September 07, 2021
If you enjoy spending time outdoors, you likely know the importance of keeping plenty of drinking water on hand, particularly in warm weather. But when you hit the trail for a long hike, having enough water isn’t just a matter of convenience…it is critical in preventing dehydration.
Dehydration happens when your body is releasing more fluid than it is taking in. This in turn, makes hikers more susceptible to heat related illnesses like heat stroke and heat exhaustion. To help you avoid an unpleasant—and potentially deadly—hike, we’ve gathered 6 tips to keep in mind when hitting the trail to avoid dehydration.
Many people grossly underestimate the amount of water they need to consume to avoid dehydration. A general rule of thumb is to drink 1 liter of water every two hours while hiking, but the amount goes up if you are hiking in high temperatures, during the sunniest part of the day, or up and down rugged terrain.
If you have a long hike planned in the morning, avoid alcoholic beverages the night before. Alcohol dehydrates your body, meaning you’ll be starting your hike in a hydration deficit and that’s never a good thing. And we hope it goes without saying that margaritas (or any other boozy beverage) do not count as fluids during your hike. Do your liver a favor and save the cocktails for after your hike is over.
Many hikers think they should wait to start drinking until they feel thirsty…not so! By the time you feel thirsty, your body is already slightly dehydrated, so plan to drink 1-2 cups of water before hitting the trail.
Taking frequent sips of water while hiking will keep you better hydrated than chugging large amounts all at once. Try to take a few drinks every 15 – 20 minutes.
Experienced hikers know the mid-day hours, when the sun is at its’ highest and hottest, are particularly draining. Start your hike early and plan to stop for a break or sight-seeing detour during mid-day (10am – 4pm) then finish up in the late afternoon.
We know to drink water regularly when the sun is shining and the temps are warm, but many hikers forget to drink when the weather is cool and/or cloudy. Dehydration can happen while on winter hikes, so keep sipping frequently and make sure you’re getting in your minimum water requirements. And don’t forget to up your intake if your cool-weather hike is particularly challenging.
Any time you’re out in the elements, you should be mindful of the symptoms of dehydration which include:
With a little prep and forethought before a long hike, you can ensure that you and your hiking buddies are well prepared and stay fully hydrated while on the trail.
Here’s to safe and smart hiking!
National Parks Service
American Hiking Society
North Country Trail Assoc
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