Best Hydration Drink For Hiking

When you’re on a hike, having fresh drinking water should be a top priority. At most, the human body can only go a few days without water (in the desert, it may even be less). Unfortunately, we can’t simply drink straight from a pond, stream, or lake. If you do this, you’ll most likely get sick. For this reason, your only options are to A) Bring your own hydration drink or B) Learn how to purify water. In the following article, we’re going to show you the best hydration drink to have on you when you’re hiking in the wild.

Not All Drinks Hydrate the Same Way

As you can probably guess, not all drinks hydrate the same way. In fact, some drinks can actually make your physical state worse (more on that shortly). Water is an excellent way to stay hydrated, but it’s not considered the “best” in my opinion. So you shouldn’t rely solely on water when you’re camping or hiking in the wild. Before diving in and show you the best hydration drink, let’s take a look at the importance of proper hydration.

The Importance of Staying Hydrated

The human brain is 95% water, lungs are 90% water, and blood is 82% water. Needless to say, water is very important for the body. As it turns out, just a 2% drop in body water concentration can cause a small, yet, critical shrinkage of the brain. When people become dehydrated, they experience slower thinking, decreased concentration, and impaired neuromuscular coordination. There’s also reduced endurance, cramping, and decreased strength. Here’s a fun video that explains it better than I can:

Option #1: Electrolyte Drinks

Electrolyte drinks are basically just water with a high concentration electrolytes in it. Examples include orange juice, coconut water, and lemon juice (among other things). It’s also possible to take the DIY approach and make your own electrolyte drink from home. The best hydration drink should deliver water to the bloodstream as quickly as possible, which is exactly what electrolyte drinks do. Remember, when you sweat, you lose electrolytes. For this reason, you need to replace them. The most abundant bodily electrolytes include chloride, potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium. When you’re going on a hike, I highly recommend you bring an electrolyte drink with you.

Best Hydration Drink

Option #2: Flavored Water

Flavored water sits somewhere between sports drinks and plain water. They’re mostly water, but also contain a few electrolytes and nutrients. What I like about this option is that they’re tastier than regular water. And more importantly, they hydrate. However, the best hydration drink should also be affordable, and quite frankly, flavored water isn’t. For example, a 12-pack of Metromint Flavored Water costs $22 on Amazon. That’s quite a bit! It wouldn’t make sense to invest in something that isn’t much better than regular water. Granted, there are less expensive brands of flavored water. But those still cost more than regular water. For this reason, they’re not my favorite option for hiking.

Best Hydration Drink

Option #3: Sports Drinks

Sports drinks like Gatorade and PowerAde contain quite a bit of sugar and sodium. When you’ve lost a lot of fluids, sports drinks can help you recover them quickly. In this sense, they’re better than water. Keep in mind, though, that if you’re not dehydrated, then they’re actually a bad idea. Why? Because excess sodium in the bloodstream can make you more dehydrated. This is why sports drinks are designed as recovery drinks (e.g. when you’re tired and sweating). It isn’t the sugar that makes it the best hydration drink. In fact, the sugar is only there to make the drink taste good. It contributes nothing towards actually keeping you hydrated.

Best Hydration Drink

Option #4: Hydration Tablets

Okay, technically these aren’t “drinks”, but they can still be pretty effective at keeping you hydrated. Hydration tablets are added to water and contain electrolytes, vitamins, and nutrients. In a sense, they allow you to transform a regular bottle of drinking water into something that will replenish you faster. I like hydration tablets because they’re highly portable. Simply carry a few of them in your pocket for quick and easy access. They’re also not that expensive (I found a pack of four for $20 on Amazon). Finally, most hydration tablets are “zero calories”, so you won’t need to worry about weight gain.

Best Hydration Drink

How to Make Your Own Rehydration Solution  

If you can’t afford the best hydration drink, then why not make it yourself? Having the ability to make a hydration drink is a useful skill to have. Plus, it’s cheap and super-easy to do. To begin, gather ½ teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 1 quarter or clean drinking water. It’s very important that you measure each one accurately. If the ratio of ingredients is off, even by a little, the effectiveness of the drink will dramatically be reduced. In fact, the wrong ratio can make dehydration worse. Mix the ingredients until the salt and sugar is both dissolved. Here’s a video showing how it’s done:

3 Telltale Signs of Dehydration

It’s not always easy to tell if you’re dehydrated, especially if you’re living in the moment. As the symptoms of dehydration present themselves, you need to take action quickly. Otherwise, the situation can become exponentially worse. Once you recognize the signs coming on, consume the best hydration drink you have immediately. Here are the three telltale signs of dehydration:

  • Thirst: We’ll start with the most obvious symptom- thirst. They say that if you’re thirsty, then you’re already dehydrated. Thirst is your body’s way of telling you, “Hey, get some fluid in me NOW!” If you’re feeling thirsty, then you’re doing the whole hydration thing wrong. The key is to drink water before you get thirsty. That’s how you know you’re doing it right.
  • Muscle Cramps: The hotter you get, the more likely you are to get muscle cramps. Fortunately, the best hydration drink will help alleviate this. As your muscles work harder and harder without water, they begin to seize up. Cramping can happen in any muscle in the body, but it’s most common in the calves (where you bear most of your weight while walking).
  • Headaches: If you’re getting headaches, it’s because the lack of water is causing your brain bump against your skull. Usually, there’s a fluid sac that prevents this from happening. But if that fluid sac is gone (because you haven’t drunk anything), then the brain can push up against the skull, causing headaches. In some cases, these headaches can be extremely painful.

The key is to act immediately upon noticing these symptoms. Each second that you wait makes the situation more dangerous. If your body temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, then you could have a heat stroke and die. Even perfectly healthy and fit people are at risk. So if you notice any of these symptoms while in the wild, consume the best hydration drink you have right away. And if possible, stay out of the sun until you regain your strength and senses.

Two Drinks to Avoid  – Soda & Alcohol 

Under no circumstance should you rely on sodas or alcohol for hydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, so it forces liquid out of your body by causing you to pee more than normal. The sugar in soda can also make you extremely dehydrated. If you’re going on a hike, especially in an arid place like the desert, then never rely on these two drinks for hydration. They’ll only make your physical state worse, and prolonged consumption can put you are serious risk of a heat stroke.

Best Hydration Drink – Bottom Line

The best hydration drink should contain a high % of water, as well as electrolytes, minerals, and nutrients. The electrolytes are mainly designed for quick recovery after strenuous activity. They should not be consumed in excess if you’re not dehydrated. I don’t particularly recommend flavored water since it’s pretty expensive and not that much more helpful than regular water. If you’re going to invest in flavored water, it’s a much better idea to buy hydration tablets or sports drinks. Both of these will do a better job at keeping you hydrated.

Resources 

  1. 10 Ways to Stay Hydrated That Aren’t Water (Daily Burn)
  2. Which Fluid Hydrates Best: Water or a Sports Drink? (Active)
  3. Hydration and Dehydration (Runners World)
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