Hydration - and a bit of science

Author: Ronee Eriksen  Date Posted:20 November 2019 

As with any sport, hydration is a key part of preparation and also replenishment during the activity and hiking/trekking is no different, and water alone unfortunately just won’t cut it.  This is why, when you do any sort of long distance running or endurance activity such as Tough Mudder, you will see hydration stations that hand out Gatorade, Powerade or something like Endura.  This is because your body uses all the electrolytes in your blood to fuel itself and expels body salts (sodium) and during the process through your sweat and you need to replenish these, and regularly.  When undergoing consecutive days of high stress activity like multi day hikes especially in hot humid conditions you will expel more body salts than you will consume in your diet, and so you will need to have salt tablets on hand. Please remember that a lack of Sodium in your blood is a serious issue and can lead to serious health issues.

Being active sports people who have done quite a bit of endurance events such as half marathons and several Tough Mudders, we have always been fully aware of the importance of maintaining a hydration/electrolyte balance, not only to complete the activity but to do it safely and maintaining good health. 

Our body composition is 66% water. Fluid and electrolyte balance is a major function of homeostasis, which is our body’s ability to maintain its internal environment as it adjusts to challenges and stress. To the extent our bodies are able to adjust to these challenges the state of good health is maintained. Proper hydration is important for cellular metabolism, blood flow and therefore physical and athletic performance.

Now this isn’t a lesson just on hydration, but, putting all our knowledge into practice in preparation not only for Kokoda but all the smaller treks we will be doing in the lead up to make sure we are adequately prepared.  We need to be prepared on several fronts.  First of all on Kokoda and even some local multi day hikes, all of our drinking water needs to be purified prior to drinking. This can take a few mins to kill some of the smaller bugs but the more dangerous ones can take up to a couple of hours before the water is safe enough to drink.  And the usual ratio for the tablets is 1:1 (1 tablet per 1 litre of water).  As we need to take all precautions as suffering dysentery is not an option… yucky. 

This means that we need to ensure that all our water is purifying while we are sleeping and then we have ready drinking water for the next day to carry us through, this is why they recommend carrying a minimum of 3litres. And then carrying water bottles to mix an electrolyte powder in. 

After looking into alternative methods of getting our electrolyte requirements such as gels, instead of using water bottles which would eat into our water supply. We decided a powder mixed into water was indeed going to be a better option, rather than trying to rip open gel satchels with dirty hands, and then you have to consume the whole lot, you can’t re-seal them (And I haven’t been able to locate any gels that come in bottle form with a screw top lid).  But bottles are such a pain in the butt, and then they are still going to require water for mixing. 

We made the decision to inspect our backpacks, and found that both packs (my day pack and hubby's larger hiking pack) will comfortably fit 2 hydration reservoirs and both tubes also fit through the hydro hole at the shoulder. Insert Camelbak Mil Spec No. 2!! And another call to Kenny at Bundy Outdoors to source them for us.

We have chosen to do this for 2 reasons. One, we know the trek will be hot and humid and we will need water, and lots of it.  And letting ourselves get to a point of dehydration is not only foolish but dangerous.  In taking this option, we will still have a full 3 litres of drinking water each should we need it, and secondly the smaller 1.5 litre reservoir can be filled to the 500ml mark or the 1 litre mark and purified in its own right then the electrolyte powder mixed and away we go.  There won’t be need to try to mix supplements on the trail, and both are conveniently located for easy access.

I have had people tell me that I might be being a bit too over prepared, but I would rather have too much than not enough. But I was also told to just do the trek in hiking boots brought from Big W for $30 by some people… and like I have said before there are just some things you don’t want to scrimp on.


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