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Top Picks

How we choose: The best drinks highlighted here were selected based on 84 reviews of 35 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

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Nuun Active Hydration Tablets

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

Nuun Active has become my all-season, all activity, go-to electrolyte drink.

Reasons to Buy

  • Great taste
  • Minimal ingredients—NO artificial food dyes
  • Cost-effective ($6.50/ 12 tablets)
  • Low in sugar and calories
  • Convenient packaging
  • Excellent for endurance activities

Reasons to Avoid

  • Seasonal flavors are not available year round
  • The taste takes some getting used to

I picked up my first tube of Nuun this summer after being drawn to the aestethically pleasing packaging and the myriad of flavors to choose from. I picked up strawberry lemonade and fruit punch and used them that same day. A little backstory: I have been searching for an electrolyte replacer for awhile as I can't stomach any of the pre-made sugar ladened drinks on the market (I get terrible acid reflux from them and it negatively affects my performance every time).  So far I have tried the following Nuun Active flavors (in no particular order of preference): tri-berry, watermelon, orange, strawberry lemonade, fruit punch, and kona kola.  There isn't a flavor I don't enjoy, though it did take me a few times drinking it to acquire a taste for...

Read more: Nuun Active Hydration Tablets reviews (2)

Vitalyte Electrolyte Replacement Drink Mix

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (2 reviews)

Grape has become the house favorite over the years.

Reasons to Buy

  • Inexpensive and easy on "system"

Reasons to Avoid

  • Hard to get people to try sell

Vitalyte is nether an energy drink or a source of calories, it is an electrolyte replacement and best "utliliized" to prevent and recover from dehydration. We have been drinking Vitalyte for over twenty (20) years (we still call it Gookinaid!) there is always a two litre container in our fridge and a second container in the summer. I sold it in my bicycle shoppe for twenty years. We have tried all the flavors, Orange, Fruit Punch, Lemon and *No After Taste Competition; we have never any gastric (embarrassing or otherwise) disturbances.

Read more: Vitalyte Electrolyte Replacement Drink Mix reviews (2)

Gatorade Propel Powder Pack

user rating: 3.5 of 5 (2 reviews)

Propel is an electrolyte beverage that comes in a 2.4 gram pouch. It's a zero calorie drink. It comes in three flavors. I chose the grape.

Reasons to Buy

  • NO sugar
  • Electrolyte
  • 10 packs per box
  • 210 mg sodium
  • Added vitamins

Reasons to Avoid

  • Cost, unless on sale

  Propel electrolyte replacement pouches you just add to your water bottle. During the summer and spring I watch electrolytes like most hikers. I found that I wanted less sugar in my drinks. I was recommended Propel and it was easy to find at my grocers. You find it where Gatorade is sold. My store runs a pretty good sale on two boxes. It's recommended to pour a pouch in a 20-oz bottle of water. I keep one empty 20-oz plastic bottle with me just for drinks. The mix has Vit E 5.4 mg and VIT B6 1mg VitC 24mg and Niacin 10mg VIT b12 .05 mg .natural flavor and maltidextrin salt ascorbic acid monotassium phosphate sucrlose.

Read more: Gatorade Propel Powder Pack reviews (2)

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix

user rating: 5 of 5 (3 reviews)

Finally an exercise drink with real ingredients and no bellyache

Reasons to Buy

  • Raspberries
  • Less concentraded, absorbs faster
  • Low-ish calorie
  • No phlegm
  • No side-ache

Reasons to Avoid

  • Pineapple
  • Small amount of white precipitate that doesn't mix well

Oh great, another sports drink! A powdered mix of something you can’t pronounce that promises to make you run faster, the hills flatter and drive the women crazy. Heard it all before? Me too, and truly I am kinda tired of it.  “So wait a minute Jeff, why the heck are you reviewing a sports drink?” Good question. In my opinion the world of sports drinks has, for too long, been dominated by huge companies that care more about marketing hype than real performance and nutrition. Their syrupy offerings, loaded with overdoses of random vitamins you don’t need and flavors that have long since dropped any pretense of resembling food seem to me to go against the whole idea of backcountry which is to simplify and enjoy the natural world.

Read more: Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix reviews (3)

Alacer Emergen-C

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Who could have guessed that this well known Vitamin C source and cold remedy would make a super electrolyte and restorative drink for hikers? I've taken this on and off for decades as a pick-me-up to ward off getting sick when run down. It is sold as an immune system builder. After running out of our standard electrolyte mix for bicycling that we had been using up for hiking, I tried this by chance. And I quickly found that it worked even better for me than just electrolytes for energy recovery and restoration, and I hope, staying healthy after exertion.

Reasons to Buy

  • Long term trusted health product
  • Formulation quite equivalent to better known electrolyte mixes
  • Adds Vitamin C and vitamins for immune boost and energy production
  • Individually packaged portions with long shelf life
  • Inexpensive and easy to carry, dissolve and if you wish give to fellow hikers (make friends, influence hike directions ....)
  • Low calorie, no artificial sweeteners (enough sugars and organic acids to boost adsorption and action)
  • Quite cost effective
  • Specialty formulations available for increased antioxidants, other nutrients and/or medicinal factors

Reasons to Avoid

  • Packaging to discard (tradeoff for freshness and safety)
  • You have to get over the fact that not all the mineral dissolve, but some rather suspend
  • So many flavors, can make it hard to chose!
  • Less cost effective if you buy and store the multiple flavors
  • Not as energizing as Zipfizz, but that's good at times

Commercial Product Description Dietary Supplement. Super energy booster. 1000 mg Vitamin C as 7 mineral ascorbates. 32 Mineral complexes. B Vitamins. Emergen-C is so much more than just Vitamin C! The foundation of Emergen-C is built on seven mineral ascorbates. These mineral ascorbates of potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, sodium, chromium & zinc provide your body with 1,000 mg of vital, life-sustaining Vitamin C in a non-acidic, stomach-friendly formula. Unlike ordinary Vitamin C supplements, Emergen-C also has a total of 32 active mineral complexes along with key B Vitamins.

Read more: Alacer Emergen-C review (1)

Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

This has been my secret to sustained energy and endurance on very long hikes and bike rides. It has everything you need to not "hit the wall" in your last mile! I swear by it! I have tried almost every sports drink on the market and this still tops out at #1 for me.

Reasons to Buy

  • Weight-to-calorie ratio 0.69oz 270 calories
  • Great flavors!
  • Amino acids
  • Utilizes energy from fat storage decreasing muscle fatigue
  • Buffers lactic acid preventing muscle soreness and fatigue
  • Complex carbohydrates NOT simple sugars
  • Great for sensitive guts
  • Great for needing energy over a very long period of time.

Reasons to Avoid

  • Mix in lukewarm water, hard to break up lumps in very cold water unless you have a shaker ball type cup

Single serving packages seen here. This is marketed as a fuel source for extreme athletes and a product that will utilize fat storage for energy sparing the muscles of increased rate of atrophy. I have used this and other Hammer products during my crazy cycling years, when I did long distance cycling and mountain biking. I mixed it with one of my water bottles on my bike and had the other water bottle just plain water. I mixed about half the package in the bottle (typical bike water bottle 24 oz).

Read more: Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem review (1)

Nestle NIDO Dry Whole Milk

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Milk for the backcountry that tastes a lot like milk. Whole milk with milkfat retained. Great for breakfast cereals, in coffee, in meals and can even be drunk by itself.

Reasons to Buy

  • Tastes similar to real milk
  • Reconstitutes well even with cold water
  • Full fat in a light form

Reasons to Avoid

  • Faint cooked milk odor
  • Very moisture sensitive

Nothing like the powdered non-fat milk commonly sold here in the US, Nestle's NIDO Dry Whole Milk is worth the effort to track down. The ingredients are simple; whole milk and a tiny bit (0.2%) of soy lecithin as an emulsifier. Being whole milk may contribute to the surprisingly good flavor, but it definitely adds some light to carry fat calories to a backcountry diet. Instructions say to use warm water to reconstitute, but I just pour cold water into a bag with granola cereal and the NIDO powder and get good results.

Read more: Nestle NIDO Dry Whole Milk review (1)

Hotshot Sports Shot

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Relieves muscle cramps fast!

Reasons to Buy

  • Easy to use
  • Works fast
  • Can also be used to prevent cramping

Reasons to Avoid

  • A little pricey

I had returned from several days of backpacking in the Trinity Alps. The last day was long and hot, and I'd probably not drunk as much water as I should have. But the beer was cold, and it was sooo nice to sleep in a real bed. And at 3 a.m., the cramping started. It began in my right calf, and as I tried stretching/rubbing it out without waking up my wife (sorry, honey!), the left calf started to kick in too. As they both got tighter and more painful, I remembered the sample bottle of HotShot I had gotten at a cycling event.

Read more: Hotshot Sports Shot review (1)

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