hydration and why it matters

6:28 p.m. on June 11, 2013 (EDT)
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I had a small adventure with dehydration over the weekend...

I was working on our cabin, at about 4,000 in the Sierra, on one of the hottest days of the year, covering the lower section of the cabin with plywood sheathing.  It was a hot, dry job, and i was trying to get it done in one day. 

Somewhere near the end of the day, I began to conclude that it was getting cooler, because I wasn't sweating quite so much as I had been earlier in the day.  The fact that I considered this a good thing is an indication that my brain was now working with an entirely new set of synapses created by a lack of water in my system.

There was a tiny voice in my brain that said "maybe you aren't sweating because you are completely dehydrated" but I didn't listen to that voice. 

After all, I only had one more sheet to install.  I measured the wall, and then I marked the plywood.  Then I measured the wall a second time, just to make sure.  And I checked that measurement again on the plywood.   Yep, it looked like it would fit perfectly. 

Here's the cabin:


So I carried the plywood over to the wall, and held it in place.  It was six inches too long. 

What the heck?  I measured the wall again---yep, got that right.

Then I measured the plywood.

Ah.  I had forgotten to CUT the plywood. 

That's when I realized that I really was very dehydrated.  Two large glasses of water later, I put on the final sheet of plywood and called it a day.  Whew!

And if this had happened on a trail, and I had made a simple mistake like taking the wrong fork in the trail? 

That's why it's important to stay hydrated.

7:27 p.m. on June 11, 2013 (EDT)
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I bet it's a lot like hypothermia. People may think they know all about it, but they aren't necessarily aware of the first, most subtle, and most dangerous aspect (in the backcountry, anyway) -- confusion and carelessness.

So that's a good PSA, thank you!

11:02 p.m. on June 11, 2013 (EDT)
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Many years ago I went through Basic Training at Ft. Jackson, SC, in July and August.  The most important thing I learned about staying hydrated is that if you wait until you're thirsty it's already too late.

10:46 a.m. on June 12, 2013 (EDT)
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The rule of thumb is that if you don't have to pee you're getting dehydrated.

Drinking water (or other non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated fluids) steadily is necessary. The same applies anywhere you're exercising hard.

When hiking, a hydration bladder helps with that, but people working outdoors should always have something cold and wet close at hand. 

Good example, balzacom. Thanks for sharing. 

2:01 p.m. on June 12, 2013 (EDT)
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it is a good thing you weren't on the trail when that happened. the outcome could have been much worse. thanks for reminding us all to stay hydrated.

5:05 p.m. on June 12, 2013 (EDT)
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There are certain things that one must rely on their hiking/climbing partners to identify.  Hypothermia, hyperthermia, frostbite, dehydration, high altitude pulmonary or cerebral edema (HAPE and HACE).  People who are suffering from these things tend not to notice or understand that they are sliding into harm's way - either because they are physically numb or mentally impaired due to the condition. 

dehydration can happen in a variety of situations and can combine with hyperthermia.  a friend of mine suffered severe dehydration/hyperthermia after we ran a road race on a very hot, humid day.  with drink stations at regular intervals throughout the race.  she collapsed and was delirious/hallucinating, vomited up bottles of water she was given, and her temperature spiked to 106.  she was packed in ice and immediately hooked up to an IV and raced to a hospital by ambulance.  it took a number of IV bags to stabilize her.  scary stuff. 

signs of dehydration:

dry mouth, dry skin, thirsty, no need to urinate or very dark-hued urine, little or no tears when crying, fatigue, headache, loss of balance, confusion, fever, fainting/lightheadedness. 



5:14 p.m. on June 12, 2013 (EDT)
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My “favorite” dehydration story is actually a cautionary tale of many things one should not do.  It centers on a coworker who had a penchant for creating complications in his personal life.  Some folks seem to have dark clouds over their heads – well this guy was more like a storm chaser, doing things and making choices most would consider of dubious wisdom, drawing bad karma upon himself in the process.  But I digress!

The dehydration story requires a brief set up.  Dick had been enduring foot discomfort for the past eighteen months.  It started in one foot, then it spread to the other.  He said the doctor claimed it was gout.  I recommended he get a second opinion, since his condition was getting worse and not responding to the normal treatments for gout.  In any case Dick scheduled some vacation time, during which he planned to backpack with his fifteen year old son.  I asked how his trip went when he got back from his vacation.  I could tell by the big sigh and rolling of his eyes I was in store for another of Dick’s farcical adventure tales.

They chose a mountain destination requiring two days hiking to reach.  After the first day Dick’s feet bothered him considerably, to the point he didn’t know if he could make it to their destination.  But he was not to be deterred!  So father and son set off the next morning on the second leg of the hike in.  This day’s itinerary was a seven mile hike, all uphill, with about 2,000’ elevation gain.  There was no water available along the entire way, and the route was in direct sun on south facing slopes most of the time.  It was a hot, sunny, August day.  They shared a one liter water bottle.  As the hike progressed, Dick’s feet began ailing him again.  He states at about the halfway point he seriously pondered turning back, but decided otherwise, with the notion that walking down hill hurt more than continuing further up!  So they sallied on, yet again ignoring conventional wisdom.  At some point their progress ground down to a creep, due to the pain involved just walking.  The walk lingered on to mid day, and they exhausted their water supply.  They finally staggered into their lakeside destination early evening, and collapsed in the shade, some yards from the lake.  Dick was unable to overcome the pain to go to fetch water, and his son felt too exhausted to find the energy to do so himself.  They languished over night, failing to re-hydrate, set up camp, or eat.  The next morning they were the worse off for wear, and now had the telltale symptoms of altitude sickness (dehydration is often a precursor to altitude sickness).  It took father and son most of the day to establish a rudimentary camp. 

As the days passed Dick’s son began to slowly recover from their ordeal.  While Dick was also marginally beyond the affects of dehydration and altitude sickness, he remained borderline crippled by the condition of his feet.  Both remained weak, however, as their efforts survive still were not sufficient for nominal vitality.  Dick determined he would not be able to walk out, and hailed a passing group of hikers, asking them to tell the rangers of their distress.  The rangers had one of the outfitter operations carry father and son off the mountain on horse back.  The father and son hiking trip had been a miserable week in hell, made worse by the lack of wisdom and will power to take numerous measures that would have mitigated much of their discomfort. 

When they got back to civilization the rangers compelled Dick to seek a diagnosis at the local infirmary.  It was determined he had bunions, and had no business hiking with this condition.  The saga of Dick’s bunions continued after his return to civilization.  He did not get his condition promptly looked after.  He started walking on his heels so his toes would not touch the ground.  His odd stride earned him the nickname Tin Man for its uncanny resemblance to the movie character.  At one point he got in an auto accident, failing to stop his vehicle because stepping on the brake hurt too much!  That finally prompted him to take action.  There is more to this story; like the logic why he got only one foot fixed, the tale where he gets his divorced (and remarried) wife to help him convalesce, and why a surgery that should only require a few days off his feet had him miss work for six weeks.  This is but only one tale of the misadventures of Dick; there are many.  Dick was one piece of work, and has been a source for hours of entertaining stories around the fire.  There are many morals to this story, but they can all be rolled up into one tidy piece of advice: don’t be a Dick!


8:05 p.m. on June 12, 2013 (EDT)
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I have often given my water to people here in Vegas who decide they want to hike while also out partying. They often choose a little hike I frequent. IT is astounding how they don't bring water.T ehy don't think they are dehydrating because their sweat evaporates so fast in the ehat they don't even know its happening. They come from areas not near as hot and drastic as teh Mojave Desert. They have been drunk for days and then do this hike. I just hand them the water. I will make it...they may not.

2:55 p.m. on June 13, 2013 (EDT)
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a bunch of drunks out for a hike...sounds like a recipe for disaster.

10:49 a.m. on June 15, 2013 (EDT)
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giftogab said:

I have often given my water to people here in Vegas who decide they want to hike while also out partying. They often choose a little hike I frequent. IT is astounding how they don't bring water.T ehy don't think they are dehydrating because their sweat evaporates so fast in the ehat they don't even know its happening. They come from areas not near as hot and drastic as teh Mojave Desert. They have been drunk for days and then do this hike. I just hand them the water. I will make it...they may not.


Oddly enough really wet weather can be a problem as well.  Hiking all day in steady rain you may not be aware of sweating.  In full gear accessing even a drink tube becomes more cumbersome so you don't drink as automatically as you might.  The moist air keeps the mouth and other parts from feeling dry so you lose most of your warning system.

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