Welcome, friends, to my latest post – Senior Woman Chooses Gear for Walking the Camino de Santiago.
First up, I should probably define senior. Yikes!
Or maybe NOT!!!
That reality hit me when I became eligible for Denny’s 55 plus menu. When it comes to discounts, establishments might consider a senior as 50 or 55 years old. Maybe even 60. Generally, I’ve noticed that most senior discounts seem to kick in once you hit 65.
So, let’s just call it you’re as young as you feel whether or not you want to self-describe as a senior. Last year about 19% of the pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago were over the age of 60. This year, count me in that age category! 2023 is the year of my first camino!
So, no this does not make me an expert in essential items for senior women walking the Camino de Santiago. However, I’m good at research. There are a lot of articles out there about packing lists for women walking the Camino. I didn’t find anything specific for senior women or older women.
Does age make a difference? Women are women. Are the essentials we pack in our twenties any different than what we pack in our sixties? Well, if we’ve hit menopause, we don’t have to worry about packing tampons!
Choosing gear for walking the Camino de Santiago
I’m going to take you through my journey of putting together items I need for walking the Camino de Santiago. Starting from zero. I’m not a hiker, backpacker, or camper.
A future post will break down the costs and weight of these items. Apparently there’s a recommendation not to carry more than 10% of your body weight in your backpack.
Disclosure: there will be affiliate links in this post. If you click through and make a purchase, I’ll receive a small fee for the referral.
Let’s see how this how I choose gear for walking the Camino de Santiago.
I’ve owned a few backpacks over the years. I prefer them to purses because I can carry my wallet, keys, lunch, books, whatever I need in them. Very handy.
I’m down to two backpacks. One is a pretty normal day pack that could take the place of a purse. The other is more specifically geared to be a laptop and electronics backpack. I’ve also used it to pack my clothes in for a few days getaway. The model I purchased from Amazon is no longer available but this backpack is pretty close.
It’s very well made, sturdy, waterproof, and I like that the lap top compartment also has a sleeve for a tablet. And good reviews. That’s important.
It seems that my Swissgear laptop backpack would be just fine for walking the Camino de Santiago.
One of the most important things to consider is footwear. I read all kinds of recommendations. Hiking boots, hiking shoes, trail runners, sneakers, sandals. Yikes!
And then I realized that the ankle booties I wear for horseback riding should be just fine for hiking the Camino de Santiago. My first pair of Roper runners, Horseshoe kilties, lasted me 20 years. My current pair should be able to handle 500 miles (800 kilometers) no problem!
I also plan to ride a horse one day on the Camino, so perfect choice for a senior woman walking the Camino de Santiago!
I bought a pair of hiking sandals. They are so comfortable! I’m definitely buying this brand again. I plan to wear these if it’s raining and in the evenings. Yes, I bought the purple sandals, but they come in other colors.
Oddly enough, the first official item I bought for the Camino was a two pack of rechargeable headlamps with a motion sensor at a very low price on Amazon. It also comes in handy for walking around here at night. Sometimes pilgrims leave early in the morning before the sun comes up. I figure it doesn’t hurt to pack a headlamp.
I wanted to buy a smart watch, and noticed that Garmin sells one that is rechargeable and also gets charged from sunlight. I’m going to be in Spain where there’s lot of sun. I’ll also be traveling to other sunny countries. Seemed like a good idea to me and I bought the Garmin Solar Instinct in orchid purple. It comes in other colors.
This watch is smarter than me. It has more bells and whistles that I’ll be able to figure out. I don’t know how it knows I’m in my car, even before I’ve put it in gear. It tells me how long to get to work, based on driving along a nearby highway. This can be annoying when I’m not going to work. Same as when the watch decides I should go home and tells me how long and which route. I’m hoping to figure out the route mapping features before I start my Camino.
Let’s circle back to my backpack situation. I really wanted to save money and use my Swissgear backpack, but the more research I did, I realized it wouldn’t be suitable. I needed a backpack with more support. This is something I’ve never thought much about because I never wear a backpack for more than 20 or 30 minutes.
Weight distribution between the shoulders and hips. Geez – no hip belts on my Swissgear backpack!
Throw in being a petite woman who doesn’t want to pack too much weight, and it was clear a unisex or one size fits all backpack wouldn’t be suitable for walking several hours each day.
Osprey Fairview 40
I was eyeballing the Osprey Fairview 40, which is specifically made for women and comes in an extra small/small size. I went to MEC, Canada’s version of the REI stores in the states, and formerly known as the Mountain Equipment Co-op. A couple of years ago, they stopped being exclusive to co-op members and became MEC. Luckily they had the women’s extra small/small Osprey Fairview 40 and I tried it on. I liked the design, but I wasn’t too keen on the color which came in a grim green or a black. It cost over $200 (Canadian dollars), but I knew I was going to have to shell out a few bucks for a good quality backpack that fit well.
I went home and checked online to see if I could find it cheaper, but the prices were pretty consistent with MEC’s price.
The next time I stopped in at MEC to try on the Osprey Fairview backpack, I looked around at the other packs. I’d also read about the Gregory Jade that also came in a women’s extra small/small size. I found one and tried it on.
Wow! Very comfortable. I loved how the back frame fit me. It was a little more expensive than the Osprey. I don’t really recall the prices, but it seems MEC was charging $229 for the Osprey and the Gregory was $249 or $259. It only came in one color – grey.
Gregory Jade 38
When I returned home, I searched online for the women’s Gregory Jade 38 to see if I could find a better price. The usual suspects Amazon and eBay were in the same price range. Prices slightly cheaper in the U.S., but then I’d have to add on the exchange and shipping. Cheaper to buy in Canada.
Then I found a Canadian website called The Last Hunt. It’s an outlet store for outdoor gear. They didn’t carry the Osprey Fairview.
But … they had the Gregory Jade 38 in extra small/small and it was red. And it was on sale, around $135.
What really sucks is right now The Last Hunt is selling the red Gregory Jade 38 for $109.98! Yes, that’s Canadian dollars. Don’t you hate it when you buy something and then it goes on sale? I bought it last summer, so it’s not a recent purchase. In fact, it went up in price after I bought it.
Empty, it weighs 1.3 kilograms, or 2.8 pounds, and is designed to carry loads of 16 kg or 35 lbs.
I’ve been practising a lot walking around wearing my backpack, with about 10 pounds of weight inside it. It was my travel bag when I drove down to Anacortes for two nights.
If you’re looking for a high quality backpack for day trips, carry on luggage, or hiking the Camino, I’d recommend snapping it up if it’s still on sale at The Last Hunt. As I’ve already noticed, the price jumps all over the place up to $175. See the YouTube video below that does a better job than I can do of describing the features of the Gregory Jade 38.
Socks for the Camino
Just about every blog I read or YouTube video I watch recommends lightweight, quick dry clothes. I saw merino wool come up over and over in conversation. Usually when it came to socks.
I especially found Wanderlusting Lawyer’s video about the socks she wore very helpful.
So let’s start with the socks. I happened to see a pair of purple women’s merino wool socks at Mark’s so I bought them. I actually haven’t worn them yet. Saving them for the Camino. Glad I bought them when I did, early 2022, because I haven’t seen them again at Mark’s.
After watching that video, I knew I’d be buying Injinji toe sock liners to help prevent blisters. No Injinji socks at Mark’s. Luckily, I spotted the Injinji toe sock liners at MEC, in the store and the website, and decided to purchase them when I got closer to leaving for my Camino.
A couple of months ago I was checking out the MEC website to buy a few things, including those Injinji socks. But they were no longer available on the website. I checked the price on Amazon – nearly $50 – Yikes! They were around $18 when I saw them at MEC. So I drove to the store and checked the sock aisle very closely. They were gone. Sob!
Then I spotted two pairs of women’s Injinji running socks with the toes. In medium/large. Grrrr. Double grrr because they were on sale at $11.88 and the last two on the shelf. Seeing as how these socks don’t have seams and are stretchy, and for the sale price I decided to buy them. I’ve worn them a few times on practice hikes, and so far so good!
I’m still deciding whether or not to buy waterproof socks.
The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.
And sometimes on the Camino de Santiago.
A lot of pilgrims recommend convertible or zip off hiking pants for walking the Camino. In case it gets really hot, the bottom half can be zipped off and the pilgrim continues on wearing Bermuda shorts. If it gets cold, zip the lower half of the pants back on again.
I was on the Columbia Sportswear website looking for a winter rain jacket. It’s been a cold, wet winter. I spotted a nice looking warm rain jacket and added it to my cart. Seeing as how I was there, I decided to look for convertible pants. The challenge, as always, getting a short leg length.
I spotted a size 2 in a short leg on sale for $35 and added it to my cart. Bought them and waited to receive them.
About 5 days later, I get an email from Columbia telling me the rain coat is sold out. Piss off! There was nothing about it being sold out when I was shopping. It let me pick a size, add it to my cart, check out and pay. Damn it!
The next email says my pants are being shipped.
Well that sucks! Double damn it! The main purpose of the shopping trip was the damned coat. The pants were an afterthought seeing as how I was already there buying the coat.
What’s worse is when I received the pants and tried them on, I don’t really like them. They’re lightweight and the leg length is OK. I find them a little tight. Not stretchy material. Oh well. I’ve bought them. I’m going to take them with me and wear those suckers.
Then I started looking for hiking leggings, something that would be stretchy, lightweight, and quick dry. I settled on a pair of pink TTFLY hiking pants/workout wear. The small size looked the leg length would be OK, or at least manageable with the elastic at the ankles, I’ve walked with them wearing my backpack and I’ve done yoga in them. They’re not very stylish or figure flattering, but they’ll be suitable for what I need them for.
I’ll also be packing a pair of lightweight, quick dry running shorts. Again, not overly flattering, but if it’s hot I can swap out the pants and wear these. They’ll also double as swim shorts if needed. And I’ve pretty much decided to pair them with a t-shirt and make it my pyjamas.
I’ve read too many blogs where woman are buying merino wool this that and the other, including shirts.
I ended up buying a 3 pack of long sleeve shirts made of 85% Polyester and 15% Spandex. Supposedly with UPF 50 sun protection and wicks moisture. I chose a pack with rose, turquoise, and black shirts. I’ll be bringing the rose and turquoise to add a little color to my day. Also the rose is pretty close in color to my hiking leggings so I’ll be color coordinated!
I test drove a shirt while wearing my backpack, and it’s comfortable, no chafing. The shirt is lightweight and hopefully it’ll dry fast after hand washing.
I’ll also bring one short sleeve t-shirt, probably my white one. Not so much for when I’m hiking, but when I’ve stopped for the night, to wear around town. And probably as a night shirt.
But more importantly to wear beneath a lightweight dress I’ll be packing for the afternoons and evenings. Many women seemed to lament not packing a skirt or dress and envied the women who had one to change into.
I’ve read about too many women who walked the Camino de Santiago wearing merino wool underwear. I don’t have that kind of money to spend on undies! Just going with what I normally wear. I’ll be bringing 3 pairs of underwear. One I’ll be wearing and the other two in my backpack.
Everyone talks about sports bras for hiking. I’ve never been a sports bra kind of girl. I’m a 36C and I’ve never found a comfortable sports bra that keeps everything in place.
And yes, there are merino sports bras out there!
I did purchase two sports bras, after doing some research for women who are a little more endowed in that department, for comfort and support.
One bra is the Adidas women’s training medium support 3 Stripes bra.
It fits and it is comfortable.
I don’t like the pads in the cups. There are no slits where you can put your fingers in and adjust them or remove them. They fold over on themselves, they get together one side, they move around. Very annoying. I try to adjust them before I put it on and then again after I’ve got it on because they didn’t stay in place. This could potentially be embarrassing if someone sees you feeling yourself up!
I wore them horseback riding, moved my horse into a trot, and jiggled all over the place. So there’s not much support if you’re participating in any type of sport where you move faster than a walk. For hiking the Camino, should probably be OK. I also think it might double as a swimsuit top if the need arises.
The other bra I bought is the Wingslove women’s high impact sports bra.
It looks and feels more like a regular bra, except it gives you the uniboob look. I thought it might be suitable for riding a horse, but not much support in the jiggle department. It’s sweat absorbing, quick dry material. It should be suitable for hiking.
And with all that chatter about sports bras, I’m still considering throwing one of my regular bras into my backpack too.
First aid needs
Bandaids, antibacterial cream, tweezers, wipes, hand sanitizer, and nail clippers will all be inside my first aid kit. I bought a roll on of Vaseline body balm somewhere a few months ago, probably at London Drugs.
Blisters and foot care is top priority for pilgrims. If your feet are in bad shape, there will be no walking.
In addition to my merino socks and the Injinji toe socks, I read about a product called Foot Glide, an anti-blister balm to rub on the feet before putting on socks. They come in a travel pack size and look like mini deodorant sticks, and I bought two at MEC. Gotta love the purple packaging!
I bought Dr. Scholl’s blister cushions. This is just to have in my pack to get me started if I need them. Blister care products are sold in pharmacies along the Camino.
Neutrogena doesn’t seem to sell their SPF 50 face and body sunscreen stick in Canada, but I bought it at a Walmart in Washington when I went down to Anacortes for two nights.
I’ll probably bring a container of sunscreen with me, but sunscreen is something I should easily be able to pick up in Spain.
I found a 12 pack of mosquito repellent bracelets for $8 including shipping from China on eBay. They’re made from natural products – Geraniol Oil, Lemongrass Oil and Citronella Oil – and are suitable for outdoor activities including swimming because they’re waterproof. Long lasting with supposedly up to 10 day protection. They look like those plastic wristbands you buy at the dollar store to keep your gym locker key on while swimming or exercising.
The 12 pack is very lightweight. I figure I can take the whole thing with me and help out other pilgrims who might be plagued with insects. I’ll be wearing one on my wrist and one will hang from my backpack. Bugs be gone!
I’ll also be packing a natural insect spray and after-bite gel.
I wanted to buy a Sea to Summit clothesline that other pilgrims have recommended for the times when we have to hang our washing clothes from our bunk beds to dry. I’d seen them at MEC, so I planned to buy one there.
On the same failed shopping trip for my Injinji sock liners, MEC was sold out of the clothesline and Dr Bronner’s 18 in 1 soap. What the hell MEC?
I checked Amazon and the clothesline was $35, double MEC’s price. So I did a little more searching online and saw it available through a company called Valhalla, a B.C. outfitter I’d not previously heard of.
I needed to spend $49 for free shipping and the clothesline cost $18.95. OK, what else do I need?
I’ve been sleeping with lip balm for years. Apparently I lick my lips while sleeping, drying them out. I picked up a couple of Sun Bum lip balm with SPF 30 protection. Wondering if I’ll be licking off the key lime and mango flavors and need to reapply often.
That added another $10 to my total.
Then I spotted a pair of merino wool hiking socks with a cute moutain scene on them. $28.95. Ka ching.
Even though I already had a buff, I spotted another on Valhalla with coolnet UPF 50 protection for $19.96.
I spent nearly double what I needed for free shipping. And the weird thing is they didn’t all ship from one location. A shout out to Valhalla in Revelstoke, Squamish, Victoria, and Nelson.
Here are a few more things I’ll be carrying inside my backpack for walking the Camino de Santiago.
The first is a sleeping bag. Although some albergues, and definitely hotels, might supply a blanket/bedding, many of the ones I’ll be staying in are dormitory style and bring your own sleeping bag. I wavered between a sleeping bag or a sleeping bag liner because many pilgrims say it gets hot inside the rooms due to body heat plus outside temperatures. For sanitary concerns in the albergues, it makes more sense to bring my own sleeping bag. I found a lightweight sleeping bag that compesses to about 5 inches and weighs about a pound. Got to love the purple color! There are other colors available.
Pilgrims mostly sleep in albergues along the way. I’ve stayed in youth hostels when I was younger, but albergues are open dormitory rooms with several bunk beds and it’s open style, men and women in the same room. It can be noisy with people moving around and snoring, so earplugs are recommended. Fortunately I’ve been sleeping with green earplugs for years.
I bought a sleep mask because apparently some pilgrims like to waken early to start walking and turn on lights. I’m not used to a mask so I need to get some sleep practise in with it.
I have a Brita water bottle with a filter that I’ll bring as my luxury item because it’s somewhat heavy even without water in it.
The thing I remember from living in Madrid is that the water tasted “funny” and I’d keep a pitcher of water in the fridge overnight to kind of settle down so I could drink it. This is because of the fluoride in the city’s water system. I’m not sure if that is country wide.
There are plenty of water fountains along the Camino de Santiago to fill up the Brita.
My backpack comes with a waterproof cover. If it rains, I can pull it and cover my pack and keep my clothes and gear dry. I also have a lightweight Columbia rain jacket. Nothing to do do with the Columbia website fiasco mentioned above. This jacket folds up inside itself into one of the pockets, so it packs down into a small space. However, in a torrential downpour, it’ll stick to my upper torso. So I also decided to buy a poncho that will cover my backpack too. Many pilgrims recommend this and say you’ll be less sweaty wearing a poncho instead of a rain jacket.
They’re pretty cheap. I got a Longsinger poncho in red to match my backpack. As a senior woman walking the Camino de Santiago, I don’t want to get all sweaty in a downpour.
I bought a Waterfly fanny pack because of its slim profile. It’s perfect for horseback riding in the summer when I’m not wearing a jacket with pockets for my keys, wallet, and phone. All these things fit in this fanny pack. I’ve also worn it while traveling across the border because my passport fits in there nicely too. There is also a “secret” zippered compartment at the back to carry cash. I’ve worn it while wearing my backpack and there’s no interference, they complement each other nicely. I can wear it at all times and put it in my sleeping bag when asleep to avoid theft. It comes in other colors besides purple. I chose my favorite!
One day while I was at London Drugs, I spotted a small dry bag on clearance for $5 wishing me a happy journey.
It’s not very big, but it’s big enough to stuff my fanny pack into when I go into the shower at the albergue to keep my valuables safe and dry.
Also at London Drugs, I was able to buy the Dr. Bronner’s pure castile 18 in 1 lavender soap that was out of stock at MEC. You can wash just about everything with this: dishes, body, hair, clothes, floors, etc. Mostly it’ll be hitting the shower with me and for washing my clothes. Comes in a nifty 4 ounce travel pack size.
And speaking of showers, I had to find lightweight quick drying towels to bring with me. After reading good reviews, I bought this two pack microfiber towel set in – you guessed it! – purple.
They’re very thin, and I’m the type of gal who likes soft, fluffy towels, so I was kind of skeptical. My next shower I used the large bath sized towel to dry off and was amazed how well it worked. And then how fast it dried. I think the smaller towel would do just as good a job at drying me off and be slightly less weight in my backpack, but, you know, modesty, and the large one completely covers me.
I’m bringing flip flops to wear in the shower. There are a lot of pilgrims with all kinds of foot problems, open wounds, athlete’s foot, that I don’t want to catch from an unsanitary floor.
Does anyone go anywhere without their phone these days? A phone on the Camino can be a lifeline in an emergency and helps you keep in touch with other pilgrims you make friends with. I will use Booking.com to make reservations if necessary along the way.
I invested in a cheap pair of earbuds and have subscribed to a few podcasts. There are going to be long stretches of walking where I might be alone, so a podcast will keep me company. It’s not something I normally wear, but I’m practising with the ear buds while taking walks wearing my backpack.
I have a small point and shoot camera that fits nicely in a hip pocket on my backpack. A lot of pilgrims say why bring a camera when you can take pictures with your phone. Well, I’m a camera person.
The other thing I already own is a portable charger with two ports. I’m hiking with my iPhone and other gadgets that might need an emergency charge.
I bought power plug adapters so I can plug in my North American chargers and then plug into the Spanish outlets.
To Kindle or not to Kindle?
During my backpack practice walks, I’ve been packing my Kindle in this handy dandy little pouch where a water bladder would normally go. I’ve never used this type of water carrier but I’ve heard enough stories of leaking water bladders to discourage me. I have my doubts about cleaning/disinfecting the straw and hose along the way.
Reading my Kindle nightly helps put me to sleep which is why I want to bring it on the Camino de Santiago.
I’ve been rethinking that plan. The Kindle plus case weighs at least a pound. That might not seem heavy now, but a few days into hiking maybe that extra weight will get to me. I have the Kindle app on my phone and I can make sure the books I’m currently reading are downloaded there so I can read a bit at night if I want.
What else does a senior woman walking the Camino de Santiago need?
Many pilgrims recommend using hiking or trekking poles.
I’ve never used them.
Apparently there are some steep downhill sections where hiking poles are very helpful for balance and stability. And sure, at my age, I don’t want to have any falls.
I’m going to buy hiking poles in Spain or at the beginning of the Camino Frances in St. Jean Pied de Port.
I didn’t previously mention toiletry items like toothbrush and toothpaste, comb, face cream, vitamins or medication. These vary so widely with every pilgrim, but I’ll have what I need in my backpack.
Senior woman chooses gear for walking the Camino de Santiago
I can’t predict the weather or any injuries that will happen on the Camino de Santiago. I’m sure I can buy what I need in the towns along the way. There’s also a saying that “the camino will provide”. Mostly it means another pilgrim will provide if they have extra of something you need.
I’ll be in Spain in a few months and I’m looking forward to my journey of 800 kilometers.
Published by Cheryl @ The Lifestyle Digs on April 6, 2023.