Via Francigena Packing List – Updated 2022

Via Francigena Packing List – Updated 2022

With travel permitted to Italy during COVID, in Spring 2022 I will walk sections of the Via Francigena to Rome, completing the final sections of the route I began in 2021 at Canterbury Cathedral in England.

Throughout my journey, I intend to sleep in hostels or inns in the towns and villages that have supported pilgrims for hundreds of years, so (for all intents and purposes) this supported pilgrimage will be very similar to the Camino de Santiago or the Pilgrims’ Way in England in that no camping or cooking supplies are needed.

 

Interested in learning more about the Via Francigena in England, France, Switzerland, and Italy? Stream the Sacred Steps Podcast for stories of this route from authors, pilgrims, and my own personal experiences walking to Rome.    LISTEN NOW | STREAM ON YOUTUBE

 

 

2022 VIA FRANCIGENA IN ITALY PACKING LIST

Like most of my pilgrimage packing lists, I follow three basic tenents:

RULE #1: Only pack carry-on luggage.

RULE #2: Only pack for two to three days, regardless of trip duration.

RULE #3: Always carry $100 USD, regardless of destination currency.

 

If you follow these simple rules, you can feel fairly confident that your backpack will never be lost in transit and you won’t be tempted to overpack. And while $100 may not go far, it goes a lot further if things go badly than any other currency worldwide.

Note: The majority of my trekking travel is for solo hiking. If you are traveling in a group, you may be able to split gear among several people and travel even lighter.

 

GEAR LIST

BACKPACK SIZE:   34L

TOTAL BASE WEIGHT:

Backpack

Shoes

Insoles

Clothes

Packing

Hiking Poles / Trekking Poles

Foot Care / First Aid

Hydration / Water

Electronics

Shower / Hygiene

Rain Gear

Laundry

Sleep System

Shop Gear Online

 

 

BACKPACK: Osprey Manta 34L

I’ve carried the 34L Osprey Manta on pilgrimage trips across Europe and North America for years. In my opinion, this is truly the best backpack for an assisted pilgrimage (meaning that camping is not required). This pack is also available in a women’s specific version: the Osprey Mira 32L.

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 clothes and gear
  • Integrated rain cover and compression straps help reduce total pack size
  • Load lifters keep the pack well-adjusted on my back
  • Sold with an included 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”)

 

As of September 2021, the Osprey Manta 34L and women’s specific Mira 32L retail for $180. While not inexpensive, the Osprey Manta and Mira series packs represent a great overall value, as well. Both the men’s and women’s versions include a 2.5L water reservoir and an integrated rain cover, saving you upwards of $75 – $100.

The very solid construction (210-denier nylon/500-denier nylon packcloth) of these packs means that they will hold up for years to come in all circumstances and – if something does happen – Osprey offers its lifetime warranty for any damage or defect.  Both the men’s and women’s packs are also available in one smaller capacity.

I’ve used Osprey packs for years on the Camino de Santiago, California Missions Trail, Pilgrims’ Way, Via Francigena, 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.


 

 

SHOES:

Hiking shoes are very much a personal preference item, so much so that I rarely give shoe advice to other backpackers, as there are just so many variables for which to account: shoe size, width, arch, gate, pronation, balance needs and preferences, cushioning needs and preferences, and so on.

After a lot of trial and error (mostly errors!), I have found that I *greatly* prefer trail running shoes over hiking boots as they tend to be more ventilated, dry more quickly when wet, offer greater traction both on-road and off, and tend to give more cushioning support for the bottom of my feet, which helps me feel refreshed day after day.

For the Via Francigena, I recommend non-waterproof trail running shoes over boots. The Via Francigena is not a technically challenging footpath; however, you may encounter some areas with slippery stones/mud hillsides that may cause your feet to slip laterally.  I recommend a lightweight shoe with lugs to give you lateral traction and underfoot protection. While you will also encounter standing water along the trail in a few locations; non-waterproof shoes offer much greater ventilation so your trainers dry quickly and reduce perspiration throughout the day.

Given that these routes vary with trail and tarmac (concrete), I will once again be wearing the Altra Olympus.  This is a max-cushioning, zero-drop trail runner with a foot-shape toe box, available online for both men’s and women’s needs. I find the shape works well for both normal and wide feet (2E width – 4E width), which is not universally true of Altra brand shoes.

Offering great ventilation, a flexible midsole, and good grip from the Vibram sole & outsole, these shoes are ideal for a distance walk across different terrains such as the Via Francigena.  For those that like gaiters, Altra brand shoes have built-in gaiter traps and velcro to secure your gaiters. Because I have wide feet (4E), I find that I tend to wear a full size larger in Altra brand shoes.

A second recommendation for these routes would be the very competent Brooks Cascadia, currently available as the Cascadia 15 for both Men & Women. (NOTE: Brooks also makes a GTX – waterproof version of this shoe, but I find that it makes the shoe feel hot.)

Recommended:  Altra Olympus SELECTED

Alternate:   Brooks Cascadia

 

 

INSOLES:

One game-changer for me is a quality insole. While my Altra Olympus shoes are extremely comfortable, I’ve found the Superfeet Adapt Run insoles allow me to walk further and recover faster than any other insole. Pairing this insole with my Altras has been the best of both worlds.

 

 

CLOTHES:
Hiking clothes should be made from breathable fabrics that layer well. and dry quickly. This is particularly important for a between-season walk. I pack collared shirts and pants to visit churches along the route. For the majority of my kit, I prefer merino wool or dry-weave polyester. Merino wool clothing retains its warmth even when wet; perfect for a hiker!

My goal for clothing is to have the flexibility to layer for changing conditions. Ideally, layers will have zippers further allowing me to simply vent heat with a zipper or to add/remove a light layer on the go. The most important piece in my clothing system is my WIND SHELL, a one-piece that serves several purposes.    Following a similar approach will allow you to pack lighter layers that take less space in your pack, compared to heavier jackets.

 

EXPECTED TEMPERATURES:  70*F high / 50* low  (21*C high / 10*C low)

 

2 merino wool polo shirts (long or short sleeve depending on seasonality)

Recommended:  Woolly 150wt Merino Polo SELECTED

Recommended:  WoolX Summit Merino Polo

Recommended:  Minus33 Kearsarge Merino Wool Polo

Alternate:   Meriwool Lightweight Merino Wool Polo

Alternate:   Champion Double Dry Ultimate Performance Polo

Alternate:   Columbia Silver Ridge Lite Shirt L/S

1 Wind Shell

Recommended:  Mountain Hardwear Kor Preshell Zip Hoody SELECTED

Recommended:  Patagonia Airshed Jacket

1 Midlayer (75-100 weight) long sleeve fleece shirt (seasonal)

Recommended: Arc’teryx Delta Grid Fleece Zip SELECTED

Recommended: North Face TKA100 Fleece Zip

Alternate:     Patagonia Micro-D Fleece Jacket

1 down/synthetic mid-layer vest (seasonal)

Recommended:  North Face Thermoball Insulated Vest

Recommended:  Patagonia Down Sweater Vest

Alternative:  Eddie Bauer Microtherm 2.0 Down Vest

1-2 lightweight nylon pants (pants/convertible pants/shorts depending on season)

Recommended:  Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants / Convertible Pants SELECTED

Alternate:  Columbia Silver Ridge Stretch Pants / Convertible Pants / Shorts

2 merino wool light cushion hiking socks

Recommended:  Darn Tough Micro Crew Cushion Socks SELECTED

3 polyester wicking liner socks (wicking socks reduce moisture and friction, reducing your chances of blisters!)

Recommended:  Fox River Coolmax Wicking Socks  SELECTED

3 merino or polyester wicking boxer briefs

Recommended:  ExOfficio Give-n-Go Boxer Briefs SELECTED


Pilgrims: Please be mindful of cultural expectations and dress respectfully when visiting places of worship and shrines. In North America and Europe, men should consider wearing long pants and collared shirts. Men may be asked to wear head coverings in some areas.  Women should consider wearing dresses or tops with sleeves past the shoulder; skirt lengths should be to the knee. Women may be asked to wear head coverings in some areas.

 

LAYERING EXAMPLE
To help you understand how my clothing system layers, here’s an example for a cooler morning:

BASE LAYER: Merino Polo +
MID LAYER:  Delta LT Fleece Jacket (or midlayer piece) +
WIND SHELL:  Mountain Hardwear Kor Preshell (or wind layer piece)

BASE LAYER
 
MID LAYER
 
WIND LAYER

In the above example, I would vent with a zipper or remove layers as the day got warmer. For colder days, I may wear a down/synthetic vest under my wind layer. Again, the wind shell is the most important piece!

For more about layering, please see my post on Layering Ultralight Clothing for Pilgrimage Backpacking.

Again, the most important aspect of your layering system is that you have the flexibility for changing conditions by simply venting your zipper or adding/removing one additional layer while on the go. This will allow you to pack lighter layers that take less space in your pack, compared to heavier jackets.


 

 

PACKING CLOTHES: Space Saver Travel Bags SELECTED

Keep your clothes organized and conserve space in your pack with vacuum-style space saver bags. The RoomierLife brand bags have outstanding reviews and served me well during the Camino de Santiago.  I prefer to keep clean / dirty clothes separate in two different bags.

 

 

 

HIKING POLES / TREKKING POLES:

Trekking poles enhance your overall stability and provide support regardless of the terrain. As I wrote in my detailed review (The Best Hiking Poles for the Camino de Santiago), I prefer hiking poles that are foldable so that they store easily in my backpack pocket, feature cork grips to dampen vibration, and offer lever locks to ensure they do not collapse or break along the way.

RECOMMENDED:   Paria Tri-Fold Carbon Cork Hiking Poles SELECTED

ALTERNATIVE:   Black Diamond Ultralight Distance Carbon AR

 

Prefer a hiking staff? A ALAFEN Collapsible Ultralight Trekking Pole
This collapsible hiking pole weighs 290g, folds down to 14″, and is quite sturdy for its small size.It does not include mud baskets, so a universal set of pole baskets (like this one) is quite useful.

 

Hiking poles are an area where you can underspend/overspend foolishly. New to hiking poles?  Click here to read how to size, select, and use hiking poles for your next hiking trip.



FOOT CARE / FIRST AID:

The best way to prevent blisters is having a good shoe system with wicking socks, but foot care is essential. My homemade kit goes into a ziplock bag and includes:

Nail clippers

Victorinox Swiss Card Micro Scissors

BodyGlide Foot Anti Blister Balm – Glide works to reduce friction, lowering the risk of blisters

Alcohol wipes & individual Neosporin antibiotic ointment packets

Compeed Blister bandages

Metatarsal pads & bandages – these are essential for me, as I often suffer from sore footpads on concrete

Needle and thread to lance blisters

36″ of KT tape – remove from a larger roll and rewrap around drinking staw; snip straw to 1″ wider than tape

 

As I make most of my hikes alone, I also wear a RoadID bracelet to ensure that my vital information is available at a glance in any emergency

 

 

HYDRATION:

Several sections of the Via Francigena have limited infrastructure, so carrying more water may be required. Opinions vary but I prefer a hydration reservoir over carrying bottles of water because I drink more and stay hydrated when I forget to stop for water breaks.  I also have greater peace of mind knowing that I have 1L-2L of water in my pack versus needing to find places to refill. I’m not sure I’m in the majority but it works for me.  HYOH

Platypus Big Zip Evo 3L Reservoir

Katadyn Micropur Purification Tablets (Backup Purification)

 

Again, there are sections of the Via Francigena where public fountains are few and far between, so a hydration reservoir may save you a substantial off-path walk into nearby towns. If you choose to take water from streams (not recommended!), please ensure you understand how to safely filter water to kill bacteria from farm / city runoff.

TIP:  I wrote this gear-hack on how to quickly refill a water reservoir from water bottles or water filters so that you never have to remove the water bladder from your backpack.

 

 

ELECTRONICS:

I prefer to keep my devices fully charged when traveling to reduce the size of (heavy) portable batteries. I keep all of my cables and charger in a small bag inside my pack. Remember A-B-C: always be charging!

Garmin inReach GPS Personal Rescue Communicator (full device review)

Apple iPhone with Gaia GPS mapping app

Apple iWatch with GPS (Gaia GPS mapping app)

Anker Quick Charge 3.0 63W 5-Port USB Wall Charger

Anker PowerCore 10000mAh Ultra-Compact Portable Charger

SoundPEATS Magnetic Wireless IPX6 Bluetooth Headphones

BioLite 330W Rechargeable headlamp with red light 

Personal Safety Blinking LED Light for Traffic Areas 

 


 

 

SHOWER SHOES: ALeader Mesh Slip On Water Shoes or WUTANGCUN Mens Womens Water Shoes
I pack a pair of lightweight water shoes to wear in showers or as slippers. The ALeader brand are generally offered as slip-on; the Wutangcun are generally offered with an elastic lace to adjust compression. Both styles dry quickly, have a soft rubber sole with good underfoot protection, and weigh virtually nothing. These (generally) end up in the side pocket of my pack when wet or the interior side when dry.


TRAVEL TOWEL:
Sea to Summit Tek Towel
After trying far too many microfiber towels, I’ve come to believe the StS Tek Towel is the best travel towel one can buy. Fast-drying, highly absorbent, and incredibly soft, the StS Tek Towel is made of a knitted microfiber that nearly mirrors the feel of cotton terry. I fold it in the bottom of my pack rather than the molded carry case.

 

 

JACKET / RAIN JACKET: Outdoor Research Helium II
Exceptionally lightweight, the OR Helium II does double duty as a quality rain jacket and breathable shell for cooler days. With a drawcord hem, elastic cuffs, and sealed seams, this jacket keeps you dry. Pertex layers are highly breathable and the Helium II adds underarm pit zips to increase breathability. The entire jacket folds into its own pocket, so you can fit this easily into a mesh pocket on the outside of your pack. I keep all of my rain gear in the outside pocket of my backpack so it is easy to access quickly.

**NOTE** This is a light jacket that can sustain for many hours before wetting-out. 

 

Arc’teryx Zeta SL

A much more robust hiking rain jacket option for extended rains along the Via Francigena is the Arc’teryx Zeta SL, which will keep you absolutely dry for many hours of substantial rain. Rated as waterproof and windproof with watertight zippers and an adjustable storm hood, this jacket will keep you dry in the worst conditions. Weighing in at just 10.9 oz / 309g, the Zeta SL (for super-light) utilizes taped seams and 2L GORE-TEX with PACLITE to keep water out.

Arc’teryx products tend to be high-end and overbuilt for most conditions with the highest quality materials, so it may be wise to buy them on sale or to shop the Arc’teryx Outlet or Rebird Used Products online stores.  This is not an inexpensive option, but it might be the best hiking rain jacket you can buy today.

 

OTHER JACKETS TO CONSIDER:

REI Co-Op Drypoint GTX

REI Co-Op Stormbolt GTX

Patagonia Torrentshell 3L

Montbell Versalite

Montbell Peak Dry SELECTED

 

RAIN PANTS: Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants
While some skip rain pants in favor of dry weave trousers, I’ve seen DWR wet-out too often putting you at increased risk of hypothermia from 60-degree weather or below. The Outdoor Research Helium rain pants are made of the same lightweight, breathable fabric as the Helium II jacket and perform just as well. These pants pack down small into their pocket and are ideal for clear trails but may be damaged in heavy brush. For an even more lightweight option, consider a silnylon rain kilt, such as the 3F Ultralight Rain Kilt, which is even easier to put on / take off quickly on the trail, weighs less, and will come in nearly five times cheaper than rain pants.

 

 

TRAVEL LAUNDRY KIT:
Packing light invariably means doing laundry along the way. I generally do laundry either every day or every other day.

My hand-wash system includes using an Osprey Ultralight Drysack as my wash basin/bag and hand-wash detergent. I fill the bag with hot water and detergent, agitate, and rinse. You might want to take a Sea to Summit Light Line Clothesline which has built-in clips and packs up very small in its own carry bag. Highly recommended.

 

 

SLEEP SYSTEM:

Although there are some areas where accommodations are slim, you can walk the entire Pilgrims Way without a tent/sleeping bag by staying in inns and AirBNBs. That said, it’s critically important to get sufficient rest while on the trail. This can be particularly challenging if you are staying in an unfamiliar space – or worse yet, communal accommodations.  In my experience, a great sleep mask and earplugs are key to getting a good night’s rest.

ALASKA BEAR Silk Sleep Mask

Howard Leight by Honeywell 33db MAX Foam Earplugs

Nemo Fillo Inflatable Travel Pillow

 

Equally important – and arguably more so – is keeping yourself and your gear free from bed bugs, especially in places where the regular turn of guests and backpacks create an ideal environment for bedbugs.

Sea to Summit Traveller Adapter Bed Liner with Insect Shield 

Treated to resist bed bugs, the Traveller Liner with Insect Shield is a rectangular-shaped bed liner (85” length x 36” width) intended as a layer between you and those hostel bed linens. The liner itself is a very lightweight polyester intended only to keep bed bugs away, not as an additional insulating layer. In all my travels … zero bed bugs. It packs up smaller than a solo cup and weighs just 11 ounces.

Click to read my detailed review on the Insect Shield Bed Liner. 

 

Also, I’ve written a much more detailed post about How To Sleep Peacefully on the Camino de Santiago which includes some key details about choosing the right accommodations on a distance hike and a few other suggestions that you may consider while walking the Pilgrims’ Way

 

 

MISCELLANEOUS:

Journal and Fisher Space Pen

Heroclip Carabiner  and Hanger 

Printed Topographic Maps (from OS Maps or CalTopo)

 

 

The above list presumes a “supported” hike with moderate infrastructure for reliable meals and shelter. For more involved hiking trips, it is essential to have a lightweight shelter and backpacking cook system.  Always test your gear to ensure your pack weight and choices will support your needs throughout the trek. In the end, you have to feel comfortable with your gear choices before embarking on any international trek.

RECOMMENDED ONLINE RETAILERS

          
NOTE: I purchased all of the gear listed on this site on my own and did not receive any incentive for providing a review. The views expressed regarding this product are mine alone based on my own experiences. If you purchase an item linked from this site, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you.

 

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE VIA FRANCIGENA