After a long day’s walk, you are going to need your 8 hours of sleep.
With the right sleeping gear you can make sure the nights are as enjoyable as the days:
1 sleeping bag or blanket and/or sleeping liner
1 pillow (optional)
1 sleeping mask (optional)
1 sleeping mat (optional)
0 bed bugs (read all about them here)
1 camping/albergue/hostel/hotel/rural house – or plain nature
Let’s take a closer look at those ingredients!
An important item in your sleeping gear will be your sleeping bag, blanket or liner.
Square or mummy? We chose square, but it really depends on your preference. There are square ones that are lighter than mummy-shaped ones, so the weight is no issue here. You’ll have more room to move your feet in a square one, while the mummies keep your feet warmer.
Comfort ratings offer the best chance of being able to judge if a sleeping bag is right for your own personal body temperature. Consider your personal comfort level. Body temperature at sleep varies a lot between people and is also different between men and women.
Size and Weight
Needless to say you’ll be wanting the smallest and lightest as you possibly can get (without compromising on comfort temperature).
Usually a rating from 1 to 4 or 5. Your choice will depend on the time of year you are going to be walking.
1 Season: very light and ideal for use in summer. Although you would probably be good with only a liner during the hot summer nights. If you’re sleeping indoors, you really only need this one (or a liner).
2 Season: if you want to keep the options open of sleeping outdoors, this one is perfect for late spring to early autumn. Make sure you take the altitudes into account though: the higher the colder.
3 Season: from early spring to late autumn, this is the one to go.
4 Season: if you plan to go in winter and sleep outdoors, these ones will protect you against temperatures below zero.
5 Season: die-hard expedition bags for mountaineers in extreme cold temperatures. Our guess is you won’t be needing these on the Camino unless you start in SJPP + camp outdoors in the mountains, which I would not recommend for safety reasons…
A liner is a good choice to add to your sleeping bag for additional warmth in the colder seasons. It’s also a perfect stand-alone in the warmer seasons.
In addition, you can opt for a version with anti-insect shield, which will protect you from bed bug attacks (better than priming your gear inside an albergue with a spray…thank you).
Usually available in silk, cotton, wool or fleece, liners can be a very good alternative to a sleeping bag. Specially during the summer, you won’t be really needing a warm sleeping bag.
In albergues there are sometimes blankets you can pull over your liner in case it gets colder than expected. If there’s no blanket just put an extra layer on like a long sleeve.
A liner’s pack size is way smaller than a sleeping bag’s but check the weight – if you choose a very thick fleece liner, you might be better off with an ultra-light sleeping bag.
One other option that works really well is to combine a light weight liner with a light weight travel blanket.
An optional item in your sleeping gear will be your pillow.
Albergues usually have pillows. However, if your neck is quite picky on its position during the night it might give you a lot of pain in the neck the next day. A travel pillow that meets your neck’s needs is the answer. They come in different sizes, shapes and weights and can be very worth-while to consider.
If you’re going to be sleeping in albergues, you better pack a few pairs. The simple disposables could be an option, but to be honest they do not block out the snoring sounds that well.
An early die-hard pilgrim (completely out of his mind in our opinion) turns on his head flash-light and walks towards the bathroom….at 5 am. However, you didn’t notice because you have your earplugs in and your sleeping mask on. Sweet dreams!
‘Albergues de peregrinos’ are the pilgrim hostels you will be encountering on your way to Compostela, especially if you are walking the Camino Francés. You’ll sleep in dormitories and the prices vary between 6 to 10 Euros per bed/night. On the Camino Francés you will find loads of them and you can expect to find an albergue in all regular stops but also between the best known stages. Some work on a ‘first come, first serve’ basis and some take reservations. The hospitalero/a is in charge and most of them are obviously very pilgrim-minded.
When you pick an albergue there is nothing wrong with first wanting to check out the room. It makes quite a difference whether you want to pay 8 to 10 Euros for a bed in a 6-bed dormitory or for a mattress on the ground in a 30-bed dormitory. But checking out the bed you are going to get assigned is a perfect opportunity to check out several things (bed bugs, hygiene, present others, bathroom and whatever that is important to you).
Pilgrims that arrive on foot are usually given preference over bicigrinos (cycling pilgrims).
Municipal albergues can get full rather quickly and are usually huge. Since we walk always together (2 persons) we just did the math and decided to stay in private albergues in ‘special places we know’ and stay once every couple of days in double-rooms of the cheaper hostales and pensions (that’s just 15 Euros more for a private room + private bath room and a good night’s rest…). We decided it’s worth it to get a good night’s sleep every now and then…
Let’s take a look at the different types of albergues you’ll encounter.
These are sponsored by the local government (in Galicia: ‘La Xunta’). They are usually the cheapest ones although they also vary a lot in how much comfort they offer. These are usually ‘completo’ during the busy summer months, and very crowded in the last 100 km from Sarria to Santiago. Take that into account in your planning and expectations when you intend to arrive on the popular day of St James, the 25th of July, or when walking in the most crowded months of August and September.
These are often found near a church or in a monastery or convent. These are sometimes very basic and cheap and you will find some of them being also on ‘donativo’ basis (which by the way means you give what you would normally give if the service is good and you can afford it). There are however multiple ones that offer complete services like a private albergue and you’ll find that the price can rise to 10 or 15 Euros in those cases.
These are run by volunteers (who have often done the camino before) and are also quite cheap or on donation basis. Whatever they receive in donations is used to take care of the albergue, but also to finance their service on the Camino. I’ll give you a simple example: to buy tons of yellow paint to maintain the marking of the yellow arrows. Very important: give what you can afford and if you can afford it, don’t give only 5 euros because they are ‘donativo’. Make that the regular 10 or 15 euro.
These are private businesses, often run by a complete family and are usually much more comfortable due to the available extra services.
They often offer optional (communal) meals and extra services like laundry, Wi-Fi and coffee machines). The price is a bit higher at an average of 12 to 15 Euros per night (excl. extra services).
One thing to keep in mind is that private albergues are usually the only ones where you can make a reservation and one thing to take into account is that you contribute to the local business while nurturing your body with some extra comfort and a good meal.
As they are often run by small families, you are helping them to survive in the (often) poor regions of Spain where the Camino is the only reason they are still able to stay in their home land.
If you look at the length of this description you can already guess what are favorite type of albergue is…
We usually check them out on websites like gronze.com to see if we can do laundry, if there is a restaurant nearby and if there’s somewhere near where we can get our early morning coffee-shot.
All in all, private albergues are the majority so you can check-out yourself which types of albergues you prefer by trying them all out!
Oh, before we forget: private albergues often have a couple of private rooms ;-).
If you prefer the privacy of your own room and bath room you will find plenty of accommodation along the way. A simple private room will cost you an average of 20 to 25 Euros per night (single room) and 25 to 45 Euros per night (double room). Upgrading to a hotel will cost you an average of 50 Euros per night and the accommodation will not necessarily be better than in a simple hostel.
Rural houses are very nice…. and usually a bit more expensive, although we have seen them offer double-rooms for 35 Euros. It all depends – you just need to ask. They often come with a nice garden where you can relax and eat and there are even very ‘deluxe’ ones that are ‘spa’ like. It’s your camino…enjoy it!
Sleeping in albergues is relatively cheap, but a good night’s sleep is worth a fortune
Keep your belongings safe and never unattended
Use earplugs to keep the annoying snoring in the background as much as possible
Prepare your pack for the following morning before going to sleep to avoid bothering other (sleeping) pilgrims
Don’t use plastic bags; they are very annoying to other (still sleeping) pilgrims