Packing for any holiday can be a stressful and daunting challenge even for the seasoned travellers amongst us. As promised, I want to share with all you ladies out there, my own experience of packing for The Camino. In my previous blog, Camino Packing List (for all the ladies) Part 1 I spoke about walking the Camino whilst staying in low cost Albergues or hostels and carrying all my worldly possessions on my back.
Here I want to share with you what it’s like to book with a company like Mountain Ways Ireland and how your Camino packing list will change (for the better?).
By the way, the picture above is of myself on the left and three lovely Irish ladies that I just happen to meet one afternoon in a small village along the way.We spent a great few hours together, this is what the Camino is all about.
Like any walking holiday I suppose the essential Camino packing list for women is the same and must be packed either way. See Part 1 for my complete list.
Firstly, I think it’s important to say that I have actually walked and experienced the Camino in a few different ways.As a result, I think that I have a unique insight that I want to share with you all.
Three Ways to Walk the Camino
These are the three different ways that I walked, and each meant a different approach to packing- a different packing list.
Method 1 – I Booking the flights but no accommodation was booked in advance nor did I have any real idea of how far I would walk everyday or where I would even stay each night.I carried everything in my rucksack.
Method 2 –Booking flights and accommodation independently, some places I pre- booked and some not. I carried everything in my rucksack.
Method 3 –Again I booked my own flights but used a dedicated walking company to organise everything else.I chose when I wanted to go, how far I wanted to walk every day, where I wanted to rest for an extra day and how many days in total I had to spend in Spain. They listened to my plans and booked for me where I would stay every night with breakfast included.They organised any transfers needed and moved a small suitcase for me everyday whilst I was enjoying my walk.
This blog and Camino Packing List for Ladies is mostly based on method 3 but if this isn’t your thing then you’ll still hopefully pick up a few nuggets along the way so please read on.
The Independent Pilgrim
On my first Camino Frances, I booked everything independently. I went out with nothing pre-booked and stayed where I found a bed every night.On this trip I experienced staying in hostels/albergues along the way while carrying all my stuff in one rucksack. I washed my clothes daily and had to get by with the bare minimum of everything, being ever conscious of the weight I was carrying on my back.
The actual experience for a middle-aged woman sharing a small living – space with so many other people is a blog in its own right.
Walking the Camino when organised by a company such as Mountain Ways Ireland for one thing means the luxury of bringing a suitcase and the difference this makes is unbelievable.
Advantages of Booking with Mountain Ways Ireland
- Hotels / Private rooms /En-Suite bathroom
- Having a clearly laid out itinerary and pre-booked place to stay removes all of the uncertainty and anxiety.
- I can leave whatever time I like in the morning, there is no ‘race’ for a bed every day.
- My breakfast is included
- Someone collects and moves my suitcase every day from hotel to hotel
- I don’t have to worry about carrying every ounce on my back.My Camino packing list doesn’t have to be calculated to the nearest gram or ounce.
- Room to pack extra clothes /footwear
- A big advantage is that I only need to carry a lightweight day pack which makes things so much easier
- Shopping! I can purchase a few souvenirs along the way and not have to worry about the weight, Think retail ladies ?
- Because I choose to book self-guided, I can choose from a large range of available walking itineraries .Therefore I can choose when I want to go, how many days I want to go for, where I want to spend a rest day, how far I want to walk every day and let Mountain ways Ireland look after the rest.
Packing your Suitcase
TOP TIP! When I used someone to organise things for me; from my previous experiences on The Camino, I knew that even though this time I was booking through a company and getting my luggage transferred, there was still no need for a load of extra clothes.There was no need for the Camino packing list to run off the page.
Getting ready to go, the empty case on the bed looked alien to me, and for a split second I almost forgot how to pack one, but thank goodness it lasted only a split second and my holiday mode kicked in.
The Camino Packing list changed and although the spreadsheet of items was important to make sure that I had all with me, the weights column was put to the side?
The Camino Packing List for ladies just got longer
What you can take now that you have a little freedom ?
- Clothes /shoes
- Book or Kindle
- All the chargers that you desire
- A proper towel
- TOP TIP! A pair of walking sticks – * This is a really important advantage because without a case or a company to move your case every day then you can’t get these through airport security or airline as carry-on items. Walking poles are prohibited as potential weapons or at the very best, the guidelines are not clear, and you run the high risk of loosing these on check-in!
Hotel Room v Hostel
I was carried away by the pure idea of having a case transferred after previously having to carry everything on my back.
It’s like meeting an old friend at the end of every day when you arrive at your Casa Rural or Hotel to find your transferred case there waiting for you.
One of the biggest advantages of booking with a company, is being able to pack a few luxury items like face creams and moisturisers etc. I would guess a lot of you ladies are the same when it comes to the daily facial routine, and being able to sit at a proper dressing table in your own hotel room was definitely a must for me ,and I also did not miss the inevitable queue for the showers that you find in any shared space when so many want to do the same thing at the same time. There is nothing better than relaxing in a lovely hot bath after a hard days walking.
*There actually is – relaxing in a lovely hot bath after a hard days walking with a glass of cool Rioja in your hand and a bit of background music.
A Hair Dryer on the Camino ?
Being able to blow dry my hair properly was another boost. Full size towels are also an absolute luxury over the micro-fibre tea-towel ?.
You really need to use a small micro fibre towel for a couple of weeks in the hostels to appreciate the difference.
Technology on the Camino
Yes, the Camino is about escaping the rat race but let’s not kid ourselves, we all want to share those experiences as we go.
I also brought my laptop and was able to use it in the hotel in the evenings, almost every place I stayed in had excellent Wi-Fi. I packed it in my case, well protected in the centre among the clothes and it was safely transported to my next stop every day.
Bed and Breakfast
When I stayed in the hostels/ albergues, most mornings I didn’t have breakfast before my walk started.To prepare, I usually bought stuff the evening before, which again I had to carry.
I love my tea in the mornings and staying in Hotels, Pensiones and Casas Rurales I could have as much tea as I wanted and a good breakfast.
Yes, it was possible in some of the hostels to cook a light breakfast but who really wants to go on holidays to buy groceries every evening, cook for themselves and do the washing up!
I’m told that I’m not generally a good ‘morning person’ but the cup of tea and ready-made ‘bite to eat’ really put a spring in my step for the first important few kilometres every day.
A Bit of Choice
For me the biggest advantage of booking with a company is the extra clothes and footwear and just having a choice, but what I said in my first blog still remains the same ,The Camino is very casual and even though I had the choice of extra clothes, I still just brought more of the same really.
- ¾ length trousers
- Shorts and tee shirts
- Lightweight runners
Do I need a Handbag on The Camino?
Should a handbag be on a Camino packing list for ladies? Again, this is a personal thing, I always carry my handbag at home so when I was going on my first Camino:
- I bought a little casual 2.5 litre shoulder bag for my first Camino
- It was the perfect size for holding passport, phone etc. and it served its purpose very well, so I brought it with me on every trip
- This type of bag suited as its perfect for travelling through the airport
- It has plenty of little inside compartments and zips
- I also carried it with me in the evenings
- I like to keep a little journal of my walks, jotting down bits and pieces etc, so again the bag was handy for holding that
- It was another way of compartmentalizing items in my rucksack / suitcase so I could easily put my hand to what I wanted
Shopping in Santiago de Compostela for the Ladies
I had booked an extra couple of days in Santiago when I had finished my walk, and it was great to have extra clothes packed for that. It is nice to have something a little bit dressier if only for the cities / larger towns at the beginning and end of your Camino.
I’m sure I speak for a lot of girls out there when I say that a little bit of retail therapy is always welcome, and again by booking with Mountain Ways Ireland and having a suitcase , You can hit the shops without any real fear of extra weight or space stopping you indulging just a little bit.
I might just add in that the shopping in Santiago is good, all the high street names are there and not too expensive. You’ll find a big shopping outlet about 20 minutes outside Santiago, I didn’t go out to it as most of the shops I was interested in were also in Santiago itself.
Santiago is split in to two main districts The Old Town and The New, and it’s here in the New town that you will find most of the well-known names like Zara (Praza de Galicia) , Mango etc there are also nice bars and restaurants in this area.
Changing Camino Packing Lists
My first experience on The Camino, like anything new was a learning curve and even with the best of planning and watching countless You tube videos I still made mistakes .I took things that I didn’t need at all (and carried them all of the way!) but more importantly were things that I didn’t pack and were a big miss. Staying in the hostels /albergues was an experience for me and I met some of the most amazing and inspiring people. I enjoyed listening to their stories, but equally staying in private accommodation on other Camino trips didn’t stop me meeting the same great variety of characters.
I suppose I’m a creature of habits and I like my comforts, maybe I’m getting old lol! Having a suitcase transferred from inn to inn daily allowed me to have all I needed clothes wise and luxury items wise without losing any of the whole walking experience.
Which is best – Booking Yourself or with Mountain Ways Ireland?
Having packed and walked the Camino a few different ways I can honestly say every trip and day spent on The Camino is something I will never forget.
Yes, its slightly more expensive to book with a company but you get what you pay for. Don’t expect to book into a municipal albergue/ refugio for € 10 and get the same level of comfort or night’s sleep as you would in a casa rural.
Don’t go without pre-booking and expect a bed to be available in every town or village that you come to. Believe me I’ve been there and done that and it’s not a nice experience after 25 km of long hard walking, with a sore knee to be told in hostel after hostel that all beds are taken for the night!
I actually thought ” am I in Bethelem here ” ! Unfortunately there were no wise men to help ,only my husband Lol #notwise
When you reach a town or village that is full to capacity then even the thoughts of walking another 4 or 5 km to the next town at the end of a tough day is heartbreak and god forbid taking a taxi! This actually happened to me on my very first Camino because a municipal albergue was closed for a festival that I hadn’t been aware of.
A Real Peregrino
I have no problem admitting that part of me felt like I was cheating a little bit by getting my luggage transferred and lying down on a real double bed every night instead of a hard-single bunk bed.
Did I miss the snoring, the queues for showers, the lack of privacy, the micro fibre towel, the daily hand washing of clothes……? EHH … No.
I wondered was it frowned upon by the hard-core pilgrims that passed me on the road to see me carrying a small day pack instead of a large backpack? Where they judging me?
On my first couple of trips I used my 33 litre Osprey rucksack and to be honest I could stil have used this even with having a case transferred daily because its really lightweight.However, I did down size to a smaller 20 litre day pack which was more than enough.
Everyone is on the Camino for their own reasons and everyone has a story to tell.It doesn’t matter if you are carrying everything on your back or just a small day pack, every mile you walk is the same!
How far should I walk every day on the Camino?
There is not and should not be any fixed rule as to how far you walk everyday because it should be your choice. I’ve seen peregrinos who are walking 40 kms everyday with blisters that would make you weep and I‘ve spent the evening with other pilgrims who are walking 10 kms a day and enjoying every moment at their absolute leisure so there is no such thing as a real peregrino.
I like many others fall somewhere in between these two distances.
‘Everyone to their own’, ‘Live and let live’, the Camino teaches you that.
The goal to get to Santiago and enjoy the journey is the same for all!
The walking is really the only thing you should have to worry about, I am already planning my next walking adventure and will be booking with a company like Mountain Ways Ireland again. It’s the best of both worlds!
Advice on the Camino
Check out this short video which gives you a flavour of the Camino experience with Mountain Ways Ireland.
So, my final piece of advice is;
- Let the experts look after the detail, that’s what you pay the extra for
- Book with a company like Mountain Ways Ireland
- You should have your luggage transferred
- Allow the experts send you maps and route notes
- Have someone who has vetted and actually stayed in most of the places book your accommodation for you
- Make things easy for yourself
Escape Embrace Enjoy
By Lorraine Hoey