Day 1 : St Jean Pied de Port to Roncevalles

Steve: We’re here and it’s actually happening…

Bayonne: A shaky start – I didn’t realise that my Fitbit watch was still on UK time so when Jen knocked on the hotel door at what I thought was 6:09am it was actually 7:09am and we had a train to catch at 7:46am.  We made it and set off to St Jean.

St Jean: Then to the Pilgrim Office to pick up the ‘Pilgrim Passport’ without which you cannot stay in the albergues (I’ll get Jen to write a glossary of Camino terms).  It was getting real, 6 months of planning and here we (eventually) were.

Now, it may be corny, but they say that the longest journey starts with a single step.  So here are those steps:

Steve, step #1
Jen. step #1
Hamish, step #1

By my reckoning when we reach Santiago we will be on step #1,000,000 or thereabouts.

The sun was shining and the birds were singing as we set off through the very picturesque town of St Jean towards the big hills of the Pyrenees.

Day One of the Camino is reckoned to be the most difficult and we were rather nervous.  It’s basically the equivalent of climbing Ben Nevis, Britain’s tallest mountain. You hear horror stories of people falling to their deaths and getting hopelessly lost. As I’m a regular walker in the Scottish hills I treat these things with respect.

As it happened it was all really rather easy.  I was expecting rough trails, as you’d find on a Scottish hill.  Instead 90% of it is tarred, and tarred to a higher standard than most of central Edinburgh.  I’m sure it’s properly nasty in winter but on this fine May afternoon it was almost a walk in the park.

So, from St Jean to Orisson, some 8km.  Note to future self: there’s a splendid albergue in Orisson with a magnificent view across the Pyrenees. Stay here if you ever do the trip again….

Orisson view

We stopped for lunch and toasted our success…

The road wound on and up and into the clouds. We passed the famous statue of the Virgin Mary and ‘Let it be‘ ran on my mental playlist.

At some point mid afternoon we did a very rare thing – something that none of us have done before.  We walked into another country.  Left foot in France, right foot in Spain.  When did you last do that?

5:30pm and a little footsore but much relieved we came down the last few hundred metres into Roncevalles and the huge albergue.

Now most pilgrims start by 8am at the latest and we didn’t leave St Jean until nearly 10, so we were amongst the last in.  By then the only spaces left were in an old dorm which we shared with some 20+ others.

I don’t know what the stats are but I reckon if you put any more than 5 people in a room one will keep the rest awake by snoring.  And, yes indeedy, we had a snore fest.  And – another thing – why do snorers always seem to fall asleep first?  I got out my Sansa Clip and listened to a ‘Kermode and Mayo Film Review’ programme and two Tangerine Dream albums but nothing could drown out the snorting.  I reckoned that I got 3 hours of sleep before the keen walkers were getting up at 6am for the day ahead.  Must try harder to fall asleep faster.

But! We are underway.  Day one wasn’t anything like as bad as I’d feared.  My Salewa shoes did the job (though I fear I have some impending blisters) and the Deuter pack worked fine.

27km down, many many km to go…

Day 1 : Stats

Feet, feet and more feet…

St Jean to Roncevalles

  • Steps: 41,182
  • Distance covered, according to Brierley
    • 25.1 km direct, 32.0 km actual walking
    • 25.1 km done, 753.4 km to go
    • 1.39 km overall vertical climb
  • Other Fitbit stats
    • 37.06km walked (based on 0.9m stride length)
    • 506 ‘active’ minutes.
    • 7,023 cal burned.
    • 63 bpm resting heart rate. I saw 160 bpm when climbing a steep bit, which was a bit of a worry…

Day zero : Gatwick to Bayonne

Steve: Proper progress today.

Up at 3:50am in the Holiday Inn Gatwick, a rather soulless place.  Airport hotels, just like airport departure lounges, have a strange quality. They exist in some alternative dimension, just a little removed from the Real World – a few inches over, perhaps. Almost the same, but not quite.

The British Airways desk at Gatwick opened at 5am and, after some more fiddling around with booking numbers, we took to the air at 6:50am -ish and headed for Bordeaux. We all slept the whole way.

From Bordeaux airport to the bus, to the train station, and on to Bayonne on a TGV.  You couldn’t possibly mistake a French train for a British train.  It really is quite a bit more stylish.

Flat countryside and a very nice train

Rumour had it that there was a strike on today but we couldn’t confirm that. All we know is that we had an almost empty carriage for the hour and a bit trip.

We’d hoped to go on St Jean today but apparently that particular line actually was on strike, so we’ve got tickets for early tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow we start the Camino proper and we become ‘peregrinos’ – pilgrims.  With ‘albergues’ for accommodation and ‘pilgrim menus’ for sustenance. To ease the transition, tonight we stay in a hotel and eat pizza by the riverside. Impecuniousness can wait for just one more day.

We are porous with travel fever, as Joni Mitchell sang…

Sacre bleu, c’est France…
The not-so-mean streets of Bayonne

Day zero : stats

Planes, trains and buses and feet

  • Steps: 16,287
  • Distance: 14.7km
  • Distance in the right direction: massive improvement over the past few days. Now we’re a mere -53.7km from the zero point. As my high school French teacher used to say “C’est un cochon formidable!”.  No, we didn’t know why, either.

Day minus 1 : Central London to Gatwick

Steve: CitizenM really is a fun hotel. We like it very much. It ain’t Spain, in fact, I think you could argue that the whole Shoreditch digerati thing is the very antithesis of the Camino.  But, if you have to be waylaid somewhere, it’s better than most.

It’s a UK Bank Holiday today and London is eerily quiet. We lived in London for the best part of two decades, from 1980-99, and my commute to work on the No 8 bus ended at the bus stop just around the corner from the hotel.  To say that things have changed since the 1990s would be an understatement.

Shoreditch is so hip it can hardly see over its pelvis*… Across the street from the hotel

After sufficient caffeination…


…we headed east and took a look at the old stomping grounds. Jen, a proper Cockney – born in The Royal London Hospital on Whitechapel Rd, hasn’t been back since she was 4 years old.  Her comment was that everything was a good deal smaller than she remembered.

It’s not the Camino but it was a good tourist day.

So, now we’re in the Holiday Inn at Gatwick. The alarm is set for 3:55am to get us to a 6:40 BA flight to Bordeaux.  Plan C is in action…

As we wandered around today in a ‘Camino state of mind’ I found these signs interesting….

…and Jen got to feed a horse.

PS: I’m currently watching Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn on Channel 4. The UK Election is on June 8th (and I’ve already voted by post).  I do rather despair about the quality of political discourse on British TV.  We’re not in the pit that is the US, but I’m not sure I understand the point of Jeremy Paxman’s banal interview questions.  Why bother with questions of the “have you stopped beating your wife? Yes or no” variety?  How am I enlightened by this?

* apologies to Douglas Adams…


  • Steps: 19,045
  • Distance covered: about 18km (almost Camino standard!)
  • Distance covered in the right direction: definite progress, central London to Gatwick, around 28 miles. Still got 787.6 miles (according to Google) to go before we start.

Day minus 2?

This was supposed to be Day 0, but what with the British Airways computer failure and what-not we still have two more days of travel before we even get to St Jean. But, being nerdy sorts we must post the stats…

  • Steps: 17,045 (as measured by Steve’s Fitbit Alta HR)
  • Distance covered: about 15km
  • Distance covered in the right direction: hard to say, we’re in London and not in St Jean so maybe -1000km?

That said, we had a splendid evening wandering around Shoreditch, then down to St Paul’s and in a big arc via Tate Modern back to Shoreditch. London is about as far as you can get from the spirit of Camino simplicity but I am enjoying my enormous CitizenM hotel bed. It won’t be like this next week. I’ll enjoy it while I can…

Plan C

Steve: In John Brierley’s introduction to his ‘bible’ of the Camino, he ends the introduction with this statement.

Whichever route we take, our ultimate Destination is assured. The only choice we have is how long it takes us to arrive buen Camino.

I tried to internalise those noble words when, at 14:50, I got a text from British Airways to tell us that the Biarritz flight from Heathrow had been cancelled. Oh dear. We were racing through the English countryside on a really rather nice Virgin East Coast train to London Kings Cross, having committed ourselves wholeheartedly to Plan B.  Now we needed to come up with yet another plan, Plan C. Our options were

  • Just go to Heathrow and wait until we could get out somewhere close sometime soon.
  • Abandon BA and try some other airline.
  • Go to London, find a hotel and keep calling BA until we got through.

We decided on the latter. Worst case, BA would tell us to get on the next train back to Edinburgh and wait until next Sunday for another Biarritz flight (they only go twice a week). But 1000 miles on a train in one day, however lovely the train, to return to exactly where we started would be too sad to contemplate.

We sat in Pret at Kings X and war-dialled BA. After lots (50+?) of “We apologise, blah, blah, please try again later”, Hamish finally got into the queue. Excellent. Time to book a hotel that allowed cancellations. I went off to try a few and found – glory hallelujah- that we could stay in the excellent fun CitizenM hotel in Shoreditch for less than the Travelodge. The first good news of the day.

Well, this is supposed to be a walking holiday so off we walked from Kings X to Shoreditch. It rained, boy did it rain. We got soaked but didn’t care and considered it excellent training for the rain in Spain that falls mainly on the plain.

All this time Hamish was on hold with BA. Finally, as we crossed Hoxton Square (1 hour and 40 minutes on hold) a lady answered. 30 mins of patient assistance later she had us booked on the 6:40am flight from Gatwick to Bordeaux on Tuesday 30th. So, that’s Plan C.

A train will then take us from Bordeaux to St Jean by Tuesday evening and we should be walking properly on Wednesday.

At least, that’s the Plan….

Plan B

Steve: Someone at British Airways will be in deep deep trouble. It can’t be fun if you’re the person who did the thing, whatever it was, that caused the shutdown of all BA systems. Turning it off and on again doesn’t work at this level.

After a much more leisurely than expected beginning to the day – no 4am wake up call – we spent a couple of hours trying to figure out if Heathrow was working again. The BA website wasn’t much use and the telephone number given for rebooking was effectively non functioning – you called, you listened to an apology, you pressed ‘1’, you pressed ‘1’ again and got a further message informing you that there was a high number of calls (surprise!) and you need to call back later. Note to BA: after you’ve repeated the previous process 20 times you really truly don’t want to hear the apology and the nice music yet again. Why not offer an immediate ‘Press 1 for rebooking’? Would save many frustrating minutes.

St Jean Pied de Port is rather awkward to get to and our booked route of Biarritz tonight, then train to St Jean first thing tomorrow was the best. Finding an alternative was looking quite difficult. So by 10am we thought, what the heck, let’s just go to the airport and see what’s happening

What’s happening was a very long queue at the BA check in desks. The extremely polite and helpful BA staff (another note to BA – your staff are excellent…) were working hard with minimal information, handing out hastily photocopied bits of paper with details of how to get refunds, and doling out bottles of water.  A super helpful lady whose name I didn’t get (she was working at the end of the queue at around 11:15, note #3 to BA – give her a bonus) was checking to see if there were any spaces on any planes going to Heathrow that would allow us to get our 17:15 LHR-Biarritz flight. No, was the answer. All flights were already overbooked. But after a further few minutes of to and fro she told us that if we can get to Heathrow by 7pm we should be able to get the delayed Biarritz flight (now due to depart at 20:50). “Keep all your receipts!” she shouted at us as we raced towards the taxi rank to get to Edinburgh Waverley in time for the noon train to London.

Plan B is now: get to London by train ASAP, get to Heathrow by 7pm and resume a modified Plan A.

As of 1pm – so far, so good.

Flight Cancelled

Hamish: The first leg of our flight has been cancelled so we are still in Scotland, ready to go and trying to make a new plan!

Steve woke up at 04:30 to a message saying not to come to the airport, so we are all at least well rested. Our flight out to Biarritz is still ‘Scheduled’, so getting down to London may be our only issue! fingers crossed!

I’m keeping an eye on updates on the Heathrow page linked at the bottom, and following the british airways twitter account for updates on their service. So far not very much information has been released about their circumstances.

Other than that, all well here in sleepy Scotland, sheep are asleep in the field and birds are waking up for the day!

Packing ~ Jen

Jen: Hi friend! Welcome to the extremely long and in-depth part of the blog where I tell you what I will be carrying in my pack over the next month.

I fortunately have a good idea of what I wanted to bring with me and the kind of weight I could carry based on my walking of the Camino Frances last year. I made the usual pilgrim mistake of carrying far too much, and sent home 2kg of sleeping bag and mat about two weeks in to my trip. I’m keen not to make that mistake this time so I packed roughly 7.4kgs but may (hopefully) reduce that along the way. Here is my breakdown (starting from the top left of the picture down the bottom*):

1. Toiletries bag: inside I’m carrying a toothbrush (bamboo – lighter and zero waste), toothpaste, deodorant, a bar of Lush soap and a Lush shampoo/conditioner bar (not carrying bottles saves a lot of weight and Lush products helpfully come in a small tin), a razor handle and two heads, Nivea moisturiser (a small luxury I originally travelled without, but after a long day of walking in the sun and more regular shaving my skin could really do with some tlc), sanitary pads (a few), a mooncup (would 100% recommend, but do get used to it before you go!), factor 30 face cream, travel wash, and factor 30 lip balm (lips get burned too I discovered). This is quite a long list but there’s nothing here I won’t use on a daily basis, and when the travel wash and shampoo bar runs out I’ll just use soap.

2. A fold up tiny towel. The first night after walking last summer (from St Jean Pied de Port to Roncevalles), my bunk was opposite an elderly 80 year old man who carried a tiny backpack filled only with a water bottle, a wallet, one tshirt and an enormous fluffy towel. To each their own on the towel front, but I quite like my tiny pink square. It dries quickly and is very light. Available from Amazon from as little as £7 (or check out camping store sales).

3. A bag of pegs (6 to be exact). Useful for hanging up clothes at the albergue and for pegging socks to dry on your bag as you walk.

4. A sleeping bag liner. Unlike the other two, I’m trusting the weather to be warm for me so that I won’t need a sleeping bag. I took one last time and swapped it for this tiny liner. Its literally a thin sheet for the purposes of covering you at night so and it folds up small and weighs almost nothing. They’re easy to buy in Spain (but are more expensive) – but make sure to bring earplugs because a snorter will bring out a level of irritation in you that you didn’t know you possessed (mine are foam and are in the liner pouch).

5. Sleeping shirt. Courtesy of my brother from whom I nicked this. I wear it at night – with trousers if I get cold but without usually. I’ll just pop a towel around me or tread quietly when heading to the bathroom at night. (Wash once or twice over the course of the trip).

6. Osprey Aura AG 65ltr. This is the part where I gush about this bag. Everything about it is wonderful – from the net back that stops you sweating through to your clothes, to the many pockets and solid hip hugging waist straps. The waist straps are the reason I went for this model and size, as smaller similar models don’t have such a solid hip structure. Firm straps around your hips are crucial as this is where the weight of the backpack is carried. I learned the hard way last time that carrying weight on your shoulders will cripple you for a number of days! My pack is called Nausicaä (from the Ghibli film), and we have developed a proper friendship over the last year. She’s a little large for the likes of the Camino (65lts would happily accommodate a tent and a sleeping mat too), but the back, shoulder and hip straps are well worth carrying a half empty bag for. There are two front pockets (in which I carry my purse and phone), two side slide-in pockets (ideal for suncream on one side and a map on the other), two pockets on the back of the bag (visible in the picture – the purple tie is tied to one zip) which are great for books and a solar panel charger I carry, one mesh net pocket (again visible in the picture), a bottom compartment that I use for carrying sandals, my raincoat and my sleeping bag liner, a rain cover pocket on the top of the bag (which you can stuff other things you’ll never need in – like the stone you carry from home to La Cruz de Ferro: the highest part of the Camino trail), another top pocket for documents, an inside compartment for a camelback, and finally great compression straps the whole way up the outside and inside of the pack. The back and shoulder straps are all adjustable and you can choose whether you’d like a long backpack or a short one. I chose the longer back (listed on the website as a WM) somewhat accidentally, but with so much room for adjustments, it fits me (5.6ft) just fine. Weighing 2.08kg overall, she is a little heavy – but through economising on other things, you can bring the weight down while still allowing for a bag with great back and shoulder support. She’s an expensive purchase for sure, but has definitely been worth it. Osprey also has a lifetime guarantee on this bag (and I believe all of their bags?) so if I ever do manage to tear a hole in one, they will replace it. Here’s a link to the official Osprey site but Tiso often has deals on Osprey bags that I took advantage of when buying Nausicaä (

7. A bucket hat. You’ll want a hat without a wide rim so that it doesn’t catch on your pack and fall off all the time: especially if you’re short like me and your pack is tall.

8. The John Brierley Map. This is a must and is the best map I found for the job. Available in a number of languages and for many of the official Camino trails to Santiago, it is updated each year with the correct prices of albergues, new trails and accurate phone numbers for accommodation. If you speak German, the ‘Outdoor’ Camino guide is also useful and can recommend local sites for each stop that might be of interest to the pilgrim.

9. First aid kit. Here’s an area that dad and I disagree on… I had little success with ‘Compeed’ blister plasters last time around (though admittedly other people swear by them), and found instead that a first aid kit consisting of regular plasters, paracetamol, a small bandage, medical scissors and a needle and thread quite sufficient. The main issue you’ll face will be blisters and the best way to cure them is not to get them in the first place. Make sure to break in your shoes before walking, fix any issues in your socks as soon as they come up, and dust you feet and socks with talcum powder before starting for the day – these things worked for me! Having good quality socks is also vital. If you are unlucky enough to get a blister in the first place, the best way to stop it reforming is to thread a clean needle, push the needle through the blister and out the other side, and then leave the thread in your foot to allow the blister to drain. If that’s too horrible for you, using sterilised scissors cut the blister open wide so that the old skin can fall off naturally but also can’t reform. It’s vile but it works! Plus it makes for some great photos for family and friends back home.

10. A Kindle. Don’t make the mistake of carrying three books around with you like I did last time. You’ll leave them at an albergue after the first few days to rid yourself of weight.

11. Comfy loose trousers. Etsy does a fine selection of lightweight trousers like these. One size fits all and they’re super light and breezy. They also dry quickly which is important (and why I sent my regular hiking trousers with zips to make them into shorts back home last time around). (Wash mostly after wearing).

12. A Rab lightweight technical top (purple). This one is long sleeved so I don’t have to wear suncream on my arms and works for those colder mornings. Technical wicking wear is again important for its quick drying time. This is important when you wash your clothes each evening. (Wash after wear).

13. A Craghoppers warm fleece (black). Early mornings can be a little nippy so a fleece is useful to have in an accessible pocket. (Wash once or twice).

14. A sports bra (striped). A normal bra would be fine (walking isn’t exactly intensive for that area), but sports bras tend to wash better and with less fuss, as well as dry quicker. (Wash after wear).

15. Shorts. These ones are from H&M and have a lining on the inside. Finding women’s shorts that are long enough is a challenge if you have long legs, so lined ones solve the issue of flashing at your fellow holy pilgrims. (Wash after wear).

16. A vest top (navy). Again from H&M, this one has wicking technology too but is half the price of a Rab shirt. (Wash after wear).

17. Another sports bra (black and grey). I took two sets of walking wear – one to wear and one to dry. (Wash after wear).

18. An orange loose dress. You’ll need something to wear while chilling in the evenings with other pilgrims and this dress is my favourite as it washes and dries quickly, and is very loose so I don’t sweat. You won’t walk in this item so it just needs to be something you’re comfortable to wear in a church, around the albergue in the evening, and in bed if you’re washing your other sleep shirt. (Wash once a week if that).

19. 3 pairs of socks. Mine are all Bridgedale, and of all the items you bring, your socks, shoes and pack are the most important. Finding socks that suit you can literally make the difference to whether you’ll get blisters or not. I favour a thicker sock, but with that does come heat rash. I had moderately bad heat rash on my ankles from the thick socks last time, and they were quite stiff from constant wear with only hand washes in between. I had forgotten how soft socks were meant to be and only remembered when I was brought new socks halfway! I’ve only brought two of everything else on the trip clothing-wise, but I brought three pairs of socks of varying thicknesses this time so that I can wear those most comfortable. Starting from the left, the green ones are a medium weight, the middle are summit socks (so thick and comfy in boots but bad in heat), and the last are lightweight ones ones for super hot days. Undoubtedly you’ll hear more about them as the walk goes on and I’ll let you know my favourite pair.

20. Pants. Two pairs, both are thin synthetic pants that dry really fast and are super comfy. The ones on the right are Bawbag pants and are very good, but are expensive. The ones on the left I found cheaper from M&S.

21. Suncream. Choose your factor wisely.

22. The thin shiny roll on the bottom left hand side is a number of zip-lock plastic bags. These come in useful so much over the trip as you never know when you need one for still-damp washing or the like. Bring many.

23. Passport. Make sure to bring the actual object as the pilgrim office will want to see it when you get your pilgrim passport, and albergues have to write down your passport number so as to make sure you’re not a thief on the run from the law… This happens at each place you stay so make sure to bring it and not only a photocopy for flight purposes.

24. Purse. Make it small and light.

25. Jumping to the row below, you’ll see I have a Spanish phrase book. This comes in useful if you don’t speak the language and increases your chance of learning something other than bad pilgrim Spanish if you read it.

26. A tote bag for putting your purse/books/nibbles in when walking around in the afternoons after showering and dropping off your rucksack at the albergue. This is super useful – don’t forget this.

27. Hiking boots. Here comes along another long point. GETTING THE RIGHT SHOES FOR YOU MAY NOT MEAN HIKING BOOTS. I’ll upload a picture elsewhere of the ridiculous number of hiking books dotted along the trail and hanging from trees over the first few days of the trip – expensive boots abandoned by people who preferred walking in good-quality sports shoes/trainers. If you feel boots to be too heavy or hot for you, don’t worry about going for something lighter. The trail is rarely rocky enough to require proper mountain boots so a quality pair of shoes with good grip will do just fine. As you can imagine, your shoes are what get you to the end and so you must must must take the time to choose a pair that you are happy with. I bought these Scarpa Moraine Plus Mid GTX shoes a few months before last years trip and I’m happy to say they’ll be carrying me along again this time. For me, I found them to be the perfect mix of boot (which I need as I’m quite clumsy and so fall over a lot) and shoe (light enough to carry if need be and breathable). They’re waterproof and have only a little wear for the left heel after 500 miles last year and a further year of wandering about Edinburgh since then. I’ve been really impressed by them, and though they can be expensive, if you buy at the right time they are often on sale (Tiso is selling them for £99). There is also a shoe version if you are more inclined in that direction. Tiso:

28. A 2ltr camelback. Useful as it frees up more pocket space and almost all backpacks come with a nifty hole to poke the mouth piece through. 1ltr is enough though and I never fill mine fully as there is always water enroute each day and adding 2kgs weighs me down too much.

29. Comfy sandals. You’ll need something to wear in the afternoons and when the heat rash is too much. I wouldn’t recommend walking in them though. Hamish is bringing flip flops but my feet fall apart in them so I bought these last Camino. I originally bought some flip flops but they gave me a blister between my toes and after refusing to get new sandals, I fell asleep in the sun and the plastic between my toes melted into my new cuts. Safe to say that persuaded me.

30. A solar panel. I was the only pilgrim I met on the Camino with a solar panel last year, so don’t think for a moment that it’s a necessity. At the time however I was using an old iPhone with terrible battery life, and so I brought this in order to fuel my need for music and podcasts when I got tired of chatting. It came in super useful as it happened, and although all the albergues have plugs they are often stuffed full of extension cords and people jostling for electricity. Having a way to make my own was something I didn’t fully appreciate until the odd occasion that I couldn’t find an unoccupied socket. This is a solar panel with two USB slots (perfect for phone charging cables), although only one USB port works (I got it that way) and it only works when in direct sunlight. This can be a little unfortunate for the pilgrim as we pretty much always walk into the setting sun come the afternoons when the light is at its strongest. Nonetheless, for the cheap price I got it, it was a useful purchase and fit nicely around the back of my pack using the six carabenas it came with. This one is a Suaoki 16W Solar Panel Charger from Amazon:

31. Pens and a notepad. I’m bringing two pens, and I’m hoping to write a few notes or thoughts down during the long afternoons when I’m not walking. The purpose of my last Camino was for research for my undergraduate dissertation in Social Anthropology, and so I sometimes spent upwards of two hours recording the days proceedings in two notebooks I carried with me. As a person who hates writing a diary, this was actually a fun exercise and I’m really grateful now that I do have these notes to look back on. It’s worth it for writing down names of friends you’ll make or for drawing in too. A friend of mine last time around took up drawing a picture a day after meeting a pilgrim who had been drawing daily for a number of years. My friend found it very useful and a much more relaxed way of remembering what each day held than my extensive field notes. Whatever suits you.

32. A dictaphone. I brought this for anthropology purposes, but if you fancy buying one for other purposes then I would recommend the Sony ICDPX333.CE7 4GB PX Series MP3 Digital Voice IC Recorder. It’s such a great piece of kit and I ended up using it mostly for making my own notes when I couldn’t be bothered writing them down. I’m bringing it along for anthropology purposes again, but unless you are wanting to record your own thoughts or do something academic with it, it really isn’t a necessary Camino thing. If you like this sort of thing though, here’s a link to mine:

33. A SanDisk Clip (the little black thing below the headphones right next to the dictaphone). This thing literally stopped me going mad last time around. I downloaded hundreds of hours of podcasts and audiobooks before leaving Scotland, and despite having enough stuff (I thought) to last me the trip, I ran out in about three weeks. Luckily, this guy has an SD card slot and so even more info can be poured into yours ears – hooray! I have the SanDisk Clip Jam 8GB MP3 Player and it is does the job perfectly. While you do spend time chatting to other people, if you need your own space or something to keep you motivated while going up a hill, this is a great choice. That and copious amounts of coffee. Here is the link:

34. Headphones (small and yellow above the SanDisk Clip). I would recommend going for something with which you can still hear background noise. Mine fit nicely but are designed to not completely cover the ear so that a walker can still hear incoming traffic. This is helpful as much of the Camino is spent walking on roads. Mine also have a volume control on the headphone wire itself so that you’re not spending your time rummaging about in your pack every time a loud song comes on. Link to mine:

35. Micro USB. For charging my phone and MP3 player. The other two are carrying adaptors and plugs so I’ll sponge off them. If need be I’ll use the solar panel for power.

36. A waterproof jacket. Last year it rained on me once. This year it’s been threatening to rain and I’ve only been here a day. It’s worth bringing but you hopefully won’t have to use it. Any light, unpadded raincoat will do.

Woo you made it to the end! There you have my ridiculously in-depth account of everything I’ll be taking this year and why. While it might seem to be really complicated and expensive (especially if you’re just thinking about doing the Camino and you’re new to walking), I promise you it’s not too bad. I had zero walking experience last year outside of wandering about the Scottish hills with the dogs before I walked this route, but after such a long and in-depth period of walking last summer I like to think I know a little more about what I’m doing and can boss dad and H about. I’ve provided all the info here as that’s what has worked for me, but other opinion are available! I met people who walked with only 4kg (including water) and who had been walking for years, and other people like me who were just starting out with huge packs and were slightly grossed out by blisters and feet. The Camino is a great place to learn to walk properly over a long distance, and the community of people you meet are incredible. This novice walker fell so in love with it that she’s back again with company, ready to meet more amazing and interesting people, and even (possibly) enjoy the walking process again. I hope the list helps and makes sense, and if this inspired you to plan making the journey yourself, I wish you buen Camino! ☀️🇪🇸

*double chin not included.

Packing ~ Steve


Let’s go full nerd and I’ll tell you what’s coming with me.

Top row #1

  • Deuter Futura 42 litre backpack. I’ve been using a 32 litre version of the same pack for years as my standard ‘day in the Scottish hills’ pack.  It has excellent ventilation, which in my book trumps most other concerns.
  • 3x UnderArmour underwear. Overriding virtue is that they dry quickly.
  • Numerous ziploc bags (actually the IKEA equivalent – they shut better)
  • A collection of Smartwool and Bridgedale socks.  Again, these are my standard Scottish hill socks.  My concern is that they might be too warm for Spain – we shall see. In the end only three pairs were actually packed.

Row #2

  • Cheap inflatable pillow bought in some airport somewhere.  Probably an unnecessary luxury and may well end up in the bin + a Yellowstone sleeping bag liner.  Very thin and enough to keep out the bed bugs.
  • Shoulder bag bought at a Greenbelt festival years ago.  Useful as a day sack.
  • The grey/blue box contains a lightweight SeatToSummit microfibre travel towel.  Thin and dries fast.
  • Under that is my diabetic test kit with enough glucose test strips to last the trip.
  • Under that is a Leatherman knife that was, in the end, left behind.
  • To the right is a toilet bag with the usual Compeed plasters, toothbrush etc etc.
  • Between the toilet bag and the socks are some vegan energy bars that we bought for the difficult first day from St Jean to Roncevalles through the Pyrenees.

Row #3

  • Very cheap (£30) Snugpack sleeping bag.  The Camino is (usually) hot, so a ‘proper’ sleeping bag is not required.  I’ll either use this or the Yellowstone bag liner. Depending on the weather, one will be discarded along the way.
  • Sherpa fleece. Thinnish and light.
  • Craghoppers Kiwi shirts x 2. I like these shirts a lot. They’re relatively cheap, have sensible pockets and niceties like drying loops. A well designed item.
  • A large plastic ziploc full of bits and pieces to keep my knackered left foot happy.  Hopefully they will all be unnecessary and I can abandon them.
  • Electrics
    • Spain to UK mains adaptor
    • The very splendid IKEA high power, three port, USB charger
    • A Gorrillapod mini-tripod (for the Sony A6000 used to take the picture)
    • The black bag under the adaptor contains a Sansa Clip (the best mp3 player I’ve found – enough battery life for a week, huge capacity (4GB internal + 64GB micro SD)), some Sennheiser sports headphones (with the fiddly ear things that stop them falling out as you walk). I use the Sansa/Sennheiser combination on my daily dog walks.

Row #4

  • Trousers x 2
    • Berghaus walking trousers, my standard hiking gear, plus
    • new Montane trousers, with side vents and (important!) big zipped pockets.
  • Luminous green Rab long sleeved shirt, another hillwalking regular.
  • White Musto cap.  This is a rather expensive cap, but, being a bald bloke in Spain, I need something to keep the sun off.  The Musto is designed for sailing and is completely washable.  I use it daily for the dog walks.
  • Microsoft Surface 3 (note not the Pro 3), on which I am writing this blog. Cheap(ish) and cheerful, if a bit underpowered.  If Very Bad Things happen at work and I have to connect up from the plains of Spain then the Surface will make that possible.  I’d like to leave it at home and rely on the iPad mini that’s next to it but what with VPNs and Apple’s idiotic lockdown I can’t.
  • The yellow box is a 10,000mAh WakaWaka battery, part of the Base 10 kit. Not entirely sure if I need this – it is rather heavy – but I can ship it home if necessary.
  • The Ziploc is full of cables to keep everything juiced up.
  • Sunglasses and a backup pair of regular glasses.

Row #5

  • Rab E-vent jacket.  Another stalwart of the Scottish hills.  I’ve had this for a few years now – it doesn’t weight a lot and is incredible at keeping out wind and rain.  Wasn’t cheap but I’d buy it again.
  • Platypus 2 litre water bag.
  • A ziploc of Euros.
  • Passport and EHIC.
  • The excellent John Brierley book of Camino maps.


An explanation of the footwear:

The Camino hostels (known as albergues) require that you leave your boots at the door and wear something else in the albergue. The Merrell sandals are my ‘something else’.

Now, you don’t need two pairs of walking shoes.  The true Camino pilgrim rejoices in carrying as little as possible, so two pairs of walking shoes is a luxury. However, given my foot issues, I wasn’t sure what to take.

I’ve been wearing Merrell Chameleons for years and I think they are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned.  But they are not hill walking shoes.  When up the Scottish hills I wear Scarpa Deltas but these are big heavy four season proper hiking boots.  If I wore those in the Spanish heat I’m pretty sure my feet would burst into flames.

I bought some Scarpa Vortex walking shoes (distinct from boots) a few months back but I just couldn’t get them to fit properly.  Either they were too loose and I got blisters or too tight and the blood supply was cut off. Once my metatarsals started playing up I took my Vortexes to Tiso Perth where Mike (I hope I have the right name?), the assistant manager, spent a couple of hours trying out different insoles and the like to get a better fit.  In the end he said that it just wasn’t working so why don’t I return the Vortexes, get my £140 back, and buy something else that fits better.  Given that the Vortexes were now about two months old and were quite used I was very impressed.  After another hour I left with the Salewas.  Big thumbs up and many thanks to Tiso…

Then a visit to Gregor McCoshim for a last minute appointment to try and build up the shoes to protect my 2nd metatarsal.  I left with both the Salewas and the Chameleons fitted with the necessary modifications.  For the first time in 10 days I could walk without wincing.

So… I’m writing this update on Day Zero, and we’re about to start walking tomorrow.  Only an idiot would set off on a 500 mile walk in a new pair of shoes but I’m forced to be that idiot.  I’ll try the Salewas and see how I do – hopefully I can get over the Pyrenees in them.  If necessary I’ll use the aged Merrells and hope my feet hold up.  Fingers crossed…