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Hydrationby Fritzski by Fritzski

    Arizona.  "But its a dry heat".  Behind the joke lies a fair amount of truth as anyone who has experienced any summer weather in the southeastern U.S. can readily attest.  Because our air is so dry, perspiration evaporates from our skin very rapidly.  This makes for efficient cooling, but can give one the false impression of not sweating much and therefore not dehydrating.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In our extreme desert environment the margins leading to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and ultimately death are greatly reduced.  Proper hydration not only requires prior planning, but constant attention on the trail.

What kind of hydration equipment should I use?

     There are basically three types of equipment to choose for carrying water on the trail.

     The first and most basic is the waist pack.  Its advantages are that they are lightweight and inexpensive.  On the downside they are very limited in capacity and tend to get bouncy and cumbersome when loaded up.  They normally come with two 20oz bottles, but can be replaced with 30oz bottles and with enough room in the cargo compartment you can stash another 20oz bottle for a respectable total of 80oz.  I found that this much weight hanging on a belt becomes a bit ponderous.  These are a good choice for shorter, easier trips.

     Your next step up would be to a standard daypack with bottles stashed inside.  Advantages include increased comfort and weight carrying capacity as well as the ability to monitor water consumption accurately.  The negatives are mainly having to take it off and dig out a bottle every time you need a drink.  Also depending on the type of containers you are using they can tend to get a bit heavy.  These can be a good choice for those who don't want to go out and buy specialized equipment.

     The best set up for a serious hiker in my opinion is a specialty hydration pack.  They come in a multitude of cargo volumes and liquid capacities of up to 110oz for the more serious hiker.  Also nice is the ability to drink effortlessly at any time without even breaking your stride.  If there is a downside, it is that consumption rate is not easily monitored and therefore requires a little extra diligence.  Designs vary greatly, so do your homework before purchasing.

Tip:  If you don't want to go out and buy a specialized hydration pack, but like the idea, outdoor stores carry inexpensive universal bladder kits for use in any standard daypack.

Another Tip:  Want water for the pooch?  Take one of those "Platypus" collapsible bottles (very cheap) and cut off about the bottom three inches and you have a collapsible dish that takes up virtually no space and weighs nothing.

How much water should I take?  

     To figure an accurate formula, one would have to factor in time, difficulty, and distance.  Unfortunately we don't always know these factors, so to keep it simple lets rely mostly on distance which can usually be determined.  A good rule of thumb would be about 8oz per mile.  For a 12mi hike you would want that 100oz  bladder completely full.  Adjust this rule accordingly with your best judgment on the level of difficulty, which will, of course translate into more time.  Remember it never hurts to take more than you need.  Ideally I like to arrive back at the trailhead with a small reserve.

Tip:  This may be a tough one so please feel free to ignore it as necessary.  Try to avoid drinking too much coffee prior to your hike.  Coffee is a diuretic and as such  works against you in your effort to retain water.

Should I add anything to the water?

     Although it's not necessary, you may want to try it out for those more strenuous hikes.  Basically you want to increase levels of complex sugars and/or salt.  

     Avoid products such as Gatorade, which consist mostly of simple sugars and will not deliver sustained endurance.  I prefer a product such as TwinLabs Carbo Fuel and others like it that can be found at any health food store.  They are packed with complex carbohydrates for consistent low intensity energy level maintenance.  Experiment with your own mix ratios.

     If you tend to sweat a lot or have problems with cramping, you may want to try supplementing your water with a little salt.  As you are well aware, along with the water loss associated with perspiration, salt is also lost.  Salts, or electrolytes, at proper levels are critical for proper muscle function.  I recommend adding about a level teaspoon of salt per 25oz of water.  You will barely be able to taste the difference.

Tip:  The next time you're at a fast food place, grab a couple handfuls of those small salt packets.  Its very convenient to just add one packet per 20oz of water.  Also salty snacks such as Wheat Thins are a good source.

     Finally, you may want to consider adding ice to, or freezing a portion of your water during the hot months.  There are specialty products to make custom fit ice cubes for your hydration pack, but it is just as easy to add ice cubes from your icemaker or just freeze the whole bag or bottle.  Figure out what works best for you.

Tip:  Joe suggests freezing approximately 2/3 of your water, thus using the slow melting process to help avoid drinking it too rapidly.

Another Tip:  If you carry those little chocolate covered energy bars (Power, Balance, Etc.) it's hard to keep them from melting.  Most hydration packs have just a little extra room in the bladder compartment.  Try sticking the bars in beside the ice water filled bladder on the side away from your body.

Even another Tip:  If at any time during the hike you have a chance to soak your shirt or even a bandana in water, the evaporative process will greatly cool your skin underneath.

     Well, there it is.  If you have any tips you'd like to share please feel free to email either Joe or myself.  I would like to thank Master Joe for all his hard work in providing this most enjoyable and useful resource for us all.  HikeArizona rules !!

Good luck on your future hikes and hope to see you on the trail one day.  05/16/01

2001-05-16 Fritzski


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