Backpacking

Walking the Way of St. James

April 15, 2024

Every year we get a lot of customers preparing to walk the Way of St. James, more commonly known as the Camino de Santiago. This trek is a wonderful opportunity for those who want to backpack, but do not like the idea of roughing it in a tent every night. Read on to learn more about this adventure.

History

The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage trail that has been around since the 9th century. The goal of the pilgrimage is to reach the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in Spain to pay respects to Jesus’ apostle Saint James. He is the patron saint of Spain and believed to have been buried at the location of the cathedral. For centuries, believers would make this long journey for religious reasons, but in modern times there is a percentage who do not. To this day, all who hike the Camino are called Pilgrims.

Routes

There are eight different routes from which to choose. Time needed to walk ranges from less than a week to over 40 days. The shortest is the Camino Ingles (the English Way) which is 75 miles. The longest and most difficult route is the Via de la Plata (Silver Way). There are many ascents, descents, and days which require long milage. The route is 621 miles.

The most famous and popular route is the Camino Frances, which is 497 miles long. It has featured in the 2010 movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen. Starting in St. Jean Peid de Port in France, it traverses the Pyrenees and crosses the La Rioja wine region. Almost half of the pilgrims in 2023 used this route

Albergues

As this trek does not require backcountry backpacking equipment, nighttime accommodations are in the form of hotels or hostels (known as Albergues). Hotels are as one would expect, but the Albergues vary greatly. In general, they provide facilities to do laundry and a communal meal. Privacy can vary. Along the entire route, it is best to keep track of your valuables. Passport, credit cards and cash should always be kept in a money belt or neck wallet on your person. 

Guides

There are several guide services available for those who do not want to do too much research. Some pilgrims will carry their belongings with them, and others will have their stuff transferred from stop to stop. If one chooses to carry their belongings themselves, there are still services to shuttle backpacks to the next location. This is particularly helpful if one gets injured or is just having a little trouble that day. 

Preparation

The first thing to decide in preparation is whether you will be carrying your belongings. It will dictate what footwear and backpack you need. If you are having your things shuttled, a simple light trail shoe and a daypack would suffice. If you are carrying everything, be sure the footwear is up to the task of supporting you and the heavier backpack. If the backpack is kept light, boots are not necessary. A more structured trail shoe would do. The backpack should be framed with a hip belt to transfer the load onto your hips. The volume of the backpack depends on how bulky your gear is. Typically, packs range from 30 to 40 liters. 

It may be advantageous to take some training hikes before you leave for your adventure. This is for two reasons. First is to develop the fitness needed for the trek. The second is to work out any issues you would have with your hiking equipment. Your local outfitter should be able to help you with fit and feature of various footwear and backpack options as well as proper hiking clothing. If you have any questions, call Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure at 727-576-4169 or email us at camping@billjacksons.com.

 

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