While winter isn’t quite here yet, those cold winds are starting to blow and the snow is coming soon. For more casual hikers, winter means putting up those camping and hiking supplies for a couple of months, but for some, the snow just reinvigorates a favorite hiking trail with new sights. Unfortunately, as the seasoned winter hiker will already know, winter hiking involves putting in a little extra effort to stay hydrated.
Winter hikers and snowshoers often have a more difficult time staying hydrated as hiking through the snow is physically more challenging, and so, too, is the act of drinking. You can’t just easily grab a hydration hose in bulky gloves, and your water supply also needs to be kept insulated so it won’t freeze while walking around.
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How You Lose More Water in the Winter
However, the real issue with winter hydration is thirst. Thirst in cold weather is perceived differently in the body than it is in warm weather. If you are layering your winter wear carefully, you perspire less and it is less noticeable than if you were hiking on a balmy day. So you tend not to notice how much water you are actually losing since you aren’t pouring gallons out of your skin through perspiration.
Your breathing is also a major factor in water loss. The air is drier in the winter, and your body works harder to humidify the air your breath. This means that you are literally breathing out your reserves of water.
Tricks to Stay More Hydrated in the Winter
While if you insulate your hydration pack, it will work perfectly fine for winter hiking, having enough water with you in the winter typically isn’t an issue, but actually drinking it is. If you are not thirsty, you are less likely to whip off the gloves and have a few sips out of your hydration hose. You won’t get the same refreshed feeling either, so you are more likely to just skip the effort altogether. However, if you want to stay hydrated on a winter hike, there are two good tips that you can take advantage of.
The first trick to staying hydrated on a winter hike is to drink before you even get out in the cold. You might have to stop for a few more bathroom breaks, but you won’t get dried out half way into your trek. The easiest way to hydrate is to have ample fluids with your breakfast. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a big glass of water, but just liquid like tea, milk, or juice. After breakfast, sip some water or Gatorade while driving to the trailhead.
Again, bathroom breaks will be more frequent, but you will stay ahead of the hydration curve. Having to stop to take bathroom breaks is also a good reminder to have a few sips of water while you are stopped anyway.
While you shouldn’t add flavoring to hydration packs because it makes them more difficult to clean, if you save your hydration pack for the summer and instead only carry bottles in the winter, adding some flavoring to the water can make it more alluring to drink.
You should still avoid sugary add-ins so you don’t get that spiky sugar rush, but a boost of flavor can make water much more palatable in the winter. Since you don’t get the same refreshing boost from water in the winter as you do in the warmer months, by adding flavor, you are making downing a liter of water a little easier.
While it is important to stay hydrated when you are putting the work in, definitely don’t neglect a little post-hike hydration, especially if you are heading out again the next day. While a little hot cocoa is a good way to warm up, if you didn’t drink as much as you would have liked while hiking, consider hot tea instead. As it is mostly water, it can warm you up, soothe your sore body, and hydrate you all at the same time.
Fortunately, as you warm up in the car, you will find that your thirst increases. This makes some chilly water a real refreshing treat for the drive home and the cool hydration can help keep you awake unlike warmer alternatives.
By drinking and keeping hydrated before, during, and after a winter hike, you will find that you will wake up feeling fully energized the next day instead of groggy and bogged down. So if you want to get out there and have hundreds of great adventures this winter season, don’t forget to drink up!