Camino de Santiago - resources page 2
What to take with you
This is quite possibly the biggest and most important decision that you will make prior to commencing your Camino. Once you have started you will be pretty much stuck with what you have got. This means that if you forget something, or if you have not taken enough, you will simply have to make do with what you have got.
Equally, if you "over provision" by taking, e.g. too many clothes, you will be reminded of the fact every minute of every day as you carry them around with you.
In the modern world we wear fresh clean clothes everyday and launder clothes as and when required. These are luxuries that you cannot afford on a Camino (unless you have your baggage forwarded and your clothing laundered by a tour company).
You need to think carefully about "wants" and "needs" and "luxuries" versus "necessities". Failing to do so can lead to problems from the beginning to the end of your Camino.
Clothing is very important on a Camino de Santiago as you can get a massive variation of weather, even in the middle of summer. For this reason you need to select a good mix of clothing types and you also need to find out about and look at buying some specialist walking clothing.
If you are comparatively new to walking and hiking you may not be familiar with some of the modern high performance materials that are available. These materials can make walking long distances much more comfortable by ensuring that you stay dry (i.e. waterproof from the outside and sweat free from the inside). They do this by using special fabrics that are known as "wicking".
Wicking materials have a special fabric structure that stops water from getting in from the outside (e.g. rain) whilst allowing sweat and water vapour to escape from the inside. These materials have literally revolutionised comfort levels for walkers and they enable you to feel comfortable in hot or cold weather. Anything from waterproof jackets to T-shirts are available in wicking materials and they are strongly recommended for anyone considering doing a Camino. These special clothes cost more than their regular equivalents, but they are well worth the extra cost. You can find out more about these walking clothes here .
Shoes, sticks etc
You cannot walk a Camino in training shoes (sneakers) or regular shoes. You need proper walking or hiking boots and there are lots of different types to choose from.
Firstly, you can buy boots made with leather uppers, or made of the waterproof wicking materials, as mentioned above. Some people prefer one, some prefer the other.Secondly, you can buy walking shoes or walking boots. The difference between the two relates to the extra height and support that you get from the boots which extend up towards (or beyond) the ankle joint. Which option is the best is a matter of personal preference, but it is important to get the ones that are the most comfortable for you.
It is also important that you "walk your boots in" before you head off on your Camino. New boots can be uncomfortable at first, so you need to wear them regularly and for an increasing amount of time long before your begin your Camino. You also need good thick (wicking) socks which add to the comfort of the boots or shoes. You can find more information about walking shoes and boots here .
An increasing number of walkers now use hiking sticks. These telescopically extendable sticks are sold in pair and, on long walks, they enable the arms to do some of the balancing, pushing and supporting work required when navigating tough terrains. These sticks are very lightweight and can be packed away easily. Many rucksacks have elasticised holders that hiking sticks fit into when not in use.
It will certainly pay to have a phrase book or language translator with you during your walk.
Because there are a large number of international walkers, many hoteliers, cafe owners and restaurant staff do speak some English, however you cannot rely on this and therefore being able to ask for basic things like a menu, or where the bathroom is, will be essential. You may also find yourself in need of assistance from other walkers when trying to figure out your route, or the location of a particular monument that you wish to visit, and a phrase book will come in handy when faced with this kind of situation.
The other benefit of trying to speak the language of the country in which you are walking is that by "making the effort" you will gain the respect of the person you are trying to obtain help from. This will increase the likelihood of them trying to assist you and make your experience a more pleasant one.
As previously mentioned, it is important to plan the length of each daily walk in advance as the distance that you walk will determine where you will be and, importantly, where you will stay at the end of each day. (Stage distances for the French Way can be seen here .)
Using the French Way as an example, the route is automatically divided up into stages and most walkers will try to walk one stage per day. One of the reasons for doing this is that the albergues and guest houses tend to be situated at the stage end points, so this is where you will find most of the accommodation.
If you intend to approach the stages in a different way it is advisable to ensure (in advance) that there is available accommodation at your days-end locations. Always remember that if you intend to stay in any of the official albergues, the beds are allocated on a first come first serve basis, so late arrivals may not get a bed during the busier summer months. Do not get caught out.
If you decide to walk to your own stage and distance markers, and these are different to the official ones, make sure that you have accommodation "reserved" for you in advance.
Pilgrim's passport and completion certificate
If you have a national Confraternity or Way of St. James association, they will be able to give you advanced help with this, e.g. obtaining a pilgrim's passport for you before you leave you home country.
You obtain the Compostelana from the Pilgrim's office in Santiago de Compostela. Further information is included in the section linked to above.