Ponchos are a preference for many walking a Camino de Santiago. They cover your top half and, depending on the style you purchase, they can cover you and your backpack.
There's also an option to get a poncho that only covers your backpack. And, some packs have a poncho style covering built into them that you can unfurl in the event of rainy weather.
As with everything you'll pack, weight is a consideration. But, more important than weight for some is comfort. When I walked the Via de La Plata, we only had 2 days of rain (in 7 weeks). At the time I was walking, some friends I met on my Camino had a friend walking the France Way. It rained for 30 days straight for the friend.
I packed a poncho, and was glad to have it for my two rainy days. I wore my rain jacket and then wore the poncho over me and my pack. I stayed dry from the rain, but got rather sweaty with so many layers of clothing and jackets. So, it was a trade off.
Pullovers are also great. Especially the ones that pack tight into their own pockets.
As with so many items. I highly recommend that you get out and hike with your selections before heading to Spain. So, on a rainy day, put on your gear and wear a jacket, see how it goes. Put on your gear and wear a poncho on another rainy-day hike and see how that goes. Practice hiking with it in different combinations until you find what you like the best.
How light can you go? That’s the question to contemplate. We tend to carry too much, which only makes the weeks or months of walking a camino more difficult. On my first camino, I chose a 50-liter Osprey pack. I loved the backpack—the support elements, the construction, the way it felt on my back, the balance, and even the placement of the outer pockets. My goal was to get the contents and pack to around or under 20 pounds. I came close (22 pounds). And, by the second day, I was choosing things I’d packed to leave behind. By the end of the first week, I’d dropped nearly 5 pounds of stuff.
My recommendation: start with a smaller backpack in the first place. I’ve already purchased a new pack for my next camino. It’s only 40 liters. Having the smaller pack to start with will force me to remember to go as light and lean as possible.
What you should look for and consider while choosing a backpack?
Will you carry a platypus (or similar water bag) in your pack? If so, you’ll want a backpack that can accommodate that inclusion. I like to carry refillable water bottles instead (they remind me to drink more often, and maintaining hydration is important. So, for me, I like large, mesh outer pockets that accommodate water bottles.
Easily adjustable straps. There’s a learning curve to adjusting your pack. And, as you travel, you’ll want to adjust and readjust the alignment of your pack. You won’t always pack your belongings the same way; your body is going to adjust during the walk (most of us lose weight while we walk, so the pack will fit us differently as we go); your going to experience the tension of the bag differently based on how you’ve slept and the condition of your feet.
Lumbar/lower back support is important. I like the Osprey packs because they offer back support that’s framed out. It keeps the bulk of the pack off your back, allowing air to travel between your back and the pack. It also directs the weight of the pack off your shoulders and down to your waist. This gives you a lower center of gravity and thus a more comfortable walking experience.
Outer straps and room for hooks and carabiner clips. You might want to carry your sleep sack/sleeping bag on the outside of your backpack and will need the ability to secure it to your pack.
Access points. How do you like to access your belongings? Through the side or through the top. Do you want a pack that opens completely, or one with the fewest access points (with only a top access point, there are fewer possible leak points during rainy weather).
Outer and inner pockets for different types of storage.
Built in rain cover. Having a pack with its own rain cover simply makes life easier. Even if you choose to also utilize a large poncho that covers your pack, having the second layer of defense against rain is a good thing.
Good quality, tear resistant construction.
What other elements do you look for in a backpack?