Water is vital to every human, but for those walking through the parched landscape of Northern Spain in mid-summer, it takes on even greater importance.
Staying hydrated while walking the Camino can either make or break your experience. Not enough water will leave you feeling tired, and groggy and can even lead to headaches – none of which are good when you have 20 km lying ahead of you.
Yet this isn’t the Sahara Desert. With countless small villages, towns, cities and water fountains dotted along the route, staying hydrated is relatively straightforward. Here are a few pointers about keeping your water levels up on the Camino de Santiago.
While humans can sometimes go several weeks without eating, three days is about the limit without water. But even going a single day without the required quantity of water can lead to a variety of issues, including fatigue, mood swings, overeating, skin problems and many more.
The recommended water consumption for a man is around 3.7 litres per day and roughly 2.7 litres for women, but that’s without taking into consideration the six hours of walking in high temperatures.
In this case, you need to think about replacing what you are sweating out regularly. The recommended intake while walking is around 150-200ml every 10-15 minutes, but in reality, you can simply stop every hour and drink plenty of water.
How much water should I carry?
There is always a fine line when it comes to carrying water. You don’t want to overdo it because large quantities of liquid certainly add up to the weight on your back, but you also don’t want to run out when in the middle of nowhere.
Two litres seems to be a good amount to carry, which is usually more than enough to get you from A to B, but not too much that it will leave you with a sore back.
Should I get a camel pack or water bottle?
Both options are good and it will often simply depend on your style of walking and what you are already used to. Camel packs are great because you can continue walking while conveniently sipping water from the mouthpiece attached to your bag, but many people still prefer the good old fashioned water bottle that often comes with a well-deserved water break (sit down).
Where can I fill up my bottle/pack?
Water bottles or packs can often be filled up in the hostels before you set out in the morning or in cafes/restaurants along the way. While many business owners along the way are more than accommodating to the needs of those walking the Camino, it’s important to not take it for granted. Asking a waiter or waitress to fill up five bottles of water while they are in the middle of the lunch rush might not necessarily go down very well.
Where can I buy water?
Water is readily available to purchase on almost every section of the Camino. Whether it’s small shops in villages or enterprising locals who have set up stalls by the side of the road, it’s difficult to pinpoint many stretches where you won’t be able to buy any water.
But that’s not to say you should assume. When you set out in the morning, it’s always worth having a quick look over the map for the day ahead to see how many villages or towns you will pass through and how frequently then plan your water load accordingly.
Is the tap water drinkable?
Yes, the water is drinkable all along the Camino, and with sections receiving runoff from the mountains above, it’s also delicious spring water. In many towns and villages, they will have public fountains usually in the main square where walkers can fill their packs or bottles.
Can I drink from the streams and other water sources?
We’d recommend not drinking from any streams or water sources that haven’t been specially labelled as drinking water. You are looking for the words ‘agua portable’ which means the water is safe for human consumption, while ‘non agua portable’ means you should probably give it a skip.
What about salt or electrolytes?
In hot temperatures and during extended periods of exercise, the body will slowly begin to run through its reserves of electrolytes, chemicals that conduct electricity when dissolved in water. They regulate nerve and muscle function, hydrate the body, balance blood acidity and help to repair damaged cells – in short, they’re rather important for us.
When this happens, it can impair your body’s functions, such as blood clotting, muscle contractions, acid balance, and fluid regulation. You might experience muscle twitching or cramp, excessive tiredness, numbness and confusion, to name just a few.
To make things slightly more confusing, electrolytes take the form of several different minerals, each requires something a little different when the body’s store is low, but electrolyte gels or simple a little table salt should normally be more than enough to reestablish good electrolyte levels.
This usually only happens when the body is seriously dehydrated through high temperatures or extreme and persistent exercise, and it’s unlikely that many Camino walkers will experience it to any great degree. But that being said, it’s not unheard of. Having an electrolyte gel or two in your bag won’t weigh much and if you feel any of the above-mentioned symptoms, you’ll be glad you brought them.
Consider what you are eating and drinking
Eating and drinking along the Camino is surely one of its highlights, but you may also want to keep a few things in mind, particularly on long hot walking days.
A few beers at lunchtime sounds great but can leave you feeling dehydrated and sluggish in the afternoon. It’s no secret that alcohol dehydrates and over some of the long stretches it might be worth holding out until you reach your destination.
Food can also play a big part in dehydration. A salt heavy meal can leave you panting for water after, which might be fine if you’re at home with your feet up, but if you’re in the middle of the barren Meseta under a baking August sun, things aren’t quite as straightforward.
That’s not to say that you need to be overly concerned with the food you eat, but it’s important to listen to your body and take care of it when it needs.