Camino de Santiago Packing List for Women on the Camino del Norte

As I kid, I used to marvel at how my father could pack a bag, pack the trunk of the minivan or pack enough goodies into the fridge to keep us happy.

I may have inherited his travel hacking skills and his love of beer, but girl did NOT get his gift of packing.

Hiking the Camino de Santiago posed a problem: I needed to find a way to pack equipment for a 200mile hike across Spain through both rain and shine. As a rule of thumb, your pack should weigh around 10% of your body weight, which meant I had around six kilos to work with for two weeks and 12 stages to Santiago. The packing should go more or less like this:

Like always, it’s been a battle of packing, unpacking, moving piles, reducing wares, rationing pills. Here’s what’s in my pack and now on my back:

The Footwear

If there was one place where I wouldn’t skimp in preparation for 200 miles on The Way, it was with my footwear. I had just two requirements: as these boots would be strapped to my feet for 3 – 8 hours a day, they needed to be comfortable, and due to the tendency of rainy weather in Northern Spain during the summer months, they also had to be waterproof.

Be aware that there are also two types of boots – those that are high and protect the ankle, and those that don’t. Had I known that I had weak ankles because of my years of gymnastics, I likely would have bought the higher boots to prevent twisting an ankle  – the Camino del Norte is also a bit more strenuous and full of hills, unlike the majority of the popular Camino Francés.

In the end, I settled on Quechua brand Arpenaz ankle boots with Novadry that weight 750g and have shock absorbers. I’ve been wearing them, along with my custom-made insoles from Podoactiva, as much as possible before the trek. I’ve also packed a pair of supportive Reef brand flip flops for showers, any stops at the beach and for exploring the stops in the evening.

Summary – hiking boots and flip flops.

The Clothes

The Camino is certianly not a fashion statement – I have left home my jewelry, my makeup and my hair products in favor of two-in-one shampoo/conditioner and a plastic comb, my cute rebajas steals for garments with built-in wicking

Decathlon, the French sporting goods company, is chock-full of outdoors clothing, but I was clueless – I’d rather spend my weekends in gastro bars and wandering around with my camera than climbing over fallen tree limbs. I went with the basics – t-shirts and tanks with built-in wicking for perspiration, anti-blister socks, pants that convert into shorts with just a zip, and a waterproof hat and a straw hat in case there’s sun.

Of course, I’ll need non-Camino clothes for when I’m not out walking, so I’ve thrown in a swimsuit (our first five days are along the beach), comfy pajamas, a lightweight cotton dress and a t-shirt from sponsor Walk and Talk Chiclana. Wicking be damned when I sleep!

Summary: Two Ts made of wicking, one tank, one pair of pants, one pair of shorts, five pairs of socks, undergarments, a cotton handkerchief, a fisherman’s hat and a straw hat. I’ve also got sunglasses, since I’m hoping for some sun!

The Equipment

Not only will I need clothing (and likely a change of clothing due to rain), but there’s a lot of other things that will make up my pack weight. I have a lightweight sleeping bag and sleeping bag, an aluminum walking stick, a rain poncho and a flashlight.

I’ve also been told to bring a collapsable bag for evening time to carry my camera and wallet, or to shop or carry groceries, so I grabbed a cheap one at Tiger.

Summary – sleeping pad, sleeping bag, shammy, rain poncho that both Hayley and I can fit into, a water bottle and a walking stick.

The Traveling Pharmacy

Veteran pilgrims warn of road hazards – blisters are rampant, food doesn’t always sit well with stomachs (though I think mine is pretty well adjusted to Spanish cuisines) and there is always, ALWAYS someone snoring in the albergue. I spent a pretty penny on items at the pharmacy, and it seems that the pharmacists in Coruña seem to understand what a pilgrim needs much better than those in Sevilla. Behold, my traveling pharmacy:

Included here is Betadine (antiseptic spray), suncream, a needle and thread to sterilize any blisters, earplugs, 10 big safety pins, anti-bacterial hand gel, a Compeed anti-rub stick, anti-allergy eyedrops, micropore (tape), and various anti-blister pads and bandaids. Not pictured are the ibuprofen and allergy pills. From all accounts, pharmacies along the way are well-versed in pilgrim care, so anything else we need can be bought on the road. The contents are light with all of the casing taken away, and will get lighter as the days wear on. I’ve got my medicine cabinet packed at the very top of my bag.

The Extras

There were other things I just couldn’t travel without on a normal trip – a small, paper notebook and a few pens, my Kindle, Camarón. These three things will be coming along with me on the Camino, worth their weight in gold (or albariño wine) as far as I’m concerned. I’ve also got a clothesline, a waterproof watch, a jackknife, and my electronics, which included an iPod and my two cameras. I may regret the electronics…

Other pilgrims choose to bring little trinkets from home, like packages of instant coffee or a small dictionary to help with the Spanish. Two things you cannot forget is some kind of ID card and your pilgrim’s passport. I was forced to bring my American passport for my RyanAir flight back to Seville, and the pilgrim passport works like one that allows you to travel between countries – at stops along the way in churches, albergues or Pilgrim offices, your passport will be stamped as proof that you’ve done the Camino. I got mine sent right to me by Petersborough Pilgrims.

The seashell I bought on my first trip to Santiago five years ago will also be affixed to my bag. Let the buen camino piropos roll!

The Pack

Apart from the importance of footwear, the backpack you choose will likely be one of the most important purchases you make before taking on the Camino. Meet my mochilita, who I will name Santi in order of St. James and his inspiration for this walk:

If you’re not a trekker, look for a bag that has a weight distribution that will put everything on your hips. This Forclaz 60L bag has meshing to help my back breathe, loads of extra pockets to put important things and a divider that separates the heavy things from the lighter ones further up my back. Santi will be, for better or worse, my closest friend on the hike, and like many pilgrims I’ve seen in the Plaza del Obradoiro at the end of the Camino, I’ll be resting against him, staring up at the spire of the cathedral.

Then it’s onto the spa to scrub all of the Camino grime off of me and massage out all of the knots!

The Giveaway:

Our official sponsors, Caser Expat Insurance, are treating Hayley and I to a few experiences once we arrive to Santiago on August 11th. We’ll be able to relax in the beautiful ancient city, enjoy the local cuisines and even get a massage, and Caser Expat wants to extend that to one lucky reader of Sunshine and Siestas, too. You’ll have the opportunity to choose a ‘La Visa es Bella’ experience, valued between 50-100€, to be used in Spain. You can choose accommodation or a spa/relaxation experience of your liking. This giveaway is only open to residents (or future residents!) of Spain, and the winner will be announced when I arrive to Santiago on the 12th and notified through email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t forget I’ll be tweeting and instagramming here and there over the next 14 days and 200 miles, so follow along at @sunshinesiestas and @caserexpat with the hashtag #CaminoFTK. Thanks again for all of your support, and buena suerte!!

Seville Snapshots: First Day on the #CaminoFTK

When I wrote this draft on Wednesday afternoon, I was excited to be within five days of hiking the Camino de Santiago, something I’ve been planning do do for the majority of my adult life. As I scheduled the post, got a knock on my door, telling me that a train had derailed just outside of nearby Santiago de Compostela. My thoughts went immediately to the teachers who I’d put on a Madrid-bound train and their well-being, as we had very little information and messages were not immediately returned.

Panic crept into my stomach. That, or nerves, or just that vomit feeling when you know that something is awry.

I opened up my computer and dialed the number for ADIF, Spain’s train operators, and we were told that there were no delays on the overnight train to Chamartiín, which passes through the stretch of tracks between Coruña and Santiago. I breathed a sigh of relief, and then turned on the TV.

The images were horrifying, enough to prick my eyes with tears. 

Teacher and students in front of the Catedral de Santiago. Adore these kids.

I’ve attended the Apostol festivities in Santiago de Compostela, celebrating Spain’s patron saint and praying that I’d one day arrive to the ancient Praza do Obradoiro after walking across the country to arrive. Just five days before embarking, the city was marred with a tragedy beyond words, and one that has claimed 80 lives to date.

The calls began rolling in, as my friends and family connected ‘Santiago’ with this pilgrimmage that I’m walking today. While I assured everyone that I was safe in my dorm room at camp, earnestly watching the TV, I thought about the new dimension that this trek might have. By the time we arrive to Santiago on August 11th, the debris will no doubt be cleared, but the emotional scars will still be deep. I’m not a religious person, but perhaps the reflection I’ll do on the hike will make me a more spiritul person. Or maybe I’ll meet someone affected by the tragedy. After all, they say miracles occur on the Way. What I am positive will happen is that the generosity and the humility of the Galician people will manifest itself in a myriad of ways, and that the Camino will change me.


It’s finally here: my master’s is finished, camp has been closed down, and between the stress and the long nights and the teenage STINK, it’s all lead up to the day when Hayley and I get to start the Camino de Santiago. It’s finally here and I could jump out of my skin with excitement.

Depending on where in the world you are, I’ve likely woken up in my four-star hotel (the last real pillow for two weeks), pulled on layer of wicking-laden clothes, and  started the walk in total darkness. Maybe we’ll encounter a rain storm or maybe we won’t. Maybe we’ll strip off our boots and wade in the chilly Cantabrian Sea and get some relief for sore feet and already-forming blisters. Maybe we’ll have met other cancer survivors or their loved ones.

But this is our Camino and we’re finally making the journey.

Being in Coruña, less than 100km from Santiago, for four weeks was a reminder and an internal countdown to the 200miles in front of us. The world is literally at our feet, and as my boots and custom Podoactiva insoles hit the pavement while I broke them in around the Crystal City, the yellow-and-blue route markers on the Camino Inglés accompanied me proving that while all roads lead to Rome, a few lead to Santiago, as well. It’s just following the end of that long middle ridge to the end of the road.

As other pilgrims pass in Coruña, I mutter a ‘Buen Camino’ under my breath, not quite sure if I fit the role yet. Surely a 13-pound pack, sore knees and a farmer’s tan will do the trick by the time we reach Soto de Luiña sometime today. Our first stage is a killer 40 kilometers, but it will be a good introduction into what this is all about: Walking. Break for food (and coffee for me). Walking more. Break to ponder and check out the coast. A few more kilometers. Break to tend to feet. Break for lunch. Big glass of red wine. Laughter. Remembering. Looking ahead. And more walking until we arrived to the Plaza de Obradoiro on August 11th.

Follow along with the hashtag #CaminoFTK on Twitter and instagram (@hayleycomments, @caserexpat and @sunshineandsiestas), and definitely click to read all of my Santiago-related posts. I’ve loved reading all of your well wishes, and sincerely thank those of you who have felt motivated to donate to a cause that’s very important to me, the University of Iowa Dance Marathon.

The 3500’s: How Not to Despair with a High Inscrita Number When Applying to be an Auxiliar in Spain

Around this time six years ago, I was waiting to receive my visa for Spain. My passport was held hostage, and I ticked off the days before my flight left, bound for Madrid. I recall not knowing if the pit in my stomach was from nerves or just anxiousness to leave and see what it would be like to live in Spain for a year and teach English at a local high school. Look at me now! This post was written by Tamara from Traveling Natural as she prepares to head off to Galicia, one of my favorite parts of Spain.

I started this post AGES ago and by ages, I mean in April, but so many turns of events have happened since then, that it must be re-written. Initially I wanted to inspire the masses of procrastinating future auxiliary language and cultural assistants (which I will refer to as LACAS) with extremely high numbers, of better planning and execution for next year.

But then I decided to take the Peace Corps philosophy of (yes, I have applied to the PC, and probably every awesome program known to twenty something’s that have changed careers a million times already since graduating college, you can read about that here) “hurry up and wait” and see what happens.

First of all why did I apply late? Because I decided that I only wanted to apply to BEDA and take my chances, especially since the ministry program had so many issues last school year. But the coaxing from a friend and the fear of getting waitlisted with BEDA, had me fumbling around PROFEX for over an hour the next day, March 27th to be exact.

Well I received my number–à 3,543 

…and thought “This is a complete joke and I’m never getting placement with such a high number!”

A word of advice:

  1. Apply early! Especially if you have your heart set on living in Madrid ( I actually didn’t)
  2. Set an alarm on your phone and a reminder in your calendar to apply early!!!
  3. Apply to more than 1 program
  4. Wait

Yup! You read número cuatro correctly. Just wait! See what happens. Future LACAS drop out of the program all the time for various reasons and slots open up.  Or maybe that’s all you can do since you didn’t follow #3 and only applied to one program.

Well this, my friends, is where the turn of events happened.  On June 27th, exactly 3 months to the day I applied, I received placement in Galicia, España!

And according to the website they have placed up to 3,765 LACAS thus far! So there is hope if you are in (or above) the 3500’s!

I actually ended up getting into and accepting the BEDA option instead. So número 3,544 lucky you!

Future LACAS I hope this was helpful to you. If you take away anything, remember to just wait it out…and everything will fall into place! Or in the words of Cat Gaa “it will work out in the end.”

You can catch Tamara blogging over at When she is not blogging she is looking to create an extraordinary experience out of this thing called life.  

Have any other questions about the auxiliar program? If you’re waiting on a high number, or unsure if the program is for you, why not consider an internationally recognized TEFL degree with job placement help? Mine has been the difference between getting the job or not.

Seville Snapshots: The Real Escuela Ecuestre de Jerez

It may be summer, but here’s a quiz: Spain:Cat::Horses:Cat’s mom.

I grew up spending Sundays at the barn, learning to care for horses and riding my mother’s docile giant, The Pudge. My mother tried in vain to have my sister and I share her love for ecuestrian arts, but Margaret and I didn’t have much interest in playing with even My Little Ponies, let alone the real ones.

Coming to Spain and learning to categorize the morphology of the long-snouted Andalusian horses sparked my interest in los caballos, long after the days when my Girl Scout troop earned our Horse Lovers badge. Trips to the pueblo often include a trip to the farm and the sound of cantering seems to be synonymous with Seville.

When my mother hopped a flight to Spain (more like sweet talked her way onto one on standby), I had very few plans for her. Those that I did make revolved around an Andalusian pony fantasy: hanging out in the Novio’s village, San Nicolás del Puerto, a horse ride along the beach in Mazagón, and taking in a show at the Fundación Real Escuela del Arte Ecuestre Andaluz in Jerez de la Frontera.

On a sweltering Tuesday, we drove an hour south to Jerez. Lush gardens and a stately mansion were surrounded by yards of stables and practicing grounds. We watched as riders hosed down strong, white stallions, working them out in a ring adjacent to the exhibition grounds. Despite the heat, Nancy pulled me from one ring to the next barn, asking me how to say words in Spanish related to horses.

The show itself was something else – the Novio and I had seen the Lipazzaner stallions while in Austria, but the Andalusian stallion show was exceptional, showcasing the strength and agility of the beasts. For my pony-loving mother, it was one of the highlights of her trip and an alternative to the sherry-soaked tourism in Jerez.

If you go: The Real Escuela is open daily and includes several museum exhibitions and workshops. The celebrated show, ‘Como Bailan los Caballos Andaluces’ is only on twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday at noon, and some select Saturdays. You can nab tickets from their website, and I’d recommend sitting in the front row, if possible. Student cards or carnet joven will also get you a hefty discount. 

Have you been to the Real Escuela in Jerez? Did you freak out like Nancy and I did when the horses got on their hind legs and jumped?!

Tapa Thursdays: A Gastronomic Experience at Restaurant Puerto Blanco in Calpe

The Novio does’t understand my “world.” He doesn’t understand why I’m a smartphone addict, why I take pictures of details, and why I spent my hard-earned cash (hard-earned on a slot machine in Vegas, that is!) on a DSLR, my trusty Camarón.

Then I dragged him along as my plus-one on a blog trip. During our weekend in Calpe as VIPs for #calpemocion, we ate, drank and made merry with 50 other digital media strategists, and the Novio finally understood why I love blogging and sharing my stories and photos with my readers.

During our welcome dinner at Restaurant El Puerto Blanco, one of Calpe’s most famous eateries, he even graciously held the bite-sized tapas we munched on while I shot them. Score.

Welcomed to Puerto Blanco by the team of Calpemoción, we had a champagne cocktail with fruit  skewers while Mario Schumacher, the event organizer and master in experiences, greeted us. The mayor and tourism board of the fishing village-cum-tourist destination was on hand, too, and we had a few beers while they spoke.

The setting was idyllic: at the foot of a squat, albero-colored hotel (private bungalows can be reserved – but the waiting list is nearly a year!), a pristine dining room welcomes guests just right along Calpe’s lesser port, Puerto Blanco. Even though the night was cool for May, we spent out time on the terrace, complete with a pool and lounge chairs.

Mario presented executive chefs and husband and wife, Maria Grazia and Patrick Marguette, who would be serving us a menu full of Calpe’s flavors. We got to mingle and grab the tapas off trays to our heart’s content – I ate until I was completely stuffed, trying to find room for one more braised pork rib or another pinch of brownie.

Warning: this post contains little more than photos of scrumptious food. You have been warned.

If you go: The Puerto Blanco restaurant is located adjacent to the port of the same name in Calpe, a 20-minute drive north of Benidorm. Most tasting menus are 28 – 38€, which include two dishes and a desert. Be sure to call ahead, as the place is usually booked during the busy summer months. Puerto Blanco is closed during the winter months, and closed Monday in the summer. Check their website for more information on opening times and restaurants.

Are you ready to devour your computer? I didn’t even include everything that we ate! Five desserts and I was in my happy place. As for my tapas Thursday absence…I’ve been eating camp food for nearly three weeks. Nothing else needs to be said about that.

Paddle Surfing in Calpe

I don’t know what I was more afraid of – the translucent jellyfish that floated near the surface of the water, or the fact that pictures of me in a bikini were circulating around twitter and instagram. Malditos blogueros.

Patricia was quick to offer up the switch: “No, no. You take my spot in the paddle surfing class. I prefer to stay on dry land, or at least sail.”

I was in Calpe on a blog trip, rubbing away the early morning goosebumps on my legs as I agreed to give her my spot in the sailing class for hers in the stand up paddle class, known locally as SUP. Calpe’s location in the northern region of Alicante is planted right on the water, its enormous Peñón de Ifach splitting the old fisherman’s city into two bays. That morning, I’d be learning how to surf standing up.

My legs already ached thinking about the six-hour ride back to Seville and the inability to stretch out after a vigorous morning workout.

I’d tried surfing before in La Coruña, but the lack of waves meant that as soon as I’d paddled out to the middle of the Riazor and stood up on the board, I’d sink. I was thankful that the crystalline waters of the Mediterranean were calm that day.

Chris from Gravity Cartel Surf Shop met us with a dozen boards. Resembling those used commonly for surf, the SUP boards were wider, sturdier and easier to get on, meant not for speed but for stability. He breezed through an explanation on how to correctly use the oars, how to stabilize a board and how to make turns. His abbreviated monologue was due to the calm waters – we had no need to learn how to battle waves nor how to pick up speed for the hour we’d be on the water.

I watched as Miguel Angel, Carolina and Fabio all paddled out, made it to their knees and then stood up without so much as rocking the boat. I cautiously waded out until the water reached the top of my bikini bottoms. Too cold to stay in the water, I climbed on top of the board, gingerly getting to my feet. The others were all paddling quickly through

The day ended up beautiful, the sun already high in the sky and reflecting off of the sea. The other instructors from Gravity Cartel helped me perfect my skills, talking about the village and how long they’d been there – they were all adopted calpinos, drawn to the villa for its sand and surf. Calpe seemed to be a city that has been able to retain its fishing village charm while meeting the demands of the tourism that fuels the local economy.

As Fabio and I began paddling back onto shore nearly an hour, I asked Laura to take our picture. Once she’d done it, a small wave rippled behind my board, knocking me right into the water as Fabio laughed. Turns out I should have stuck around to listen for how to deal with waves.

Have you ever paddle surfed? Are you as deathly afraid as jellyfish as me?!

Major thanks to both the Calpe Tourism Board and the instructors at Gravity Cartel for the lessons and not laughing too hard when  I fell off my board. My opinions, as always, are all my own.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...