Whatever your reasons for walking the 800 kilometre (500 miles) Camino de Santiago we believe these tips will make your journey a little easier and enjoyable. We completed our own Camino over 37 days in late September 2016 and it was certainly the highlight of our travels last year. We meet some crazy people and made new life long friends. We stepped out of our comfort zone and found peace with the daily walk, eat, sleep routine.
1. John Brierley’s A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago, aka Mr Eyebrows (see photo on the inside cover).This book was our bible during the walk. A detailed overview of each stage, with excellent information on the towns, accommodation, and places of interest. We suggest trying to get out of sync with the 'top of the page towns' or you may find yourself trying to secure accommodation along with hundreds of other Brierley bible carrying pilgrims.
2. Beilari, we can’t recommend enough the hostel that we stayed at the day before the start of our Camino.The team at Beilari in St Jean Pied de Port could not have been nicer, the communal dinner was a blast, a wonderful evening getting to know our fellow pilgrims. Joseph and Elizabeth prepare you in the best way possible for your journey.
3. Vaseline (petroleum jelly), we each went through a tub of this during our Camino trying to minimize issues with blisters. A liberal application between the toes and around the heels before stepping out each morning. It’s also a good idea to reapply every 2-3 hours.
4. Walking poles, park your ego at the doors boys, collapsible poles are a must. They help absorb a lot of the pounding that otherwise will be transferred to your knees. Some of the terrain can be very tricky, especially if it's wet. But please, please buy rubber tips, in fact, have spares in your bag. The clackity-click of metal on stone can drive the most patient person crazy. Plus you can practice your guitar moves at the end of a long day.
5. Gaffer tape (Duct Tape), tear strips off the roll and stick to the walking poles for use later. Gaffer tape is a bit of a fix it all, rain cape, backpack, boots, clothing. Just don't use it to cover up blisters, it will rip your skin away when trying to remove it.
6. Ear plugs, if you are staying in communal albergues and we recommend that you do, then ear plugs are a necessity that will drown out most of the evening noise (snoring) and let you have a great night's sleep.
7. Golf ball, after 4-6 hours of pounding the Camino, rolling a golf ball or tennis ball under your feet is sheer bliss. If you forget to bring one with you, you can pick one up at the golf course which you pass at Cirueña (stage 9) and it makes for a great souvenir of your journey.
8. Start slowly, day 1 takes you over the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles, tackling the whole 25 kilometres (1,200 metre elevation) can make for a very tough day as it typically takes 8-10 hours. There is the option to stop halfway at Refuge Orisson, this needs to be booked in advanced. You get another fun filled communal dinner so get ready to introduce yourself to fellow diners.
9. Practice, get your new boots or shoes and loaded backpack out for a number of practice walks. We did several 10-15 kilometre hikes beforehand. One of us is so very pleased that the other one of us pushed hard for those practice walks.
10. Head torch, should be one of the first things that you pop inside your backpack. On several occasions, we left well before sunrise (seeing stars from horizon to horizon, was a huge highlight of our walk) and having the head torch made it so much safer. But be considerate of your fellow roommates and don't go shining it in people's faces as you get ready to leave.
11. Routine, we would often arrive at our next accommodation before anybody else. Our routine was always to jump into in the shower as quickly as possible. They can get pretty skanky once everybody has arrived. Then we would do our washing and get it out to dry, only then would we chill, maybe look for something to eat. It can get crazy in some of the bigger municipal albergues so getting the essentials out of the way early makes life a little easier.
There you go, hopefully, one or two of these tips will find their way into your Camino journey.
Please note that some of these are affiliate links, so we earn a small amount if you buy anything through them, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting this site!