A Collaboration of Tips from Real Pilgrims
First and foremost, the Camino is different for everyone. There is no right or wrong way to do it, the tips below are provided by real Pilgrims who have been there. The one thing we ask is even though when you get to Sarria and see the tour buses show up with clean smelling tourists and their cute little day backs get on a bus and go into the hotel then walk a couple of miles to the next town and get back on the bus to carry on…please don’t judge them! It may be hard as you can see (maybe a bit of resentment) after walking 500 Km in the same pair of pants. But this may be the only way they can experience the Camino, we don’t their physical capabilities or time limitations.
This guide will help you plan for the unexpected and every day of the Camino. Keep in mind some of these tips may not work for you and you can modify them to suit your needs.
Throughout the guide, you will see some ME notes that me, Michelle Everets adding in my two cents.
It’s lovely to soak your feet at the of the day’s journey but there are never enough basins or buckets at the albergues. Carry 2 plastic shopping bags that are thick enough to hold water and have holes for handles. You can fill them up with water from the laundry sink and sit outside with a foot in each bag while you relax and visit with other pilgrims.
-Maureen McQuade –
ME Note: I am going to add to the above that waterproof cinch bags may be better environmentally and multipurpose.
I walked some in 2015 and more in 2016. Halfway through your days walking stop for half hour. Take off your socks. Air your feet. When you start walking again put on a fresh pair. No blisters!
There is a very interesting phenomenon to be witnessed in every albergue: There are beds which seem to attract people more than others. Try to avoid those! The more popular the bed, the higher the risk of a bed-bug population living in it.
Don’t Mess with a Pilgrims BunkBed
There are rules for upper and lower bunks. Although they are easy, they are not well known. The piles of the upper bunk belong to the upper bed! This is the only space the upper sleeper has to hang up his items. The piles are not a wardrobe for the clothes of the low-bunk sleeper. It is not very nice for someone to sleep close to the sweaty or even filthy stuff of someone else. The low-bunk sleeper is able to put his stuff smoothly on the ground, which the upper bunk sleeper can´t. As you see, it is very disrespectful and selfish to reserve any available space if you are a “low-bunker”.
Btw: The same counts for the funny idea of some (mostly female) pilgrims to place their clothes under the upper mattress as a kind of curtain. Just imagine some neighbor would use a wall of your house for his construction work, just because it’s so convenient! The Camino Albergue: Don’t Fear the Bunk Bed!
-Five fabulous facts about bunk-beds-
Pilgrims: Accessories, Equipment, and Gadgets
Modern times mean modern items. Since almost everybody owns a Smartphone the damn thing needs to be charged. It’s worse than those dumb Tamagotchis from the nineties that wanted to be fed or amused every free minute. Buy a charging station. A cheap one for about 20 Dollars is sufficient as long as you can charge your phone twice without recharging the charger. Nobody steals a cheap charger. And if so, you don’t mind. You may not need a full sized camera like us a small point and shoot works just as good. Remeber the best camera is the one you have with you.
Medicine for the Pilgrims
Advice about medicine and hygienic items like shower gel and shampoo in general: It is sufficient to take one small bottle of each article with you. You can purchase anything on the way. Spain is absolutely civilized and in every drugstore, pharmacy and supermarket, you can fill up your stock, so do not carry too much with you and have faith in modern logistics. A pilgrim’s medicine chest should contain resolvable magnesium pellets and ascorbic acid as an addition to your drinking water. It helps to avoid muscular cramps.
Add some aspirin, which is a good prophylaxis against thrombosis and of course mother’s little helper against the aftermath of Spanish wine, and a medicine of your choice against diarrhea. Ibuprofen is the favorite pilgrims’ drug, as it is a perfect painkiller and can be bought in Spain very cheaply as highly concentrated as IBU 600.
Next, your personal drugstore should contain a mixed selection of plasters and patches for blisters, a disinfection spray for wounds, some gauze bandage and, most importantly, ointment for your feet. I usually have two ointments with me. A gel with mint to cool down my feet and a lotion that contains 10 – 20% urea which softens and soothes the feet after a long day walking.
Against the eventuality of chafing, I suggest Vaseline or something similar. Your bum and feet will be grateful. The SPF of your lotion should be minimum of 30. All the way the sun will be shining from the left, so this side needs more protection, in the evening your skin will be thankful for after sun lotion or aloe vera lotion.
Another helpful item for protection against any kind of weather is a bandana, which can be used as a headscarf, a shawl or a headband. In case you still have some space in your luggage, take a hat with you.
The most important thing you can pack is travel insurance, being covered by medical insurance is so important, I had to visit a hospital and doctor.
Very helpful items are:
safety pins – 2 or 3
needles (in case you need to puncture a blister) – 2
meters of cord – 2
clothespins – 4
A miniature pack of detergent,
A few travel size packages of wet wipes (the greasy ones that are usually used for baby care are perfect and not desiccative)
and of course, shampoo and shower gel. I recommend an all in one, we have Camp Suds that wash everything.
A tote bag or a small drybag is perfect to store your dirty laundry. And can be used as a pillow.
Earplugs can be a pilgrim’s best friend.
A torchlight is a better than a headlamp. You are a pilgrim, not a coal miner or Snow White’s seventh dwarf. There is absolutely no logical reason to stumble with a headlight through the Spanish night. Not even a romantic one.
Advice & Tips from Real Pilgrims
Number one tip …….. travel as light as possible so you can get the most enjoyment from the walking experience …
The one thing that we do whenever we travel is learning a bit of the language “hello” “please” “thank you” “where are the restrooms?” and the words for “beer” and “wine!”
Pack up your pack as much as possible the NIGHT BEFORE in your albergue so you can get up and get going in the morning and not be fiddling around in the dark trying to pack. Makes things MUCH easier AND you aren’t bothering anybody!
-Loni Anne Rossbach-
Get some walking done before you go in the boots and socks you intend to wear on the Camino. Drink plenty of water during the day.
Buy hiking sandals, shoes or boots that are one size bigger than you would normally wear. If you wear size 9 shoes, get a size 10 (not 9.5, like I, unfortunately, did the first Camino walk I did). The more ventilation in the shoes, the better. You will be walking a pilgrimage; make your footwear wholly hole-y! Hahaha!
-Heather Scales Rmt-
A Pilgrim comes for many reasons
And with that thought, smile with love above all. Afterall that is “The Way”. The snoring pilgrim you wish was You! Double up your earplug supply. The limping pilgrim who might need a hug! The mourning Pilgrim comes to find closure…. touch his or her shoulder. Sleep outside if you have a chance; the stars remind you of your smallness in this universe. Sit in a church…. just sit and God will find you. Enjoy the sun rising and the moon setting.
Noisy Pilgrims: All Part of the Camino
The noisy pilgrim who maybe just has enough boisterous personality for three; we’ll learn to let go a little! Mentor the young and model the wise! Or maybe model the young and mentor the wise as I experienced wise, wise youth and wiser as in “Should Know Better” judgemental mentalities. All the same, I smiled. I danced when my body ached and I cried instead at the wondrous love I received. We are all on our own path…. and judgment should not be found on the path. Love above all with keen discernment.
-Donna Graham Williamson-
Mornings are chaos and it was a horrible start with a panic-like mode. Shower up at night, pack, and be prepared just to wash up, dress, and head on. Usually had light lunch in a pack so I could walk and warm up and set my sights on a coffee or tea and bread after my first hour or so of walking.
-Donna Graham Williamson-