Hunting seasons are kicking off across the country, but autumn seems like it's nowhere in sight. I started my archery elk season in Idaho over the Labor Day weekend, and it was a scorcher. Many areas had record-high temperatures, including the areas I hunt. For the 3-day weekend, our daytime highs were 95, 94, and 92. Not only can that create a dangerous situation while hiking in the mountains, but you also risk having the meat spoil if you can get a shot.
We decided to hunt early mornings and late afternoons/evenings and return to camp for mid-day. The animals just weren't moving in the heat, and we knew we needed to keep ourselves safe and hydrated.
Proper hydration is essential for performance and safety. Hiking or working in high temperatures, humidity, and under direct sun can increase your risk for heatstroke and dehydration. Below are 8 tips to help you stay hydrated outdoors this summer.
1) Hydrate before heading out
Before you head out for your daily activities and adventures, drink several glasses of water to pre-hydrate. If you feel thirsty, that means you're already on your way to being dehydrated. If you're already dehydrated before you start, you may not be able to drink enough to catch up.
2) Hydrate during your activities
When working in the heat, drink 1 cup of water every 15-20 minutes. Drinking less water more often is more effective than drinking large amounts infrequently. Be careful not to drink too much, though! Drinking more than 48oz per hour can cause the concentration of salt in your blood to get too low, which can cause hyponatremia, or over-hydration, and result in nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion, loss of energy, muscle weakness, and more.
If you're hiking or doing a lot of walking, a hydration pack is a great alternative to bottles. You can wear it on your back and take sips as needed, more frequently, rather than being tempted to gulp large amounts of liquids quickly.
3) Drink cool water, not ice water
Although ice water is more refreshing, it causes your stomach to constrict and reduces your fluid absorption rate. It's better to drink cool water so your body can absorb it better.
4) Choose decaffeinated beverages and avoid alcohol
Sodas, coffee, and energy drinks have a diuretic effect that contributes to dehydration. While coffee in the morning or a soda on the way should not be an issue, drinking a lot of caffeine throughout the day can.
Alcohol also acts as a diuretic. Drinking alcohol within 24-36 hours of working in the heat can increase your risk of heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses.
5) Eat the right foods
According to the National Institutes of Health, 20% of your daily water intake is from food. Eating foods such as cucumber slices, celery sticks, strawberries, or watermelon while working in the heat can provide a snack and hydration. Other snacks such as granola bars, trail mix, or jerky provide healthy fats, carbs, and protein needed for fuel; just beware of the salt content and drink enough water to balance it.
6) Replenish electrolytes
When you sweat, your body loses beneficial electrolytes. Companies such as Mtn Ops, Wilderness Athlete, Honey Stinger, and Bucked Up all offer electrolyte packets that can easily be added to hydration packs and water bottles to replenish essential minerals, improve hydration, and boost energy.
7) Dress appropriately
The right clothing can help you stay cool and avoid heat stress. Choose lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing. It may sound odd, but merino wool is one of the best options since it has incredibly lightweight fibers that draw moisture away from your skin. Additionally, stay protected from the sun with sunscreen and clothing with UPF protection.
8) Hydrate when you get done
Once the hunt is done, drink enough fluids to replace what was lost through sweat. Drink water or fluids with electrolytes, and continue avoiding drinks with caffeine and alcohol.
Ultimately, the best course of action is to listen to your body. If you feel sick, light-headed, dizzy, nauseous, or have any other symptoms, stop and take a break. Whatever you're doing is not as important as staying safe and healthy.
Sarah Honadel is an avid outdoorswoman from Kentucky, now living in Idaho, who enjoys hunting elk, deer, turkey, pronghorn and waterfowl. She is a team member at Huntress View, Pro Staff for Browning Trail Cameras and Brand Ambassador for the GoWild app and BaseMap app. Follow her on Instagram @waddysarah and @arrowridgecreations.