, I forgot to take a photo of this, but I’m bringing a head lamp with me for use on early morning hikes. I imagine I’ll be getting up in darkness many mornings, so this will help me find my way when the sun hasn’t yet risen.
After experimenting with different set-ups on the South Downs Way, I decided I wanted to walk with one pole instead of two. I found that attempting to manoeuvre two poles confused my brain and I was much more co-ordinated when using just the one.
I’ve also decided to cheap out here and use the cheapest walking pole we have in our house. This was one that Dave bought from Decathlon for about €10 back in 2015. And yet, it works for me! All of the fancy lightweight, shock-absorbing poles just weren’t as comfortable as this cheap and cheerful one.
A quick-dry travel towel: I love Sea to Summit’s travel towels, as they pack up so small and dry exceptionally quickly. I take these on all of my trips, so I’m obviously going to take it on the Camino, too.
Some freezer bags: I’m taking a couple of these to keep everything organised in my bag. I’ll keep all of my first aid kit in one bag and my snacks in another.
Five clothes pegs: Sorry! Bought these last minute and didn’t include them in my photos. If my clothes don’t dry overnight, I’ll need some pegs to attach them to my backpack as I walk the following day. I’ll also be using these for drying my clothes on clotheslines at albergues each day.
My new favourite backpack is the Osprey Lumina 45L. This pack is so comfortable, so of course I’m taking it on my Camino.
I bought it because it’s ridiculously lightweight — 770 grams in total. In comparison, my already-lightweight 40 litre Osprey Farpoint that I use for everyday travel comes in at 1.36 kg. This is pretty much the lightest backpack on the market at the moment, so if you’re into ultralight hiking, I highly recommend it.
I’ll be back in three weeks to update this post to share my full thoughts on everything I decided to bring with me! I’ll be sharing what I wish I’d left behind and what I seriously should have packed. Keep your fingers crossed that I’ll return to announce that everything was perfect.