by Diane Spicer
There are several philosophies on hiking hydration.
As an "old school" hiker (in my 6th -ish decade, in other words), I am fine with stopping for quick water breaks.
Too much water hitting my empty stomach quickly makes me feel nauseated, and has led to cramping.
Taking off my pack is like taking the leash out of the closet and showing it to the dog: time for play??
Uh, sorry to be a spoil sport, but not quite yet... there's a bit more trail work to be done.
If I'm solo, no way around it, the backpack has to come off so I can get to my water supply.
Unless I'm wearing a hydration backpack, of course.
Many hikers vehemently support the "hydration system" approach to hiking hydration, scoffing at the old fashioned notion of carrying a water bottle in an external pack pocket.
A water bladder or reservoir, carried inside the pack, allows constant access to water via a drinking tube.
A hiking hydration backpack provides ample room for the full bladder and the tubing, with a bite valve controlling the flow of water into a hiker's mouth.
These hiking hydration systems can get pretty fancy, along with an implied commitment to regular hygiene.
I freely admit that I've never tried one, so I can't comment, beyond wondering about the necessity of adding a slime inhibitor to my hiking gear list.
Regardless of the delivery system, you need lots of clean water while you hike, and before and after you hike, too.
I don't know about you, but I tend to go into open-mouthed breathing when I'm hiking uphill, so I lose even more water during that phase of each hike.
One more consideration for your water balance:
You've either learned to ignore your
thirst sensations, or you're going to be hit soon with overwhelming
thirst during your hike.
Here's an easy way to monitor your water level, other than your thirst: Keep an eye on how much, and what, you are urinating.
Drink more water immediately until your urine becomes abundant and straw colored (i.e. pale yellow).
Ouch! A dehydration headache.
Mine tend to throb around my temples and pull at my eyes.
I sometimes have to drink a quart or two of water before it goes away.
And if I don't have that much with me?
I always make time to sit quietly and drink at least a quart of water after a strenuous hike, headache or no headache.
If I don't need the water, no harm done - my kidneys will produce abundant clear urine and my cells will be properly hydrated.
Kidneys are very wise organs!
Does that go against what you've been taught in terms of personal hygiene?
You perspire to dump excess heat in your core. If you're burning up the trail, you don't want your internal organs to get overheated and cease to function.
And if you're hiking with a doggie friend, be aware that the only way they can dump excess heat is to pant - which makes them thirsty, which means you've got to carry water (or have them carry water) to replace what's lost in the drool.
Full disclosure: I don't wear antiperspirant or deodorant when I hike, because I want to capitalize on the ability of my sweat to carry away impurities and toxins and to clean out my pores.
An additional benefit of your muscular contractions during a hike: it gets the lymphatic system moving, another way to purify the blood and allow toxins to flow out of the skin pores where they can be flushed away when you shower or swim.
Sweat won't smell bad until bacteria have had a chance to start metabolizing it, so on a day hike, what you are smelling is that person's characteristic "signature" odor.
A garlic eater will have different odor than a curry eater.
As long as you shower or bathe after a hike, the odor won't be much of a problem.
On multiday hikes, washing up each evening not only feels good, but removes odors.
Don't ask me.
I always have a soaked shirt by the time I've reached my destination.
Because of this, I carry a clean, dry shirt to change into at turn-around time if the weather is cool (prevents hypothermia). I just dry off in the sun during the summer - a perfect excuse for an after-lunch siesta.
Can you tell that I'm a big fan of perspiration?
If you are hiking with someone you are romantically involved with, or want to be involved with, the pheromones in your sweat can be a huge turn-on.
A lot of human reproduction/romance is tied up in smell.
Really!! If you don't believe me, ask the perfume manufacturers. They make a fortune on your sense of smell.
Water, right? Duh!
But you can add "enhancements" if you're really serious about preventing muscle cramps and post-hike aches and pains.
As far as what to add to your water bottle or hydration system, there are many opinions about sports hydration.
And play it safe with your drinking water.
Hiking hydration means keeping the water you put into your body where it belongs: in your body!
Add powdered electrolytes to your hiking hydration routine in hot or strenuous conditions.
Also, carry some in your first aid kit in case you are losing precious body water via diarrhea or vomiting. It will buy you some time so you can hike out and get help.
Here's what I use:
No sugar, keto friendly, gluten freen, and delivers important ions like potassium, magnesium and calcium in each sip!
It comes in these handy sticks, too.
Perfect for throwing into a survival kit or first aid bag, or when traveling.
Convinced that hiking hydration truly is a big deal?
Make sure you're paying attention to your level of "juiciness" throughout your next hike!
And don't ignore a headache or cramping. It's your signal to glugggg down some clear, cold water ASAP.
Your kidneys will love you for it.
Hurrah for your kidneys!!
Send them some love, in the form of water molecules.
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About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She’s been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for nearly five decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
All rights reserved.
Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
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