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Sunday, 8 July 2018

Three Pro-Tips for Staying Hydrated on the Trails

Water. Probably one of the poorest planned and most important aspects of the 10 essentials when we go out for a day hike.

Don't get me wrong, I know almost all of us grab a water bottle (or two?) before we head out, but do we really think about our hydration much more than this:

"I've got some water; I'll drink it when I'm thirsty. I hope it lasts."

A recent Twitter conversation with friend Limax7 prompted me to share three simple pro-tips to make sure you are well hydrated on your hikes, regardless of where they are or what season it is.

Tip #1 - Pre-Hydrate

Uh, what does that even mean? It's as simple as it sounds. Drink some water BEFORE the hike. 

Top advice from professional trainers, athletes, and first aid folks is consistent on this point. Plan on your morning before your hike to drink about 1 litre (1 quart, or 34 fluid ounces) of water in small amounts. We'll talk about the drawbacks to "chugging" water in tip #2. 

This is super important as you'll be losing fluids through the day and this way you are off to a solid start on staying well hydrated.

Tip #2 - Bring the Right Amount for Your Day

Exactly how much water you will need for any hike will of course be affected by certain variables - heat, duration of the hike, incline of the hike, your personal health, etc. 

Most medical professionals agree that people should drink 2 litres (~1/2 gallon, 2 quarts, or 67 fluid ounces) of water per day. So use that as a baseline, minimal amount to bring on a day hike.

I get it though - water is HEAVY! Consider "caching" water along your route to have it available on your way back and not have to carry it the full distance. Have a .5 or 1 litre water bottle tucked behind a tree or under some rocks (sealed tightly, and with no flavouring so as not to attract animals to it) then drop a waypoint on your GPSr or phone.

Split your daily water carry between members of your team, and consider using lighter containers for the water such as collapsible water bottles, or maybe even a hydration pack. The small amounts of weight & space it saves can end up making a big difference.

On a hot day, or a longer hike, add another 1-2 litres to your daily carry of water. You can cache a litre at the "half way back" point of your hike (of course, not if you are hiking a loop!). 

Ultimately, you need to be the best judge of how much water to carry but you will rarely regret carrying too much.

Lastly, don't "chug" your water. It's tempting and we've all done it. But you are far better off to "sip" your water at regular intervals, perhaps every 10 minutes as a guide. On a hot day day or at high elevations your water intake should equal approximately 1 litre per hour

So doing the math, if you are going on a 4 hour hike on a hot day, you should pre-hydrate, and then carry approximately 4 litres of water! I know - that's a lot of weight!

Tip #3 - Have a Back-Up Plan

Plan B, right? So what happens if you didn't bring enough water? We won't get into the details of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, dehydration, muscle cramps... you likely know all this. But be aware, running out of water is serious business. 

So what's your Plan B? Essentially what I'm getting at is how will you get water while you are out on the trail?

Try and figure out if there are natural or man-made water sources along your planned route. Hiking trail review sites or geocaching logs are good sources of intel - don't rely on the fact that your topo maps show a creek or pond!

In the event there is no water source on your hike, then make certain you bring MORE than enough with you. 

Myself and many of my hiking friends always carry a LifeStraw with us. It's a great "Plan B" because it filters the Cryptosporidium and Giardia from natural water sources. The beauty of these types of filters is they are reusable, inexpensive, effective, and light to carry.

If you are planning a longer hike, consider a pump or bottle-press type filter such as Katadyn products. These are a bit bulkier and heavier, but can process larger amounts of water that you can bottle/store for later use.

Get Home Safe!

So that's my quick three pro-tips you can use to make sure you avoid any issues with hydration on your geocaching or other hikes. 

One last note - don't get tricked by Winter or cool Spring/Fall weather! Your body needs the same base amount of water regardless of the temperature and climate, so don't fall into the trap of "it's cold out so I only need 500ml for a day of hiking." 

So that all said, go outside and "cache safely, and cache often!"

LANMonkey's Geocaching Adventures are written by Jay Kennedy, outdoor adventurer and photo-journalist. All content is affiliated with the Wander Network. Experience his adventures on Twitter and Instagram by following @LANMonkeyGC, and subscribing to LANMonkey on YouTube. He is also a regular co-host of the Caching in the Northwest geocaching podcast.