Book Review of Pilgrim Tips & Packing List Camino de Santiago

by JoHarrington

It's one of the most famous Christian pilgrim treks in Europe. Wizzley author Sam knows it well. She walked its ways and lived on it for years.

Why on Earth would you want to cut the straps from your clothing, or research how to get your donkey back home? Don't know? Well I do! I've read 'Pilgrim Tips and Packing List Camino de Santiago' and it's full of fascinating details like that.

While utterly invaluable for your average pilgrim on the trek across Northern Spain, the advice within is by no means that niche. I found myself taking notes to apply when packing for the Glastonbury Festival.

Fundamentally what we're being told is how to live from a backpack, which will have to be carried for miles. It's a boon for anyone traveling into the great outdoors; and it's peppered with anecdotes, which make it all feel very, very real.

Pilgrim Tips & Packing List Camino de Santiago

Hard Learned Lessons on the Camino de Santiago

Some people plan for a life-time, others take off at a whim. Their lives could be made so much easier reading the wise words of a woman, who did it all before.

The most commonly trekked pilgrim route stretches nearly 500 miles from Southern France to the city of Santiago de Compostela in North-Western Spain. Known as the Camino Francés, this takes in an ever changing terrain, from desolate mountain passes to bustling city streets.

So should I take a donkey to carry my stuff?  No. Unless you have absolutely no time constraints, you speak fluent Spanish and you are planning to walk home again, a donkey would only be a hindrance. Most of the refugios and hotels along the way will not let you stay with one in tow anyway.

As a woman, should I pack enough sanitary towels to see me through a period of walking?  No! Spanish women also have the same monthly requirements. Their shops will provide for you as well as them.  However, I must pack a sachet of salt.

How do I know all of these things?  Because I've just been reading the ever useful (and occasionally hilarious) Pilgrim Tips & Packing List Camino de Santiago. It's full of tips learned the hard way, developed and refined over many years back-packing along that famous, ancient route.

These are snippets and rare bits of knowledge which can be employed in any relative situation too. While I may see their worth for attending music festivals, others could just as well employ them on a hike across the Scottish Cairngorms or the Appalachia Trail.

Even armchair travelers, living vicariously through the travel tales of others, will find themselves transported. I'm not a Christian, nor have I any plans to walk the Camino de Santiago. But I equally had no intention of lugging a fridge-freezer on a hitch-hiking tour of Ireland, yet I still read and recommended Tony Hawk's Around Ireland with a Fridge.

Pilgrim Tips & Packing List Camino de Santiago was a similar sort of reading experience, with less tomfoolery and more practical ideas. I still felt like I peregrinated the long walk to see the grave of St James. Armed with this book, I feel like I could also survive the journey.

A Wizzley Author Takes a Walk

This is a travel guide written by a woman who really does know the terrain; and someone known to us all too!

Image: SamThe Wizzley community knows Sam as a fellow author and a helpful force on the forum. She is one of the first to welcome newcomers, and to impart tidbits of guidance, when it's all going a bit awry.

What none of us have truly appreciated is that she learned these skills helping walkers on a thousand year old pilgrim route.

For four years, Sam volunteered as a hospitalera on the Camino de Santiago. It was her job to take the battered and weary pilgrims under her roof, and to see them right enough to make the next day's trek.

She answered their questions, heard their tales and often donned her walking gear and joined them on the route. This makes her helpful guide as much a memoir as anything else. She hasn't just gathered up facts on the internet and spewed them onto the pages. She lived it. She traded insights with people from all walks of life. She passed them on long before she ever thought of writing it all down.

This is why, despite her gender, she can advise men on how to cope with shaving on the pilgrim trail; and why, irrelevant to her sexuality, she can point out precisely the levels of affection that homosexual pilgrims can get away with on the trek.

Pilgrim Tips & Packing List Camino de Santiago isn't just one woman's perspective on the famous route. It's much wider in scope than that, and the tips within will certainly help me at the Glastonbury Festival. But more than that, it was an entertaining read; and it will have me looking much more carefully at the color of my urine and applying salt accordingly.

Updated: 04/20/2013, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 05/14/2013

I agree. This one is useful for more than the trip along Camino de Santiago. It has helpful tips for any walking trip.

WriterArtist on 05/14/2013

It is always prudent to do some reading before you take the trip. A pilgrim guide is more than helpful to undertake such a journey.

JoHarrington on 05/13/2013

After reading the book, I'm half-tempted! Did you do the whole 500 miles?

GermanUtopia on 05/13/2013

Nice to hear that another Wizzley author (Sam) has been on this famous way too. It's a great experience.

JoHarrington on 04/27/2013

Sam - Wow! Major respect to him! That's a life well lived.

JoHarrington on 04/27/2013

Hollie - The whole 500 miles? If you weren't fit at the beginning, you would be at the end!

Sam on 04/27/2013

Just for your information, the oldest pilgrim I have seen personally was over 80, came on foot and carried everything in his backpack. He had started in the middle of South France ;-)

HollieT on 04/26/2013

I'm not bothered about the younger part, or the fitter, I still want to do it!

JoHarrington on 04/18/2013

I think that if I was younger and fitter, I'd be joining you!

ologsinquito on 04/18/2013

This sounds like a fascinating pilgrimage. I'd love to do this some day.

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