I learned the hard way last week the importance of staying hydrated while you are hiking. At the age of 53, I have been hiking for over 40 years and you would have thought that with that much experience out in the woods, I would have known enough to stay adequately hydrated.
Before my backpacking trip began last Wednesday, I went on a couple of short conditioning hikes on Monday and Tuesday just to keep my legs loose for what I knew was going to be three pretty strenuous days of hiking.
Thinking back now, I remember that the days weren’t that hot, and since I knew the hikes were not that long, I didn’t drink that much water. Feeling fine on Wednesday morning, I drank several Nalgene bottles of water and a bottle of Gatorade before I even left the house.
Since it was so hot and humid, I knew that I would be sweating heavily and would have to take appropriate measures from becoming dehydrated. Although I did drink several bottles of water over the course of the day, it wasn’t enough.
Ok. Why am I telling you this? As expected Day One was very warm and humid. I know that I did not drink enough water during the day to replenish the fluids that I had lost. I was exhausted when we reached the shelter for the evening and set about getting more water. That night it did rain quite heavily and we were lucky enough to trap enough water off of the roof to keep three hikers satiated for the day (and more).
As I found out later, however, in my case the damage had already been done. Despite having consumed 128 ounces of water prior to starting Day Two, I knew something was up as soon as I began hiking. I was dizzy and I had some difficulty at times maintaining my balance. Unfortunately, I attributed this to my being tired as well as the weight of my pack.
Approximately one mile into the hike, disaster struck. I hit a wet spot on a glacial rock, lost my balance and slid into a v-shaped rock, snapping my left ankle. Immediately I became dizzy and incoherent, Even the most simple tasks proved to be impossible. Knowing that I wasn’t walking out of the woods, my friends called 911 and we waited.
While we waited for the Park Rangers, I tried to drink water and couldn’t keep it down. I vomited several times and actually lost consciousness. When I finally got to the hospital they ran blood tests and it was determined that I was in Renal Failure.
Luckily, after 5 days of IV’s and copious amounts of water, my kidney functioning returned to normal and I was able to have surgery.
What is the moral of my story?? Even if you think you have consumed enough water on a hike or if you are on an extended trip, drink some more. As I look back now, my kidneys were already starting to fail even before I began my three day backpacking trip. Drink, drink and drink!
To supplement my tale of woe, I am including the links to three articles that directly deal with the subject of staying hydrated.
Happy Hiking and Happy Reading!!!