Staying hydrated during a hike is one of those things that can kind of bite you in the butt if you’re not paying attention to it. Nothing will be bring down the fittest of people like dehydration except for, maybe, the loss of a limb. It doesn’t matter when you’re hiking (summer or fall), the temperature (hot or cold), night or day, sea level or a mountain…you need to stay hydrate in order to stay safe. Hiking is supposed to be one of those fit hobbies…let’s make sure that more than our sense of adventure is quenched when we go hiking.
Let’s start out with some Basic Tips on Hiking Hydration
Do your research before you go out. One of the biggest mistakes made by hikers, experienced and novice, is not being adequately prepared with enough water to stay hydrated during a hike. (The other mistake is that they are dehydrated before they even star the hike and figure that the 3 liter Camelbak that they have on back is going to throw enough fluids and electrolytes into their body to get them through. Wrong answer.
Study maps and know your routes before hitting the trail. Know where good rest areas will be to rest, hydrate, and eat. Get in touch with local hiking experts and read websites that talk about the route.
Amount of Water
The amount of water you should drink during a hike is going to come down to three major factors: Need, Climate, and Level of Exertion.
Some people are just more apt to dehydrate and become a victim of hot weather injuries. In the Army, those who have had a hot or cold weather injury in the past are monitored more strictly from then on out because history shows that they are most likely to become susceptible again.
Hot climates and higher-altitude hikes require more water, so go for about 1 liter per hour. The reason why high alt hikes need more water is because the is generally drier and thinner both characteristics that lead to faster dehydration. Exertion is pretty self-explanatory: The harder you and your body work then the more water and energy it uses through respiration and perspiration.
Your level of exertion will vary. No two hikers are the same and no two hikers will sweat, use the same energy, breathe the same, etc. Trust your experience when it comes to whether you need 4 liters in an 8 period, 8 liters, or 3. Always start hikes properly hydrated so that your hydration needs stay relatively consistent.
Don’t wait until your thirsty before you start drinking water. Like we’ve stated many times already: Always do your best to start a hike well hydrated. Remember: If you’re thirsty then you’re most likely already dehydrated and you’ll be playing catch up in a game that you may not win. That’s dangerous.
Maintain a level of shade. It may seem like common sense but just in case: Shade keeps you cooler because it keeps the sun off of you. Rest in shaded areas. Wear brimmed hats. Anything that you may be able to do to keep the sun off you for the maximum amount of time possible while actually being out in the sun.