Yosemite National Park ranges in elevation from 2,000 feet to over 13,000 feet. Yosemite Valley, the most visited area of the park, sits at 4,000 feet and Tuolumne Meadows, one of my favorite areas of the park, is around 8,600 feet. Higher altitude means thinner air. This makes it harder to breathe, and your heart rate increases in order to pump more oxygen through your body…
So, what does that have to do with staying hydrated?
It is very easy to become dehydrated at higher elevations because your body is working harder to produce extra red blood cells to get you the oxygen it needs. If you fly to Yosemite you should drink plenty of extra water on the plane, as air travel tends to dehydrate. On top of that, if you live in a humid climate be aware that Yosemite’s humidity is almost non-existent. Seriously.
Here are the best tips for staying hydrated:
Drinks lots of water, then drink more.
- Drink throughout the duration of your hike.
- Don’t wait till you feel thirsty– you are already getting dehydrated if you do.
- Drink coconut water– it’s a great break from plain water, it’s good for you, and all of the stores in Yosemite sell it.
- I love Vitalyte— it’s a more natural sports drink mix (I try to avoid artificial and chemical-laden food and drinks).
- According to Friends of Yosemite Search and Rescue, EACH PERSON should drink 3 liters of water per day when hiking, which is only about 20 ounces shy of 1 gallon.
- Some hikes are long, EXTREMELY dry, and exposed to the sun–take a water filter, UV device, or iodine treatment tabs if there is any chance of finding a trickle of water on the trail. NEVER DRINK DIRECTLY FROM A WATER SOURCE– it may look pristine, but some nasty organisms, like giardia, may be lurking.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine because they contribute to dehydration.
- For comfort, take saline nasal spray, lip balm, and unscented hand lotion everywhere you go (but store them in the bear lockers).
- If your urine isn’t light or clear, you need to DRINK MORE WATER! (And then drink some more.)
So, why even be concerned about becoming dehydrated? Here is a great list of reasons from the Mayo Clinic:
Dehydration can lead to serious complications, including:
- Heat injury. If you don’t drink enough fluids when you’re exercising vigorously and perspiring heavily, you may end up with a heat injury, ranging in severity from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion to potentially life-threatening heatstroke.
- Swelling of the brain (cerebral edema). Sometimes, when you’re getting fluids again after being dehydrated, the body tries to pull too much water back into your cells. This can cause some cells to swell and rupture. The consequences are especially grave when brain cells are affected.
- Seizures. Electrolytes — such as potassium and sodium — help carry electrical signals from cell to cell. If your electrolytes are out of balance, the normal electrical messages can become mixed up, which can lead to involuntary muscle contractions and sometimes to a loss of consciousness.
- Low blood volume shock (hypovolemic shock). This is one of the most serious, and sometimes life-threatening, complications of dehydration. It occurs when low blood volume causes a drop in blood pressure and a drop in the amount of oxygen in your body.
- Kidney failure. This potentially life-threatening problem occurs when your kidneys are no longer able to remove excess fluids and waste from your blood.
- Coma and death. When not treated promptly and appropriately, severe dehydration can be fatal.
Drink more water!!!
Originally posted on January 16, 2014 by Ginger.