The question of how much water you should drink a day is both common and important. When you're on outdoor adventure trips, staying adequately hydrated is critical not only to your enjoyment and efficiency, its also important to your safety: being dehydrated can lead to clumsiness and poor decision-making. But it's also full of myths, many of which I used to preach when I talked about staying hydrated on trips. So here's what you really need to know.
1. Myth: You need at least 8 glasses a day and should plan on doubling that during outdoor activity, maybe more if it is hot, you're sweating alot etc.
Truth: People vary widely in how much they need to drink. You want to drink enough to avoid the common problems of headache, irritabilty. and fatigue. If you are experiencing any of those, drink more. Over time you learn how much you need to drink. Carrying enough water is essential but its also heavy, so you don't want to carry alot more than you really need.
2. Myth: If you let yourself get thirsty, you're already dehydrated so you need to drink before you're thirsty.
Truth: You need to drink as soon as you get thirsty. It's the body's way of letting you know that it needs more liquid; if you drink at that point, you'll be fine. So its important that it's easy to get to your water because otherwise you'll tend to put off drinking until you stop.
3. Myth: Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages actually dehydrate you so you need to drink more water to make up for drinking them.
Truth: While caffeine is mildly dehydrating, on average people retain about two thirds of the liquid from these drinks. And if your body is used to drinking them, then the water loss is even less. Alsohol, however, is dehydrating and its much better to wait until the end of the day before you enjoy it.
4. Myth: You need gatorade or some other electrolyte replacement drink.
Truth: Nope! Read our blog article on hydration beverages. Even on some of our desert trips, like Hiking the Southwest or Exploring Utah's National Parks, we carry salty snacks and that provides all the electrolyte replacement you need.
Staying hydrated isn't difficult. You just need to learn to listen to your body and act on what it's telling you.