As the temperature fluctuates from freezing to balmy here in Toronto (today was 7°C, and just 5 days ago it was -27°C with the wind chill!), I’m relying more and more on my merino tops, both long- and short-sleeve. They’ve become a multi-seasonal staple. And if there’s one thing I regretted about the Camino, it’s that I didn’t have more merino wool clothes with me.
Not that I wish I’d packed more clothes. Gosh, no. The trick to walking the Camino is to bring as little as possible – one set of clothes to wear and one set to change into when you get to the hostel – and do laundry daily.
Witness what’s in the photo above – that’s all I packed! Literally, one set of clothes, my sleeping bag, a teeny quick-dry towel minimal toiletries, sandals and my water bottle!!! Lesson: The best gear will multitask, performing well in different weather conditions.
And that’s why I wish I’d bought more merino before going (instead of buying along the way). Merino wool would have kept me warm and cool. Since it’s odour repellant, it doesn’t need to be washed often; and when you do wash it, it air-dries in a couple of hours. That would have saved me the hassle of trying (unsuccessfully) to dry clothes overnight or on my pack while walking.
So I present to you my list of clothes that I brought, what I could have done without, and what I wish I’d had instead (mainly, merino). It’s my go-to packing list, whether I’m on a weekend ski trip or backpacking through Europe. I switch things out based on the activity, but they’re my travel basics for a reason: they wear well and dry fast. And they’re perfect for the Camino.
What I wish I brought and what I actually brought (i.e., my ideal packing list):
- 1 x Keen hiking boots (broken-in boots with good ankle support is a must
- 2 x convertible quick-dry pants (quick-dry will be your friend on rainy or laundry days – I hiked in my 1 pair every day and wish I’d brought 2)
- 1 x merino wool tank top (now’s not the time for spaghetti straps, ladies; I went with a quick-dry tank, but I say go merino whenever you can)
- 1 x short-sleeve merino wool T-shirt (I brought a wool-cotton blend, but merino would have been the best choice – I cannot emphasize that enough)
- 1 x long-sleeve merino wool shirt (this I picked up in Ponferrada, and it was the best purchase ever – perfect for non-insulated pilgrims’ hostels)
- 1 x fleece jacket (to wear on it’s own or under a rain jacket)
- 1 x rain jacket (a hood and pit zips are a must)
- 1 x lightweight wool scarf (mornings and nights can be chilly)
- 1 x long johns top and bottoms (these were my PJs)
- 2 x Icebreaker merino wool undies (yes, they’re worth the $30 price tag)
- 1 x merino wool sports bra (I don’t own one, but it’s my next purchase!)
- 1 x synthetic tank with built-in shelf bra (doubles as a tank and offers support while the bra is drying, plus it’s lighter than a second bra)
- 3 x SmartWool medium hiking socks (lesson learned: better for them to be on the small side to avoid blisters)
- 1 x flipflops (a must for showering and changing into post-hike; squishy foam footbed and minimal straps won’t rub against blisters; after I bought flipflops in Ponferrada, I promptly shipped my Keen sandals to Santiago)
- 1 x quick-dry zip hoodie (neither cool enough nor warm enough)
- 1 x Keen sandals (rubbed my blisters every which way; OK with socks as cushioning, but I struggled to squeeze swollen, blistered, sock-clad feet into them, though some pilgrims prefer walking with socks and sandals)
- 1 x liner socks (they didn’t help prevent blisters)
- 1 x fleece-lined cross-country ski pants (no, not snow pants; these proved valuable at night and on the plane because I was so cold, but I never walked in them; a second pair of convertible pants would have been better)