To many times we hear of hikers on a simple day hike becoming dehydrated and having to make a 911 call. In fact, just recently an Alaska teen was hospitalized in critical condition and his family members were treated for dehydration after they ran out of water on a hike at Phoenix’s South Mountain Preserve.
Dehydration is defined as excessive loss of body water. There can be different circumstances as to why one becomes dehydrated. However, when hiking in the backcountry, it usually means not carrying enough water, or having ample water in your system when temps are high, humidity is high, are you are physically active.
How much water do you need when Backpacking? The hotter the temps, the more water. That seems to be a no brainner. However, Altitude is also something to consider. The higher you are climbing the more water you will need, even in cooler temps. The average human must consume a minimum of 3 quarts of water per day up to 12,000 feet, and up to 10 quarts above 12,000 feet
Remember: Physical strength has nothing to do with becoming dehydrated. It’s the amount of water your body is consuming. In the high heat. You sweat around 1/2 to 1 quart of fluid every hour you are hiking.
This fluid/electrolyte loss can exceed 2 quarts per hour if you hike uphill in direct sunlight and during the hottest time of the day. www.nps.gov
Remedies: First, don’t wait til you feel thirsty. Odds are, you are already dehydrated. I always takes sips from my 3 liter platy on a continuous basis on my hike. Some good gulps, (at least 10 ounces)every 20 minutes when the heat is on. Less in the Winter. I also consume a gallon of water at least an hour before a hike. Sometimes I have to force myself to drink it, but it has always allowed me to stay hydrated. No matter what the temps.
I also gauge my hydration levels by my urine. A useful rule of thumb for avoiding dehydration in hot or humid environments or during strenuous activity involves monitoring the frequency and character of urination. If one develops a full bladder at least every 3-5 hours and the urine is only lightly colored or colorless, chances are that dehydration is not occurring; if urine is deeply colored, or urination occurs only after many hours or not at all, water intake may not be adequate to maintain proper hydration.
What I carry: Before I even begin to pack, I determine what my water situation will be? Will I have access to water? Can I get water by filtering? Lakes, River, Creeks? Or will it be dry, desert like? In the East, you are probably going to find creeks and rivers. Water purification is essential. Gauge your miles. How many miles are you hiking? Hiking in the desert will require you to double your water.
I carry a 3 litre platy, a 32 oz Nalgene bottle (Usually I put Gatorade or even Tang). I also carry a Katadyn Micro filter. This enables me to filter while I drink. I try and use this as much as I can. Rule of thumb, never pass up a water supply and always use it to your advantage.
Symptoms may include headaches similar to what is experienced during a hangover, muscle cramps, a sudden episode of visual snow, decreased blood pressure (hypotension), and dizziness or fainting when standing up due to orthostatic hypotension. Untreated dehydration generally results in delirium, unconsciousness, swelling of the tongue and in extreme cases death.
Dehydration symptoms generally become noticeable after 2% of one’s normal water volume has been lost. Initially, one experiences thirst and discomfort, possibly along with loss of appetite and dry skin.
Always make sure you plan and prepare your backpacking trip and know how you are going to stay hydrated.