The other day I was at Wal Mart waiting for a prescription to come through and as I walked around, I started noticing that they actually had some pretty useful gear. In fact, some of it was top notch! As the minutes turned into . . . tens of minutes . . . I started wondering if I could gear up for the Camino using only items Wal Mart sold. And I wondered how much it would cost.
Would it be possible to gear up for the Camino for less than $500?
Less than $300?
I was actually surprised that I found nearly all the essentials for about what my backpack cost! Naturally, the gear and clothing were far from top notch quality – but I think it would be fair to say that everything on the list could reasonably be expected to survive at least one Camino.
In the short time I had to find and snap pics of what I would buy, here’s what I came up with:
- Backpack – 40l: $40*
- Waist Pack + 2 Water Bottles: $10
- Dry Bags (3): $10
- Sleeping Bag – 30°, 2.5lbs: $27
- Rain Suit: $20
- Water Bottle – 1l collapsable: $3
So far so good. For $110 I had storage, hydration, and waterproofing covered.
*Full Disclosure: I sort of cheated on the backpack because this store had their big packs in a locked case and I could not see all of them. I did, however, see a 32l for $40 that I could have bought and exchanged for the backpack pictured above if it hadn’t been in stock.
OK, on to clothing.
You might think I could just stop here because, hey, I already have clothes! But for the Camino I think at least some degree of quick-drying, moisture wicking, and breath-ability is a necessity. While you can spend a boatload of cash at sports stores on clothes with these properties, any sports “active wear” clothing will get you going.
- Briefs (2): $10
- Socks (3): $7
- Shirts (2): $15
- Pants (1): $22
- Shorts (1): $16
For $70 I got two complete changes of clothes. Not bad!
I chose non-cotton, lightweight, breathable, wicking material for all but the pants and shorts. For those I chose stretchy, tough, non-cotton material that was lightweight but probably not super breathable. The second layer rain suit was covered above.
At this point I had to go, but . . . I was really about done!
Although there are plenty of convenience / comfort items missing from this kit (e.g., buffs, hiking poles, gaiters, etc.), there are very few essentials that can’t be found on the cheap at Wal Mart. Many other travel necessities are common household items you probably already own (or can be creatively substituted for what you have). Likewise with technology.
I would say the only true essential that cannot be found at Wal Mart (and cannot be safely compromised) is hiking boots or shoes. Good shoes are a non-negotiable for the Camino. You can’t substitute or “hack” your feet – and if they go, the trip is over. Personally, I wouldn’t trust footwear from Wal Mart or any other non-specialty store for hiking – so I didn’t even look.
So for just under $200 I managed to find passable versions of all but one necessary piece of Camino gear at my local Wal Mart. That’s pretty impressive (it wasn’t even a super store!). The kit is far from ideal – but it’s still light years ahead of what 95% of the pilgrims before me would have had (or dreamed of having)!
So, if you are concerned about affording the Camino, there is hope!