Camino de Santiago best backpacks
Camino de Santiago Gear

How to Choose the Best Backpack for the Camino de Santiago [2021]

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking a link, I may receive a small commission.

Choosing the best backpack for the Camino de Santiago is essential for a stress-free and comfortable trip. Have you ever bought a bag or backpack only to realize your back hurts a day into your big trip? I certainly have, and it caused more hassle than good! The bag dug into my shoulders, causing my neck, shoulders, and back to ache.

A weeklong trip is one thing, but carrying a bag while hiking the Camino de Santiago is another. Therefore, I dare say you want to be prepared!

Prior to my first Camino, I heavily researched and ordered (and returned) multiple bags. There are multiple features to investigate before making a purchase. What size bag should you take? What is the best lightweight backpack for the Camino? These are excellent questions to ask. After all, you’ll be carrying this bag day in and day out for weeks. 

To help you find a backpack that will rock your hiking world, we’ve put together a list backpack recommendations.

Let’s get started with how to choose the best backpack for the Camino de Santiago!

Table of Contents

Comparison Table
Why it’s Important to Choose a Good Pack
How to Choose the Best Backpack for the Camino
How to Get the Best Fit
Backpack Recommendations for Women
Backpack Recommendations for Men
Best Ultralight Packs
How to Adjust Your Backpack
Pack Transport Info
Other Bags You May Need
FAQ
Is it worth it? (Conclusion)

Top Picks Comparison Table

NameImageGender/SizeWeightHighlightsPrice
Osprey Kyte 36osprey kyte for the caminoWomen’s
XS/S
S/M
3.05-3.23 lb
(1.38-1.47 kg)
-airspace back panel
-padded mesh hip belt
-zippered sleeping bag compartment
Check price on Amazon
$$$
Osprey Sirrus 36Osprey-SirusWomen’s
XS/S
S/M
3.07-3.2 lb
(1.39-1.45 kg)
-size zipper access
-front zipper panel
-trekking pole stowage
-includes rain cover
Check price on Amazon
$$$
Gregory Jade 38gregory-jade-38Women’s
XS/S
S/M
2.75-2.78 lb
(1.25-1.26 kg)
-FreeFloat panels allow hipbelt to pivot with/natural movements
-Carry-on dimensions when fully packed
Check price on Amazon
$$$
Gregory Amber 34Women’s
One Size
2.72 lb
(1.23 kg)
-Adjustable torso-Top and bottom access
-Women’s specific padded shoulders and hip belt-hip pockets
Check price on Amazon
$$$
Deuter Futura Pro 34 SLWomen’s
One Size
2.56 lb
(1.56 kg)
-High performance weather repellant materials
-ergonomic
Check price on Amazon
$$$
Kelty Redwing 36Women’s
One Size
2 lbs 9 oz
(1.16 kg)
-lots of pockets for organization
-affordable
-U-Zip opening
Check price on Amazon
$$
Osprey Stratos 36Men’s
S/M or M/L w/adjustable torso
3.17 – 3.23 lb
(1.44 – 1.5 kg)
-external pockets
-zippered access to main compartment
-suspension system keeps pack off your back
Check price on Amazon
$$$
Osprey Kestral 38Men’s
S/M or M/L w/adjustable torso
3.22 – 3.4 lb
(1.46-1.81 kg)
-ventilated back panel
-reverse compression straps
-rugged, yet compact
Check price on Amazon
$$$
Osprey Exos 38osprey exos 38Men’s
S, M, or L
2.46-2.51 lb
(1.12-1.14 kg)
-integrated FlapJacket
-Inside Out Compression Straps
Check price on Amazon
$$$
Gregory Zulu 40Men’s
S/M or M/L with adjustable torso
2.9-2.93 lb
(1.32-1.33 kg)
-good for long torso up to 22”Check price on Amazon
$$$
Gregory Stout 45Men’s
One Size or
Plus Size
2.96 lb
(1.34 kg)
-adjustable torso
-has all the features you need and more
Check price on Amazon
$$$
Osprey Levity 45Men’s
S, M, or L
1.79-1.93 lb
(.81-.87 kg)
-ultralight
-sits well on hips
Check price on Amazon
$$$$
Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50Unisex
S, M, or L
1.76-1.96 lb
(.8-.89 kg)
-mesh stuff pocket great for drying
-various pack and hip belt sizes
Check price on Gossamer Gear
$$$$

Why it’s Important to Choose a Good Backpack

Pilgrims typically walk an average of 12-18 miles (20-29km) per day. Unless you use a pack transport service (anchor link), that is a lot of time to put additional weight on feet and body!

With a lightweight and well-fitted backpack, you won’t place unnecessary stress on your back or shoulders. Hiking backpacks come equipped with hip belts and and other straps to distribute the majority of the weight onto your hips and legs. Actually, a well fitted backpack will allow you to walk for hours with little to no discomfort!

Other than finding a comfortable pack, it’s important to stay organized. On the Camino, you’ll carry everything you need and unpack/repack daily. If you don’t want to dig around in your pack in the wee hours of the morning, look for organizational features. These are relatively easy to find, fortunately. Plus, accessories like packing cubes (make packing and organizing a breeze!

How to Choose the Best Backpack for the Camino

Choosing a backpack isn’t the easiest feat. There are many options on the market. Here are some of the key features to consider in choosing an awesome Camino pack.

Size

On the Camino, we recommend you carry only the essentials. These include a change of clothes, toiletries & first aid kit, and not much more. (See our detailed Camino de Santiago packing list for what to bring). Therefore, you do not need a huge hiking backpack like the ones needed for camping. A 30-40L pack will suffice for women, and perhaps the same or slightly larger (45L) for men.

A pack of this size will allow you to bring everything you need and still have some wiggle room. Wiggle room is nice because you don’t have to have everything packed perfectly as you do when bringing a smaller pack. Additionally, most packs of this size are also allowed as carry-on luggage. You don’t want to be stuck waiting on lost checked luggage full of gear the day you were meant to start the Camino, do you?

Weight

The weight of the pack is also something to consider. Most packs these days are made from lightweight, tear resistant material such as nylon. All the packs we reviewed are less than 4 lbs.

Besides the weight of the pack itself, consider the overall carry weight of the pack. That is, how much weight can the bag hold? Sometimes, people want to get ultralight bags. But, ultralight bags tend to have less features and a lower carry weight. Therefore, it’s not always prudent to go with the lightest bag.

To explain, imagine a plastic grocery bag. It’s simple and lightweight with no features. It’s meant to hold a few pounds/kilos at most. If you tried to carry a few bowling balls in a shopping bag, what would happen? The bag would rip, right? It’s simply not designed to carry the weight. It’s the same with ultralight bags. They are only rated to carry up to a certain weight.

So, how much weight should you carry?

The general guideline for how much weight to carry safely is 10% of your body weight. For example, a 150-lb female should aim to carry 15 lbs, including water. However, there are various other factors at play. For example, hikers that regularly carry an 80L pack full of camping gear may be able to carry more weight since their body is already accustomed to it. 

In any case, avoid adding a few extra pounds by choosing a lightweight bag (but not necessarily an ultralight bag) to begin with.

Straps

Straps are important in order to balance the weight of the pack. Amazingly, if you’ve adjusted your straps correctly, it can feel as if you’re barely wearing anything! 

More on how to adjust your backpack below.(anchor link)

The straps you want to look for are:

  • Carry straps w/chest strap. The thickness on these vary, but I love a good, padded carry strap. Also check that they are breathable — usually they are made of mesh. Sometimes they have a built-in safety whistle, too!
  • A hip belt that sits comfortable on your hips. Pockets on these are nice, but often they aren’t in a convenient spot or are too small! (That’s why I recommend a fanny pack/bum bag).
  • Compression straps. These will tighten everything up, redistributing the weight of the pack towards your core.

Top Loading vs. Front Loading

Top loading bags are what people typically think of when they think of hiking packs. Top loading bags open at the top and are typically closed with a drawstring. A top flap (name) then buckles over the drawstring, hiding and protecting the closure.

Top loading bags are easy to load, especially when using packing cubes or dry bags (link) (which we highly recommend!). However, the downfall of top loading bags is that if you need something at the very bottom, you have to take everything out! Some packs have a zipper to access the packs from the side, bottom, or front to remedy this, though.

Front loading packs (or U-shape openings), on the other hand, usually have a zipper and open more like a suitcase (with the pack lying on its back). This makes everything in the pack easily accessible. The downside to these packs is that the zippers can break and aren’t always waterproof.

In the end, it comes down to preference. All in all, we’d give top loading bags a slight edge because they typically stand upright, a must for setting your pack near your albergue bunk or on the ground during a walk break.

Material

Backpacks are typically made of nylon. This contributes to their durability and weight. Nylon comes in different deniers. On the whole, hiking backpacks aren’t made from more than 210 denier nylon as it’s too dense and heavy. However, certain parts of the pack (such as the bottom) may be reinforced with heavier material.

Some brands have their own branded nylon. Ripstop is a popular example of this. Ripstop nylon has a special weave that makes the fabric stronger and more wear-resistant.

Contrary to what you might assume, most backpacks are not waterproof. They are often coated with silicon or polyurethane to make them water-resistant. Not all packs come with a rain cover, either. You will need to purchase a rain cover or use a poncho should you find yourself out in the rain.

Frame

Backpacks can be divided into three categories when it comes to frame: frameless, internal, and external.

For the Camino, an internal frame pack will work perfectly. They are lightweight, comfortable, and can carry a decent amount of weight. Internal frame packs have a semi-rigid or rigid construction often made of aluminum. Whatever the materials, they are hidden internally and along the back of the pack.  This construction both prevents the bag from collapsing and enables the weight to be distributed evenly — with most of the weight riding on the hips via the hip belt.

Some packs are designed to keep the pack off your mid-back, where you’ll get nice and sweaty during your trek. This isn’t a deal-breaker for us, but some people may find this a comfortable feature.

Compartments & Pockets

For the organizers, this is the fun part! It may be easy to overlook a pack’s various compartments and pockets, but they add to the overall function of the pack and daily life on the Camino. 

Compartments to look for are:

  • Top flap w/zippered compartment for easy access. This lets you reach up and grab lip balm, sunscreen, your Buff, etc. without taking off or opening your pack.
  • Stuff pocket for jacket. As the day heats up or cools down, it’s nice to have a jacked easily accessible.
  • Inside pocket for valuables
  • Two stretchy but sturdy water bottle holders. Look for holders that are angled toward you, so that you can reach your water yourself. Also, be sure that the elastic is tight so that the water bottles don’t fall out when you bend over. Lastly, don’t forget to fill both water bottles to balance the weight!
  • Hip pockets. The placement varies on these, meaning sometimes they aren’t very useful.
  • Side pockets. These are not as popular, but we’ve had several backpacks with them. They help keep things organized and offer easy access.

Trekking pole attachments

We highly recommend traveling with trekking poles. Honestly, we wouldn’t have completed the Camino Frances with out them! Trekking poles help keep you stable and keep your pace. But, more importantly, they’ll distribute a ton of weight to your legs.

You’ll probably want to use your poles most of the day. But, some days the terrain won’t warrant using two, or you may want to go hands free to take some photos. Thus, we recommend a pack where you can quickly store your trekking poles. 

How to Get the Best Fit

Unfortunately, not all packs fit everyone the same — or perfectly for that matter. But, here are some tips on how to get the best fit.

First, note that some packs come in different sizes based on torso length. Others are adjustable. There are plenty of charts online that show you how to measure your torso length. You’ll also want to get a feel for the shoulder straps. Are they too wide or too narrow?

There are also Men’s, Women’s, and Unisex fitting packs. More on women’s packs in the next section.

Honestly, the best advice we can give you is to try several packs on!

 At REI in the states, you can talk with an attendant and get fitted for a pack. REI even has weights for you to place in the pack, and they’ll allow you to walk around the store to get a feel for it. If you don’t have an outdoors store near you, order several packs from REI, Amazon, or your favorite sporting goods store. Try them on at home with weight, and return those that don’t work for you.

Backpack Recommendations for Women

These days, many brands make women’s specific fit backpacks. Generally, women’s backpacks are narrower through the shoulder straps. The torso lengths and hip placements are also designed for a woman’s body.

That being said, women can use men’s backpacks if those provide better support and fit. There are also unisex packs that could be a good option. No two women’s bodies are alike, so in the end, pick what’s most comfortable for you!

Here are our top backpack picks for women.

Osprey Kyte 36

Pros: Adjustable torso length | Front trekking pole stowage | Two Sizes

Cons: Comes in dark colors

Features:

  • Adjustable torso length
  • Multiple attachment straps and chains
  • Hip pockets for small items like chapstick
  • Side zipper access to main compartment
  • Stuff-it front pocket for jacket
  • Rain cover included

In our opinion, this is the best backpack for the Camino de Santiago. Its many features allow you to carry all the gear you need for your trek while staying organized on the ever-changing trail.

The Osprey Kyte is a classic bag that sits close to the back, allowing you to keep your balance as you traverse various terrain each day. Its padded mesh straps, hip belt, and proprietary airflow system provide the ultimate comfort while wicking moisture.

This top-loading bag has a zippered top flap for items you need to access often. It also has a zippered sleeping bag compartment for carrying a sleeping bag (in the cooler months) or other items you’d like to keep separate from the main compartment, like hiking sandals.

As long as this pack fits your body well, it’s a great choice! (Choose from either size, or even check out the men’s version, the Kestral 38.) Also, Oprey offers a wonderful guarantee.

Osprey Sirrus 36

Pros: Adjustable torso | Two sizes | Seamless back and hip panel

Cons: No stuff-it pocket

Features:

  • Trampoline back panel
  • Size zipper access
  • Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment
  • Integrated rain cover
  • Zippered sleeping bag compartment that can be opened into the main compartment

With just a few different features from the Kyte, this is another great option for walking the Camino. It’s small dimensions (24 x 11 x 9 inches) make it great for carry-on travel.

The Osprey Sirrus is a daypack is a lightweight bag with a trampoline back panel. It’s padded, mesh back and hip panel runs as one continuous panel, reducing the risk of chafing.

This top-loading, size zipper bag has a zippered top flap for items you need to access often. It also has a zippered sleeping bag compartment for carrying a sleeping bag (in the cooler months) or other items you’d like to keep separate from the main compartment, like hiking sandals. The diver can be opened to create one continuous main panel.

Oprey offers a wonderful guarantee (look it up).

As long as this pack fits your body well, it’s a great choice!

Gregory Jade 38

Pros: Adjustable shoulder straps | U-Zip Access | FreeFloat Suspension

Cons: A little hard to pull out water bottle

Features:

  • 3D comfort cradle hipbelt provides padding in the right places to reduce hot spots
  • Open-air ventilated back panel with moisture wicking mesh keeps your back dry
  • Sunglass QuickStow system on shoulder harness for quick, scratch-free access to your shades
  • Dual side stretch mesh pockets with pass-through for over or under compression.
  • Up to 35 lbs in carry weight, making it a great option for day hikes where you need gear
  • Raincover included
  • Attachment loop and upper shock lock for trekking poles

The Gregory Jade 38 had so many features that are not always found on packs its size! First, it features a breathable FreeFloat dynamic suspension system. Paired with an alloy and fiberglass construction, this pack moves with you as you hike.

This bag has both top and front loading options. Holding close to 40L, there is plenty of space for your clothes, toiletries, hiking sandals, and various cool weather items like a sleeping bag. It also has two side pockets, two lid pockets, and a stuff pocket.

One cool thing about this pack is that it has adjustable shoulders and comes in multiple torso lengths. Plus, Gregory also offers their packs in multiple sizes! For instance, they make a Jade 33 which is very similar. Between the adjustable shoulder straps, torso lengths, and sizes, you’re sure to find a wonderful fit!

If this pack fits your body, consider going with it!

Gregory Amber 34

Pros: Hip pockets | Compartment access from top and bottom | Quick-pull drawcord closure

Cons: Only comes in one size

Features:

  • Torso w/3D Foam breathable back panel is adjustable by 4”
  • Women’s specific fit
  • Perforated, breathable shoulder harness with sternum strap and integrated safety whistle
  • Raincover included in dedicated zippered pocket for added organization
  • Zippered bottom sleeping bag compartment
  • Trekking pole attachments with bungee closure system

The Gregory Amber 34 features a Wishbone frame which allows for stable load and torsional flexibility. Due to the women’s specific fit, breathable back panel, and perforated shoulder harness, it’s another great pack for all day wear. 

This bag is top-loading with compression straps across the top. It’s main compartment is also accessed from the bottom, where you’ll find a removable divider. There are two pockets on the top flap, one for the included raincover. But, of course, you can store things in there as well. For being a smaller pack, it really does have all the features of a larger pack!

Since this pack only comes in one size, consider the Amber 44 as well. This pack is essentially the same, only larger. Plus, it’s even available in Plus Size. Plus Size features extended length shoulder straps and hip belts and other revisions to fit larger body shapes!

Shop for a Gregory Amber now!

Deuter Futura Pro 34 SL

Pros: Ergonomic carry comfort | Made from partially recycled materials | Lots of pockets & loops

Cons: Weighs a few ounces more than competitors

Features:

  • Innovative Aircomfort Sensic Pro mesh for maximum back ventilation
  • Round profile frame made of permanently elastic spring steel
  • Separate bottom compartment with removable base
  • Pull-forward hip fins with pockets
  • Elasticated inner compartment for storing wet/sweaty clothing, water reservoir, etc.
  • Walking pole holder
  • Rain cover included

The SL back length of the Deuter Futura Pro 34 SL is specifically tailored to women. Usually, women have shorter backs than men. Coupled with a trapezoid-shaped lumbar pad, this pack ensures the load is spread evenly across the musculoskeletal system. Because of these features, your pelvis can move freely, safely, and comfortably on multi-day tours.

This pack is top loading with a separate sleeping bag compartment that can be zipped closed. It features a top pocket, side pockets, and a stuff pocket. If you ever plan to ride bike, it even has attachments for a helmet holder.

In addition to great features, Deuter is environmental and health conscious. They use 50% recycled yarn. Additionally, they no longer use PFC to coat their bags against water, dirt, and grease. Instead, they use DWR Impregnation. According to their website, DWR is safer for health and the environment.

If ergonomics and health/environment are your thing, this could be your new pack!

Kelty Redwing 36

Pros: U-Zip Access | Side pockets w/pass-through functionality | Travel-friendly

Cons: Bungee stash system isn’t as useful as mesh stuff pocket | Rain cover sold separately

Features:

  • AMP-Flow ventilated back panel to keep you cool
  • Advanced perimeter frame for superb stability
  • Hybrid U-zipper entry for top or panel loading
  • Signature wing side pockets with pass-through functionality
  • Small zipper front pocket
  • Top pocket & two mesh water bottle holders

This Kelty classic is now available in a women’s specific 36L. It’s frame and ventilated back panel are formulated for all day comfort.

This pack is U loading, which makes it easy to load up and find items that are packed further down without removing everything. This pack features two side wing pockets, which are great for organization. For example, we carried all of our food in one and first aid in the other! There’s also space between the side wing pockets and the main compartment so you can stow your trekking poles on days when you don’t need easy access to them, like on travel days.

A good thing about this Kelty pack is it’s also great for travel. If you’re doing a trip where you’re traveling a good bit and then doing a shorter Camino, this is a great option due to its versatility.

All in all, if you’re looking for a budget backpack with lots of organizational features, this is an amazing choice.

Backpack Recommendations for Men

Men’s packs are typically larger, longer, and wider than women’s specific packs. That being said, we recommend you choose the pack that best fits your body type. Over the years, we have met many women who prefer men’s (also considered Unisex) packs when they were the best option.

Below are our top picks for men’s backpacks.

Osprey Stratos 36

Pros: Adjustable shoulder harness | Lightweight for a pack w/so many features | Main compartment accessible from top and side

Cons: Hip pockets too small | Pack doesn’t sit upright when full

Features:

  • Ventilated backpanel with adjustable shoulder harness for the perfect fit
  • Front panel with two zippered stash pockets plus hip pockets
  • Stretch mesh water bottle holders on both sides
  • Stow-On-The-Go Trekking pole attachment
  • Integrated and removable raincover
  • Zippered sleeping bag compartment with bellowed divider

The Osprey Stratos 36 features a trampoline-style back that will keep the pack away from your back. Is this doesn’t keep you cool, what will? 

The main compartment is accessible both from the top and via a side zipper, which can be super useful if you need to reach something you accidentally packed away without opening the entire pack. On the top flap, there are two zippers — one accessible from the outside by reaching up and back, and one from the inside.

Of course the compression straps, trekking pole holders, and a zippered front pocket are all great for adjusting the pack and staying organized.

Overall, the Stratos 36 is a great pack made of quality materials and will last you for years to come! 

Osprey Kestral 38

Pros: Breathable back panel | Soft edgeless padded mesh

Cons: Some features that aren’t needed for the Camino, like an external water reservoir

Features:

  • Breathable AirScape rigid foam backpanel with adjustable torso length
  • Fixed top lid with external zippered pocket and under lid zippered mesh pocket
  • Zippered sleeping bag compartment with floating divider
  • Front panel hybrid shove-it pocket & mesh side pockets
  • Dual front panel daisy chains and rescue whistle
  • Integrated removable raincover

The rugged Osprey Kestral 38 is perfect for long days that don’t require much room. It’s rugged construction is great for any condition (conditions often change on the Camino). The Airspace back panel and adjustable torso lengths all but ensure a perfect, comfortable fit in any climate. 

This a top loading pack with a zippered sleeping compartment (complete with removable divider). It features everything you need like a stash pocket, top pockets, hip pockets, and trekking pole attachments.

This pack is designed for rugged adventures (Their website mentions bushwacking, which is not a requirement on the Camino!). Thus, it may feature a few more features than you need — an external reservoir sleeve, sleeping bag straps (removeable), and reverse compression straps, for instance. But, it’s still a contender given it’s compact size. 

If you plan to do some bushwacking after the pilgrimage, by all means, check out the Kestral 38! It’s larger brother, the Kestral 48 features a full length side pocket and side access to the main compartment. That could be an option if the 38 is too snug.

Osprey Exos 38

Pros: Large side and front pockets | Ultralight | Trekking pole attachment on straps

Cons: No hip belt pockets | No raincover included

Features:

  • Tensioned ventilated backpanel keeps the weight of the pack off your back
  • Removable floating lid with top-and under-lid zippered pockets for storing smaller items
  • InsideOut side compression straps
  • Front stretch mesh pocket, side mesh pockets
  • Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment on front straps
  • Web loop attachment points on top lid for external gear storage
osprey exos 38

The Osprey Exos 38 is considered an ultralight pack. However, it’s still able to carry up to 30 lbs and is relatively affordable and durable compared to other ultralight packs. Since it’s considered an ultralight pack, it assumes you may want to remove the top lid and excess straps. Therefore, it has an integrated FlapJacket to protect your gear when the lid is removed. However, you’ll likely want to use the top pockets, so that feature doesn’t mean much to us!

The tensioned backpanel keeps the weight in the pack off of your back. Therefore, you’ll be in for a highly ventilated, comfortable day of hiking. You can access the pack from the top only, so be sure to pack everything you need to access frequently in the top pocket or your fanny pack.

This bag comes in three sizes – Small, Medium, and Large. The large fits 41L of gear. If you need a slightly larger pack to fit your clothes (or body!), we recommend checking out the Exos 48, which is designed to carry 40 lbs.

Gregory Zulu 40

Pros: Large mesh water bottle pockets hold 1.5L bottles | Bright colors | Good for long torso

Cons: Custom molded zippers are a nice feature, but impossible to lock

Features:

  • Ventilated suspension allows airflow between your back and the pack
  • 3D foam hip cradle and breathable back panel
  • Front U-Zip for access to the main compartment without opening the top
  • Stretch pockets on front and sides
  • Sunglass QuickStow so you don’t scratch your glasses
  • Adjustable attachment loop and upper shock lock for trekking poles

The Gregory Zulu 40

The 

The pack comes in two sizes. With an adjustable torso, it will fit many body types. Looking for something slightly larger? Check out the same pack in 55 L.

As long as this pack fits your body well, it’s a great choice!

Gregory Stout 45

Pros: Large hip pockets | Super padded hipbelt and harness | Available in Plus Size

Cons: One Size | Water bottle pockets a little stiff

Features:

  • Adjustable torso length and 3D foam breathable back panel
  • Padded wraparound hipbelt with large zippered pockets
  • Perforated, breathable shoulder harness with sternum strap
  • Zippered top pocket with underside zippered raincover pocket and key clip
  • Quick-pull drawcord closure, top webbing compression, plus a zippered bottom compartment
  • Adjustable attachment loop and upper shock lock for trekking poles

The Gregory Stout 45 is durable and versatile pack for your adventure. With it’s Wishbone alloy frame, it offers stability and load support for a full day of hiking. Plus, the wraparound hip belt and perforated shoulder straps offer maximum breathability and comfort.

This pack has all the features you need and more without being too large. You can easily compress this down from the top and sides. There are even passthrough holes on the water bottle pockets so that you can easily attach things to the pack if needed. There’s zipper access from the bottom, useful in the cooler months when you’ll bring a lightweight sleeping bag.

Some pilgrims prefer the slightly smaller Stout 35. Still, others choose the Plus Size version of this pack which had been adjusted to accommodate larger body sizes.

Best Ultralight Backpacks for the Camino

The consensus is that you don’t need an ultralight pack for the Camino. To start, you won’t be carrying much gear. Essentially, you’ll carry one extra set of clothing, shower and/or hiking sandals, toiletries, first aid, and water. Plus, there are plentiful stops to refuel, whereas if you were going on in the backcountry for several days, you’d need everything on you.

It’s more important that you are comfortable because the days can be quite long. That may mean another pound or two in the pack itself to give you features like a luxuriously padded hip belt!

This aside, we know several of you prefer ultralight packs. Thus, we asked around to our ultralight pilgrims, and they recommended the following packs for the pilgrimage.

Osprey Levity 45

Pros: Large side pockets | Ultralight | Trekking pole attachment on straps

Cons: Hip belt not very padded | Lighter material may be less durable long-term

Features:

  • Tensioned ventilated backpanel
  • Removable floating lid with top-and under-lid zippered pockets for storing smaller items
  • Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment so you don’t have to remove your pack to stow your poles
  • Front stretch mesh pocket, side mesh pockets, hipbelt pockets, energy gel pockets
  • Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment

The Osprey Levity 45 is an ultralight pack. Just be sure to keep that base weight low if opting for this pack as it’s total carry weight is just 25lbs. The shape of this pack is slightly wider near the hips, helping to distribute the weight properly.

The tensioned backpanel keeps the weight in the pack off of your back. The pack is only accessible from the top, but there are large pockets on the front and back of the pack for easy access. The material is thin, similar to tent material. The Camino isn’t too rugged, so this shouldn’t be a problem, though.

This bag comes in three sizes – Small, Medium, and Large. The large fits 48L of gear. If you’re a fan of Osprey, the Exos line is a great alternative. Slightly heavier, yet more durable and with more features, we love the Exos!

Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50

Pros: Gorgeous | Unisex | Multiple belt sizes available

Cons: If you need another belt size, you must purchase it separately | No load lifters

Features:

  • Unisex belt formulated for superior load transfer and comfort
  • Ergonomic harness
  • Water bottle pockets that are accessible while wearing
  • Air-mesh fabric for less friction
  • Trekking pole storage
  • Carries 30 lbs or less

The Gorilla 50 is a super versatile pack that plan-ahead hikers love. Featuring a unisex, ergonomic harness and hip belt, this pack is designed to transfer the load properly.

The interior of the pack fits 32 L, but you can extend the top an additional 10 L by unrolling it. Although you probably won’t need to do so, it’s always nice to have the option should you want to purchase souvenirs or travel more after your trip. There are another 18L of storage in the outside pockets and large, useful hip belt pockets that are easy to reach.

Gossamer offers other unique features like attachable umbrellas. Check out their full site for more info.

Although the pack is unisex, it can fit a range of sizes — The Small, Medium, and Large fit anywhere from 11.5″ – 23.5″ (29 – 60+ cm) torso!

How to Adjust Your Backpack

Adjusting your pack properly will ensure that you are distributing most of the weight to your lower body, making your pack feel lighter. Can you imagine how badly your shoulders would hurt if all the weight was on them for half the day? Ouch! At worst, you could even injure yourself and derail your plans. 

Save yourself the trouble by adjusting your pack correctly. Here are the steps:

Step 1 – Pack the backpack, and tighten all the compression straps on the front and sides of the pack

Step 2 – Loosen all the shoulder, chest, and hip straps every time

Step 3 – Put the backpack on, and fasten and tighten the hip belt over your hips

Step 4 – Pull the shoulder straps into place near your sides

Step 5 – Fasten the chest strap and tighten

Step 6 – Lastly, tighten the load lifter straps (the straps at the top of your shoulders)

Tighten the straps as much as they can go with the exception of the load lifter straps, which you can tighten to your comfort. The straps will come loose throughout the day, and certainly from day to day. For the most comfort, loosen all the straps and re-adjust every time.

Trekitt has a great video on how to fit your backpack correctly.

Pack Transport Info

If you do not want to carry your pack for any reason, there are multiple luggage transport companies such as Jacotrans that operate along the Camino.

Procedure

The procedure for using the luggage transport system is as follows. Upon arrival at your albergue, find out which transport system is in operation. Choose which albergue you’d like to stay in the following evening, and make a reservation. Depending on the company, the reservations are made online or through the albergue (by leaving a few euro in a tag attached to your bag). Before you head out, leave your tagged bag in the designated spot. Upon arrival at your next albergue, your bag will be waiting for you. 

Price

The price for luggage transport is around 5€ ($5.80 USD) per day. Within 100km of Santiago, it is around 3€ ($3.50 USD).

What Other Bags do I need?

In addition to a lightweight hiking pack, we recommend you take one smaller bag as well. In this bag, carry all of your valuables and most frequently used items. 

Choose a lightweight daypack, fanny pack/waist back (bum bag), or crossbody bag. (We wear a fanny pack and take a packable day pack to use as needed.)

You will need this bag:

  • When paying for things or getting stamps in your credencial during the day — a fanny pack is great for this so you don’t always have to remove your pack.
  • When showering. Don’t leave your valuables lying around the albergue. Instead, bring your bag with you. There’s not room for your big, stinky pack in the clean shower stall!
  • When shopping, exploring, and eating dinner in the afternoons.
  • On days when you need a rest and choose to pay for luggage transport.

FAQ:

What size backpack do I need?

A 30-40L pack is sufficient for the Camino. If you don’t find one you like in that range, just try to stay in the 28-45L range.

Is there a “right” way to pack a backpack? 

When packing a backpack for the Camino (or any trip), a well-packed backpack will help you to distribute the weight. Typically, heavier items should go in first towards the bottom and back of the pack. Lighter items go on top.

Do I need a women’s specific backpack?

Women’s specific backpacks are cut for women. This means a shorter torso and narrower straps. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to purchase one. Purchase the pack that fits your body the best.

I’ve seen pictures of Camino patches. Where can I get a patch for my backpack?

Many pilgrims decorate their packs with patches, shells, pins, and the like. Popular patches can be purchased on etsy (link). Although entirely a personal choice, these help to build camaraderie as you recognize other pilgrims with similar interests like the American Pilgrims on the Camino. Some pilgrims wear a country flag pin or patch, which is helpful for denoting language spoken or easily finding others from your home country. (Read more about signs and symbols of the Camino.)

Do I need a shell for my backpack?

Is it not required. But if you would like, feel free to add a shell with the St. James cross to denote you are on pilgrimage. You can purchase these online or at any pilgrim’s tourist shop along the way.

Do I have to carry my pack the entire way?

While many people enjoy carrying their backpack, there are no “rules” stating that pilgrims must wear their backpacks on the trail. There are multiple pack transport services should you choose to have your bag transported.

Do I need a daypack?

In addition to your main pack, take a fanny pack/waist back (bum bag), crossbody bag, and/or lightweight daypack. In these smaller bags, store your valuables and items that you use often (your pilgrim’s passport, for instance). Plan to take this bag with you everywhere in the afternoons and evenings while your main pack is at your accommodation.

I’m only walking the last 100km from Sarria. Do I need to spend the money on a good pack?

Yes. It does not matter if you are walking 5 days or 5 weeks. You need a good pack to distribute the weight properly on your body. Consider the backpack an investment; a good quality pack will last for years through many trips.

My Top 5 Camino de Santiago Essentials

Click here to see my full Camino de Santiago packing list.

Is buying a backpack worth it?

No matter if you’re walking for a week or six weeks, a good bag will do wonders for your body. These hiking packs are all designed to take the strain off your shoulders and direct the load to your hips and legs. This is imperative as you’ll be walking hours on end. You want to give your body the best chance of making the trek safely!

Also, consider the backpack an investment. That is, a high quality pack will last for years through many trips. They are especially necessary when backpacking Europe. Many brands also have lifetime warranties.

I hope this guide serves you in choosing the best backpack for the Camino de Santiago.

¡Buen Camino!

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