How To Stay Hydrated While Hiking And Backpacking: 10+ Tips That You Should Follow

Rilor Staff
Update: September 2, 2021
Table of Contents

How to stay hydrated while hiking and backpacking?

Hiking and backpacking are strenuous adventures. Hence, it is essential that you are fit and equipped with the necessary amenities to survive your trip. 

One of the best things you can do is to ensure that you remain hydrated at all times. It is a simple tip, but it can help cover the miles and conquer terrain and altitudes. Not drinking water is a mistake commonly committed by hikers and backpackers. You shouldn't be among them.

Here are some hydration strategies that you should follow:

How To Stay Hydrated While Hiking And Backpacking

Know Your Needs

The first thing you need to know about staying hydrated while hiking or camping is how much you actually need to drink. The amount will vary depending on what kind of hike you're doing. For example, if you're going for an easy day hike in the mountains, then you'll probably only require one bottle per person. However, if you're planning on spending several days trekking through rugged terrain, then you may have to consume more than just one bottle each time.

You also need to consider whether you want to carry any additional supplies such as food or fuel. If so, then you'll definitely need to take into account the weight of these items when calculating how many bottles you'll need to bring along.

You should also take into account these factors, too, so that you can determine the amount of water that you need to carry:

  • Climate - If the weather is humid or hot, then it is recommended that you drink a liter per hour. The same thing is true if you are hiking in high altitudes. While it is cool on the top, the air there is thin and dry. Hence, it is easier for you to get thirsty. If the climate is fine and you are not hiking on alpines, you can just drink at least half a liter in an hour. 
  • Level of physical activity - This factor depends on where you are hiking. If you are walking around town, then you don't really need to worry about keeping yourself hydrated. But if you are out in nature, then you must make sure that you stay well-hydrated. If you are hiking, you lose a lot of body fluids in the form of sweat. You need to compensate for them. 
  • Individual requirements - Not all people have similar needs when it comes to water intake. For some, they can survive with at least 8 liters of water for 8 hours on a hiking trip. Other hikers might need to double that amount so that they can complete the trip. You simply need to take your previous experiences into account. Understand the needs of your body as it will help you determine the quantity of water that you need to bring. 
  • Overdrinking - There's a condition called hyponatremia. It happens when a person drinks too much water but without replacing the lost electrolytes in the body due to physical exertion. In this aspect, hikers and backpackers are encouraged to include powdered sports drinks in their water. It helps them achieve safe levels of rehydration. Taking healthy snacks can also replenish the electrolytes in your body. 

Hydration Tips

Drink Water Before You Hike 

If you plan to participate in outdoor activities like hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, etc., then drinking enough water before embarking on your journey is essential. When you start off, you won't feel thirsty because you haven't been exercising yet. As soon as you begin moving, however, you will become dehydrated very quickly. Therefore, it is essential that you keep yourself properly hydrated by consuming plenty of water throughout the entire duration of your adventure.

Drink Often

Instead of chugging water in large quantities, it is better that you take frequent but small sips. In this way, you ensure that you remain adequately hydrated even though you aren't feeling thirsty. Also, try to avoid gulping down huge amounts of liquid since it could lead to stomach cramps. Instead, sip slowly while enjoying the scenery.

Avoid Alcoholic Drinks Before The Big Day

Alcohol has diuretic properties, which means that it causes dehydration. So, if you decide to consume alcohol during your hike, be careful not to overdo it. Drinking more than one alcoholic beverage every day may cause serious health problems such as liver damage. Moreover, excessive consumption of alcohol can result in vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms indicate that you are already suffering from severe dehydration.

Don't Wait Until You Become Thirsty

It is best that you drink water whenever you notice signs of thirst. Even if you aren't thirsty, it is essential that you fill your body with the liquid that it needs. In fact, you should make it a habit to drink water regularly--even if you are not hiking or backpacking. But during outdoor activities, it is necessary to make this habit as frequent as possible. For instance, you can drink one to two liters of water before your hike. 

Wear Sun Protection

If you don't want to get thirsty in a hot climate, you should wear sufficient sun protection. This is something that you should know already about. If your body is cool, it doesn't lose too much water. Hence, your body should be equipped with essential gear such as hats, sunglasses, and protective lotions. Also, you can modify your layers to promote more ventilation. Don't wear too many clothes, especially if the sun is blazing!

Take Advantage Of Large Water Sources

Researching your hiking or backpacking destination is essential when hiking. You see, it helps you identify if the area you are about to scale has water sources where you can fill up your bottle. If there are rivers and streams, utilize them to your advantage. In fact, you should drink at least a liter of water from these sources before you leave them. You don't have to worry about the cleanliness of the water if you have water filters and purifiers. 

Bring Water Filters Or Water Purifiers

Water filters and water purifiers are essential tools for hikers and backpackers. If you are expecting a long day hike or multi-day trip, you should be packing these things with you. Their role is to remove the pollutants and contaminants in the water you took from the water sources you found. In this way, you'll never have to worry about waterborne illnesses and poisoning (due to microplastics, heavy metals, and industrial wastes). A water filter deals with bacteria and small sediments. Meanwhile, purifiers are meant for dealing with viruses. 

Examine Your Water Sources

Keep in mind that even if you have water filters and purifiers with you, you can scoop water anywhere you want. That's plain reckless. In choosing water sources, always go with those that are flowing (such as rivers and streams) and those that have pristine quality. Oppositely, you should avoid stagnant and murky puddles. Moreover, you should not take water from water sources that have animal wastes in the vicinity. 

Drink A Lot When Hiking On High Altitudes

When you're hiking high altitudes, you need to consume enough fluids so that your body will remain hydrated. It is essential that you keep drinking water throughout your journey. You must do this because your body loses moisture faster than usual due to low air pressure. As a result, you may feel dizziness and headaches. These symptoms usually disappear once you start consuming liquids again. However, if they persist, then you might suffer dehydration.

Drink A Lot When Hiking And Backpacking In Cold Weathers

When you're hiking during cold weather, you also need to stay hydrated. Many think that the low temperatures will reduce their need to drink. But that's not actually the case. During winter, the air becomes dry, and the humidity gets low. These are the perfect ingredients for you to lose body fluid easily. To deal with this problem, you need to drink frequently. You may also want to drink hot water or beverages to ease the symptoms of frigidness. 

Replenish Lost Electrolytes

Every time you sweat, you are losing electrolytes from your body. And if you lose them, your stamina and overall performance in the hike would get affected. Of course, you can ignore the matter if you are just sweating for a couple of minutes. However, if you are doing vigorous physical activities like hiking, you need to deal with the problem. The best way you can replenish lost electrolytes is through sports drinks. Fortunately, tablets and powders are available so that you don't have to carry bottled sports drinks. You can pre-mix them with your water containers and bring some extra pouches if you have to refill. 

How To Deal With Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when there isn't a sufficient amount of liquid inside our bodies. This condition happens when we lack adequate amounts of water while exercising or traveling. Symptoms include headache, fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, confusion, irritability, thirst, and decreased urine output. There are two ways how dehydrated people could recover: by replacing the lost fluids via oral intake or intravenous infusion. For most cases, it is recommended that you replace the lost fluids orally.

Drinking water should be enough to treat dehydration. Here, you should drink in small amounts but as frequently as possible. Furthermore, your body would recover faster if you add sports drinks and energy powders to the mix. They can help replenish the lost electrolytes and carbohydrates. 

Don't hesitate to seek medical assistance if you think that the condition is already severe. Dehydration can be fatal and should never be ignored.

Be Wary About Overhydration

Overhydrating yourself is another common mistake hikers make. If you overdo your water intake, it can lead to some severe problems. 

Specifically, this condition is called hyponatremia. It is a rare condition, though. It primarily affects athletes and marathon runners. In this condition, the body experiences a dilution of sodium in the blood. Because of this, cells are affected, making them fully impaired. In the most extreme of situations, hyponatremia causes death. 

Interestingly enough, the symptoms of overhydration are similar to dehydration. Hence, if you are wondering why you are experiencing fatigue and headaches even if you drank water, there's a possibility that you overdid it. 

To prevent this from happening, you need to include electrolytes in the water you drink. At the same time, you should not consume more than ten fluid ounces every twenty minutes. As a general rule, you shouldn't chug more water than the sweat you are releasing. 

In Summary

Outdoor enthusiasts must know how to stay hydrated while hiking or backpacking. By following the tips listed here, you will avoid getting into trouble. Remember to always take note of any signs indicating that you might be suffering from dehydration. Also, remember to stay away from alcohol since it has diuretic properties, making you urinate more often. Finally, try to consume plenty of fruits and vegetables during hikes. These foods contain lots of potassium and other minerals that help maintain proper salt levels in your system.

That's it for now. If you have other inquiries, feel free to ask me in the comment section below.

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