Hydration

Staying hydrated is important. Especially when hiking and walking long distances. In general, a person should consume about 2 liters of water a day. During a 15-20 kilometer hike, that requirement increases. And, if it's a hot day or the terrain is steep or difficult, the number goes up even more.

It's also worth noting that by the time you're actually thirsty, you're already dehydrated. So, getting in the habit of drinking water while walking is incredibly important. (Perhaps I stress this a bit heavy because I live in the desert and water truly is life when out in the wild here!)

The availability of fresh, clean drinking water along the Camino ways is one of the big reasons they are safe to travel throughout the year. You will find water sources easily on most of your walking days. (There are several days along the Via de La Plata where you have to carry a bit more water because there isn't any available.)

While water is heavy (one liter weighs one kilogram), it's essential to carry enough to keep yourself hydrated, healthy, and safe. And, there are two ways most pilgrims carry water: bottles and bladders.

Camelbak

My personal choice were bottles. I love Camelbak water bottles. I had two, 1 liter bottles. They fit perfectly in the outside, side pockets of my Osprey backpack, so I had easy access all the time to them. The ring on the top also allowed me to use a carabiner clip and attach an "in use" bottle to the front straps of my packpack, making for even easier access.

Why did I prefer bottles? They're easy to refill throughout the day and they're easy to keep clean inside and out.

The second choice is a bladder. Most of my fellow walkers chose bladders. Why? They hold more water than a bottle and they attach inside the backpack, allowing them to stay cooler and allowing for their weight to be more evenly distributed via the backpacks basic structure. Of course, they aren't easy to refill during your hiking day and they can be difficult to clean.

As with all Camino gear, the choice is yours. This is one of those items that you should definitely practice with before hitting your Camino. Perhaps that's why I like the bottles so much. During my weekly hiking adventures, I fill the bottles and tuck them into the pockets of my backpack. I use them all the time. If I had started with bladders, they might be my favorite now.

12 Ways to Prepare for the Camino de Santiago

I spent more than six months preparing for my 1000 km (625 mile) journey. Here are the top 11 ways you can prepare for your pilgrimage.

  1. Walk. I walk 3-5 miles every day. As my Camino neared, I increased that to 10-12 miles 5-6 days a week.
  2. Hike. In addition to walking on the track every day, I hiked on different terrains at least one day a week. The Caminos include walking through hills, river beds, rock, grass, dirt, pavement, country, and city. So, spend time walking on as many different surface types as possible.
  3. Read. I read a lot of material online and in books about the different Caminos, suggested times of year to visit, equipment lists, and so on. Take time to familiarize yourself with what you’ll be doing and where you’ll be doing it. On a side note, I didn’t take time to learn much about the actual cities and villages I’d be visiting because I wanted to be on an adventure.
  4. Shop. I’m not really a shopping fan, but I began to love going into sporting goods stores. I was always on the lookout for a lighter pair of trousers or the perfect, lightweight fleece pullover. Hiking products are coming in lighter and lighter forms and when you’ll only be carrying 20 pounds or less, the weight of each item really does matter.
  5. Try out your clothes. I wore lots of different clothes when I walked and hiked for comfort, wear, and how well they’d hold up to daily washing before I made my final selections. When I got to Spain and started walking, I also abandoned several items and purchased even lighter weighted clothing.
  6. Break in your boots. Take some time, pick great books, and then wear them to walk and hike so they’re broken in perfectly before you embark for Spain. I would recommend at least 4 weeks of daily walking to get a great fit.
  7. Find a hat. I tried on a lot of hats before I found one that was perfect for my pilgrimage. All hats are different and you’ll want to find one that fits, serves the purpose of keeping the sun off of your face and ears, and is comfortable. You’ll be wearing it at least eight hours a day or more!
  8. Choose your backpack. Next to picking perfect boots, your back pack is your most important piece of gear. Choose a pack that fits well, is comfortable on your back, and is also as small and lightweight as possible. There are so many to choose from you’ll want to take your time and evaluate your choices.
  9. Poles or no poles? This was an ongoing discussion among those I spent time with on the Via, many of the Europeans used trekking poles. Others didn’t like them at all. After a week, I found I preferred using just one pole and I’m now walking with a hiking stick. Sticks and poles help with walking rhythm and improve balance, but they also tie up your hands.
  10. Sleeping bag. Pick a sleeping bag that’s the lightest weight possible, but will also provide you comfort for the time of year you decide to walk. I think one of the reasons to walk in the late spring and summer is that temperatures allow you to carry less and you can choose a lighter sleeping bag.
  11. Water storage. Plan to consume at least a gallon of water a day. Water is heavy and you’ll need to decide how you’ll carry it. On the France Way, the towns are close together and you’ll be able to refill your water reservoir aat one of many fountains. On the Via de La Plata, some days you’ll walk 25km without an opportunity to refill your bottles. You’ll have to decide if you’ll use a bladder that you carry in your backpack, or bottles. Both have their own advantages and it really is a personal choice.
  12. Wear your gear. As your trip draws near, be sure to “suit up” to hike and walk at least a dozen or more miles a day. On the Via de La Plata, the daily average is 25 km, approximately 18 miles, each day. While you don’t have to do this every day, it’s good to practice and feel what walking that distance with pack, boots, poles, and full water bottles feels like.