Like most people in the world I’ve been in lockdown and one of my quarantine projects was to get my 2016 Camino del Norte/Primitivo notes into some kind of readable format. You can find the full pdf version of ‘There You Go’ on Scribd here.
Here, for your interest and inspiration, I offer a chapter – THINGS! – Las Cosas! – you might like to take with you on your walk across Spain. In no particular order. Mere suggestions. Go your own way. Find the Plant-Based Food chapter separately.
Ask yourself: do I need it? Can I live without it? Can I buy it along the way? (Yes, you probably can). Please note: the longest time on the Camino del Norte/Primitivo without a shop is 22km. There will be a shop soon.
Try to get biodegradable – you may need to bury rubbish.
Take plenty of time. This is probably the last time you’ll do this (although some people do it over and over again) so make sure you’ve calculated enough rest/exploring days. Why rush? Do a shorter camino like Portugues or English Ways if you can’t afford the time.
Some Spanish language. Idioma de Español. Por favor. Un poco está bien. Muchas gracias.
See the book: ‘To walk far carry less’, an excellent read by Jean-Christie Ashmore. Hundreds of other books and sites are available. A good place to start is The Camino Forum but do your own research. Up-to-date information is published all the time. You walk your own Camino!
CHOOSE THE SMALLEST, LIGHTEST, PACK POSSIBLE. (Actually, choose lightest, smallest EVERYTHING.) Camino rule – your pack should weigh one tenth of your body weight. Find smaller fabric bags to enclose clothes/food/washing/writing items. There is nothing worse than the crinkling of plastic bags in the morning. Take your pack out of the sleeping area to organise. Be aware of your fellow pilgrims!
Two walking outfits as a general rule – one to wear while the other washes. I preferred to sleep in a third outfit – tee-shirt and running shorts – heavy!
Boots that fit – get an expert’s advice. Wear them in well. (Not too well!) Do not skimp on your boots. These are your homes for six weeks or however long you walk. Mine feel like slippers now. Vegan boots are available. (I know Dubbin’s not vegan. And neither are the boots. I try.)
Socks that fit well and are geared to the weather – you don’t need thick fluffy winter socks in the middle of summer. Get expert advice. Try them on in the shop. Do not skimp on socks. I took three pairs. Two is enough. But it will rain. Keep one pair dry at all times. This could be in a special lockup plastic bag
Foot care: including toenail clippers and foot moisturiser. You must love, massage and thank your feet every day. Keep your toenails short. You may use the same moisturiser for your face. See a podiatrist six weeks before walking. No closer than that. Let your feet be as soft and relaxed as the smile on your face. Have you trimmed your toenails today? I know I have.
Sleeping bag and inner sheet – suitable for the prevailing weather. I took a pillow case to fill with a jumper as a pillow but you don’t need to. There’s often pillows in the albergues. In summer you may not need the bag.
Protective sheet – If there’s been a bedbug infestation certain albergues will provide you with a protective sheet for the mattress but I saw no evidence of creepy crawlies anywhere I stayed. (Don’t put your backpack on the bunks.) Towards the end I did carry diluted lavender oil to spray around me and still I never saw a bedbug but did I feel slightly more relaxed?
Plain comfy cotton underwear that washes well and dries fast
Walking trousers that zip off to shorts – make sure the zip does not rub against your skin – handy to have safe zip pockets for phone / wallet
Walking shirts (I prefer long sleeved for sun protection) Many walking shirts have turn up collars that tuck under a hat. Also if you have front pockets you can get away with no bra. Most walking shirts might seem expensive but the modern fabrics dry super fast, have sun protection and last for years and years of solid wear. I took two.
Zip up sleeveless warm vest – I like these – lots of pockets with zips. You will be walking by the coast. There will be breezy days.
Jumper / hoodie – LIGHT warm thing – avoid big bulky favourite knitwear!
Sun hat – really. If you are outside for hours you will be vulnerable to sun no matter what temperature
Raincoat – I had a Danish poncho which was brilliant as a ground cover to sit on as well as a sturdy windbreak – it needed the structure of a cap to keep the hood up away from my eyes. It will rain on the Norte. It rains nearly every day in the Basque Country and maybe every second day in Asturias and Galicia. It will certainly rain. Consider walking with bare legs in rain – shorts or skirt – much easier to dry
Water bottle/s – consider carrying on your front – perhaps in a fanny pack or front holsters as well as sunglasses and snacks – weight on your front balances the weight of the backpack – 2 litres of water plus stuff will weigh you down
Going into town outfit – comfortable and decent – shirt/skirt/shorts/trousers /dress – light – just one – do you really need it?
Sandals / jandals / thongs / flip flops – in certain shower stalls and perhaps going into town
Essential medications – whatever you need for as long as you need it – but do you really need it?
Bar of soap – plain – not just for skin – hair – clothes … Same thing! Some people take mini clothes pegs or travelling clothes line
Small travellers towel (also consider a tiny corner of a face washer if you like a little scrubber with you)
Toothpaste / toothbrush / floss – some people like to saw the end off their toothbrush to save weight. Well. If you’re that fussy … cut the labels out of your clothes too
Sunscreen – yes. There will be sun.
Muscle cream – For those strained or twisted aches and pains – BUT FIRST be careful – take your time! Avoid injury. Take a rest. (Keep your eyes peeled for Pomada de San Juan – a magic lotion I was encouraged to buy in Donastia – includes hypericum)
Hand sanitiser – I used water but sometimes you can get caught short. You have to weigh it all up.
First aid – Bandaids, antiseptic cream to keep hurts moist / iodine to dry out wounds / Sting/insect bite cream/paracetamol – remember – you can buy stuff on the way!
A wrap / sulu / fabric to cover head in church / sunscreen over shoulders / warmth / instead of sheet in heat … this could also work as a travellers towel
Tissues / toilet paper – yes. Essential.
Padlock and key – some hostels/albergues have lockers
Headtorch – be careful where you point that thing. Be aware of other people
Plastic containers for leftovers
Travellers probiotics – hopefully you won’t need them but if you do get the squitters …
Walking sticks (bastónes) – take 30% of your body weight and give your arms a good work out – some folk love a rustic wooden walking stick for that pilgrim feeling – can you take it through customs? You might find one on the way. And leave it there. Handy if you meet an angry dog
Notebook / journal / pens /pencils /watercolours etc (Think of the weight!)
Guide book? Up to date? Some people rip out pages as they go – getting lighter …
Smart phone and headphones. Do you really have to take an extra camera as well? There are lots of Camino based apps and info – always upgrading – so up to your research – or choose to stay off grid. Some people listen to music / podcasts / audio books etc while walking. I like to keep my wits about me while walking. Listening perhaps for twinkling creeks, rushing rivers, birds or cars, dogs or approaching walkers. I would save the audio books for those grim snorey nights.
I only used paper maps from Tourist Offices (I used them as a touch stone for advice) and the Gronze app which helped my written Spanish. Now I think I would take maps.me and download each map for the next stage before I travelled. I did that when walking from Pamplona to Burgos in 2019 and it definitely cut out a lot of walking in circles for me.
Wifi is pronounced ‘wee fee’ and there’s plenty of it.
Charger – do keep an eye on your phone.
Ear plugs / eye mask for sleeping
Sense of humour
Sense of awe
Sentimental/religious objects – weigh it up
Time – lots of time – be rich in time – and patience. You’ll get there in time. 5km in one hour. Roughly.
Find ‘There You Go’ on Scribd here.