Hunting is a physically taxing activity, even on unsuccessful trips where the party returns empty-handed. Lugging around a gun, food, and equipment is tiring and can cause the body to lose a lot of water. The risk of dehydration exists for everyone, even strong and experienced hunters. It may take you a while to realize how much you’re sweating, especially if temperatures are low. It is vital to be proactive and drink water long before you feel thirsty, and make sure your group members do the same.
Staying hydrated isn’t just about drinking water. Managing body temperature, avoiding alcohol, and keeping your electrolytes up all contribute to your overall hydration. Whether you’re hunting small summer game or tracking deer in the dead of winter, here are seven ways to avoid dehydration.
1 Pack Extra Water
It’s easy to assume that one large reusable water bottle is enough for a day outside, but even mild temperatures require twice that. Pack at least half a gallon of water per person, and double that if the outing is all-day or in hot weather.
Water is heavy, but it’s worth carrying. By making sure the whole group has enough water, you reduce the risks of getting tired and irritable halfway through the day. There are also more serious potential risks like heat stroke and muscle cramps that can derail a hunting trip.
The weight of the water will disappear as you drink it throughout the day. By the time you have kills to dress and haul, your pack will be at least a few pounds lighter if you’ve been drinking the water as much as you should.
2 Pack a Lightweight Water Filter
No matter how much water you pack, you could end up needing more. Water bottles can crack and leak, or temperatures could rise higher than expected. A lightweight water filtration kit is an excellent investment, even if you don’t think you’ll be gone for very long. It’s also an essential part of a survival kit, so you should be carrying one anyway in case of an emergency. Water purification tablets also work, but they don’t filter particles from water. A full filtration system is more reliable for drinking from water sources in the backcountry, where there is a higher risk of consuming harmful microorganisms and viruses.
3 Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Coffee is a great morning pick-me-up, but it dehydrates you because of the caffeine. If you need to have a morning cup of coffee, rehydrate with water, and avoid having a second cup in the afternoon. Alcohol is even worse on hunting trips since it also alters your judgment. Whiskey may be great for warming up on cold nights, but it will leave you thirsty and drained of energy the next morning. Unless you plan on hiking near a large clean water source that you can filter regularly, avoid alcohol, and encourage your group members to do the same.
4 Eat Fruit
Every hunter needs a snack in the field at some point, and fruit is an excellent snack for countering dehydration. Watermelon, peaches, oranges, and strawberries are all at least 85 percent water, and there are many more fruits and vegetables with similarly high water content.
Pack some pre-cut fruit in a reusable container and avoid leaving fruit rinds or other scraps outdoors. It’s better to leave no trace and take everything back to the truck. Although the trail mix can be a high-protein snack, it can also leave you feeling thirsty if it’s high in sodium. Even dried fruit with added sugar can make you crave more water. Enjoy these treats in moderation, especially on hot days.
5 Stay Out of the Sun
Staying out of the sun is challenging for hunters, especially in the summer months. However, even long-sleeve hunting clothes can help you stay cool by minimizing water loss through your skin and reducing sunburn, which increases your body temperature.
Even with breathable clothes and camo hunting hats to keep the sun off your skin, there’s a limit to how much activity is safe in the peak of summer. Take a break in the shade during the hottest part of the day, especially if temperatures are above 90 degrees or it’s very humid. This also gives everyone a chance to rehydrate without slowing down the group.
6 Bring Sports Drinks
Pure water is good, but long days in the heat also require added electrolytes. Sweating releases minerals that your body needs to function, so it’s crucial to replace them. Sports drinks and electrolyte tablets are great for keeping your electrolyte levels within a healthy range. Mixing fruit juice with water also makes a good drink for restoring electrolytes, but pure fruit juice may have more sugar than necessary.
7 Use a Built-In Hydration System
Backpacks with built-in water packs and attached straws make it much easier to stay hydrated. By keeping a water source within reach at all times, you’re more likely to use it. The main downside to water packs is that it’s hard to monitor how much water is remaining. Keep at least one extra water bottle if you’re using a water pack.
If you don’t want to buy a backpack with a built-in hydration system, keep water within close reach. Clip a canteen on to your backpack within arm’s reach, and at an angle where you can clip it and unclip it easily. That way, you won’t have to worry about taking off your pack every time you want a drink of water.
Keeping Your Energy Up
- Dehydration can drain you of your energy, leaving you weak and unable to haul your kill back to the truck. A successful and stress-free hunting trip requires careful attention to your body’s needs, so put effort into proper hydration knowledge and techniques.
- Avoiding alcohol, caffeine and high-sodium foods are key to making sure your water supply lasts. Minimizing exposure with performance hunting gear and managing your body temperature is also helpful. Nothing is more important than making sure you have enough water in the first place, both through carrying water and by keeping a purification system on hand.
- Take 10 minutes at the beginning of each trip to double-check water supplies, snack choices, and the weather forecast. By educating yourself and your group on the importance of hydration, you’re helping to make sure everyone gets home safe.