5 tips to stay hydrated when hiking
Just a small amount of dehydration can have a huge impact on performance. Staying hydrated is particularly important on multi day hikes such as the tour du mont blanc and the haute route. Being slightly dehydrated each day can build up over the course of a hiking holiday, impairing your performance and spoiling your enjoyment.
To make sure you stay healthy and have the best trip possible, follow these simple tips to stay hydrated on the trail:
1) Hydrate before you go!
Speak to any mountaineer and they will tell you that the key to hydration is what you drink the day before. On big mountain routes, climbers can’t often carry enough water and rely on being well hydrated before they begin. The same applies to hiking. An easy way to drink more is to leave a bottle of water by the side of your bed. As soon as you wake up, drink it before breakfast. When you get in from a hike, drink another bottle of water before dinner and drink plenty throughout the evening.
2) Carry a water filter
Have you ever run out of water on a hot day and faced the uncomfortable choice between extreme thirst or drinking from a suspect water source? With so many excellent light weight water filtration systems on the market, this is now a thing of the past. My personal favourite is the sawyer filter. It’s cheap, light-weight and easy to use – just fill up the water pouch and squeeze the water through the filter into your water bottle. It removes bacteria down to 0.1 microns in size including salmonella, cholera and e-coli and protozoa including giardia and crypto. However, it doesn’t filter out viruses. If you are travelling in an area where the water is particularly suspect, then it’s worth using tablets after filtering. I like the Katadyn micropur water purification tablets. Unlike chlorine or iodine tablets, they don’t leave any taste in water.
3) Top up your electrolytes
On a normal day, we get enough electrolytes from the food that we eat. However, during extreme heat and/or exertion we lose valuable electrolytes through sweating. Drinking too much water can also flush out electrolytes in your body. Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and chloride are essential for body function and a shortage can lead to headaches, nausea, weakness and muscle cramps. An easy way to keep topped up when hiking is to carry an electrolyte drink with you. If you are someone who sweats excessively, you may also want to have an electrolyte drink in the morning before hiking to start the day well.
4) Avoid too much alcohol and caffeine
We all know this rule, but it’s easier to follow for some than others! If you are a complete coffee/tea addict, then try to reduce your consumption or drink decaf coffee/ herbal teas instead. And if you absolutely can’t go without your favourite tipple – a good rule to follow is one glass of water to one glass of alcohol.
5) Use a water bladder
If you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like to stop very often when you’re hiking, a water bladder is a great way to stay hydrated on the move. The down side of a water bladder is that you can’t assess how much you are drinking, which could leave you short of water on a long day. Water bladders are also prone to leaking/bursting if sat on. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to carry a bottle of water with you too.