Close up of a water bottle with the wilderness in the background

Hiking Hydration: 11 Tips to Stay Hydrated on the Trail

The sweet spot of the hiking season is summertime. The sun is out, the birds are chirping, and the trails are begging for a little foot traffic. There isn’t much you need to remember, other than the basics…

First and foremost, water… Well, clothes first, then water. It doesn’t matter if your a seasoned veteran or a hiking newbie, water is the single most important resource to bring on a hot summer hike.

Did you know that 60% of your body weight is water? More important than even food, water is a critical component of our bodies, so it’s important that we stay hydrated throughout the day. It’s even more important that you stay hydrated while hiking all day in the summer sun.

Why is hydration on the trail important?

Water helps our bodies function optimally. Water can:

  • Flush out waste bacteria in the form of urine and sweat
  • Reduce joint pain by keeping your cartilage soft and hydrated
  • Regulate body temperature
  • Help you lose weight by reducing hunger pangs
  • Protect sensitive tissues and organs

As you can see, without water, your body won’t be able to work properly!

How Much Water Should You Drink?

Everyone knows that old saying to drink 8 glasses of water a day. It’s a saying for a reason. It’s easy to remember, easy to accomplish, and while it may not be backed by scientific research (source), the idea is simple. Drink water.

Some people might need 8 glasses of water a day. Some may need more, some may need less. It varies depending on several factors, such as weight, activity level, and gender.

The Mayo Clinic recommends that men drink about 15.5 cups of liquid per day or about 3.7 liters. For women, they recommend drinking 11.5 cups per day, or about 2.7 liters. However, make sure to monitor yourself and your surroundings. 15.5 cups may be enough water for you on a typical day, but if you’ve been hiking in the sun all day, you’re going to need to drink extra fluids to make up for all that water you’ve sweated out.

Similarly, pay attention to your environment. If it’s a hot, sunny day and you’re sweating, you need to replenish your water levels. If you’re sick and experiencing diarrhea or vomiting, you need to replenish your water levels.

Remember, if you’re losing water, you need to replace it!

Women looking at a wide expanse of desert

11 Tips To Stay Hydrated While Hiking

Now that you understand how important it is to stay hydrated, here are our top 11 tips to make sure you stay hydrated and feeling good while on the trail!

1. Drink!

It may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many people don’t follow this step. If you’re thirsty, make sure to drink!

Although there are many fancy new drinks out there claiming to “replenish your electrolytes”, unless you’ve been working out profusely, you often don’t need that. Drinks like Gatorade can help hydrate you, but it also comes with additional sugar and sodium that you don’t need.

When it comes to staying hydrated, water is king and Tom Segura is the Water Champ.

2. Mix It Up

Water may be king, but that doesn’t mean it’s exactly fun to drink. For many, it’s a bland, boring fluid that they’re not particularly motivated to drink. Luckily, that’s okay!

When staying hydrated, it’s okay to mix it up. There are several healthy, yet delicious, drink options out there for those of you who don’t like water.

When looking for alternatives to water, try to stay as healthy as possible. Gatorade is a great option to drink if you’ve been sweating a lot since it has extra sugar and sodium to aid in replenishing electrolytes, but if you aren’t that active, it could be detrimental to your health.

Stick to healthy alternatives, such as tea, coconut water, or natural fruit juices. There are even low-calorie water flavoring drops that are a great way to jazz up your usual cup of water! This, especially, is a great option on the trail, since it’s so lightweight.

3. Hungry? Drink some water

If you start feeling hunger pangs, try drinking more water!

Your hypothalamus is responsible for alerting you when you’re hungry or thirsty. Often, it will respond similarly to hunger and thirst, making it difficult to know if you’re actually hungry or if your body is trying to tell you that you’re just thirsty.

4. Check Your Urine

It’s difficult to know when you’re dehydrated. Luckily, our body has a natural, foolproof way of alerting us.

The next time you use the toilet, check the color of your stream. Ideally, it should be pale yellow. This means that you are staying properly hydrated and to keep up the good work!

However, if your urine is a dark yellow, it may mean that you are dehydrated. Drink more fluids and then check again the next time you get the urge to go.

5. Eat More Fruits

Do you keep forgetting to drink more water? Is it difficult to incorporate taking more fluids into your normal routine? Fruit can help.

Did you know that cucumbers are 96% water? So is watermelon. And although these are two of the fruits with the highest water content, most other fruits contain a similar amount of water.

Eating fruit with your daily meals or as a snack can up your water intake, keep you hydrated, and keep you healthy! Fruit also provides you with the natural energy you need to climb that mountain or hike that trail.

6. Set Alarms

Sometimes, we just get busy. Between enjoying the scenery, watching the birds, and swapping stories around the fire with your buddies, we don’t have a lot of time to think about anything else. This can make it hard to remember to stay hydrated.

If you’re trying to stay hydrated and just keep forgetting, setting alarms or reminders can help! Whether it’s an alarm on your phone or a note you leave yourself in the car, sometimes that’s all you need to remind yourself to reach for your water bottle.

7. Keep Track of Your Water Intake 

You’ve been drinking water, yet you still can’t seem to stay hydrated! Chances are you’re not drinking as much as you think you are.

Start keeping track of how much water you drink. Jotting down what you drink, how much, and at what times can help you identify what hydration habits are working for you and what habits could be improved.

8. Make It Fun!

If you’re still finding it difficult to stay hydrated, make it fun! Challenge yourself to drink a certain amount every hour and reward yourself whenever you meet your goal!

Sometimes something as simple as knowing you’ve got a brownie waiting for you at the end of the trail if you hit your goal is all it takes to give you that extra motivation to stay hydrated.

9. Get A Water Bottle

While it might be difficult to know how much water you’ve drunken out of a stream, water bottles make it much easier to keep track of how much water you’ve drunk.

There are even water bottles specifically designed to help you drink a certain amount, like this water bottle with time markers or this water bottle that lights up when it’s time for you to drink.

10. Listen To Your Muscles

Earlier, we talked about how the body is made up of about 60% water. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that your muscles are made up of about 79% water.

This makes your muscles a great indicator of the hydration levels in your body! You need water to be able to move your muscles. If you notice that your muscles get tired or cramp easily, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of shape. You might just be dehydrated!

11. Perform the Pinch Test

By now, you already know that water is essential for proper bodily function. This applies to your skin as well. Water is essential for your skin to retain its optimal elasticity. This means that when the skin is altered or moved, it reverts back to its normal shape.

However, if your skin is not properly hydrated then it may take a few moments to go back to normal. This means that the skin turgor is poor and that you may be dehydrated.

In order to test the turgor of your skin, just give your arm a pinch for a few seconds and then let go.

Did your skin go back to normal right away? Good for you! You’re hydrated.

If your skin took a couple moments to go back to normal, however, then you may be dehydrated. Go ahead and reach for that water bottle!

Conclusion 

Staying hydrated is the single most important thing you can do for your health. It leads to improved muscle function, optimal mental capacity, and reduces the risk of certain diseases such as cancer.

Make sure you follow these steps and pay attention to your hydration levels, especially when on the trail. Dehydration can be deadly when you’re all alone in the wilderness.

Although it may seem difficult to stay hydrated every day, we promise you it’s not! Just employ these 11 tips to stay hydrated and watch your quality of life improve.

And don’t forget to leave a comment and let us know which tip worked out best for you!

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