Survival Skills: How to Stay Hydrated In Any Environment

Staying hydrated plays second fiddle only to shelter as a critical survival priority. Yet outdoorsmen often walk around at some level of dehydration, especially on long trips and hunts. That little headache, that extra tiredness, the clumsy thing you did--it could very well be a result of dehydration.

Cold, dry, or windy weather usually aggravates this situation. Who wants to drink cold water or take the time to make a hot drink when you're busy outside in cool temperatures? And dry or windy conditions will steal extra water from your skin, and therefore from your body.

So here are some time-tested ways to both ensure you are drinking enough, and to remind you to stay hydrated no matter what you are doing or where you are.

Urine Output
Urinating regularly every 2 or 3 hours is the best gauge of your body's hydration level. It automatically takes into account loss of water through your skin, your breath, exertion, and any other method of water loss. Your pee break should give you several signs of your hydration level, too. The output should be generous and the color should be relatively pale or clear. If you don't pee very much, or the urine is yellow or brownish in color or it has a stronger odor than normal, then you are dehydrated.

And while drinking urine should never be on the menu--even in the worst survival situations--it's a good habit to drink water right after a bathroom break. Something went out the door, and it's time to put something back.

Getting Extra Water
Putting extra water in you, aside what you get from beverages, is another great way to stay hydrated. Moisture-filled foods should be part of your outdoor food supply. Yes, they're heavier than dry foods, so they will not be the backpacker's best friend. But if you have the means to transport a few water-packed foods, then you ought to consider it. Instead of a bag of dried fruit, pack a few apples. A container of canned fruit in juice is a God-send to the hungry and thirsty. Skip the severely desiccated snacks like jerky and other dried meats. Hydration Tricks

Sucking on a stone to keep your mouth moist is a classic in survival training, but you better hope your buddy knows the Heimlich maneuver.

Here are some better bets:

  • Sucking on a piece a hard candy every now and then will give you a few calories and be a little less dangerous (and tastier) than a rock.
  • Breathing only through your nose is a great trick for avoiding respiratory loss in the desert.
  • Dampening your clothes in dangerously hot and dry conditions will keep your skin from drying out quickly. Just don't do it near evening, which would chill you later when the temps drop.
  • Limit your consumption of salty foods and caffeinated beverages, as these dry you out.
  • Always bring extra water with you, and drink more water than you think you need.