One of the biggest mistakes hikers and backpackers make is not drinking enough water on the trail. Someone said “water is life,” and it’s true, you will feel more energized when you stay hydrated.
It doesn’t matter how hot or cold the weather is or how intense or mild the activities you are undertaking are – proper hydration is a must for a successful, enjoyable, and healthy backpacking.
Hydration for hiking can be broken down into 4 major sections:
- How well you have done your research on your hiking spot
- How much water you should drink
- The techniques of drinking water
- Effects of dehydration
Let’s dig a little deeper into these:
Even before you put your hiking gear into the backpack, look for as much information as you can about your hiking spot in regards to your hydration strategy.
For instance, find out how far it is from the water source and what other backpackers have used before. These details can be obtained from the internet, guidebooks, and even local trip advisors.
Having this information beforehand will help you determine the amount of water you should carry for the trip and to some extent, the size of water bottles you should invest in. Of course, if your spot is far from a water source, then you will want to bring larger carriers.
Amount Of Water To Drink
Well, this will depend on several things; the climate of the region, how hard you work your body, and your individual needs.
If you are hiking in humid or hot areas or where the air is drier, one liter every 60 minutes is recommended. At lower altitudes where the atmospheric conditions are milder, half a liter per hour is advised.
Similarly, if you are engaging in extreme activities, you will want to keep your body hydrated. Remember, the more you work, the more water you lose from your body through sweat and evaporation. If you don’t replace the lost water, you will soon get dehydrated.
Also, it is important to keep in mind that not every hiker is the same. Some individuals drink more water than others. Some can survive with three liters on a hot day while others will need to double that to feel adequately hydrated. To know how much you should drink, listen to your body. If you feel like you have already drunk too much, stop for a bit and resume when your body starts asking for water again.
Water Drinking Techniques
The rule of thumb in hydration for backpacking is to not wait until you are too thirsty, as by then, it will be too late. Train your body to stay hydrated by drinking water regularly. For instance, take at least 500ml of water immediately after crawling out of the sleeping bag or before leaving your tent in the morning. This will keep you going for the next two to three hours before you take another bottle.
Another trick to proper hydration for hiking is keeping yourself protected from the sun. If you have a sun hat, use it, as this will give you shade and keep you cooler. If you have an umbrella and don’t mind carrying it, even better, as it will provide more coverage than a hat, which means more shade. The idea here is to stay as cool as you possibly can because by doing so, you won’t need as much water as when you are totally exposed to the sun.
Talking of drinking water, take advantage of the water sources available on the trail. Drink as much water as you can before leaving each source. That way, you won’t have to carry more water to the next source or refill point, which means your backpack will be lighter to carry in the woods.
However, if you are having your adventure at a shadeless place where there are little or no water sources, you may want to consider doing most of your activities when the temperatures are cooler. Have all members of your crew awake and ready for the day before sunrise. Do the bulk activities until around 11 am and rest until 2 pm or 3 pm.
You can use the extended break for prepping and eating the main meal, so you can do more hiking in the early evening without worrying about cooking. Following such a routine will have your hydration for hiking strategy working even better because you will be resting during the hottest hours of the day, hence less water will be lost from your body.
Important Tip: Avoid drinking water or refilling your bottles in stagnant or foamy sources, as these could contain bacteria and other harmful microorganisms. But if you desperately need something to quench your thirst and have no choice, filter the big debris out and if you have your camping stove with you, have that water boiled.
Effects Of Dehydration
When the amount of water taken into your body is less than what is lost through evaporation and sweating, you are likely to get dehydrated. If you have reached a point where you feel thirsty, you have lost too much water already and this needs to be counteracted by drinking plenty of water. If not, your body will continue giving you signs that dehydration has begun. The very first signs you will experience include:
- Feeling thirsty
- Having a dry mouth
- Feeling weak
In severe dehydration, you may experience:
- Stomach cramps
- Dark urine
The solution to all this is simple. Take enough water. You can throw in a few energy drinks or snacks to restore the lost electrolytes and carbs. Also, getting some rest in a shade and soaking your hiking pants, shirt, or hat will cool you off and help you feel re-energized.
However, do not overhydrate. You may think that taking more water than what your body can take will get you back in shape faster but this could lead to hyponatremia. In this condition, the sodium in your blood gets so diluted, resulting in weakening or even damaging of the cell functions. In extreme cases, overhydrating can cause coma and (though rare) death.
Hyponatremia can be mistaken for dehydration, as the symptoms are quite similar; headaches, nausea, and fatigue. When this happens, hikers and backpackers mistakenly drink more water than what is recommended to try to curb the issue, making the condition worse.
The secret to avoiding overhydration is to keep track of the amount of water you are drinking. Stick to a liter of water every one hour. If you feel like you are gaining some weight during the activities, it is a sign that your body has already taken in too much water so knock it off.
Globo Surf Overview
Hydration for hiking is essential as it keeps your body fluids in check. It is therefore important to drink plenty of water before you set out for the adventure, on the trail, and after you have retired to your shelter.
However, it is also important that you only drink the amount of water your body can comfortably hold to avoid overhydrating. Wear sun protection before heading out, drink enough at water sources, and make sure the water is filtered and boiled before consumption.
More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:
- Hiking Sandals
- Hiking GPS
- Hiking Watch
- Tactical Watch
- Hydration Pack
- Road Trip Essentials
- Wonderland Trail
- Routeburn Track New Zealand
- Adjusting To Altitude
- High VS Low Gaiters
- 7 Tips To Stay Hydrated While Hiking, northcountrytrail.org