How To: Select a Backpack for the Camino de Santiago
The most frequent question for those planning to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain is: What is the best backpack for the Camino? From size to fit to how you will carry your pack, selecting a backpack for the Camino is a balance of personal and practical considerations.
HOW TO CHOOSE A BACKPACK FOR THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO
Before you select a pack, it’s best to understand how you intend to walk the Camino in Spain.
- Do you intend to carry your pack each day or will you ship your luggage ahead?
- Do you feel comfortable traveling with your back as checked luggage or does it need to be cabin luggage sized?
- What is your budget for purchasing the best backpack for the Camino?
One of the newer services available for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago is luggage assistance, with several companies on each path to Santiago providing baggage transfer services for backpacks and suitcases for a fee. This may allow some pilgrims who lack the ability to carry all of their belongings to walk The Way. If you use a luggage service then you only need a pack large enough to carry items between stops; however, you will need to arrive exactly where your luggage is delivered (regardless of weather, your physical fitness or interesting diversions along the way.) I prefer to carry all of my belongings during the pilgrimage so that I have the flexibility to go at whatever pace I choose and stop along the way, so I do not have any experience using these services.
Another important factor involves airline baggage handling. It would be difficult for me to quickly replace all of my gear if my pack was lost, so I prefer a cabin-sized backpack. The carry-on size limits imposed by airlines is one of the biggest factors for me in selecting a backpack for the Camino.
Lastly, one’s budget is a highly personalized factor in selecting a backpack. Most backpack manufacturers sell their packs both direct and through stores (online and physical stores), so shop wisely and be aware of promotions that can offer significant savings.
HOW TO PROPERLY SIZE & FIT A BACKPACK
Today’s backpacks come in differing lengths and sizes – even gender-specific models – to ensure the most comfortable fit. Because of this, getting a properly sized backpack is key. My best advice for backpack fit is to be measured by a trained professional at a nearby outdoor retailer (such as Decathlon or REI). The proper gender-specific pack fit is dependent upon several factors that are difficult to measure at home including torso length and hip size. For more information, please see this online guide to backpack sizing and fit or any number of YouTube videos.
WHAT SIZE BACKPACK TO BUY FOR THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO
Rucksacks for the Camino should be exactly the size you need and no bigger. “Extra space” in a backpack is quickly filled with “one more thing” that only adds weight to your pack. On the Camino, you will be walking from town to town so any items that were overlooked or needed can easily be purchased as needed.
Please see this page for a detailed list of what to pack to walk the Camino de Santiago.
Backpack capacities are marketed in liters (ex: 38L pack), although this measurement can vary by manufacturer. For example, some rucksacks from REI and others combine the capacity of all interior and exterior pockets while packs by Osprey and others count only the “main” compartment.
If you are carrying all your gear daily, most pilgrims will select a comfortable backpack that is 30L – 42L. It is uncommon to see large expedition backpacks (50L or greater) on the Camino, as you simply do not need camping gear along The Way.
MY CAMINO DE SANTIAGO BACKPACK
CLICK TO READ MY FULL OSPREY MANTA 34L REVIEW
I chose this highly-adjustable, great fitting backpack for a number of reasons:
- Meets cabin-baggage carry-on requirements for nearly all airlines worldwide
- Great accessible pockets (internal and external) for easily organizing gear
- Well-ventilated suspension transfers weight to the hips and allows airflow to keep your back cool
- Mesh exterior pockets for storing wet items separate from my clothes and gear
- Integrated rain cover and compression straps help to reduce total pack size
- Includes a water reservoir, which is my preferred way to stay hydrated and drink continually while walking
- Best-in-class Osprey lifetime warranty (a.k.a. “All Mighty Guarantee”)
I’ve used Osprey packs for years on the Florida Trail, Appalachian Trail and for other local hikes. While they are not the cheapest option, I know that I won’t be dealing with a broken pack harness or strap at the least opportune time.
ADDITIONAL CAMINO DE SANTIAGO RESOURCES
For additional information on how to plan for the Camino de Santiago, including packing lists, suggested routes and where to stop along the Camino, visit the Camino de Santiago resources section of this blog.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO
- HOW TO: Make Your Own Camino Backpack Shell
- PACKING LIST: First-Aid Kit for Blisters and Foot Care
- HOW TO: Five Tips for Urban Hiking
- Packing List: Backpacking First-Aid Kit
- The Top Hiking GPS Apps for iPhone and Android
- Where was “The Way” filmed along the Camino de Santiago?
- Where are the Apostles of Jesus Buried?
- Packing List: My Recommended Gear for Walking the Camino de Santiago
- The Best Hiking Poles for the Camino de Santiago
- How To: Sleep Peacefully on the Camino de Santiago
Buen Camino! Bom Caminho!
Husband. Father. Backpacker. Pilgrim. Author.
My recent treks include the Camino de Santiago through Portugal and Spain as well as section hiking along the Florida Trail and the Appalachian Trail. In 2020 and 2021, I’m walking the California Missions Trail in the United States, as well as England’s ancient Pilgrims’ Way from London to Canterbury. Afterward, I’ll begin the Via Francigena, the historic way in Europe connecting Canterbury to Rome.