Man, people are getting out. Summer is here and there’s plenty of people with time off to burn. So a bunch of them are spending that time outside.
But this is Oklahoma. It’s mid-June, and we’re already getting plenty of days with 90-degree temps. Hydration is now a major issue.
Most people who play outside are going to be within reach of some sort of water source or other drinks. If you’re out in the park or on the lake, chances are you should have good access to drinks. Chances are you can easily stave off dehydration with minimal preparation.
But it’s different on the trail and in the backcountry. And it’s no less important.
In these instances, hydration options are limited to two sources: what you can carry and what you can filter. And in some cases, there is nothing to filter.
What you can carry
The amount of water you carry depends on where you’re going and how long you’re out. It also depends on how strenuous the activity will be. But in any case, you should count on bringing at least two liters of water with you on, say, an eight-hour outing. When it’s this hot, I’d bring even more.
Several backpack companies make day packs and backpacking rigs that include pouches and ports for hydration bladders. The best of these will have two+ liters capacity, a tube and a bite valve that allows you sip water as you go. In addition to filling one of these up, I like to bring along a 20-ounce bottle of water or sports drink. I’ve known people who will bring even more, if they can haul it. That makes your day pack heavier, but if you get bogged down, lost or injured, the extra fluids can save your life. At the very least, they’ll stave off some of the minor but irritating effects of dehydration.
What you can filter
In areas with natural water sources – like rivers, streams, ponds and lakes – water can be filtered. Take things like iodine tablets or, better yet, some sort of portable filter that removes dirt, bacteria and other organic matter and gives you fresh, clean water.
I like my MSR filter and pump; others swear by the squeeze bottle filters on the market. You’ll spend anywhere from $40 to $90 on a good filter. Trust me, it’s worth it.
It’s best if you can choose a water source that is flowing quickly over rocks, like a stream. Standing water can be filtered, but it’s much dirtier and more prone to bacteria.
Filters give you the bonus of being able to replenish water supplies if you run out of the fluids you brought. But don’t think just because you have a filter you’re off the hook. Try finding any water sources in the Wichitas during the heat of summer. They’re few and far between and mostly stagnant. Go to Big Bend down in southwest Texas, or the Guadalupe Mountains, and you’ll find nothing.
Staying properly hydrated is key to making sure you’re healthy in the backcountry. Planning is the most important part. Know the terrain where you’re going and plan ahead to know how much water you’ll need to take with you and what you can filter. If you get caught out in this heat too long without water, serious health problems can arise. People die from dehydration every year.
Hopefully a mistake in this area will be nothing more than a pesky headache. But if that happens, it’s a sign. Listen to your body, drink early and often and make sure you have a hydration strategy before going out this summer.