For those with a thirst for adventure, alpine treks offer the right kind of physical challenge, exhilaration and excitement. But planning an adventure at high altitude requires thoughtful preparation.
In addition to food and gear, your game plan must take water consumption into account. Being properly hydrated is essential for this kind of travel. Consuming the right amount of water will keep you healthy and energized, helping you to stay alert and safe while you’re on the trail.
Without sufficient water, you risk dehydration. But toting too much water comes with its own set of problems. Water is essential for keeping your body’s systems healthy and in balance. Without it, you’ll become tired, dizzy — or worse.
Symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, fatigue and nausea, but minor dehydration is often asymptomatic.
Water might seem like a minor issue, but not having the right amount could actually derail your entire adventure. So, how do you ensure proper hydration throughout your entire high-altitude journey? When it comes to water consumption, there are a few key concepts to understand.
Being properly hydrated is about more than just consuming water. When your body is hydrated, it’s able to conduct metabolic processes with ease. Without the right amount of water, your body cannot break down nutrients or oxygenate the blood. Symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, fatigue and nausea, but minor dehydration is often asymptomatic.
At higher altitudes (generally above 8,000 feet), dehydration occurs more quickly. This is because your respiration processes speed up, which causes you to lose water much faster. High altitude environments also tend to be less humid, so water evaporates from your skin at a quicker rate.
In general, experts recommend that you consume about a gallon of water each day while trekking. It’s also suggested that you add about 10 ounces of carbohydrates to your water to compensate for electrolyte loss.
While staying hydrated keeps your internal processes running smoothly, it will not prevent altitude sickness. This condition is caused by the body’s inability to properly oxygenate the blood due to changes in barometric pressure and a lack of oxygen. Dealing with altitude sickness requires rest, the right supplements and sometimes medication.
The early signs of altitude sickness can mirror the later symptoms of dehydration, so it’s possible to confuse the two conditions. Staying properly hydrated reduces the chance of confusion, and will help you identify the onset of altitude sickness, should it occur.
So, how do you maintain hydration throughout your trip?
Experts recommend that you sip water every 15 to 20 minutes throughout your journey. This allows your body to maintain consistent hydration levels. And setting a hydration schedule reduces the chances that you’ll be distracted or forget.
But even if you remember to drink water, how do you ensure that you will have enough? Carrying a gallon of water is heavy. When planning your trip, be sure to research water access on the trail. If there are water stations, find out if the water is potable, or if it requires treatment. If the water is non-potable, bring along a filtration system; these systems are not complicated and are easy to carry.
Understanding the signs and symptoms of dehydration and creating a hydration plan will help you and your travel partners stay healthy and safe while you enjoy the great outdoors.