Heading overseas for a pilgrimage? Here’s your ultimate packing list
Follow these rules when packing
• Hikers know the saying: To walk far carry less. Your backpack should be less than 10% of your body weight, for ladies, a maximum of 6-8kg, and for men a maximum of 10kg.
• When it comes to clothing, all you need is the set of clothes on your back and a clean pair in your backpack. (One on the body, one in the bag).
• Don’t take anything “just in case”. If you find you’re suddenly short of something, Europe is full of shops you can stop at.
• Pack the smallest things that you can (literally): a miniature bottle of shampoo, a tiny tube of toothpaste. When it’s finished, replace it.
• Avoid all wrappings and packaging. Keep things dry in plastic Ziploc bags.
• Look for things that have more than one function. For example, ski pants that you can also swim or sleep in, or a sarong that also works as a towel.
The specific requirements for the Italian pilgrimage
The Italian Camino, also known as the Via Francigena, is different in many ways from the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
After I’d done a bit of research about the routes, go! invited specific sponsors to be part of this adventure. On the Spanish Camino, there’s about 250 000 pilgrims a year, whereas on the Via Francigena there’s only about 2 500. So naturally, the infrastructure is far less developed. Here is a list of specific things you’ll need to pack in for Italy.
• The Via Francigena doesn’t have the same culture of hostels for pilgrims that the Spanish pilgrimage does, and pilgrims are accommodated in cloisters, B&B’s and hotels. Caminoways.com once again helped me book my accommodation ahead of time.
This means I can give my loved ones back home a list of where I’ll be and when. It also means that I don’t have to carry a heavy towel and sleeping bag around with me. If you book similar accommodation through Caminoways.com you can budget on about 500 euro (R7 500) per week.
This includes your accommodation in an en suite room, breakfast, and the transportation of your backpack to the next stop-over town. Caminoways.com has divided the entire Via Francigena into 90 segments, and you can make use of their services on the entire route.
• The Via Francigena routes are not as well signposted as those in Spain, where clear yellow arrows lead you over 750km. Plus, the guidebook warns that if you take a wrong turn on the Via Francigena, an easy 18km stretch can turn into a 30km nightmare.
I’ve been having fun playing with this gadget since January. The Suunto is a GPS-watch that records your route as a video and can combine your own photos with the recording. Take a look how I practiced with this one Saturday morning in Cape Town.
But…more importantly…You can load GPX files onto the watch ahead of time. I googled a little and found the GPX files of other pilgrims for free on the internet, which I managed to load onto the watch without hassle. With these files, the Suunto can tell me how many hills I have to walk each day, before I’ve even left Cape Town!
I took a screengrab of Day 1. Here you can see the route I’m going to take, how many kilometres I should get through as well as the meters that I’ll be ascending and descending.
• Again, in contrast to the Spanish Camino, where you can’t take a step without falling into a pub or shop, the guidebooks warn that in Italy on many days you need to take your own food and liquids with, because you won’t find a town between point A and point B.
Atlasware have long boasted that their flasks are feather-light and can keep liquids cold for up to 24 hours, and boiling for up to 18 hours. After Atlasware gave me one of their flasks to test, I went to buy a second one, so that I can also take boiling water with me. (It works wonderfully and is a fraction of what their competitors’ products cost).
I realise it would be the height of tragedy to eat two-minute noodles in Tuscany, but I just can’t face hiking for a full day without a cup of coffee. Now I’ve got one flask for cold liquids, and one for boiling water.
• Last year I completed the Spanish Camino with trail running shoes, but I hurt a muscle because I couldn’t get good purchase on the downhills.
This trip is going to take me through and over the hills and dales of Tuscany, and that’s why, this time around, I’ve decided to go with the Hi-Tec Altitudes. I’ve broken in these boots over at least 300kms. If you’re interested in how to choose between the two, read here. Because the guidebooks say that you often have to cross knee-high streams, Hi-Tec have also given me a pair of walking sandals.
This means that I can swap my boots for something lighter in the afternoons when I reach my overnight stop towns.
• I’m completely besotted with photography, and on my Spanish Camino I used the Canon M5 (a mirrorless camera). Canon SA have recently released the Canon M100 in South Africa and have loaned me one of these for my pilgrimage.
It’s also a mirrorless camera, but it’s smaller and lighter than the M5. The M100 still gives you the option to swap lenses. Along with the standard lens (the “kit lens”) of 15-45 mm, Canon has also loaned me the 55-200 mm-zoom lens.
The best feature of Canon’s mirrorless cameras is that you can still use your DSLR lenses by fastening them on with a special attachment.
So just before I leave, I’ll weigh my bags and decide whether I’ll also be needing my usual Canon 10-20 mm-wide-angle lens. I know from experience that somewhere along the way I’ll encounter a cathedral in a square that only my wide-angle lens will accurately capture. Along with the camera, I’m also packing in a tiny tripod and an extra 32 gig memory card.
Don’t fool yourself- not all backpacks are created equal. Trappers gave me a terra-firma Uhuru backpack as a present. It’s a 30 + 5 litre backpack (30 litres, plus a side zip that can be opened up to give you an extra 5 litres of packing space) This bag is a dream!
• It’s designed so that the weight rests on your hips, and not your back or shoulders.
• The Air-Flo harnesses keep the heat away from your back
• The inside compartments can be used as one big bag, or they can be divided into two compartments using the zips.
• There are two extra pockets on the hip straps (for your packets of Rehidrat, plasters and chocolate bars), and an extra pocket at the top so you can keep a bit of cash at hand.
• The Uhuru has its own splash jacket that can be folded up and packed in a space under the bag
• The bag has loops for your walking sticks
• You can use an internal water bladder with this backpack, but I prefer to keep my liquids in bottles in the side pouches of the bag.
The backpack might look small in the shops, but anything bigger will tempt you to pack in lots of unnecessary items.
The packets are about as big as those sugar packets in your local coffee shop and can be stored in the pocket of your pants. It also doesn’t taste as sickly sweet as those coloured energy drinks. If you’re walking far, or in challenging circumstances, Rehidrat helps to quickly restore electrolytes to your body.
Here’s my complete packing list
If you want to download it as a PDF, click here.
Your packing list
1 x Terra Firma-back pack (35 litres)1 x set of walking sticks
1 x Hi-Tec Altitude hiking boots
2 x pants (one on the body, one in the bag)
1 x light long-sleeve top
1 x warm jacket
1 x rain poncho (big enough to cover you and your backpack)
1 x beanie
1 x sun hat
4 x sets underwear
2 x walking vests and ski pants (I swim and sleep in these too)
1 x 500 ml- Atlasware flask
1 x 700 ml- Atlasware flask
1 x tin cup1 x tin bowl3 x packets two-minute noodles 10 x packets of instant coffee of hot chocolate1 x spork (teaspoon/fork)1 x knife10 x packets Rehidrat
1 x Canon M100-camera (with extra lens)
1 x Cellphone
1 x plastic bag (with charging cables for the Canon camera, Suunto watch and my cellphone, extra 32 gig memory card)
1 x tripod
1 x passport
1 x pilgrim’s passport
1 x guidebook
1 x purse (a few euros in cash, credit card)
2 x pens
Pills for altitude sickness
Ibuprofen pain killers
Cream for sore muscles
Caminoways.com organises walking and bicycle tours along different routes of the Camino de Santiago. A six-day trip on the famous Camino Frances from Sarria to Santiago starts from 420 euro (about R7 000) per person sharing. (For details and a free quotation, contact email@example.com or visit caminoways.com.)