Let’s talk about hydration

Hermione Tailyour

Hydration systems (and snacks!)

It’s a very important fuel and you need to have a system. A system for the day and a system for the night. A system that you can operate yourself independently (eliminating the please can you grab my bottle on the side of my pack requests). There are many options of course but we are big advocates for the water bladder and here is why!

In the day, having bottles in your backpack is a faff… it means that unless you are an accomplished trekker, you must stop, get your bottle out, have a swig, put your bottle back in the pack, don you pack, readjust the straps, and carry on. The slightly more advanced trekker might be able to operate this manoeuvre while on the move.  Either they take their shoulder straps off, spin their rucksacks around, have a drink, and reverse, while not dropping pace or they reach around and grab the bottle in the side pouch, pause — drink and pop it back in! (The popping back in certainly isn’t always plain sailing)  With this system drinking on steep sections isn’t smooth so often gets overlooked. (Having a bottle clipped onto your pack with a sipping lid on your chest could help ….)

However, these systems generally mean that you are only drinking big gulps sporadically when you can be bothered. When you feel parched. This is not ideal. It is important you drink a little and often. Therefore, having a water bladder (e.g. Camelbak) with a nozzle near your mouth means you can constantly sip every 10 minutes – a small sip! Allowing yourself to drink steadily throughout the day reaching the desired 2 – 3 litres. When on expedition, I always aim for 3 litres of water as a minimum. This is then topped up with soups, teas, and coffee.

There is a bit of a caveat here for overdrinking, and it’s worth noting that drinking 4 or more litres a day will flush out the vital electrolytes that play a huge importance in balancing and regulating our system.

If you opt for the preferred water bladder system, there are a few more caveats. Its never a done deal! If going to altitude, you need to adapt the blowback technique, so the water doesn’t freeze in the tube. If in the desert you need to adapt the same system so you don’t have that 40-degree hit of water! If you opt for the water bladder then you must also have another water container.

This brings us onto the night time system.

When you are tucked up in your space on the sand, tent or in a bunk, you need to have access to your water. If you only have a water bladder, then you will need to take this from your rucksack, which is always a bit of a faff. The tube needs to be pulled through the small slit in your bag and the mouthpiece often gets caught, etc.! Expeditions are hard enough, you don’t need any extra faffing!

Instead, you bring an extra half-litre soft water bottle (my favourite and one that runners love). These flexible water bottles allow you to have water throughout the night. Job done! They also work amazingly well when brushing teeth  (turn upside down, squeeze the nozzle and hey presto you have a small flow of water! Just enough without being wasteful).

If you are in cold places and you sleep cold, then another trick of the trade is a Nalgene bottle*, and it’s worth its weight in gold. Before you head to bed, you fill it with boiling water (make sure the lid is done up tight, always check) then pop this in your sleeping bag. Not only do you then have a hot water bottle, but you have fresh water for the morning that isn’t frozen. *You must get a decent branded one and make sure it’s good for boiling water!

Now if I have convinced you to go all in with the water bladder system, let’s chat hygiene!!

How many times have I seen people throw their packs down and watch their mouthpiece fall onto the muddy trail or the floor of the hut/mess tent – just pay that tiny bit of extra attention and tuck your nozzle up so to stop it trailing on the ground. Then once you have your pack back on put a small drop of hand gel into your hands and wash the nozzle. You don’t need much, but it’s good practice to do this – don’t be excessive or it will taste disgusting. A practical habit done seamlessly and as a reminder, the most important is hydrating little and often and getting a system that works for you effortlessly.

If you haven’t got your system sorted, then it is going to slow you down, it’s going to fatigue you, and it’s going to slow the team down with you stopping and starting and asking for help, and it’s going to put your body under excess stress of not having constant fluid intake.

A little extra nugget of advice with your hydration

Hydration salts and vitamins – before I leave camp (especially if in hot weather) I have a sachet of hydration salts in 250 mls (or hydration tabs) – not the most yummy drink but it’s a means to an end! It’s easy to have and the impact is great for your body (don’t over dilute your salts in your water bladder). Then a little controversial for some, but I am personally a fan of Berocca, and I always chuck one of those into the first fill of my water bladder! It gives me a vitamin hit helping my body ward off the common cold and fatigue and generally I believe helps keeps things ticking along.

And now before I go we really should chat snacks.

A snack is not a substitute for food. It is a little top-up. A pleasure hit of sugar or salt. It’s a pick-me-up from the western world when the chips are down and you need that little energy boost after a particularly long stretch of uphill or a long day. I have been on many expeditions when half a suitcase or backpack is full of snacks. We are talking up to 8 kilos worth of snacks! Crisps, chocolate, nuts, endless arrays of high glucose multi-coloured (and very heavy) packs of sweets. So let’s dial this down as this is not great for your health. It’s not great for your teeth; it’s not great for the porters or yourself as it has to be carried.

So, what are the best snacks for expeditions and how many snacks should you take on expedition?

It’s of course personal preference, but please remember if you go with a company such as 360, you will be very well fed you will have 3 meals! It might not always be your favourite foods but its fuel and normally excellent quality when on a 360 trip! So think a small handful a day of whatever you like (aim for a tennis ball size of nibbles) and one bar a day MAX. My favourite is one Snickers a day and biltong! LOVE biltong and its my new go to or chocolate covered raisins. In general I crave salt snacks and small salty hits work best for me! But essentially what I am saying here is you don’t need 8 kilos of snacks.

Disclaimer – The above is in relation of 80% of our expeds –the 7 and 8,000m peaks might come with different recommendations.

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