What to pack

Before you even start thinking about how to get there have a look at your hiking gear.  I’ve been hiking on and off for years so have a good base of items and a bit of experience to back it up – also there are Camino forums and sites that offer great advice.  Gear can cost a fair bit to get right.  The key to any longer distance hiking (more than 15km in total) is comfort so pack accordingly.
Boots are the most important thing; the wrong boots will leave you crippled and bawling beside the road – ok maybe a slight exaggeration but you get the idea.  If you get cheap and crappy boots they simply wont last the distance.  Ask any hiker – it is worth forking out the extra cash to get boots that are perfect and will last the distance.  Nobody wants to lose a toenail, get a stress fracture or lose feeling in parts of their feet for a few months – yes it does happen.  And bad boots can affect everything above your feet too – they can cause knee, hip and back problems.  All in all that’s just a lot of problems that could be avoided by getting the right boots.

Next the socks – almost as important as the boots.  There are so many socks on the market it makes my head spin!  The general consensus seems to be that merino wool hiking socks are the best.  Other options include socks that have strategic padding etc to help prevent and treat blisters – they’re somewhat more expensive but some avid hikers (like my mother) swear by them.  There are also Merino wool sicks with silver woven in to prevent fungal infections.

After taking care of your feet the next most important thing is taking care of the rest of you – you need clothes you can hike in.  Moisture-wicking, quick drying, lightweight and versatile seems to be the way to go but, once again, the most important thing to remember is comfort.  Unfortunately comfort and fashion don’t usually agree when it comes to hiking.  For example, pants that zip off to become shorts or even just shorts are very popular but I recently discovered that zip-off pants look terrible on everyone, particularly me!  I also found them to be rather uncomfortable.  I was very lucky, however, that my favourite clothing store (City Chic) had some pants in stock that were perfect!  City Chic have an amazing range of clothing for curvier girls (Australian size 14+) and have stores in Australia and New Zealand, they also post overseas – but tough luck if you’re not a girl above size 14!

Lightweight and layers is the best thing to keep you warm, so once again the merino wool comes in.  You don’t want to get too warm but you don’t want to get cold either.  Don’t pack too much but don’t pack too little – ambiguous enough for you?!  Some resources I’ve found suggest taking a light fleece for the mornings and evenings.  I’m not going to and here’s why; I have a light merino long sleeved shirt, I also have a quick-dry super dooper fabric t-shirt and a lightweight jacket – if I wear them all at once that will be warmer than the fleece I was going to take – the merino is better at working with your body temperature (hence why fishermen etc wear wool – it stays warm even when it’s wet) and with the jacket over the top it will all hold my body temperature nicely and I can remove layers slowly as needed instead of losing all the warmth when I remove just the fleece.

Make sure you have a lightweight, small and completely awesome hiking pack (like mine above)!!
and in it:

Socks – 2-3 pairs
Boots – proper hiking boots, make sure you wear them in!
Sandals – for when your feet need time out and in the showers if you feel it is necessary
2 shirts – one for during the day when you’re hiking and one for your day off or evenings
Long sleeved lightweight shirt
Shorts x2 or + 1 pair of zip-off pants
Lightweight pants
Underwear
Microfibre towel (quick-drying, absorbent and lightweight)
Sleeping bag(or blanket if you think you’ll survive) + sleeping bag liner + pillowcase – travel pillow if you can fit it in
Sunglasses
Hydration – water bottle or hydration pack if your hiking pack is compatible
Eating utensils, Swiss Army knife (if you’re one of those types who can’t go anywhere without one) and food storage if you plan to make and carry your own food – I wont, it just adds more weight to your pack
Earplugs – essential on any trip that involves sleeping in dorm/shared rooms
Toiletries Hat – preferably one with a brim that goes all the way around unless you like a sunburned neck
Sunscreen
Camera + charger, phone + charger also if you think it’s necessary
Detergent + clothesline, you have to clean and dry your clothes somehow!
Guidebook + Spanish phrase book if you want to take one – not necessary but I certainly am!
Necessary medical supplies and usual medications if any – most things you can buy and there are hospitals for pilgrims along the way but at the very least have:  Blister care items, dressings etc – very important! and a compression bandage, just incase.
Sewing kit – no really! you might need to repair things or, more likely, drain a blister with a needle once you’ve sterilised it
Torch (only a small one and only if you think you need it)
Waterproof jacket or poncho and some system for keeping your pack dry – pack covers or pack liners are good
Toilet paper + Plastic shovel – there aren’t always toilets around and nobody wants to see your leavings, also there’s a chance someone will steal the last piece of paper in the Albergue!
Tissues
Bathers or a sarong – particularly for ladies as, apparently, some of the Albergues do not have shower curtains…

Obviously my pack has a bit more on the side of medical supplies because what is essential for me includes several roles of sports tapes, electrolyte replacement methods, over the counter painkillers and my prescription medications!  Also hiking poles which are optional – many people prefer to find a walking stick along the way or not use one at all.  I know very well that my knees hate downhill so I will be taking some!

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. njr3307
    Aug 13, 2014 @ 08:32:55

    Hi! I just read your blog posts on doing the camino. I have Dysautonomia too (as well as a couple other things) and am thinking about trying to do the camino. I was incredibly happy to see that someone else with Dysautonomia has done it! I would love to ask you more questions about your experience. Is there a way I can contact you?

    Reply

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