SOURCES AND TREATMENT OF WATER:
Food can supply up to 20% of your water intake. For example many fruits and vegetables are made up of 90% water by weight. The other 80% must come from drinking.
Filtered water is the best choice for safe drinking.
For extended hikes, when carrying your entire water supply is unreasonable, or clean water is not available, it is important to disinfect the water source. There are many potential health risks for ingesting water contaminated with protozoa, bacteria, and viruses.
Symptoms of ingesting water contaminated with protozoa and bacteria can include diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal cramps....with viruses, add hepatitis and meningitis. These contaminates are from human and animal feces found in streams and lakes.
You could boil the water, use an iodine pill (do not use iodine if you are pregnant, have thyroid problems, or are hypersensitive to iodine), chlorine pill, or you can filter it.
Boiling (rolling boil for 1 minute) is effective for killing all three types of contaminates.
At altitudes greater than 6,000 feet water should boil for at least 3 minutes.
If you do not boil your water then you will need to filter it or use a combination of filter and disinfectant.
Treatment for different types of contaminants:
a) Protozoa -
A combination of filter and disinfectant is best to eliminate protozoa, however, filtration alone can also work for this type of contaminate (use a filter that can remove particles down to 0.3 microns).
b) Bacteria -
A combination of filter and disinfectant is best to eliminate bacteria.
c) Viruses -
Disinfect with iodine or chlorine. Filtration does not work for viruses.
Most outdoor outfitters carry all of the above purification equipment and disinfectant.
When engaged in any outdoor activity, dehydration must be a consideration. Anyone can become dehydrated if fluid loss is greater than fluid intake. It's as simple as that! Of special consideration are young children (due to their lower body weight), older adults (because after 50 our thirst sensation diminishes and continues diminishing with age), and those with chronic illnesses. Dehydration is a whole separate topic for thought, but we will address the subject as it relates to the following topics: Prevention, Symptoms, and Solutions as they relate to activities such as, mountaineering, hiking, and backpacking.
The best way to prevent dehydration, for the most part, is to drink when you are thirsty. I say for the most part, because there are times when thirst alone will not do the trick. This is true if you are past the age of fifty. Older folks need to try and schedule fluid intake based on activity level, because their thirst is not always a reliable indicator. Urine color is actually the best way to monitor fluid intake. If it is light or clear, you are most likely OK. The other exception we will discuss next.
When it comes to activities that involve sustained strenuous activity (such as mountain climbing and backpacking), it may not be possible to drink enough. This is because the water losses are often times greater than the body's ability to absorb water. This is because the longer you exercise, the more difficult it is to stay hydrated. Over hours and days of exercise ones fluid debt becomes cumulative. This problem can become extreme for mountaineers who also have to fight the altitude factor as their bodies try and adjust to higher elevations through increased urination and more rapid breathing. In these situations, it is wise to pre and post hydrate. This means that not only should you be continuously drinking during the activity, but that you should drink as much as possible before the after the outing.
In order to avoid extreme dehydration when on extended mountain climbs and backpacks it is smart to take more breaks and gain altitude slowly. This will also help with altitude sickness
. Next, if you find yourself breathing at a particularly rapid rate you need to slow the pace, and if you are sweating more than usual, you need to stop and remove clothing. I know from experience that when I start off in the cool of the morning it won't be long before I heat up and need to stop and make clothing adjustments. I hate having to take the time to remove my backpack and make the adjustments, but it is well worth it. Remember, fluid loss always leads to energy loss, therefore, try and maximizing your fluid intake and minimizing your fluid loss. This way you can perform at maximum efficiency.
Another great way to avoid dehydration and stay hydrated (if you are in a very hot climate) is to hike at night. We employ this method if we have a nice well marked trail to hike on, and everyone has a fully charged headlamp. I can't tell you how many miserable hot dry miles we have avoided by traveling in the cool of the night!
With mild to moderate dehydration you may experience:
dry mouthlack of energythirstdecreased urine outputheadachedizziness
Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and you should seek medical attention as soon as possible if you are experiencing symptoms such as follows:
extreme dry mouth and mucous membranes
lack of sweatingrapid breathing and heartbeat
fever, irritability, and confusion
little or no urination
The best solution for dehydration is prevention, but if you find yourself in a state where you have become dehydrated, the next best thing is to start the process of taking on more fluids. Other solutions are similar to those things we talked about under the prevention heading. Seeking shade and removing excess clothing in hot weather, slowing the pace, taking more breaks, or setting up camp early, downing a flavored drink, and so on can all help, but if you find yourself having symptoms such as those listed under extreme dehydration you need to cut your trip short and get medical attention.