STAYING HYDRATED DURING A HUNTING TRIP
Dehydration: it’s sometimes a problem we don’t realize we have until it’s too late, and it is also a problem that can have lasting consequences after your hunt. Many hunters are aware they don’t sometimes prepare well enough for a hunting trip. But often, the thrill of the hunt or the lack of specific tools of the trade complicates the process of staying properly hydrated.
There are some obvious things we can do to improve hydration during a hunt and there are some tools and tricks that will help as well. It’s an often-overlooked aspect of any trip, with hunters being a specifically egregious group of offenders for those who are habitually dehydrated.
Sure, you don't need anyone tell you how to drink water, but we have some tips that may make your entire hunting experience that much more enjoyable, especially where weather conditions and physical exertion are on the list of things you might encounter on the trip.
It’s especially important that you note the significance of letting someone know where you are going, what you plan to hunt for and how long you’re expecting to be out. Sure, a hunter doesn’t need a keeper, but knowing that if something doesn’t go as planned, that you have a hope of getting someone to call in the Cavalry can be comforting and can, in some extreme cases, even save your life.
Preparation to maintain hydration
Some trips aren’t long, you go a few miles outside of town to hunt, and you fill your tags and you’re back by lunch or maybe dinner. These types of trips are pretty straightforward from a dehydration perspective. You drink water, you grab some snacks and juice/water/whatever at the convenience store on the way out of town and you’re good to go until you take your game to the freezer, butcher or taxidermist later that day. Any of your concerns about dehydration are removed at your celebratory dinner later that night in your favorite steakhouse.
Other trips however will require a lot of extra exertion, hiking in or out, hauling a big game carcass or butchering on the spot and carrying a significant amount of meat out of an area. We haven’t even factored in the conditions, where cold and hot climates can both be equally dangerous without proper hydration. In colder weather, the risk of hypothermia or extreme discomfort, frostbite and other concerns are increased dramatically without proper hydration. In hot climates, it goes without saying, no amount of hydration can keep up with severe conditions if they get too far down the road, your only respite is good beforehand prevention.
Specifically, the preparation aspect of the process applies to knowing where you will be, how long the process will take and what type of work or physical exertion is expected. One of the best things you can do to maintain hydration is drink water beforehand and avoid dehydrating activities. As you are preparing for your hunting trip drinking a little more than you normally do and eating good meals that aren’t loaded with salt or anything that will have a diuretic effect will be a plus. Not drinking heavily before a trip will also be helpful, as the alcohol can negatively affect hydration on your trip. The pre-hydration concept is particularly important for those who plan on exerting more energy than normal, or for children, who are sometimes not the best monitor of whether they are hydrated properly.
On your Hunting trip
Additionally, having drinks and availability to water on your trip is helpful. The way you carry water (it’s heavy at about 8 lbs. a gallon) can be an important factor too. You will not want to be handling big gallon jugs from the convenience store, instead, quart/liter sized bottles will make more sense from a practicality perspective. Having a durable water bottle may make even more sense if you backpack in/out.
Using a water bladder may be even more efficient, especially given the widespread use of the product and the general availability for most backpacks to use one regardless of make/model.
Drinks on the trip can have a major factor too, some drinks are not particularly helpful in maintaining true hydration. You may have your thirst quenched by beer or soda or other drinks, but the water content can be counteracted upon by the sugar or alcohol in those drinks. Bringing specific liquids that are more conducive to keeping your water content high are important, with the obvious one being water.
Careful monitoring of your exertion, and proper management of your lost fluids as well as protection against cold or heat can also play a role in your overall comfort related to dehydration or prevention of it.
Carrying a filter or other water purification solution can be important too. The ability to purify water in case of an emergency or as a solution to possible dehydration can be very important. Be sure you are using it properly and do not contaminate the water you have purified by accidentally letting the outlet hose get into untreated water or having a filter that is past it’s safe point.
While sodium is important in maintaining the body’s level of hydration needed, it can also be a detriment if consumed too heavily or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or water retention. All of these can cause issues with your safety during a hunting trip. While this isn’t a medical journal or an article about medical conditions, it is important to understand your risks while out in the field on a hunting trip. Careful consumption of hydrating fluids and understanding of preexisting conditions can help you to maintain safety in the field.
Some pointers and basic summary of what has been covered for proper hydration on a hunt:
Pre-Hydration can be important to reducing fatigue, maintaining temperature and avoiding safety concerns, especially when you plan on exerting a heavy amount of energy.
Monitoring children or teens to ensure they are staying hydrated will be important.
Sugary or alcoholic beverages are generally not a first-rate choice for hydration, though they may suffice for small trips or where you have access to water otherwise.
Using a more carry-convenient bottle or bladder for liquids can be more effective in combating in-field hydration due to the ease of carry.
Avoiding hard partying before or during the hunting trip can also reduce fatigue and dehydration, especially if that partying includes alcohol.
Wearing appropriate clothing for the conditions you are in, is a crucial factor to avoiding overheating or difficulty in maintaining body temperature, all of which can complicate the hydration equation.
Taking medication for those who have medical conditions or being aware and planning for difficulties associated with specific conditions including blood sugar concerns; water retention or high blood pressure/hypertension.
Avoiding high sodium content foods that would require additional hydration can also have an impact on your overall enjoyment.
The bottom line isn’t that you don’t already know how to stay hydrated, it’s about reminding yourself and making sure you are doing the right things when you are in the field on a hunt. Most of these “tips and tricks” are obvious and some seasoned hunters might even laugh at some of the suggestions, but it’s too late after you’re in the field with a hydration issue usually, to try to remedy it easily. Proper preparation in important. If you aren’t trucking or ATV/UTV’ing into your favorite camping spot, proper precautions should be taken. Even then, some basic best practices as outlined before, can mean the difference between very sore muscles and a long recovery time after a hunt, or back to normal the next day. Hunting safety takes on all shapes, including proper hydration and weather preparedness.
- Benjamin Worthen