Ultralight Backpack for Camino de Santiago

Being a ninja on the camino starts with a light backpack. Without water and food, my recommendation is 5 kilos max.

Remember it’s not a survival trip – it’s more about nice and long walks, having coffee at cafés, eating nice food, and meeting other travelers.

The Camino Ninja list below comes from my experience hiking multiple Caminos de Santiago in snow storms, heavy rain, and extreme heat in all seasons. After 10.000+ kilometers of hiking, this is a way to pack light, stay dry, and still look good along the route.
The gear is inspired by mountain trail-running equipment paired with a merino base layer.

 

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Backpack Ultralight backpacking starts with a small and light backpack. Less weight requires less support.
I use: Montane – Featherlite 23
Weight: 599 gr / 21.13 oz
X X X X
Daypack For carrying your valuables around after the walk, and can double as a stuff-sack and pillowcase too.
I use: Nordisk – Nibe 12 liter daypack
Weight: 70 gr / 2.47 oz
  X X X
           
Sleeping          
Sleepingbag The sleepingbag is usually the single item you can save the most weight and volume on. A synthetic sleepingbag is usually more durable and the latest high-end ones are as light as the latest down ones. Leave the sleepingbag stuff-sack at home and stuff your sleepingbag in the bottom of your backpack to save weight and volume.
I use: Nordisk – Oscar +10
Weight: 350 gr / 12.35 oz
X X X X
Sleepingbag Liner In summer a sleepingbag is not strictly necessary, and a silk liner can do. Most places have a blanket you can use, or you can use some of your clothes as extra warmth. X      
           
Hydration          
Water Bottle A 500 ml mineral water, or two or three of them, is the lightest and a very convenient way to carry water. With water bottles in your side pockets you can always see how much you have left, and they can easily be replaced with new ones after being used for some days.
Weight: 10 gr / 0.35 oz
X X X X
           
Clothing – head          
Cap A cap protects your head and eyes from sun, wind, heavy rain, snow storms, sand etc.
I use: Carhartt WIP – Army Cap
X X X X
Beanie A woolen beanie is very useful for keeping your head warm when it’s chilly.
I use: Patagonia – Brodeo Beanie
Weight: 82 gr / 2.9 oz
    X X
           
Clothing – top          
Puffer Jacket A ultralight windproof Puffer Jacket with DWR (Durable Water Repellency) treatment is a must have piece for winter, but can also be used all year round as a lighter alternative to a fleece and windbreaker combo.
I use: Patagonia – Micro Puff Hoodie
Weight: 264 gr / 9.31 oz
  X X X
Lambswool Sweater A cosy lambswool sweater with a merino base layer and a puffer jacket takes you comfortably through a lot of snowstorm in the Spanish mountains in winter.
I use: Carhartt WIP – University Sweater
      X
Long Sleeved Merino Tee (Hoodie) This is a brilliant piece of gear all year round and probably will never get in your backpack at all. It can protect your arms, neck and head from the sun on a really hot day, as well as serve as insulation on a cold day, or night. X X X X
Short Sleeved Merino Tee This one you will probably only wear when you wash your long-sleeved merino hoodie tee. It’s lighter but might as well be merino so you can use it as a double base layer if really cold.
I use: Smartwool – Men’s Merino 150 Base Layer Short Sleeve
Weight: 133 gr / 4.69 oz
X X X X
           
Clothing – bottom          
Shorts I’m not sure if any shorts are really better than others but shorts in general has less friction than pants and is my favorite for walking. I’m not too concerned with weight as they never go into my backpack …so I choose durability and pockets as my main priority, but running shorts is a good choice if durability and pockets are not a concern.
I use: Carhartt WIP – Swell Short
X X X X
Merino Leggings For chilly days (and night walks) merino leggings give you the extra warmth you need for your legs under your shorts or rain pants.
I use: Smartwool – Men’s Merino 150 Base Layer Bottom
Weight: 159 gr / 5.61 oz
    X X
Merino Briefs Underwear is a private matter, but I can reveal mine is super soft and doesn’t smell even if I have a day without the possibility for showering and washing.
I use: Smartwool – Men’s Merino 150 Boxer Brief
X X X X
           
Clothing – feet          
Merino Socks Usually I would be very hesitant to favor a specific brand over others. And SmartWool certainly doesn’t make the most durable merino socks, but they are for sure the most comfortable and most blister preventing I have tried so far. I usually bring two pairs.
I use: Smartwool – Men’s PhD Outdoor Light Crew Socks
  X X X
           
Shoes          
Sandals Having sandals with you for walking a full trail is a real life saver. If you get any kind of problems with your feet sandals might be the thing that saves your trip. It can even be recommended just using sandals for a full trip, or just if your feet gets overheated, or if you get caught in rain without waterproof shoes. To go a full camino in sandals, you most likely want some with good cushioning and very lightweight. A few tips for sandals: Don’t tie them too much! Put half a finger at least under the straps when you tighten them, and make sure they are loose enough so you have air under your feet at every step.
I use: Teva – Sanborn
X X X X
Waterproof Trail-Running Shoes In winter and rainy seasons you need waterproof shoes. Waterproof Trail-Runners are enough …just because it rains don’t go for heavy and bulky footwear. In warm seasons waterproof shoes are too warm, but if sandals are your preferred method of transportation they do very well as your extras for cold mornings and a rainy day.
I use: New Balance – Summit K.O.M. GTX
    X X
Trail-Running Shoes Outside rainy season and winter Trail-Running Shoes without a waterproof membrane is the best choice if sandals are not your preferred method of transportation.
I use: New Balance – FuelCore NITREL Trail
  X    
           
Raingear          
Rainponcho A rain poncho with actual sleeves keeps your upper body and backpack dry even in heavy rain and heavy wind for a full day.
I use: Caperlan – Pocket Fishing Poncho
Weight: 175 gr / 6.17 oz
X X X X
Gaiters Next after your rain poncho the gaiters are the most important piece of rainwear. It stops water and debris from running into your shoes when it’s wet, raining or snowing. Gaiters are also good for keeping your calves warm on a cold day.
I use: Zpacks – Vertice Gaiters
Weight: 54 gr / 1.90 oz
    X X
Rainpants In heavy rain, rain pants are needed. Put them over your gaiters. On cold days rain pants with merino leggings is a good combo and can save you a lot of weight.
I use: Inov-8 – AT/C Ultrapant Waterproof Trousers
Weight: 86 gr / 3.03 oz
    X X
           
Tools          
Pocket Knife A knife is not strictly necessary on the camino. But a very small one with a siccor, pincher, toothpick and nail file can be handy.
I use: Victorinox – Classic SD
Weight: 22 gr / 0.78 oz
  X X X
Flashlight A flashlight is not strictly necessary on the camino. Most of the time the torch on your phone or just the light from the screen can do. But if you plan on walking at night or early morning you might not want to use all the battery on your phone.
I use: Maglite – Solitaire LED Flashlight
Weight: 24 gr / 0.85 oz
  X X X
           
Grooming          
Toothbrush Any toothbrush will do, and you can actually just shorten the handle on your regular one if you want to save weight.
Zpacks – Ultralight Travel Toothbrush
Weight: 4 gr / 0.14 oz
X X X X
Nail Clipper A nail clipper for keeping your nails short and fine is a good idea when walking.
I use: Victorinox – Nail Clipper
Weight: 22 gr / 0.78 oz
  X X X
Soap A soap or shampoo for washing yourself and your clothes.
I use: Sea To Summit – Wilderness Wash
Weight: 80 gr / 2.82 oz
  X X X
           
First-Aid Kit          
Sterile Gauze Pads Gauze Pads for making plasters or bandages with Duct Tape can be handy.
I use: Sterile Gauze Pads
X X X X
Iodine For disinfection and drying out blisters.
I use: Iodine
X X X X
Sewing Kit To fix gear and clothes and for draining blisters if needed.
I use: Zpacks – Sewing Repair Kit w/ Kevlar Thread
Weight: 10 gr / 0.35 oz
X X X X
Duct Tape For patching yourself and your gear and clothes. Can also be used as sports tape to reduce friction.
I use: Duct Tape
X X X X
           
Electronics          
Phone A phone is a multi tool and saves a lot of weight …forget about guidebooks or have them all online. It’s a flashlight, navigation, kamera etc.
I use: Nokia 8
X X X X
           
Apps & Websites          
Accommodation & Route Planing As far as I know Gronze.com is the most updated source. You have to be online or on wi-fi to use it though.
Gronze.com
Weight: 0 gr / 0.00 oz
X X X X
Offline Maps Having an offline map can save you a lot of walking in wrong directions and getting back on track when lost.
I use: Wisely App
Weight: 0 gr / 0.00 oz
X X X X
           
Services          
Luggage Storage Luggage Storage might be one of the most important services for your ultralight adventure on Camino de Santiago. You can send stuff ahead from home you will need after your Camino as well as sending stuff ahead while on the Camino, like your German army boots you love but realized wasn’t as good as regular trail-runners or sandals for walking the Camino. And extra clothes and whatever you find out during the way is too much (it always happens) …even souvenirs you shop during the way.
I use: Casa Ivar
Weight: 0 gr / 0.00 oz
X X X X

 

Things like sunscreen, towels, sleeping pads, vaseline (for blister prevention), Compeed etc. has been excluded as they serve individual needs and not something everyone needs.