Staying hydrated while winter camping

Snowshoeing is strenuous exercise and one will likely sweat despite the low temperatures-especially if carrying a heavy winter backpack.

Heavy exertion in cold, dry air uses up to 2-4 quarts/liters of water per day. Pack plenty of water and stay hydrated by drinking often.  If you wait till you are thirsty you are already dehydrated, and dehydration can accelerate fatigue, hypothermia and frostbite.

Checking for signs of dehydration.

Dry winter air can dehydrate you without you noticing until it is too late. A good rule of thumb for checking hydration is the color of your urine. Urine will be light colored or clear if you are properly hydrated. Or you can pinch the skin on the back of your hand, lower arm, or abdomen between two fingers.  If you are properly hydrated your skin should snap back into place.


Water mixed with something such as Gatorade, lemonade, etc. will freeze at a lower temperature than plain water.  By placing your water bottles upside down  you at least assure that if the water does begin to freeze the ice will be at the bottom of the bottle and thus not hinder you from drinking the remaining water.  Hydration packs don’t seem to work well in the winter as the tubes freeze easily.

I carry my water in a wide mouth Nalgene bottle inside an insulated bottle holder inside my pack. Insulated water bottle holders are widely available and cost between $15-20. They will keep the water from freezing as long as the temperature is not too far below zero.

Water filters will freeze up and be destroyed by the winter temperatures and also that purification tablets work much more slowly in cold temperatures. If you are using iodine tablets you may need to put in an one extra and leave it for at least 45 minutes.


Follow our occasional Tweets @WinterCampers and visit us on Facebook.


Comments are closed.