PLANNING YOUR CAMINO
It is useful to research the route to be taken and draw up a timetable in advance, so that you know the towns to be visited, their traditions, the regions and the landscape; this will be rewarding and will make the journey more enjoyable. It is highly recommended that you contact an Association of Friends of the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago de Compostela, of which there are more than 50 in almost all the provinces of Spain. In their offices you can buy a credential, a document that serves as a safe conduct and contains boxes that must be stamped at least once a day, either in a hostel, an establishment or a church. It is essential to carry it if you want to stay overnight in public and some private pilgrim hostels. Once at the pilgrim’s office in Santiago, it serves as proof that the pilgrimage has been completed and to obtain the Compostelana.
The pilgrim’s foot encounters all kinds of surfaces: asphalt, concrete, gravel, pebbles, earth, clay, limestone, etc. This raises serious doubts about the choice of footwear best suited to each surface. You need footwear that is neither too light nor too heavy, that is flexible and provides good stability. These characteristics are found in trekking shoes and trail running shoes used by mountain runners. Both are lighter than hiking boots and offer greater flexibility and cushioning. The sole is tougher than a conventional running shoe and can withstand impact and the weight of a backpack.
The waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex fabric keeps your feet dry and wicks away perspiration. Hiking boots provide better protection for the ankles and possible stone impacts, but they are heavier, tend to overheat the foot and are very uncomfortable on tarmac. Experience suggests that you should try trekking or trail running shoes first.
It is worth spending money on a good rucksack. It is the pilgrim’s shell, the home you carry on your back. It should have a capacity of between 40 and 50 litres. The bigger it is, the more it will weigh empty and the more it will be filled. Once full, it should not weigh more than 10% of your body weight. For example, a person weighing 70 kilos should carry a rucksack weighing between 7 and 8 kilos. Any weight above this will take its toll in the form of overloading or muscle contraction. It should have strong stitching, padded shoulder straps, lumbar support and adjustable hip and chest straps. It should have a system that allows it to be adjusted to suit the size of each user. The straps should be adjusted so that the weight is on the back and not on the shoulders. A waterproof cover is essential to protect the pack on rainy days. Many come with a waterproof cover, but some do not do the job well and get soaked quickly, so it is sometimes worth buying a separate, more durable one.
In addition to the clothes you are wearing, take the essentials with you. This might be your summer gear:
-A one litre water bottle or a Camelbak of the same capacity.
-A pair of trekking poles, if you are used to using them, or the classic walking stick.
-Two or three changes of clothes.
-Two pairs of short polyester hiking socks.
A pair of polyester T-shirts, one short-sleeved and one long-sleeved (never cotton, as it does not breathe and takes a long time to dry).
-A sweatshirt and a light waterproof jacket.
-A poncho with a rucksack cover that is breathable. The disadvantage is that they usually weigh about 400 grams.
-A baseball cap or hat.
-A microfibre towel. These are made from polyester and polyamide and dry quickly. You can find them in sports shops.
Flip-flops for the shower.
-A toothbrush and toothpaste. Washing gel and shampoo and a bar of soap for washing clothes and, for those who need it, a razor or razor blades.
A small first-aid kit containing aspirin or ibuprofen, high factor sun cream, plasters, iodine and sterile needles for pricking blisters. Chafing cream for feet and body is highly recommended. If you are walking the Camino in company, it is best to take a joint first-aid kit and share the weight.
-A head torch.
-Identity card, health card, credit card and pilgrim’s card.
-A pocket knife. Safety pins and several clothes pegs, very useful for drying clothes during or at the end of the stage.
-A mobile phone, a camera (if you want better quality) and their chargers.
For the colder months, winter socks, T-shirts and trousers will do. You should also bring a hat, buff and gloves. The light jacket should be replaced with a waterproof windbreaker. This is the most expensive part of the outfit, but it is well worth spending your money on quality clothing. Fleece leggings to wear under your trousers or even to sleep in are a good idea. In winter it is advisable to wear a layering system: a very breathable thermal vest as the first layer, a long-sleeved technical t-shirt as the second layer and a windbreaker as the last layer. Backpack on your back, pole in hand and off you go.
Make a previous physical preparation, bearing in mind that you should plan the stages according to your physical possibilities, dosing the effort and taking more or less frequent or long rests depending on the physical characteristics of each person. You should never reach the limit of your strength. Avoid direct exposure to the sun on the head to prevent sunstroke, heat stroke, etc., protecting yourself with caps or hats. To avoid sunburn or dehydration due to excessive perspiration, it is advisable to avoid walking during the hours of maximum sunlight intensity (midday), to make progressive exposures (especially if you come from different climates) and to use sun protection creams with sun filters and moisturising creams, as well as sunglasses with protection against ultraviolet radiation. Wear a helmet and a luminous waistcoat for pilgrims travelling by bicycle.
Drink bottled water or drinking water from a public water supply; do not drink water from streams, rivers, springs or fountains whose potability you are not sure of. To prevent dehydration, a minimum daily intake of 2 litres of water is recommended. There are isotonic drinks on the market whose composition in sodium and potassium salts can help a healthy adult. Eat 4 to 5 meals a day with fresh food instead of one larger meal a day. Fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly with drinking water. In case of transporting food that has been cooked or prepared hours before, make sure that it is properly preserved. Daily showering, with proper drying, apart from ensuring proper personal hygiene, is highly recommended for rest and to prevent maceration and mycosis. Personal toiletries, such as razors or tweezers, should not be shared. It is essential to take care of your feet in order to prevent blisters; to do so, use cotton socks that are always clean, dry and well worn to avoid chafing.