From the Sunshine State to the Camino de Santiago

From the Sunshine State to the Camino de Santiago

You all know how much I’ve always loved booking races as an excuse to go somewhere new and fun, but this summer, I discovered a new love — the inn-to-inn walking holiday.

Woman with backpack walking into historic Spanish town

Strolling into Getaria at the end of an epic first day.

Long story short, my husband (you all know Jared, right?) and I had an opportunity to go to Spain — specifically, to San Sebastián. And, once I saw where we’d be, I began looking into cool hiking opportunities in the area. As it turned out, San Sebastián was right on the path of the Camino del Norte, which is one of several routes of the Camino de Santiago, an historic pilgrimage with medieval origins that leads to what’s believed to be the tomb of the Apostle Saint James the Greater, located in the crypt of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.

Now, the full Camino del Norte is a little over 500 miles, and many people take several weeks or even a couple of months to walk the full route, carrying all their belongings and staying in albergues (hostels) or camping wherever they end up each day.

That wasn’t quite how we approached it, though, for a few reasons.

For starters, we only had about a week, plus we knew we wanted guaranteed beds in private rooms — so we decided to use a service (Macs Adventure) to book accommodations ahead of time and arrange for our luggage to be transferred. That allowed us to carry just the essentials for each day’s hike (water, first aid, snacks, layers) in day packs.

Even so, we knew the trek would be no joke. We’d be walking for six consecutive days with planned daily distances ranging up to 16-plus miles, climbing and descending between close to 1500 and 3000 feet each day. Keep in mind, we live in Florida — it’s flat, for one thing, and for much of the year it’s so hot that, frankly, we don’t do a ton of walking to get places. So, Jared and I took the training and planning for this adventure seriously to make sure we were physically up for the task, understood what to expect from a cultural perspective in these small Spanish towns, and had the right gear to get the job done.

Hiker standing in front of water and hazy sky

At the start of Day 1, on the walk out of San Sebastian, I thought I might need long sleeves. I was wrong — but hey, I looked cute to begin with!

Long story short — we absolutely loved our experience on the Camino. We ended up shorting two days by a few miles due to a freak heat wave (and fortunately, it was easy to grab a bus or taxi in those cases), but still ended up with over 70 miles over the six days … and we totally could’ve kept going. (I wanted to keep going, actually.) Part of our preparedness was certainly due to the fact that we spent many Saturday and Sunday mornings in the months leading up to the trip walking all around town and exploring every local trail to get miles in. But, having the right gear, both for the training and the trip, also made a big difference.

Now, I’m happy to answer any questions you all might have about the trip itself (just leave a comment on Insta!), but I fielded a lot of questions about gear and clothes as I prepared, so I figured it might be helpful to share what Jared and I used while training and on the Camino itself.

Let me be clear — you can ABSOLUTELY do this (or something similar) with whatever gear you have and love. You certainly don’t need to spend a fortune shopping, and you’re better off wearing items that are proven, if a little worn, vs. something just out of the box. But, for those who are in the market for a few new goodies, the list below is a mix of items I received from brands to review and things we purchased, but anything included here is only here because I would recommend it — none of this is sponsored or otherwise required.

Camino-Ready Clothing

First up, let’s talk clothes. You’ve probably heard enough by now about my beloved Clamberista pants from Title Nine (which are now sold out, although they have a Recycled Clamber 2.0 available); I wore these on a couple of days, but because it was so much warmer than usual for the area, I was psyched to have also packed the Switchback Ultralight Hiking Skort. It’s comfortable, ridiculously lightweight, it dries quickly, and the built-in shorts liner prevents chafing. Only downside is that it runs a little big, so even with the drawstring waist, putting anything weighty (like a phone) in the pockets dragged it down a bit. Title Nine also offers shorts and joggers in the same lightweight material, which I’m thinking I may need to check into before my next hiking adventure …

hiker posing in front of historic hotel

Sporting my old Icebreaker tee, my new Title Nine skort and Brooks Caldera 5 shoes, and ready to tackle our final day of hiking into Bilbao.

KUHL ended up being a go-to for both Jared and me, both in training and on the trip. I put in a lot of miles wearing the quick-drying, slightly stretchy Trekr Short; I went with the 8″ option, although it’s also available in a 5.5″ and 11″. If in doubt on this one, I’d probably order a size up since there’s an internal drawstring at the waist and belt loops. When it came to tops, we both wore a lot of Merino wool since it’s naturally moisture-wicking and odor-resistant. I have this Cashmerino tee (size down if you’re between two sizes), and Jared ended up liking the look of this Valiant short sleeve shirt so much that, in Spain he saved it to wear out to dinner. Most days on the trail, he wore a Saxx Hot Shot tee, which has cooling technology and, even when he rinsed it out completely at night, it was always fully dry by morning. I also sported an old (like, many years old) Icebreaker Merino tee (it’s not this one, I don’t think but it’s similar) and this ibex Merino Tencel tee, which was super comfortable (and I liked that it wasn’t super long) but, by the end of the walk, had pilled pretty badly where my backpack rubbed on it — bummer.

Hiker with trekking poles on Camino de Santiago.

Even on the flatter parts, the trekking poles were GREAT. And so were these KUHL shorts.

Speaking of Merino wool, I’ve gotta give a shout out to Smartwool; I had two of their wool blend sports bras and a cuple pairs of their undies that I switched between on the hike. Now, I won’t lie — the bras were not quite as odor-resistant as I’d hoped they’d be, but then again, I sweated a LOT, so having to wash them in the sink a couple of times seemed pretty fair … even if I did have to hang them from my backpack the next morning so they’d finish drying. (And that’s why you only wash one at a time, kids.)

And, although it ended up being too hot out to keep it on for long while hiking, I was happy to have this Kari Traa Voss Light Half Zip Top on hand for a couple of cooler mornings; it’s made with a Merino wool blend, is nicely stretchy, and feels super soft and light. I also brought along the Voss Hybrid Hiking Leggings; they were great for a marathon travel day, but were a little warmer than I needed for this particular hike.

Footwear for Miles

Spend more than 30 seconds on any Camino (or multi-day trekking route) forum and you’ll find all kinds of footwear thoughts, but, from what I can tell, the best plan comes down to the following:

  • Choosing the right type of shoes and socks for the route you’re on.
  • Training (a lot) in the exact shoe/sock combination you plan to wear on your trip.
  • Taking plenty of breaks during your hike, changing socks and treating blisters immediately if needed.
Arrow and shell on Camino de Santiago

The yellow arrows and shell are the symbols of the Camino, and while some signs are permanent and formal like this, a lot of the time, it’s a yellow spray painted arrow on wood or stone.

Because the Camino del Norte isn’t terribly technical and there was a lot of time on paved trails, I opted for trail runners instead of hiking boots; specifically, I went with the Brooks Caldera 5 since I’ve been wearing Calderas on trails for years, but — here’s the catch — I went up a full size from my usual to allow for layered socks and swollen feet. (Lucky for me, I also had a chance to bring along the brand new Caldera 6 in a half size up, which I wore for casual walks around town; I’ll probably opt for those in a full size up when I do my next multi-day trek, because they are sweeeeet and I got a million compliments on them.) I brought along my trusty xero shoes Z-Trail sandals as alternates, too, switching into those when we ended up on some of the longer, flatter sections.

Jared, on the other hand, wanted a waterproof option, and after trying on many, many options at REI, he opted for the Salomon X Ultra, also going a size up, and he was really pleased with his choice, too.

For both of us, I think the sock game was just as important as our shoe choice. We used the Injinji sock liners beneath a variety of midweight wool socks religiously (Darn Tough, Smartwool), and although I did end up with some minor blisters on the outside of my big toes, neither of us experienced any of the dreaded between-the-toe blisters, which can really screw up your hike. (For the blisters I did experience, a Band-Aid Hydro Seal Blister Cushion, fully covered with a layer or two of KT tape, worked well to keep them from rupturing or getting worse.)

Other Key Gear

First and foremost, I’ve gotta talk about trekking poles. If you have any knee (or ankle, hip, back, etc.) issues, I highly, highly recommend bringing trekking poles on your next hike. They take loads of pressure off your knees and other joints, especially on downhills or technical terrain, they give you a little extra power on the steep uphills, and — here’s the thing that seems to surprise people — using them, even on flat, level ground, keeps your hands and fingers from swelling up. Seriously, over 70 miles and no hot dog fingers over here! I used the TSL Connect Carbon 5 Trekking Poles, which I loved because they’re easy to adjust, simple to break down when not in use, and have multiple options for tips. The handle was comfortable, the wrist straps easily adjusted on the fly … I will not be hiking without them in the future. Jared, once an avowed “I’ll just find a stick at the trailhead “guy, is also a convert, and he used the Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles with zero complaints.

Hiker on dirt road overlooking ocean

This view of the Cantabrian Sea as we headed toward Zumaia, en route to Deba, was a real highlight.

Obviously, our packs were pretty important. Jared had picked up an Osprey Talon 22 last summer when we hiked in Colorado, and that was a perfect daypack for this trip. I carried the 20L Cotopaxi Tarak, which was super comfortable and had plenty of room for a 3L water bladder and everything else I needed, but after a couple of days on the trail, I realized that the design (basically one large compartment with just a couple of small outer zippers and one tiny interior pocket) didn’t make access as easy as Jared’s pack did. Which is fair — my pack was designed to be no-frills, and is really more for climbers and skiers than someone like me. I carried this Coso 2L Hip Pack in addition, which allowed me to have my phone/camera, snacks, and multitool super handy.

And, speaking of a multitool … well, I didn’t end up needing to use it much, but I was still happy to have Leatherman Signal at the ready. It’s not the most lightweight multitool, but, I mean, it packs a hammer, one-handed blade, emergency whistle, a dang firestarter, and like 15 more things into a tiny little package. Since we only had daypacks, adding a couple extra ounces to have all that available seemed like a smart move.

Hiker smiling in front of sea and rock formations.

Just out of Zumaia, on an alternate route, you get this view of the Basque Geopark, and it was even more stunning in person — which made the tough climb to get there worth it.

Because there was so much sun exposure, we always kept our Buffs on our necks (sometimes after wetting them in a fountain to help cool us off), and generally wore ball caps in addition to loads of sunscreen. We’d toyed with getting proper sunhats, and will probably add those to the list next time, but we got through the week without too much red skin.

And, although we ended up not needing to use it on the trail, we did have rain gear; a Mammut Albula HS Hooded Jacket and some bright yellow rain pants I found on sale for me, and, for Jared, the North Face Alta Vista Jacket (which had more venting than mine — perhaps not a bad thing for physical activity, I’m thinking).

Now, how much information is too much? Let’s find out. Okay, so I don’t have a problem peeing in the woods — I’ve squatted in more forests than I can count. And, in many of those cases, I’ve used a Kula Cloth to avoid having to pack out any TP, which is rad. But, I knew that there were some sections of the Camino that A) didn’t provide loads of tree or brush cover and B) could be pretty heavily trafficked, so the idea of baring my whole booty to the world … well, I figured that, if I could figure out a way to avoid that, then cool. So, I got myself a Shewee, which allows women (and anyone else without the equipment that lets you aim) to urinate while standing — and without having to fully drop their pants. I will definitely co-sign on their advice to practice using it ahead of time, ideally in the shower, and then probably on a few low-stakes occasions while wearing your hiking clothes.

Now, I’ve got two questions for you all to answer on Insta. First, what’s your favorite must-have hiking gear? And second, have you ever considered an inn-to-inn walking holiday like the Camino de Santiago? Would love to hear where you’ve been (and whether I should go there next!). I’m kind of thinking about Tour du Mont Blanc, but a little worried that might be biting off more than I’m ready to chew.Kristen

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A Few of My Hiking Must-Haves

A Few of My Hiking Must-Haves

hikers smiling in the mountains

There’s not much I love as much as getting out in nature and being active, and, although the last (*counts on fingers*) 20 months or so have been incredibly difficult, one silver lining is the fact that the pandemic did lead to many of us spending more time outdoors than ever before.

From weekend kayaking trips to epic mountain treks, I’ve been taking full advantage of all the fresh air Ma Nature has to offer — and with an Arizona camper van adventure planned for December, I have no intent of stopping. But, as I talk to friends about these exciting outings, I’ve realized that we don’t only trade tips and tricks for where to go and what to do — we also talk a lot out all of our gear. What did we wear? What did we use? What would we buy again and again?

hiker crossing a stream

And so, I figured that it’s time for a little product round-up full of my favorite active, outdoorsy gear and goodies. Keep in mind, this is not an all-encompassing packing list (although, if you’re planning to go backpacking and are looking for a list, I find She Dreams of Alpine to be an amazing resource). These are things I’ve used and loved for different types of adventures (both day and overnight, kayaking and hiking) that could help round out your supply.

IBEX Women’s Merino Tencel Pocket Short Sleeve Tee ($85)

Fun fact, in case you didn’t know: Merino wool is naturally antimicrobial (making it naturally odor resistant), which is part why you’ll see it used so often in hiking clothes that may be worn for several days on end. I put this silky soft shirt to the test over a few surprisingly steamy days in Colorado last summer, and I can attest that it works. Y’all might remember that I sweat a lot, but every time this shirt dried out, it looked (and smelled) like I hadn’t even worn it.

Salt Life Long Sleeve Performance Fishing Shirt ($64)

Okay, full disclosure — I have not worn this shirt fishing. Mostly, because I don’t really fish. Instead, I layered it over the aforementioned Ibex tee for a little extra sun protection for an epic hike from Crested Butte to Aspen via Maroon Bells, and, since the trail offered little protection from the elements, I was really glad to be able to roll the long sleeves down and cover up my arms when the sun came out. Plus, let’s be real — the color is gorgeous and it looks cute! I also appreciate the fact that it takes up very little room when packed, so it’s an easy option to have on hand, even if you don’t want to put it on right away.

Title Nine Clamberista Pants and Shorts ($89)

hiking pants

Granted, I was already a Title Nine fan based on some of their other clothes, not to mention the fact that it’s a women-owned company that goes out of its way to support other women. But even if I hadn’t been, these pants would’ve turned me into one. They’re abrasion-resistant with just enough stretch, easy to cinch at the ankle when you want to shorten them or wear them like a jogger, and, best of all, there are so many well-placed pockets! They come as shorts, too, which are perfect for a mid-summer kayak or SUP outing.

Branwyn Essential Bikini ($34)


Remember what I said about Merino wool? Branwyn uses it to make performance innerwear that, in their words, will keep you “swamp-ass free and funk-free throughout your entire day no matter your adventure.” Add to that the fact that this bikini-style undie is quick drying, has a non-digging waistband, and offers the perfect amount of stretch, and you can trust me when I say you won’t only want to wear these on big adventures!

injinji Women’s Liner + Crew ($29)

hiking socks

And, whaddaya know, it’s more Merino! And before you ask why I think a pair of socks is worth $29, hear me out. I wore this two-piece liner and sock system for the Aspen hike I mentioned above, paired with newer-than-advisable hiking boots, and ended the very long, very full day with zero blisters. A couple of days later, I wore the same boots on a shorter, far less intense hike with other nice wool socks and ended up with blisters the size of a half dollar on both feet. It was awful. If you’ve hiked ever, like, at all, you know your feet are the most important thing to keep comfy. Considering you can wear these a few days if needed before washing, well, suddenly getting a pair for under $30 seems like a heck of a deal, yeah?

HOKA Women’s Kaha Gore-Tex ($220)

Hiking boots

Looking for a sturdy, supportive hiking boot that’ll keep your feet comfy and dry? Here you go. These offer a lot of cushion without being overly heavy, and the Vibram Megagrip traction is seriously grippy — which is so important for folks like me who aren’t terribly sure-footed on technical terrain. I splashed through a few rivers and never had an issue with my feet getting wet, and the lacing system makes it easy to adjust for comfort. I will say that these are the boots that I ended up blistering in with my lower-quality socks, but I’ll also admit they weren’t anywhere near as broken in as they should’ve been before I took them out, so they’re still 100 percent in my rotation.

Forsake Patch Mid Women’s Waterproof Hiking Boot ($160)

hiking boots

Maybe you’re in the market for a hiker that doesn’t look out of place with your street clothes, and trust me, I get it. Packing too many shoes for a trip is a pain! Forsake was a new brand to me, but I was intrigued by their Peak-to-Pavement philosophy that combines all-weather protection with versatile styling — and the fact that they’re officially climate neutral was just about enough to seal the deal. But really, it was wearing them for a nonstop weekend in New England, exploring trails and small coastal towns, that lit my fire. They were comfortable, had great traction, and looked perfect with leggings, jeans, and hiking pants. (Hey, it matters!)

Mammut Albula HS Hooded Jacket ($119)

I know I said that keeping your feet comfortable is priority numero uno — and that’s true! — but if the rest of your body is wet and cold, you might not care how cozy your tootsies are, which makes having a rain jacket a must. This sustainably-made (100-percent recycled polyester!) hooded jacket is super lightweight, packs up small, and comes in a few fun, bright colors. While it came in handy when Colorado decided to drop a monsoon on us, it was also amazing all summer here in Florida for our daily afternoon thunderstorms.

Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded Down Jacket ($250)

winter coat

Nearly every hiking checklist I’ve found recommends a puffer or hoodie, and I honestly don’t know that you could find a better option than this. Available in a bunch of excellent colors, the Fuego is lightweight, water-resistant (as I learned when I got caught in a nor’easter in southern Maine), made with responsibly sourced down, and packs away into its own pocket. (Bonus: there are LOADS of great pockets for all your stuff!) The streamlined fit is topped off with a scuba hood, elastic binding, an adjustable drawcord at the hem. It’s my new go-to travel jacket, because, look, this Floridian does not care to be cold. Besides, I’m a big fan of Cotopaxi’s Gear for Good mission, so the more of their gear I can incorporate into my life, the better.

sleeping pad

If you think tent camping is uncomfortable, you might just need the right sleeping pad. At least, that was the lesson I learned after using the Quasar 3D Sleeping Pad. I was fine with the regular, non-insulated version, but you can get wider, longer, and insulated versions as well to suit your needs. It comes with its own easy-to-use pump sack for inflation, and while it’s incredibly lightweight and great for backpacking, you could really use it anywhere you need a comfy bed on the go. I’ve slept in actual beds that are less comfy! So, if the cold, hard ground is holding you back from camping, this will be a total gamechanger.

Good To-Go meals ($14.25)

camp meal

Raise your hand if you’ve ever set out on an outdoor adventure with grand plans of making an amazing camp meal, only to wind up tired, cranky, and snacking on yet another bar of some sort because you can’t bring yourself to do all the work needed for a great dinner. Yep, same. So, the fact that Good To-Go has a whole huge variety (risotto, bibimbap, chili, pad Thai, pho, the list goes on and on) of delicious meals that need nothing more than hot water? AWESOME. There are vegan options, gluten-free meals, and more — and they’re all hand-made in Maine.

Forclaz Trek 100 Easyfit 60L Hiking Backpack ($119)

60L backpack

You don’t need to be a backpacking expert to tell when your pack does — or does not — fit, and fortunately, this pack isn’t just specifically designed to fit women’s bodies, but it’s also designed to make adjustments incredibly simple. Seriously — it literally has illustrations to remind you what to adjust, in what order, for the ideal fit. I carried this with around 30 pounds on the Aspen trek, and although, naturally, walking over mountains with an additional 30 pounds wasn’t a piece of cake, the pack itself was never uncomfortable. Plus, the flaps and zippers made my gear easy to access.

Cotopaxi Tarak Del Día ($105)


A lesson I’ve learned is that, if your pack has the space, you’ll probably use it. And that means you’re far better off sticking to a smaller pack for shorter day hikes; that way, you’ll bring your essentials, but nothing more. This 20L pack has an internal hydration sleeve, configurable compression and lash points, comfortable straps, and a streamlined ice tool carry system, if you’re into that. Personally, I’m more into the fact that each one is made with high-quality fabric left over from other companies’ larger production runs, making each one a colorful, one-of-a-kind offering. (Told you I dug Cotopaxi!)

Parks Project Glow in the Dark Water Bottle ($20)

water bottle

Here in Florida, I’m a big fan of the insulated water bottle — otherwise, your water is likely to get pretty hot, pretty fast. However, I’m learning that, on these longer hikes, every ounce truly does matter, and tepid water is a small price to pay if you can shave off a bit of weight. (Yes, I know most of the world has realized this for ages. I’m just a little slow to come around. I really like cold water, okay?) This nifty Nalgene wide mouth bottle isn’t only lightweight, but it’s also glow-in-the-dark, which comes in awfully handy when you’re sharing a tent, need a drink in the middle of the night, and don’t want to wake anyone up by using a flashlight to find your water. Besides, proceeds benefit the Open for Outdoors Kids Program led by the National Parks Foundation. Who can beat that? (I also have a cool little camp mug from Parks Project, similar to this one, that made my morning coffee just a little more enjoyable.)


Next on my outdoor adventure wish list: some trekking poles, a lightweight tripod for taking pictures, and a way to overcome my fear of heights so I can more fully enjoy some of those amazing views. Got tips? I’m here for them! —Kristen

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