Use Proper Hydration to Stay Cool on the Trails

On a clear summer day, there are few things more satisfying than views from the top of a mountain. However, knowing the importance of hydration is critical for hiking in the summer sun. Not enough water can slow you down on the trail and pose potential safety issues. 

Before you and your family head up that mountain trail, learn a little more about the importance of hydration and how to do it properly.

More: 10 Summer Trails to Try This Season

Hydration 101

Hiking in hot and humid weather depletes your body of liquids. To replace lost fluids, and electrolytes you need to drink frequently, both on the trail and off. If you wait until you feel thirsty, your body is already slightly dehydrated; the more dehydrated you become, the less efficient your body is at cooling itself down.

Hikers can sweat anywhere from 1/2- to one quart of fluid each hour while trekking in the heat. This fluid loss can exceed 3 quarts per hour if you're hiking uphill in direct sunlight, or during the hottest part of the day. Combat dehydration with two simple tips:

  • Drink regularly; if you wait until you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated.
  • Fill your water bottle half-way and stick them in the freezer the night before hitting the trail. Then, just before leaving for your hike the next day, top it off with cold water. This provides you with cooler water for a much longer time. Don't put a full bottle of water in the freezer because it will crack the plastic.

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If you need to drink water from the trail, that has not yet been purified, please note that it must be treated for Giardia lamblia, a parasite that can cause an intestinal infection with a variety of symptoms. To avoid this, boil water for at least one minute, or use a filter capable of removing particles as small as one micron.

Stay Fueled

To help offset the effects of fatigue, bring a lunch and snack with you. Food will be your body's primary source for fuel and salts, or electrolytes, while hiking. Try eating a salty snack every time you take a drink, this is key to full body hydration. On the contrary, be sure to avoid sodas and alcohol, as they promote dehydration.

More: 4 Tips for Hiking With Your Dog

About the Author

Jeff Doran is author of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog and an online trail guide for Hiking in the Smokies.

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