When we start an activity as hard as The Way of Saint James, sorting the baggage we are going to carry is a key issue. Although doing it by bike can make it easier to carry all our luggage, we need to put some thought into what we are going to put in our panniers for The Way of St James.
It is recommended to not carry more than 15kg in our luggage. This is only an estimate, since it would depend of the pilgrim’s weight and physical shape, and it has to be considered that this is going to be specially important in the ascending section of the Way. So, before wearing our helmets and going into the road, we should select carefully what to carry with us.
The panniers for the Way of St James: our best ally
Each pannier for the Way of St James is a world, and it can vary depending on different factors such as the season, the length of the chosen path and the accommodation preferred. It will not be the same to start the Way in Roncesvalles in August, than to do the English Way in the middle of December. So to avoid an excessively long article, we will focus on the essentials, just in what is necessary to reach safely the end of the Way.
There are three categories that we need to get covered: clothes, accessories and health and hygiene. Lastly, we will mention the credentials, documentation and other necessary things for any pilgrim.
Since we are going to be spending a lot of time on the bike, transpiration and comfort will be essential. Cycling pants (long or short depending on the season), or a gel cover, will help us to endure long hours on the saddle. In addition to this, it is recommended to carry breathable t-shirts, a cycling jacket and convertible pants. Do not forget as well two thin sweatshirts, preferably wide ones -or polar ones, if the weather is not so good- and a raincoat.
A pair of gloves would be essential as well, since the hands will be in permanent contact with the handlebar and need to be protected.
It is necessary to bring a good pair of mountain shoes or specific cycling shoes. In this case, it could be considered the option of carrying another pair of sneakers to wear when getting off the bike at the end of the stage, to be more comfortable. Since we are speaking about shoes, the flip-flops, an essential for the shower and for relaxing our feet after long hours biking, cannot be missing from our panniers for the Way of St James.
Last but nor least -in fact, its use is essential- we should bring a good helmet to protect our head at every moment
If we are going to be staying at public hostels, it is recommended to use a sleeping bag. It should not be too warm, since hostels usually have a pleasant temperature inside. This way, we can avoid getting too hot at night and optimize the weight of our baggage. If, on the contrary, we are going to be staying at private hostels, this kind of accommodation usually provides the pilgrim with blankets, so just bringing a sheet bag would be enough.
Coupled with this, we can consider bringing a mat, not only to be more comfortable at night, but also to eat outdoors if we feel like it.
A water container will be essential, or a plastic bottle or a flask to take in the bike’s bottle holder, since keeping ourselves hydrated will be a key issue along the marathon stages that await for us.
Sunglasses are another essential in our panniers for the Way of St James, regardless of the season, since they do not take much space and it will be worth bringing them even if only for one sunny day we find in the Way.
Lastly, there are three items that are essential but can be easily forgotten: clothespins, a bag for dirty clothes and an utility knife for several purposes, from opening cans to cutting bread.
Hygiene and Health
We will start with a towel. Microfiber ones have mushroomed in recent years, lighter and easier to dry than the traditional ones. You can find them in any sports shop.
A toothbrush and toothpaste, suncream or moisturizing cream, and shower gel and shampoo are essential to the day to day. It is as well important to bring a bar of soap to wash the clothes at the end of the stage.
We could have mentioned this before, in the clothes section, but we think is better to introduce here the matter of underwear and socks. They need to be breathable, and four sets are enough to cover the whole Way, regardless of its duration, since we will have to wash them everyday.
Regarding health issues, a first aid kit cannot be missing in the panniers of anyone who wants to do Saint James’ Way. Obviously, if a major mishap occurs, we will go to the hospital, but it never hurts to have a solution to the typical problems that can arise during the days of our adventure. Betadine and painkillers are a must, since the days can be tough and long in the Way. We can consider the option of taking petroleum jelly with us, as well as needle and threat. These three items can help us to fight the feared blisters. The petroleum jelly is used to prevent its apparition by smearing it in the zones of the foot more prone to get blisters, and the needle and threat to prick them and sew them after they had already appeared. Anyway, if we are going to do The Way of Saint James by bike, blisters should not keep us awake at night
Essential documents that you should bring on your panniers for the Way of St James
Identification and Credentials
Finally, it is almost obligatory to bring each and every one of this items: the pilgrim’s credential -essential to be able to sleep in public hostels and to get discounts for pilgrims-, ID or passport, and health care or medical insurance, as well as a mobile phone, so you can locate or identify yourself at any moment. It is recommended as well to bring cash money, for some hostels do not accept payment by card, and, just to be sure, to bring as well a debit card.
Having mentioned all the essential equipment to bring in your panniers, all that remains is to wish you all a happy Way. Let’s start biking, pilgrims!
If you need advise to do Saint James’ Way, please do not hesitate to contact us.