I meticulously weighed everything to the ounce that was going into my backpack in the months prior to my walking the Camino de Santiago. Every. Single. Item. To. The. Ounce. They say the lighter the weight of your backpack, the better. It will make for an easier 482-mile walk, and it will teach you to be free of material belongings. Your feet and body will thank you for it, too.
I also did a lot of research on packing for the Camino before I left. The online site, Camino de Santiago Forum, provides tons (no pun intended) of information, and allows you to ask questions. I found sample packing lists online as well, and even bought a book, “Pilgrim Tips & Packing List Camino de Santiago.” They say a good rule of thumb is to pack no more than 10% of your body weight, without food and water. So I got out my to-the-ounce scale from my kitchen and began weighing everything.
The rain jacket that I already owned at 16 ounces was just too heavy, so I bought a lighter rain jacket that only weighed 6 ounces. That’s a huge savings. I only carried 1 ounce of shampoo and 1 ounce of conditioner, knowing that I could buy more along the way. The backpack I already owned weighed 3 pounds 5 ounces in-and-of itself, so I bought a lighter backpack, at only 2 pounds 3 ounces. Did you know that you can shave off about a half an ounce by cutting tags of clothes and other items, and that by cutting out unnecessary pages from your guidebooks, you can shave off another 2 ounces? I wanted to go as light as possible, but also not compromise on comfort, necessity, or safety.
When all was said and done and packed, my backpack should have weighed, according to the rule of thumb, 13.2 pounds (you can guess my weight by that if you like). My backpack weighed in at 14 pounds! Not bad, actually. I was quite proud of myself.
So I went on my way, and began my 482-mile Camino de Santiago walk with my 14 pounds. I was happy.
But about two weeks into my walk I discovered something – services that transport your backpack from your current location to your next destination, via taxi, so you don’t have to carry your backpack! The Spanish word for backpack is “mochila,” so I discovered these “Transporte de Mochilas” services, also called “Transporte de Equipajes.” I asked myself, “Really, I can carry even less than my 14 pounds? I weighed every single item, and bought lighter weight gear, when I really didn’t have to?” So I thought I would try it out.
However, I didn’t have an extra bag with me (because I packed light) to hold the items I was going to have these mochila services transport, so I bought a small bag. This one, the one with an image of “The Beatles” walking the Camino that happens to look like the cover of their “Abbey Road” album:
I stuffed this bag with as much as I could. Items that I would not need during the day. Such as my sleeping bag (that only weighed 1 pound 6 ounces), my toiletries (including my 1 ounce bottles of shampoo and conditioner, that weighed less by now because I had used some up), the flip flops I wore in the showers, my shower towel, etc.
These mochila transport services provide an envelope for you. It has their phone number, so you can call them the day before, as I did, to tell them what accommodations you are currently at for pickup the next day, and what accommodations you will be going to for delivery. I believe you can also let them know this information online. You also write information on the envelope. You put anywhere from 5 to 7 Euros for their service per day in the envelope. The prices varied depending on location and company, and they will let you know the cost. Pretty inexpensive, I thought. I believe you need to know where you want to end up the next day, which some people may not know ahead of time, because some people walk till they decide they are done walking. I planned ahead because I walked an average of 10 miles per day, and I made reservations at my accommodations (a topic for a future blog). Or perhaps you can actually choose a possible destination, but it won’t guarantee that you will have accommodations there.
What a difference even losing a few pounds made! I was probably now carrying 7 to 9 pounds, and I was even happier than when carrying my 14 pounds.
I did this for about a week, and then I decided to go radical. I bought a day pack, this green one…
…so that I could use my original backpack to put even more items in for the mochila transport services to carry for me, and therefore all I really needed to carry was the bare essentials for the day in my new day pack. Turned out to be maybe 4 or 5 pounds max. I didn’t have my kitchen scale with me, so that is just a guess. It was awesome to carry so little! I was the most happiest with just a day pack, and thus walked the rest of my Camino this way! All the way to the Cathedral de Santiago.
I highly recommend using mochila transport services. However, if you choose not to use mochila transport services, for whatever reason, such as perhaps you don’t want to spend the money, that is perfectly fine. I still recommend carrying as little as possible with you though either way, which might mean you will need to get out that kitchen scale and weigh everything before you go as I did. It is a good lesson to learn – whether you carry your own backpack or use the mochila transport services – to lighten up your load, and be free of material belongings. Of course, without compromising on comfort, necessity, or safety.
(By the way, in the picture above of my daypack at the Cathedral de Santiago, you may have noticed a picture of Punxsutawney Phil pinned to my day pack. A future blog will reveal that story…)
For more blogs about my 502-mile, 47-day journey across northern Spain and up the Atlantic Coast, please visit my Camino de Santiago category.