How to hydrate safely:
Proper hydration is the single biggest key to health on the trail. Any health issue you might encounter is likely linked to proper water balance in the body. Hydration and altitude sickness are intimate partners, and most trekkers simply do not consume enough water. Here are key tips to keep you hydrated and healthy:
- Bring your own water purification system. Our favorite is a Katadyn Hiker water filter pump. We use a small collapsible bucket to collect tap water or stream water if out on the trail. This makes it easy to filter into water bottles. Some like to use one of the new UV light sterilizing systems, but what if it runs out of battery? Either way, a bottle of iodine tablets provides a backup if your main system breaks. Some trekkers rely on filtered water provided at trekking lodges, or they buy bottled water along the way. We strongly recommend against this. If you don’t see how water is treated, then don’t rely on others’ methods! Buying water is expensive and contributes to plastic trash problems. Avoid single use plastics as much as possible!
- Hydration is an all-day strategy. Start thinking about it the moment you wake up. Drink a lot of water before breakfast, and then enjoy your coffee or tea. As you prepare for the day’s hike, filter plenty of water to get you to the next destination and sip frequently. Don’t wait until you are thirsty. You should keep yourself “PCC”. This means your “Pee should be Clear and Copious.” While it’s inconvenient to have to step off the trail to urinate many times a day, this is far better than developing altitude sickness. Keep a toilet kit with extra zip-loc bags to store used tp for disposal at the next village. The higher you go, the more water you should drink. See “altitude concerns” for more information. Plan to consume at least 4 liters a day while you are acclimating.
- Mind your electrolytes. Drinking the proper amount of water can throw off your blood salt balance, so consider bringing supplements. Salt pills are light and easy. Our favorite trick is to bring a bunch of Emergen-C packets. These give you valuable vitamins in addition to electrolytes. Even a soda pop bought along the trail can give you some electrolytes (in addition to a quick sugar rush). Lots of water is best, but mix it up with tea, juice, etc…
- Think about night-time! Most trekking lodges have shared bathrooms down the hall, Depending on your bladder capacity, this can mean several forays a night out of your sleeping bag and into the cold. While this idea grosses some people out, others have told us it was one of the most brilliant pieces of advice ever: Consider bringing a urine bottle. If you don’t have to leave your room to urinate, you will stay warmer and you’ll get more sleep each night. Then, you simply empty your bottle into the bathroom in the morning. Some women like to use a funnel device called a “Lady-J,’ available for sale at REI. It’s up to you of course, but this is an age-old mountaineer’s trick.