5 Things I wish I knew before Walking the Camino de Compostela (Central Portuguese Route) in November

By Marae

So… the walks have come and gone and now we find ourselves having something we thought was impossible a week ago: healed feet!

All jokes aside, the walk was in many ways harder and in many ways easier than we thought.

It did not feel as long to spend all day walking, and despite the pains, I would walk another 20kms today if I had the chance. However, I did not expect the rain to be THAT much; even though we were aware it’s the season. I guess you don’t really know how much rain is too much until you have to walk under torrential rains for 6 hrs a day 6 days in a row ๐Ÿ˜‚

1. Shoes

I know every single blog post about the Camino talks about this, but I got some fresh insight!

First of all, if you’re walking in the fall, make sure you bring 2 pairs of shoes, one pair should be hiking shoes or comfortable sneakers and the other pair should be hiking sandals.

For my hiking shoes, I had originally bought and trained with the Hoka one one boots… but then last minute I realized they might’ve been too tight around my toes all along. Thank goodness I discovered this before we left for Europe, as REI had exactly what I was looking for, some Solomon hiking boots!! Some people argue that you should do the Camino with sneakers, but hiking boots gave me the support and robust feel I needed for that much variety in terrain.

Leaving Porto with cobblestone Underfoot for hours on end could not have been possible for me with sneakers. So all praise the boots!

I broke my Solomon boots in while sightseeing in Porto a week before we departed, and even though it was not enough, they proved to be the right choice for me.

Sandals: I chose Teva sandals, and even under the rain they were a godsend! Feet hate being sweaty and tight and your shoes will get tight after your feet swell from the constant walking. Since it was cold, I would wear socks with my sandals and voila! Cold and comfort solved!

Ps. Keep your one pair of shoes you’re not using in a compartment of your bag that is completely waterproof. That way you have something dry to wear when you arrive all soaked.

2. Train with weight

I was lazy and it was summer… so we only went for 3 mile walks all summer long. I was diligent about them, which I’m sure helped with my willingness to walk, but had I trained with even just an empty backpack it would’ve helped tons.

My shoulders were simply not used to the weight I had to carry, even though my bag was light as could be! When you train, try packing the 10% of your body weight that is recommended, then you can start getting an idea of how much weight your body is actually capable of carrying for long distances.ย 

3. Nothing is waterproof- so buy the good stuff!

No matter what you wear, everything will get wet, but there is a huge difference between getting wet and getting so wet nothing is anything but water.

Let me explain.

I invested in nice waterproof jacket, boots and backpack and even when it rained without all day, some parts of my chest and the stuff in the middle of my pack remained dry. I know this doesn’t sound like much, but when it rains that much, nothing really stays dry. One day my boots stayed dry until we started walking uphill a path that had become a small river… short of wearing rain boots (which would be disastrous for this walk) this was the best I can see a shoe doing under the circumstances.

4. You don’t need it, whatever it is

Pack light! Pack light! Pack light!

Did I say this enough times? Pack light!

Things I packed that I did not use once:

Tweezers, earrings, accessories, makeup, kindle, two extra tank tops, life-straw ( water is pretty potable everywhere in the Camino), fanny pack (used it but def didn’t need it)…

What I’m trying to say is, even if you think you’ll need it, and even if you DO end up having a need for it, it’s amazing how much you can 1- get it along the way if you’re that desperate, 2- don’t really need it or can wait a few days or weeks to use it ( such as plucking your eyebrows – I even forgot I had hair to take care of up there). Everything you bring will weight you down and the combination of weight and gravity is not pretty!

5. Buy merino wool and/or quick dry everything

This is once again related to the rain, but honestly even with other weather you want your stuff clean and dry quickly because you will only stop for a few hours or max a day in each location.

I was very skeptical to re-buy all quick-dry and merino whool stuff because I like my socks somewhat fashionable and because they’re expensive BUT if I could tap myself in the back for something, it’s buying those $25 socks that ended up drying in less than 30 min.

The pair of leggings I had that was not quick dry ended up becoming heavy weight every time it rained.

So pack light, but make sure your packing is strategic and for the love of god, make sure all your new gear is not the same color, so you don’t end of looking like a color puked on you for 15 days ๐Ÿ˜‚ (real things that seem to happen only to me !!)

What #Camino tips would you add to this list? Leave your best ideas below in the comment section.ย