When in Spain this year I thought a lot about the weather. All pilgrims do, really. That’s because as pilgrims we are out in the weather for hours each day, and the weather is simply unavoidable.
It’s fairly easy to understand what your day will be like when the weather forecast is 80 degrees and sunny, or partly cloudy and 70 degrees (that’s about 25 and 20 degrees Celsius, respectively). But what does a forecast of rain mean? Or how about showers or thunderstorms?
Well, here we get into some gray area.
Imagine, you look out the window of your albergue or hotel first thing in the morning and you see a cloudy sky. You check your weather app, and the forecast is for rain. What do you do?
If it’s raining at that moment, you are going to put on your rain gear – poncho or jacket – before you head out the door. If it’s not raining yet, you will pack your rain gear at the top of your backpack, or maybe even hook it through the strap of your backpack, for easy access. Then, when the rain comes, you are ready.
But, will it come? Well, that depends on the forecast, specifically, on what kind of precipitation is forecast. Let me explain.
Now, this is from my own personal experience and observation. Your weather experiences may vary. But I will say that spring 2023 was wet on the Camino, and I was able to take note of some real-time correlations between the forecast on my weather app and what was happening before my eyes.
I’ll start with a pilgrim’s favorite kind of rain forecast: showers
Favorite rain? Wait, what?
If you get to choose your rain, showers are what you want. They are a little annoying because they are so noncommittal, and you might be on-again-off-again with the rain gear, but you won’t end up soaked. And here’s the best part about showers: they might be where you are, they might not be. And if you get caught in one, you can trust that it probably will be short lived.
On the other hand, if you see a forecast for rain, it’s going to be a wet day, for everyone, and probably throughout the entire region. The good news is that it may not be heavy rain but do have that rain gear ready.
Now the big one: thunderstorms
Have you ever had one of those days when you felt like it was raining at you? That’s a thunderstorm on the Camino. Thunderstorms move in with great intensity. They bring torrential downpours, and sometimes hail.
This is when you need that high quality rain gear, and any part of you that’s not covered will end up soaked through. You may want to get indoors if you can, because there is the added safety concern of lightning.
Thunderstorms aren’t all bad, though. They tend to move, which means they will come and go, and often you will be rewarded with a beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds at the end of the storm.
I mentioned rain gear. Yes, you do need rain gear. In the cooler months and when walking in the mountains, rain gear is essential safety gear. If you were to become lost or injured – and wet and cold – you could find yourself in a life-threatening situation.
In the warmer months, being wet might not be dangerous, but it could be annoying, especially if you arrive into town and discover you and everything in your backpack are soaked through.
One of the greatest debates pilgrims engage in when preparing to walk the Camino is this: rain poncho or rain jacket.
The answer is yes. Rain is possible year-round on the Camino, and if you will be spending a couple of weeks to a month or more walking outside, there’s a good chance you will get caught out in the rain. Even if you don’t mind you getting wet, you may not want your sleeping bag, extra clothes, and smartphone to get wet. That could ruin your day.
How do you know what rain gear you need, or more importantly, what rain gear is right for you? Check out this discussion on the topic.