The old saying goes, “Make a list of only the most essential items, and then take half of it.” No hiking trip would be complete without a packing list, so mine is included below, along with a few thoughts that came out of several weeks of agonizing about what to take and what each of those “essential” items weighs.
Our most important gear is our backpacks, and we spent quite a bit of time at an REI store getting help from their experts and making sure everything fit well. It still took several days of practice hikes to get used to all the various straps and pads though, and to know which one to adjust when something starts hurting. I originally went with an ultra-light pack to reduce the weight, but then realized that a slightly more sturdy pack with a lumbar pad transferred the weight to my hips better, and it only weighed a little bit more. We’re both really happy with our packs now.
As for clothing, we’re taking only synthetic, quick-dry materials like technical t-shirts and running socks, since we’ll usually be hand-washing things. Zip-off travel pants make it easy to convert between pants and shorts, so we’ll be taking those as well. Since we’re starting in the middle of May, we should have a few cold mornings, but mostly mild-to-warm days, with hopefully only a few days of rain. Hopefully.
For footwear, I’m taking Nike Zoom Vomero running shoes, and Kathey’s taking Merrell Moab Ventilator cross training shoes. The question of whether to use shoes or boots is heavily debated, but it seems like a lot more people are hiking in running or walking shoes rather than boots lately, because they’re lighter, cooler, and quicker to dry. Since I have more problems with my feet (and we’re going at a fairly warm and dry time of year), I’m going with the extra cushion in a running shoe. Kathey will trade a bit of cushion for stability and go with a low-top hiking shoe that feels more like a traditional boot. So far both choices have worked out great in our training hikes.
Whether or not to take a sleeping bag is another big decision because of the extra weight and the fact that a lot of hostels have blankets. But they don’t always have blankets, and even then they don’t always have sheets (or even heat), and I really like the idea of being able to sleep in the same thing every night. So we’re taking the sleeping bags and their extra weight, and we’ll see how it goes. If we were going in the middle of summer, we might re-think that.
We’re going with minimal tech gear, and we’ll try to do everything with just our iPhones. We’ll use the built-in camera, and upload pictures and videos to our blog via the WordPress app. Hiking in the age of smartphones means not having to take a camera, GPS, MP3 player, laptop, watch, alarm clock, or even a notepad and pencil. One of our iPhones will have our American SIM card in it so we can send and receive text messages using our normal phone number, and the other iPhone will have a Spanish SIM card with a local phone number and data plan, so we can make phone calls and get on the internet during the day, if needed. Most hostels seem to have WiFi these days, so the blog posts will happen at night. What a great time to travel the world!
Note: for a summary at the end of the trip of what worked and what didn’t, see the followup post 2013 Summary: Gear .
REI Flash 62  (Kathey: Osprey Jib 35 )
rain cover (small Sea to Summit Pack Cover)
pants, zip-off (2 – Columbia)
shirt, long-sleeve technical
shirt, short-sleeve technical
socks (3 – Balega quarter socks)
underwear (3 – ExOfficio quick-drying)
rain jacket (Columbia)
sunglasses, reading glasses, and case for both
pillow (small Sea To Summit travel pillow)
soap with case
toothbrush with case
travel towel (Outgo Microfiber)
Medicine and First Aid
various prescription and over-the-counter medicines, cough drops, etc.
various first aid items such as bandages, moleskin, antibiotic ointment, sunscreen, etc.
Campsuds clothes hand-washing soap
guide book (Camino de Santiago: Village to Village Guide )
passport, Camino passport
credit card, ATM card, cash
Food and Water
water (two 1/2 liter plastic bottles)
iPhone with case
dual iPhone charger and cables
flashlight (Olight i2 LED)
small swiss army knife
safety pins, rubber bands