Winston Churchill once said: “He who fails to plan is planning to fail”. If you want your trip to be pleasant and enjoyable, there are many details that you have to pay attention to. Apart from choosing the best route for you, one of the most important decisions is which is the best backpack for the Camino de Santiago. The wide variety of brands and types of backpacks make this a hard choice. How to choose the right Camino backpack for you?
If your trip is organized by a travel agency or a private company that has arranged luggage transfer for you during the Camino:
In that case, you will only need a small backpack for the daily essentials during your walk. A 10 – 15L capacity should suffice to carry the following recommended items:
- First Aid kit that should include:
- Small sewing kit with thread and needle to cure blisters
- Sterile gauze with small bottle of disinfectant and bandage tape
- Vick’s VapoRub and/or Vaseline, to apply before and during the daily walk
- Any medication you take regularly
- Sun screen for face, body and lips
- Wallet with some cash and credit cards
- Photocopy of your passport, insurance and phone contacts in a water-resistant envelope
- A refillable bottle
- A hat to protect from sun and/or rain
- Rain coat or poncho
- Snacks like nuts, crackers or fruit
- An extra pair of socks
- A small notebook and pen
But, if you are walking the Camino carrying the backpack yourself, then you might want to find one with the following features:
The backpack capacity is measured in liters. For the Camino, a 40 to 50 liter capacity is recommended. This is a medium backpack that allows you to carry what is necessary for the pilgrimage. It is better not to buy a larger backpack in order to bring more things.
Regardless of the capacity that you choose, the weight you carry (including the backpack) should not be more than 10% of your bodyweight.
Your back must be protected. The best backpack to take on the Camino will include a comfortable, padded backplate.
Did you know that 80% of the load must be carried by the legs? This is why the recommended backpacks for the Camino de Santiago are very different from the ones used for a day hike.
The internal back frame
In order to transfer the load to the legs, the backpack must have an internal back frame. This gives the backpack its shape. It is designed to fit your back and transfer the load to the hips.
Before buying your backpack for the Camino, check that the internal frame is rigid and not too heavy. Some backpacks include a mesh ventilation system to help keep your back cool.
Another important feature is the hip belt. It is what transfers the load to the hips. The wider it is, the more comfortable you will feel. The more contact that the belt has with you, the better the weight will be distributed.
The Camino backpack should have an adjustable hip belt. Some types of backpacks allow for a belt angle adjustment. There are brands that have designed their backpacks to fit the female market as well. In these cases, the hip belt is designed specifically for a woman’s body.
Choosing the perfect hip belt
Some professional Camino guides and pilgrims agree that the hip belt is one of the most important features of the backpack. In order to choose a well-designed internal back frame and hip belt, follow these steps:
- Start by choosing the backpack with the desired capacity.
- Without anything in it, place it on the ground and check whether or not it stands up on its own. This will give you an idea of the rigidity and internal back frame shape.
- Carry it on your back and only adjust the hip belt. Remember, 80% of the load will be carried by the hips. At this point, you should be able to carry the backpack without using the shoulder straps.
Only backpacks that pass this simple test are recommended for the Camino de Santiago.
The size of the backpack depends on the length of your back. It is measured from the bottom of the neck to the end of hip bone. The following table will help you identify your size.
Height / Torso length
160-175 cm / 45-52 cm
170-185 cm / 50-57 cm
180-200 cm / 55-62 cm
Height/ Torso Length
155-170 cm / 40-47 cm
165-180 cm / 45-52 cm
Choose your size as follows:
- Extra S, extra small: less than 39 cm.
- S, small: from 40 to 45 cm.
- M, medium: from 46 to 50 cm.
- L, large: from 51 cm.
The best Camino backpack – Final details
Up until this point, we have talked about the most important features of the backpack. When choosing your Camino backpack, these are the ones you should pay more attention to. Nevertheless, there are other details that you should take into consideration:
- Shoulder straps: they have to be well-padded and go from the shoulders to the chest. This length, will allow the load to be carried more comfortably.
- Chest strap: this improves the balance of the load.
- Back ventilation system: as mentioned before, some internal back frames have an incorporated mesh ventilation system. There are types of backpacks with an adjustable mesh, which you can change depending on the day and the terrain.
- Elastic straps: they hold the contents of the backpack in place. You can tighten them to make everything more compact and keep items from moving around inside while you walk.
- Walking stick carrier: it is always a good idea to have a place to keep your walking sticks when you don’t feel like using them, or when you are taking a break.
- Seams and zippers: make sure that they are sturdy enough to support the demands of your trip. They will be in constant stress and will need to be able to resist all of it.
- Raincoat: in case of rain, your belongings will be protected.
Don’t worry if you feel that there is a lot to think about. The best Camino backpack is one with: 40 to 50 liters of capacity, good lumbar support, internal back frame and hip belt. The ones that meet this criteria tend to have everything else too. This is a good example: