Camino Guides & Fiction
IF YOU ARE PREPARING FOR A JOURNEY ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO, we think our Camino de Santiago Guide to Preparing Well & Saving Money is a huge help. Our advice is distilled from many Camino journeys and has saved our team, family, and friends $1000's and lots of time. If you could fly for almost free to Spain from the US, would you be able to make your trip sooner? Don't have time to read through hundreds of forum comments on other sites to plan and outfit your trip? We have sifted through all of that, tested gear for you, and offer you our favorites. Purchase the Kindle version from Amazon Camino de Santiago Guide to Preparing Well & Saving Money.
John Brierley has been writing his excellent guidebooks for the Camino for years, expanding to add other routes to his list of guides. While we admire and appreciate his maps and concise listing of albergues and sights to note, we do NOT recommend that you follow his itinerary and schedule for walking the Camino. You need to set your own pace rather than follow his pace so you don't injure yourself trying to keep up. Also, we are finding that the towns he recommends as stopping points tend to fill up early, as so many people follow his itinerary. So stop before or after the towns he recommends if you can't find a bed. We also recommend that you digitize the pages of his guide that you want with you into PDF format, and store those in your phone's library so you can refer to them easily, and not have the heavy book to carry. Available from Amazon: A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago, 2018 edition, Brierley.
An inspiring fictional read can encourage and inform as it entertains, and that is what Hilary Van Wagenen does in Elizabeth's Story. If you are preparing to go for the first time it gives you a picture of someone making some of the same decisions as you, and a glimpse at Camino life. If you have already walked, you will recognize some of the Camino characters and situations. Even if you don't intend to walk the Camino, the story is a good read as it follows Elizabeth from a Beltway fast track to encounter God's unconditional love and provision on the Camino. Available in paperback and Kindle versions from Amazon: Elizabeth's Story
Wouldn't Do a Camino Without These
Transporting liquids and other items can be tricky. Many of us have to fly to get to our departure point for the Camino, and we always recommend packing so you can carry on your pack rather than check it. Remember that most every liquid you need will be available in Spain, so only bring liquids for the first week or two, or liquids that you know you cannot replace in Spain. The best travel bottles we have ever found are by Human Gear, called GoToobs. These silicone tubes come in two sizes, 1.25 oz, and 3 oz, and each three pack has a variety of colors. There is also a clever built-in labeling system to identify what's inside. Haven't had a leak yet, and we've been hauling them all over the world for several years now. There are look-alike out there, but we will stick with what we know works. GoToobs. Our favorite sturdy way to transport dry items of all kinds is with the GoToob cousins called GoTubbs. These are seriously clever, one-handed storage tubs in 2 oz. and 3 oz. sizes. With a little two-fingered squeeze on the sides of the lid you can pop open one of these little gems, take something out, and then close it by pushing the lid down until it clicks. You won't know how cool this is until you use it, but it is a wonderful item to store many things while you are on the Camino or traveling anywhere else. I would not put liquids in these, but have used them for solids of various kinds, including semi-solid facial cleansers, medicines, a portion of trail mix, safety pins and hair ties, coins. Anything you want to carry and have in a handy container to access easily.
Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sacks are reliably waterproof bags (praised by kayakers and others who can count on getting a soaking) that have saved our phones, cameras, passports, cash, and medicines in Camino rainstorms. We describe our complete rain solutions in our Guidebook, and one of the items we recommend that you have with you is some way of keeping dry what CANNOT get wet. Dry Sacks come in many sizes and colors, and if you will be using it for just a few items, you can probably get by with the xx-small (1 liter/6 inch flat) or x-small (2 liter/8 inch flat). Some pilgrims use these for all their gear. We have some we have been using for over 10 years, and they are still in great condition.
Eagle Creek Packing Cubes are another favorite Camino item. We traveled without having them for years, but haven't gone anywhere without them since we discovered them. We like this 3-piece set (total weight is about 2 ounces) in sheer white for the Camino. The three sizes are perfect for organizing your clothes so there's no more digging around in your pack trying to find something in a dark albergue. Cubes are made of water resistant material and come in a variety of colors, but we like the White because it is easy to see what's inside. Each cube has two zippers, one for access into the cube, and the other for compressing or expanding the cube to meet the changing needs of your trip. Sometimes we have clean clothes in one cube and dirty in another. Or we have tops and underwear in one, socks in another, and bottoms in the third. Make them work for you to organize your Camino backpack, and use on all your other trips.
The PackTowel is a microfiber towel essential for pilgrims staying in albergues. We tested several before we chose this as our favorite for the Camino. It is super absorbent, soaking up to four time its weight in water, and dries 70% faster than a regular cotton towel. We recommend not going smaller than the "Hand towel" size (16.5 X 36inch) for the Camino in warm weather, and to go with the "Body size" (25 X 54 inch) for cooler weather. These come in many colors, and after you choose yours, wash it with like colors at home 2-3 times before taking it on the Camino to prevent dye bleeding on the trail. After your Camino shower, wring it out thoroughly, and hang it up so it will be dry to pack in the morning when you walk out of the albergue. Be sure to launder your towel along with your clothes when you have access to a washing machine.
Shining Buddy Headlamp--funny name, great item, amazing price. We have bought more expensive headlamps than the Shining Buddy, but none of them out-performed it. With a price tag on Amazon of $12.97, and arriving with Duracell batteries included, we don't think you can beat it. Since using headlamps on the Camino for the first time in 2007, we have not taken a trip anywhere without one. Ours saved our bacon on that first walk over the Pyrenees, when were coming in after dark with no lighting on the trail, helped us in dark albergue situations, and made it possible to get up and out the albergue door before the sun was up to beat the heat. A great tip about using headlamps in the fog, is to attach them to the front of your pack's hip belt or trouser waistband to shine at the path in front of you. If you wear it on your head the light can bounce back from the fog preventing you from seeing what's ahead, rather than aiding you.
Camp Suds is our favorite all purpose Camino soap. Its sudsing action and minty scent make it a good choice for your personal washing and shampooing, as well as hand washing your clothes. Simplicity is a theme of the Camino, so when the soap you wash yourself with can be the one you wash everything else with, it's a definite "win." We recommend getting this economical 16oz bottle, and filling a couple of 3oz GoToobs with it. You will have enough for a friend or other trips left over. When you use up what you take with you, just find a shampoo, body wash, or more Camp Suds along the trail and refill your GoToobs. Leave the rest of the bottle in your albergue as a help to those who will come after you and need something.
Compact Duct Tape Rolls are a really convenient size. Very portable and handy for the Camino and so many other places and travel situations. Until we found these small rolls, the only way I knew to take duct tape efficiently on the Camino was to carefully wind several feet of it around each walking pole in a spot that would not interfere with the operation of the poles, or your gait. We know everyone is probably familiar with the thousands of uses for duct tape, but a few to mention for pilgrims might prove helpful. Use duct tape to make repairs to gear, clothing, and even shoes. It also has many medical first aid uses. It is not expensive, and if you don't use it on the Camino, you can take it with you on other trips, or put some in your car for emergencies.
Source Convertube Water Bottle Adaptor System Staying hydrated on the Camino is critical. During the hot weather it can be difficult to keep up your drinking as you walk. We are not fans of bladder style water systems or water bottles that are very difficult to keep clean on the Camino, and can be pretty heavy even when they are empty. We used camelbacks on our first Camino, but not any more. Our favorite hydration advice is to have one or two 20oz. water or soda bottles with you to refill at water fountains along the way. Replace these bottles every couple of days to stay hygienically safe. If you like having a drinking tube attached to one of your shoulder straps to make drinking easy as you walk, get this Water Bottle Adaptor Kit and turn your water bottle into a tube style drinking system. Very clever, and great advice from a seasoned pilgrim friend. Thanks, Meagan.
Re-useable Shopping Bag We didn't know how helpful this would be on our first Camino, but we have had something like this with us on every trip since then. A super lightweight tote bag for carrying food from the market to your albergue, or taking dirty clothes downstairs to a washing machine, or many other activities. This bag by Baggu comes in fun colors and prints, is practically weightless, durable ripstop nylon, and washable. It's a handy size for rolling up small to stash in your pocket or pack.
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