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5 Tips to Prevent Dehydration While Hiking

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

Hiking is a pleasurable pastime and a good way to stay healthy and happy, as it presents ample opportunity to get sunshine, fresh air, and exercise. However, the exertion makes you susceptible to dehydration, which can make a hike less enjoyable and even dangerous.

Staying hydrated is especially important for senior hikers because, on an average, older adults have 10% less fluid in their bodies than younger adults. In addition, seniors also experience a diminished sense of thirst that leads to a reduced fluid intake, making them more susceptible to dehydration. But young or old, each and every hiker needs to stay hydrated before, during, and after a hike in order to be safe.

1. Drink Water before Hitting the Trail

Before embarking on the hike, you should drink one or two cups of water. Your body only begins to feels thirsty when the water level is already low, meaning you shouldn’t wait for the body’s “thirsty” signal before drinking. Instead, keep your water level from dropping in the first place by hydrating pre-hike. Developing habits for long-term hydration in your life will help you be at your fittest and healthiest before going on a hike.

2. Steer Clear of Caffeinated Drinks & Alcohol Prior to a Hike

Planning to hit the trail in the morning? Opt for water instead of soda the night before. A hiker should refrain from or at least limit drinking caffeinated drinks like coffee or cola before a hike, as this can increase your fluid loss.

caffeineted beverages can contribute to dehydration

Avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee before a hike

Consuming alcoholic drinks prior to hiking should be absolutely avoided, as they significantly contribute to dehydration. These drinks are also not great drinks to bring on a hike, as they won’t hydrate you properly and may dehydrate you.

3. Carry Food & Water (& Make Them Easily Accessible)

Any person going on a hiking trip should carry ample food and water. Water keeps you hydrated, while food is the body’s main source of fuel and salts (electrolytes) – you need both to prevent dehydration. Individually wrapped snacks, energy bars, dried food, and bottled water are typically sufficient for a person embarking on a day hike, unless the trip involves meal times. Remember to balance your food intake with fluid consumption to avoid becoming severely ill and dangerously debilitated.

Whether you use a bottle or a bladder, make sure you’re drinking regularly 

For longer, more strenuous hikes, you may also want to pack electrolyte tablets. Sweating causes you to lose electrolytes, which can make hiking more difficult. Adding electrolyte tablets or a sports drink to your pack is an easy way to stay at the top of your game.

Of course, packing water or food alone won’t keep you hydrated and healthy – you have to consume it. Maybe hydration comes naturally to you and you’ll remember to drink, but if you find yourself regularly forgetting, here’s a few ideas that might help:

  • Use a bladder – if you use canteens or bottled water and find yourself forgetting to stop and grab a drink, using a bladder lets you drink on the move with water always easily accessible.
  • Prefer bottles? Pick your pack with care – if you prefer bottles or canteens to a bladder, make sure the hiking pack you use lets you easily reach your water. Some packs have forward-facing pockets that make it easier to pull your bottle out than the traditional side pocket.
  • Keep a few snacks stashed where you can reach them – the hip pocket of your pack is a great place.

4. Drink Water before Feeling Thirsty

You shouldn’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water, because that means you’re already dehydrated and not performing at the top of your game. You should replenish fluids and electrolytes by drinking one half to one quart of water every hour you’re hiking. You may need to drink more depending upon the temperature and the intensity of the hike.

Hiking in warmer environments increases your water intake needs

For variety, consider alternating between plain water and a sports drink with electrolytes. This will retain fluids, maintain energy, balance electrolyte levels, and thus make hiking more enjoyable.

5. Stay Hydrated after Hiking

Don’t stop drinking when you stop hiking. You should continue to intake fluids even after completing the hike to replenish water and electrolyte loss. Since thirst always underestimates your body’s fluid needs, drink more than you think is necessary.

If Dehydration Strikes

Prevention is always the best treatment, but if you or someone in your party does become seriously dehydrated, make sure you have the first aid supplies and knowledge you need to treat them. Oral rehydration salts are a lightweight addition to your first aid kit that are proven to help your body absorb and retain fluids more effectively. If you’re headed on an extended adventure, adding these to your pack could make a huge difference.

Stay Hydrated & Get Hiking!

A hike, when done correctly and safely, has many medical benefits such as reducing the risk of diabetes, colon or breast cancer, osteoporosis, and heart attacks, as well as decreasing disability risk and increasing overall physical function. More than that though, hiking gives us a sense of adventure and a rush of adrenalin from being amidst nature and discovering new places, all of which is wonderful for mental well-being. To hike successfully and get optimal benefits, though, make sure you stay adequately hydrated to prevent dehydration.

How to Train for the 2016 TransRockies Race at Sea Level

Monday, August 15th, 2016

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By Adventure Medical Kits’ Adventurer Heather Gannoe

As I write this post, I am anxiously counting down the days until I fly from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to Buena Vista, Colorado. (12 days, to be exact). Thanks to an amazingly generous company, a ton of fantastic friends and family members, and a stroke of good luck that I totally attribute to all of the good running karma I try to put out into the world, my partner Geoff and I will be running the 2016 TransRockies Run. A 6 day stage race that had been on my racing “bucket list” for quite sometime, but had been financially and logistically out of our reach, was suddenly gifted to us, two sea-level dwelling newbie ultra runners who have never been to Colorado.

Needless to say, we are beyond excited for this amazing adventure.

I’ll be the first to admit that training at sea level for such a race, one that spans 118 miles over the Colorado Rocky Mountains, and includes over 20,000 feet of elevation gain between about 7,000 and 12,500 feet above sea level, has been…interesting. Sure, we can dutifully put in the mileage and strength training sessions. But there is no denying that there are certain health and safety factors that we will face in Colorado, many of which we simply don’t have to concern ourselves with here in sunny South Carolina. When we can’t physically train for these conditions, the next best thing we can do is mentally prepare ourselves for what we might face. Here are a few of our concerns:

Altitude. This is the big one, the subject everyone wants to talk about when they hear we are headed to the mountains. The truth is, there is no sure fire way to train for running at altitude here at sea level, without investing in a high tech altitude tent, or something similar, to create a hypoxic environment. So instead, we are bracing ourselves for the possible side effects of running at high altitude.

The least of our worries include light-headedness, fatigue, numbness or tingling of extremities, nausea, and of course, feeling short of breath and completely out of shape. More serious concerns, and things we hopefully will not encounter, include everything from confusion and disorientation, severe headaches, and even life threatening conditions and high altitude sickness including  pulmonary edema (HAPE) or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). In the cases of HAPE and HACE, fluid accumulates around the lungs and the brain respectively, and can be fatal if left untreated.

Fortunately for us, we will be under the watchful care of professionals who have successfully put on this race for a number of years. However, it is still important to be aware of the potential side effects, and have the ability to react to their onset quickly and accordingly.

Dehydration. The decreased atmospheric pressure at high altitude forces you to breathe faster and more frequently. Water vapor is a normal waste product of breathing, thus, it is easier to become dehydrated at higher altitudes. Further, the humidity is typically lower at higher altitudes, thus evaporation of moisture across the skin may happen more readily, and without as much notice as it does down here in the swampy South (you should smell our sweaty hydration packs!). Both of these factors will increase the potential for dehydration, and as any athlete can tell you, dehydration is never a good condition to find yourself in.

Sunburn. Ultraviolet exposure increases approximately 4% for every 1,000 feet above sea level. That means, even though we live AT the beach, our UV exposure will be upwards of 50% higher during the TransRockies Run. Sunscreen, and constant reapplication of it, will be vital to avoid painful and even dangerous sunburns.

Extreme weather changes. This summer in South Carolina has been brutal, as far as the heat is concerned. In fact, July 2016 has gone on record as the hottest July on record in Columbia SC (just inland of where we live). Needless to say, we feel pretty comfortable (well, as comfortable as one can get) training in temperatures upwards of 105 degrees. What we are NOT currently accustomed to is freezing temps. And in the mountains, the weather can change from one extreme to the next in the blink of an eye. It will be important for us to be prepared for anything, from dry, hot, heat to freezing cold rain, or potentially even snow.

Terrain. If you haven’t been to coastal South Carolina, let me describe it for you: Flat, sandy, and swamp like. We are very fortunate to have a wonderful mountain bike and running park that gives us 7 miles of fun trails to run on here in Myrtle Beach. And while the single track has just enough rocks and roots to keep you on your toes (and hopefully off of your face), it is certainly nothing like climbing the Rocky Mountains. In addition to steep climbs and equally as steep descents, we will likely face very rugged and technical terrain. From a safety point of view, this could mean anything from pulled muscles to cuts, scrapes, bruises, or worse, if we fall. HOPEFULLY, none of these ailments will occur, but it will certainly be in the back of our minds, causing us to add a little caution to our step as we tackle the trails.

Wildlife. Our biggest concern with wildlife encounters here in South Carolina is venomous snakes. And I suppose, the potential of a scuffle with an alligator, though they typically keep to themselves, as long as you stay out of the water. But venomous snakes such as copperheads, rattlesnakes, and cottonmouths are incredibly common in our area. Fortunately, they typically scurry off long before we actually see them.

In Colorado, it appears we have a few much larger, much more dangerous predators to watch out for, such as bears and mountain lions. I’m certainly hoping that the large crowd of the TransRockies Run, and all of the fast elites that run ahead of us, are enough to scare off these animals. In any case, it is important to know what to do to possibly avoid attracting these animals, and what to do in the event of an encounter.

Not having the perfect terrain or conditions to train in shouldn’t be a deal breaker when it comes to pursuing new experiences or adventures. But being mentally prepared for what you may have to face, and the potential dangers in those situations, is in my opinion a very important part of training. Always be prepared isn’t just a motto for the Boyscouts, it is something that all athletes and outdoor adventurers should abide by as well.

Heather Gannoe, is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist who splits her time between working as a personal trainer and running coach, and writing as a blogger and author in the fitness and running industry.   She’s also a mom to two young boys, and is constantly encouraging them to love the great outdoors a little more, and their video games a little less.  Trail running really long distances is her true love, but she’ll never turn down an adventure.  Keep up with her adventures on www.RelentlessForwardCommotion.com.