Doing the Way of St. James is an incredible experience no matter the season of the year. But it is true that if you are thinking of doing St. James’ Way in autumn, there are certain factors that we must take into account to be as prepared as possible for this adventure in which you are thinking of embarking. From the weather conditions, to the change of clothes you should wear to face the drop in temperatures, to which Way is the most advisable to do during the fall, the Galiwonders team has put together the following tips that you should follow if you have decided to take the Way during the next season.
Although it is true that this summer 2022 has brought us very warm temperatures, this is not usual in Galicia, and autumns are usually accompanied by rainfall and a general drop in temperatures. Although in summer a disposable rain poncho can get us out of more than one trouble, we recommend investing in a much more resistant one for the autumn season. If it is true that temperatures do not drop dramatically, seeing you soaked by a temporary downpour will make you feel cold to the bone and uncomfortable when walking.
From specialized stores to the most basic ones from Decathlon, you can find them in all their variations but we always recommend the specialized trekking ponchos, which are already designed with their wide design to also cover the backpack you carry on your shoulders. Why? Your belongings will have been protected during the entire stage and you will be grateful to arrive at your accommodation and not have to dry your clothes, which will also smell damp.
Clothing and accessories
Whatever the season, from Galiwonders we always recommend you to dress according to the “layering” method, because this way, whether it is sunny or rainy, you can build your wardrobe according to the conditions and how you feel yourself. Fortunately, trekking fashion has come a long way in recent years and our pilgrims now have very technical fabrics that are lightweight but very thermal so that they don’t take up space in your backpack (or on your head) but still protect you from the different conditions.
Therefore, we always recommend items that can overlap. For example, if we were to do the 6 stages of the last 100 kilometers of the French Way we would carry:
Remember not to premiere anything for the Way, especially your boots or trekking shoes and your pants. These are basic garments that you are going to use a lot, so we recommend that you get used to them at least a month in advance so that they do not cause chafing and major problems.
As for additional accessories, you can weigh the idea of buying a thermal vest. They are comfortable and recommended for walking without being too much of a hindrance and keep you warm. In addition, they are the perfect companion thanks to their multiple pockets where you can store all your essentials: cell phone, wallet… It also doesn’t hurt to carry a synthetic fiber hat, preferably waterproof, since you don’t want to get your face soaked while walking, right? Other things like waterproof anklets to prevent socks from getting wet, or backpack covers are things that will make your Way a very comfortable experience, so we recommend you to take a look at your nearest trekking store.
Which Way is the most comfortable for Autumn?
Our answer is always the same: it depends on the pilgrim and his or her experience on the Way. But it is true that we must weigh certain factors that make some routes a more comfortable experience. If in the past it was the churches and convents that served as shelter for the most exhausted pilgrims, today it is not so common and now it is bars and restaurants that will give us a moment of shelter from external factors. However, keep in mind that the multitude of itinerant businesses such as beach bars, stalls, markets, etc. is reduced in this season and we must prepare ourselves more carefully for the Way. Try to plan your stages in terms of what you should carry in your backpack: enough water, snacks, a more complete first aid kit…
In terms of infrastructure, the winner is undoubtedly the French Way: in its entirety it runs through some 141 towns with services and, therefore, on average there is a town with some service (at least one bar or grocery store) every 5.6 km. These are important data, since if we suffer from any unforeseen weather, these infrastructures will act as a shelter.
The Portuguese Way, both its coastal variant and the traditional inland one, also has a solid infrastructure and very good signage that will allow us to find a place to stop to get strength.
However, avoid more unknown routes where tourism has not significantly transformed the rhythm of local life. Therefore, we do not recommend the Winter, Primitive or Northern Ways, nor the Vía de la Plata. If they are on your wish list, leave these routes for the spring-summer season, as you will be able to enjoy them more once the high season starts again.
My expectations and my pace
We must get used to the idea that all these external factors often weigh against us and we should not be discouraged. The Way in autumn has a different rhythm and you must be patient with it and with yourself. We must keep in mind that things as basic as the time and therefore the hours of daylight will change, and that will force us to adapt even more to external conditions. In summer we usually go out early to avoid the heat of the central hours of the day, but in autumn we will try the opposite. For our safety, we will avoid the darkest hours and should use the central hours of the day as much as possible. This also means changing your schedule and having the ability to conform to what changes around you.
The Way in autumn also becomes less sociable. Summer is a great season because pilgrims take advantage of their vacations to get on the Way and that is why we meet more people on the routes. However, autumn tends to be more solitary and although many are driven away by this idea, it offers us a series of advantages that we can take advantage of to make this journey a more personal, self-reflective experience of great transformative power. And there is great resilience in someone who does the Way alone and resolves all setbacks with his or her own strength.
If you have doubts in this regard, we recommend you to read another article we wrote recently about what it really means to be prepared to do the Way of St. James and the things you should keep in mind when facing a pilgrimage that will change your life.