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Tips for Staying Hydrated While Hiking in the Winter

In the summer, it’s easier to remember to drink. After all, it’s hot out, the sun is beating down on you, and the trail is dusty. Mentally, we think about drinking more often. In the winter, our brains don’t have to combat the heat, so remembering to drink is important.

In the summer, it’s easier to remember to drink. After all, it’s hot out, the sun is beating down on you, and the trail is dusty. Mentally, we think about drinking more often. In the winter, our brains don’t have to combat the heat, so remembering to drink is important.

There is no exact science on how much water you need, because each activity varies along with temperatures. The key is to be sure you're consuming enough liquids to replace the ones you lose exercising.

Participants in an Outdoor Leadership Training snowshoeing course stop for water. Photo by Emma Cassidy.
Participants in an Outdoor Leadership Training snowshoeing workshop stop for water. Photo by Emma Cassidy.

INSULATING YOUR WATER SOURCES

When recreating in cold conditions, there is potential for your water to freeze, especially if you store your containers on the outside of your pack. If you don’t store your water against your body, you’ll need make sure it doesn’t freeze by insulating it. You can purchase insulated bottle carriers, or arrange it in your pack so that it touches the padded back where it will absorb some of your body heat. Another option is to take smaller bottles and carry them in inner jacket pockets for really cold days.

HYDRATION RESERVOIR TIPS

Using a water reservoir like a Platypus or Camelbak is a great way to have water handy, but be prepared for potential issues in extremely cold climates. Freezing is the biggest concern, but by using these tips, you can avoid problems:

  • Insulate the reservoir using a pouch designed to carry your specific reservoir.
  • Keep the reservoir closer to your body to absorb your body warmth. This will keep it from freezing when you’re on the move. Many modern backpacks have a sleeve that sits just behind the back padding to store your reservoir in.
  • Insulate the tubing or run the tube through your coat. Keeping the reservoir warm is only half the battle. If the water inside the tube freezes you won’t be able to draw any water out. Insulate the tube in a sleeve made specifically for cold weather hiking, or run the tube through your coat or under your arm. Keeping the tube close to your body will prevent freezing.
  • After you take a sip of water, blow back into the tube to keep water flowing.
  • Allow for expansion. When water freezes, it expands, so never fill your reservoir or water bottle all the way to the top. Allow a bit of room in the event that your reservoir does freeze so that it won’t burst or leak.
  • Bring a backup water bottle. In winter, it’s best to not rely on a reservoir alone. Bring another source of water to ensure you’re not stuck without hydration and insulate it to keep it from freezing.

Enjoying a warm drink during an Outdoor Leadership Training snowshoeing workshop. Photo by Emma Cassidy.
Enjoying a warm drink during an Outdoor Leadership Training snowshoeing workshop. Photo by Emma Cassidy.

Bring something warm

There is nothing nicer than having a hot beverage or soup on hand when you take your lunch break on a cold day. If you have room in your pack, bring a thermos that can keep liquids warm and bring hot water for tea or hot chocolate, or consider heating soup up before leaving home and bringing it along.

Even with a good thermos, freezing temperatures can chill your beverage, so wrap it in an extra layer (a glove, a beanie, your insulating layer) to keep it warm in your pack. You may even consider bringing a small stove along so you can prep a hot lunch on trail.