HOW TO: Make Your Own Camino Backpack Shell
One of the universal symbols of pilgrims in western culture is the simple scallop shell. The shell is used both both for waymarking and as a metaphor for the Camino de Santiago, its lines said to represent the different routes to the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela.
More than being just a symbol or a pilgrim token, the scallop shells also had a practical purpose: they were a handy and light replacement for a bowl, used as churches would feed the travelers along the way.
One of my favorite pilgrimage rituals is preparing a scallop shell for my backpack before my journey. In different years I’ve carried shells I’ve collected or been given, but you can easily make your own camino shell for your backpack.
HOW TO: MAKE YOUR OWN CAMINO BACKPACK SHELL
If you don’t have convenient access to finding your own shell, you can purchase scallop shells online from Amazon. Medium to large shells tend to work better in making your own Camino shell for your backpack, such as these 4″ baking shells available online. Once you have your shells, few minutes of craft work is all that is needed.
To make your own Camino shell, you may need:
- Medium to large size scallop shell (click for Amazon purchase)
- Leather wrapped filament or your choice of cordage
- Drill and/or 5/32″ drill bit
- Painters tape or masking tape
- Safety goggles if using a power drill
Once you have you shell, apply painters tape to the to top edges. This will protect the shell from cracking or splintering when drilling a hole for your cordage.
Drill holes (approximately 5/32″ in diameter) on either side of the shell using a power drill or by simply rotating a drill bit by hand.
Slip the cordage through both holes and tie securely.
And there you have it! Now you can affix your Camino shell on your backpack.
TIP: Consider packing your shell in bubble wrap or a small towel while traveling, especially on planes or trains where someone else may be handling your pack.
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Husband. Father. Backpacker. Pilgrim. Author.
After years of section hiking the Florida Trail and Appalachian Trail, I set out in 2019 to complete the Camino de Santiago through Portugal and Spain. The experience changed the direction of my life and I’ve been walking in pilgrimage ever since. My recent journeys include the California Mission Walk and England’s Pilgrims’ Way from London to Canterbury. I’m currently walking sections of the Via Francigena through Europe to Rome.