Last year I wrote a post about the perfect pilgrim present, and this year I thought I might expand on it. The perfect present never needs to be expensive, just thoughtful and fit for purpose, and in a pilgrim’s case – lightweight and practical. Buying the big 3 – pack, shoes, sleeping bag – can be a minefield unless you have been told expressly what to get and in what size, in which case a voucher is always a welcome gift. But if you want a gift to wrap and present to them, here are some more tips on what to get the significant pilgrim in your life (or yourself as a treat):
I’ll start at Ivar’s online shop again, where you can buy the special Holy Year credencial or pilgrim passport for the extended Xacobeo jubilee 2021-22. A pilgrim passport full of stamps is always a great keepsake, and this one even more so if your pilgrim friend/partner/you are walking next year. He also sells updated 2022 guidebooks, jewellery, sew-on badges, buffs and caps and lots more, so have a look around. Now, your pilgrim might already have bought their preferred guidebook for their next trip, but if they are walking parts of the Camino Francés, or just enjoy the history, architecture and culture of the Way, why not treat them to the Gitlitz and Davidson cultural handbook? Well, handbook; in truth it is much too big and heavy to bring along but it is a joy to read through before departure to learn and make notes on the highlights. It is also available in Kindle format.
I have been using my Brita water filter bottle for years and can thoroughly recommend them. They save single-use plastic water bottles, are infinitely refillable and have a small filter disc in the top to filter out some impurities and make the water taste better. Practical drinking spout and just the right size at 0.6 litres. Makes it easy to see how much water you have left and top up at the next fountain or bar – you can even get ice cubes in there to keep the water cool while you walk! Some sellers sell them with a pack of spare filters as well.
Or how about a lightweight metal cup for quick drinks at a water fountain, al fresco pit stops or late night albergue garden wine sharing? A carabiner cup clips on to the outside of the pack and takes no room on the inside. And while we are on the subject of carabiners – any lightweight ones make a great stocking filler as they can come in handy for just about anything. If you want to up your carabiner game, get them a Heroclip! Open it, swivel it, use it to hang a dripping wet jacket from a door frame, a backpack from the top bunk, the shower bag from anything when there are no hooks inside the shower cubicle … the possibilities are, as they say, endless, and they come in several sizes and fun colours to suit your pilgrim.
No matter how organised and minimalist a packer your pilgrim is, I bet they could all do with a drybag or two to separate walking clothes from evening wear, laundry from clean clothes, wet from dry etc. There are many good choices of ultralight drybags now, like these from Osprey, and they come in many different sizes and colours to make them easy to find in a stuffed backpack.
Clothes are tricky as most pilgrims have strong opinions on what works for them and best know their own preferences regarding size, colour, material etc. However, some things are pretty universal, such as buffs, hairbands, hats, gloves and that Christmas staple: Socks! Good hiking socks are not cheap and there is always room for another pair in a pilgrim’s kit box – if not for walking, then for training. Make it a merino mix if they walk in spring or autumn, thinner and shorter ones if they are planning to walk in the warmest months. Main points are: cushioned heel to prevent blisters, quick drying, durable and not cotton!
A merino tank top, T-shirt, or long sleeve top is always a welcome gift – it is lightweight, non-stink, easy to wash and quick to dry, keeps you warm in cold temperatures and cool in the heat, stays insulating even when damp, and made from natural fibres, unlike the synthetic tops that can get whiffy after a while.
For women, why not treat them to a lightweight and colourful scarf to brighten up their aprés-walk outfit? Weighs little and isn’t just pretty, but also practical – as an improvised pillow cover, bottom bunk privacy curtain, picnic blanket, extra warmth and even emergency towel! Obviously guys could also benefit from such a multitasking item so if you find a light sarong/scarf/shemagh you think they’ll like, get it.
One thing all pilgrims might need is a decent sleeping bag liner – basically their own private bed linen to use on its own when it is warm or inside a sleeping bag when it’s cold; easy to wash and also incidentally works as a scarf before bedtime. However the real silk ones – which feel better against the skin and don’t get clammy – are not cheap and might make a welcome gift! Jagbag even make tie-dye ones that will never be mistaken for anyone else’s on the line.
I hope that gave you some ideas, I would be happy to receive any and all of these (and, full disclosure, I have already got many of them) and hope you or your significant pilgrim will be too.
Have you got any other top tips I have forgotten? I’d love to hear them!