Dehydration is most often associated with the heat and dryness of summertime. That’s probably why so many hunters and anglers forget to stay on top of their fluids during the cold months and suffer the consequences, such as low energy, cramps, headaches, and worse. Fact of the matter is, cold weather can dry you out almost as fast as hot.
Can you see your breath? That’s water vapor being pulled from your body. Likewise, sweat evaporates faster when it’s cold so you may not even be aware of your perspiration. And, even though you’re losing all that water, you’re less likely to notice or take care of it because cold weather suppresses thirst.
Still, that knowledge doesn’t exactly make chugging out of your half-frozen water bottle sound any more appealing. We use several methods for tricking ourselves into consuming more water in order to stay healthy, hydrated, and hunting hard.
Spice it Up
Water is boring. While you’ll often crave it on a July scorcher, in January it just doesn’t hold the same appeal unless you’re really exerting in a big way. So, you don’t need to stick to the generic flavor. Trick yourself into consuming more fluids by adding a little pep to your sip.
I hear you, ice fishermen, but no—beer doesn’t count, even if it’s a watery domestic. Alcohol will still make you expel more fluids than you retain. But many other beverages like Gatorade and fruit juice will provide rehydrating benefits. Even just squirting a little lime or lemon juice into a bottle can make it more desirable.
Likely the best way to doctor up your H2O out in the woods is with specially formulated, flavored drink mixes. Our hands-down favorite is LMNT Recharge. Not only does is taste great and make you want to finish off the bottle in one go, it contains a heathy dose of electrolyte minerals to increase your fluid uptake and keep you fueled for longer.
On the other side of the coin, if you want to make your friends think you’re the woodsiest dude around, crush up some fresh spruce needles into your water or tea. Lots of different plants can add the little bit of flavor you need to keep slurping, including sagebrush leaves, rosehips, juniper berries, and more. It might not give you a heavy dose of minerals, but it can help overcome the flavor of the creek water you just filtered.
Heat it Up
Over the last few hunting seasons I’ve started carrying a JetBoil in my pack for full days on the mountain in cold weather. There’s just something very dignified about sipping a hot cup of coffee up high on a glassing tit at first light. Likewise, a hearty bowl of ramen at lunch will lift your spirits and provide a little extra juice to keep hiking. Both are great ways to trick yourself into consuming more water.
Cold suppresses thirst, but it’s also just a lot more pleasant to drink hot liquid on a cold day. And I know what you’re thinking: coffee is a diuretic. That’s true, but it’s been clinically proven that a weak or mild cup (like you’d get from a Black Rifle instant pack or Starbucks Via) actually provides a net fluid gain. Later in the day or in the evening a bag of tea or packet of hot cocoa will warm your soul while providing valuable liquids. Drink as much as you want if you’re headed back out in the morning.
Supplement Your Slurp
Water isn’t the only thing you lose when you’re dehydrated. Sodium is lost through sweat, and potassium, magnesium, and other important minerals go fast when you’re burning calories without replacing fluids and electrolytes. The right balance of those nutrients will help you stay hydrated longer too. That’s why we love our LMNT packets that contain 1,000 mg of salt, 200 of potassium, and 60 of magnesium. You might not want that many electrolytes for a day lounging on the couch, but for a day hiking hard in the mountains, it’s hard to get enough.
We go deeper into all these considerations and more in The MeatEater Guide to Wilderness Skills and Survival. Check it out.
Feature image via Captured Creative.