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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
On a hiking trip a couple of weeks ago I experienced some of the first signs of heat exhaustion, which were dry skin, rapid heartbeat, fatigue and muscle cramps. This was the same trip where I found the abandoned hunting camp. I knew that I was getting too hot, daytime highs were near 100 degrees in the shade. My heart was beating so hard I could hear the beats. While walking up a hill my leg muscles started to cramp; I knew I was in trouble. There just happened to be a small tree that provided a nice shady spot. The backpack was dropped, I laid down, took my bandana off and laid it over my shirtless chest.


My cell phone just happened to have one - two bars of service. I pulled up google earth, took a screen shot of my location and sent it to my fiancee through facebook chat. My location was only about 1 1/2 miles from home, but it might as been 100 miles with my legs cramping. In case things went from bad to real bad, at least someone had my location.

While laying under that small shade tree I finished off about half a canteen of water. I almost took a nap, but figured it would be safer to stay awake.



After relaxing in the shade of that nice small tree I felt better, stood up, put my pack on and continued. At the top of the hill I hit an old logging road. I was disoriented as to the direction I should turn. I knew that was a fork in the road a short distance from where I was, but which way did I need to turn? I turned left. After maybe 100 yards I sat down, looked at my map, double checked with google earth and figured out I had turned the wrong way.



When timber companies cut timber they make temporary roads through the forest to get the timber out. Once the timber has been cut and new trees planted the roads are abandoned. After a few years the roads overgrow. After a decade or so the roads may vanish, as they are reclaimed by nature.

I rarely if ever use google earth on a hiking trip. Normally I use a topo map, compass and very old Garmin GPS that helps determine my location and the bearing I need to go. I then double check the GPS with a topo map and map compass. Being fatigued and experiencing heat exhaustion I decided to use all of the navigational aids I had at hand. I broke out the cell phone with google earth, determined my location then used a compass at the fork of the road to decide which direction to go.

A short distance after the fork in the overgrown logging road I hit a slightly more permanent road. This one is driven on from time to time by locals but is still a long ways off the beaten path.



Once I got off the abandoned logging road I knew things were still going to be rough. I was in direct sunlight, temps close to 100 degrees, almost out of water, legs were cramping, skin was dry, but I knew every step took me a step closer to home. If things got real bad I was on a road and would be easy to find. There were several times were I almost stopped and used my phone to call for someone to come get me. I kept reminding myself that I started this trip and I was going to finish it. Hardship builds endurance. No matter how bad things get, keep going. However, there comes a point where putting oneself at risk is foolish.

On this hiking trip I made a series of mistakes that did result in heat exhaustion and could have easily resulted in heat stroke. Let's talk about some of those mistakes.
The Heat

On the day of the hike forecast said the daytime temps were supposed to be in the upper 90s. Come to find out the high temperature reached 100 degrees. Just as the cold, rain, thunderstorms,,,, can be underestimated so can the heat.

The heat is not like a thunder cloud in the distance, it is more like a predator in the night. It slowly creeps up on you. Before you realize what is happening sometimes it is too late.

You are a little thirsty, then a lot thirsty, then the sweating stops and the muscle cramps,,,,, then you feel like passing out.

Clothing

I made the mistake of wearing a Carhart shirt, light gray, that is made from heavy weight cotton. Not just cotton, but a heavy cotton. As most hikers know cotton kills. Cotton holds sweat and does not dry well. This means less evaporation than synthetics. Less evaporation means less cooling. By the time I reached the first rest spot I was burning up. I had to remove the shirt so sweat could evaporate and my skin cool off.



I "thought" wearing a light color would help with the heat, but I did not know the shirt was almost 100% cotton until after I got home. Next time I will make sure my shirt is a blend of synesthetic and cotton. There are some shirts out there that are advertised as having a "wicking" technology, as in they "wick" the moisture away from your skin. I have not tried these shirts but plan on it in the near future.

Pants were levis. I have some pants that are probably better suited for hot weather conditions, but I like how levis protect my legs from stickers.

Boots were Brazos task force BR6020. These boots do not have the zipper on the side. If I remember right I bought them from Academy Sports and Outdoors in Beaumont Texas several years ago. They did well in the hike, just as they have done in previous hikes. It might be time to get another pair soon as they are getting a little wore on the bottom and the arch support is not what it used to be.

Backpack

For this trip I decided to take along a Red Rock Outdoor Gear side sling instead of a two shoulder strap pack. This is the first time I have used a side sling pack on a 5+ mile hike. Towards the end I greatly regretted my decision.

With no shirt on the single strap rubbed my shoulder raw. I took a bandanna and put it between the strap and my skin. This helped for a little while, then my left shoulder start aching from bearing all of the weight of the pack for several hours. I had to take the pack off and carry it with my right hand to give my left shoulder a break. After awhile my right arm got tired, so back on the left shoulder the Red Rock Outdoor Gear pack went, which brought back the aching and soreness.

Side sling packs might be good for short hikes but I certainly will not use another one on a 5+ mile hike. I was not carrying "that" much gear either. The stuff that could of been left at home are a Schrade SCHF36 and a snap-on multitool. Everything else I thought was needed in the given situation:

Red Rock Outdoor Gear Rambler Sling Pack.
Garmin Etrex GPS.
USGS TOPO map.
No name map compass X 2. I like to bring a spare compass.
Schrade SCHF36.
Jack Links small batch peppered beef jerky.
Cliff bars – crunchy peanut butter.
Frito-lay sunflower seeds – original and ranch flavor, 2 packs of each.
Ramen noodles - chicken flavor, 1 pack.
Mountain house freeze dried pouch – scrambled eggs with bacon.
Bandanna.
Repel insect repellent – 40% deet.
Small notepad with 2 ball point pens.
Snap-on multitool.
1 liter water bottle.
Military canteen in MOLLE pouch with stainless steel cup.
PUR water filter – no longer made. PUR outdoor line sold to Katadyn
Bic lighter.
Spool of braided trotline string; cordage for making shelter.
Military grade poncho.
Knife sharpener.
Toilet paper.
Flashlight – uses AA batteries. GPS and flashlight both use AA batteries.

With daytime temps in the upper 90s I brought a poncho, cord and extra food just in case I needed to spend a night in the woods. Why would I need to spend the night? If I got too hot and could not continue. I planned on resting near a creek, making camp and spending the night, then continue home the next day.



There are several creeks running through my hiking path. Some with nice clear running water, some were dry and some that were barely moving. If heat exhaustion had set in so that I could not continue I hoped on at least making it to one of the creeks and spending the night. I knew my location and where the creeks were at. At every creek I asked myself if I could make it to the next one. If the answer was "no, I can not make it." I would have stopped and set up camp.

Hiking alone

I usually make this hike with at least one other person, but on this trip I decided to go alone. I wanted to have peace and quiet and did not want anyone with me. The drawback, if I became injured, experienced heat stroke,,,,, or anything else, there would be nobody to help.

Going on a trip by yourself gives one a chance to relax in the peace and quiet of the wilderness. Being alone however has its dangers. I was well aware of the danger and took certain precautions in case something happened while on the trip.

Precautions

Now that we have talked about what I did wrong, let's look at what I did so I could be found.

Someone familiar with the area dropped me off. In case something happened, someone who knew the back roads would be able to tell search and rescue where I started the hike.

The start point of my hike was also marked on google earth on my home computer.

When I started experiencing leg cramps I just happened to have cell phone service. I pulled up google earth on my cell phone, took a screen shot of my location and sent it to my fiancee using facebook chat.

Made sure I was not far from a logging road or pipeline. Old logging roads and pipelines run through the area where I was hiking. I knew where they were located at and kept a mental note on how to get to one if I ran into heat related issues. Searchers would be using the logging roads and pipelines to search for me.

What is a pipeline?

A pipeline is an area where a piece of pipe is buried. The pipe could be carrying oil or some other type of petroleum product. The area where the pipeline runs through the wilderness is kept cleared by work crews using tractors or other heavy equipment.



Brought poncho and cord to build a shelter.

Brought battery pack for cell phone.

Had a USGS topo map and two map compasses. I like to have a spare compass.

Brought a GPS and spare batteries.

Brought enough food to spend the night.

Stuff to build a fire with - dryer lint and bic lighter.

Brought a stainless steel canteen cup, just in case I needed to boil water.

Brought a water filter, canteen and water bottle.

Ate sunflower seeds to have salt intake during the hike.

Wore leather boots with nylon upper. Copper heads and coral snakes are semi-common in southeast Texas. The snakes are of no real danger if your feet are covered.

Thoughts

Share your thoughts and comments. Have you experienced heat stroke or heat exhaustion while on a hike?
 

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Lux in Tenebris
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wow, just wow....

First off, glad to know you made it thru..

Secondly, thanks for putting it out there for others to learn from...

I am curious as to why you went out in the first place, knowing it was ungodly hot?

Was is it a test of sorts of is this normal for you and this was the 1st time with heat issues?

Yes, i have been a heat casualty many times unfortunately...

was a CAT3 road racer in Sac, and dealt with serious heat there, mainly exhaustion, not stroke.....salt and water depletion issues, plus cramping from riding....

most of my hardcore issues were while in the service, and they were brutal experiences, under severe stress and qualification/training exercises.

The most serious was during a week of lan nav training under serious time, distance and load requirements, wearing full uniform, and with and w/out full ruck load out....

this was done in the NC sandhills region, summertime, and hot and humid as all get out...

There were many times where I/we, had to undergo field IV's for fluid intake, then to go back out again....

At one point after a brutal timed course run, i had 2 IV's in me, and my entire body cramped up, screamed like a bitch from the pain....never felt anything like it...

made it thru the night, back at it in the am, and the following night...

I did manage to pass the phase....most, if not all of us, suffered to some degree or another...

Ever since, i have been more susceptible to heat events and plan accordingly...
 

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Only politics *****.
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I'd like to comment on your choice of cotton as a shirt. In those circumstances, cotton is a good thing. Because it stays wet longer, it has a more cooling effect. A heavy one is too much though, and will trap too much heat. No shirt would have helped you generally speaking though. In those temperatures, you just need to find a spot in the shade, near water (for cooling and hydration), and sit. Moving through it can easily lead you to more than you can handle since any exertion, raises your body temperature.

Always listen to your body. If you say your legs are cramping up and you feel the effects of dehydration and hyperthermia, you should do things which will help that, not "push through" and put your body under more stress. It may not be "manly", but i'd rather be a wimp and alive, than a manly corpse ;). (ofcource if you're in a situation that staying put would put you in more danger, definately move, but only if you really have to. You can always hit the trail again in the evening when it's cooler.

Glad that you're ok and learnt some things ;)

Edit: Since you mentioned salty sunflower seeds, you don't want to eat those when dehydrated. You need some salt, but too much salt will only hasten dehydration. Your kidneys use water to get rid of the salts and other minerals in your body. If you're dehydrated you also have too much salt in your body usually, since your body can't get rid of it so you get thirsty. (several control mechanism which control thirst monitor the salt levels in your blood/body, too much salt => thirst.)
 

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The whole "cotton kills" mantra came from incidents happening in cold temperatures, not warm temperatures. Your heavyweight cotton t-shirt prevented air circulation because it was heavy fabric, not because it was cotton. It also held, and cooled your body fluids which keeps your skin cool when in contact... that helps regulate your body temp. The "cooling effect" or clammy feel of tech fabrics is a misnomer. All fabrics have the same "cooling effect" when air rushes over the wet area. Technical fabrics have a level of hydrophobic tendency to them which limits the "cooling effect" timing. Since technical fabrics tend to repel aqueous solutions faster than cotton, they also tend to evaporate that aqueous solution quicker which keeps you drier, not cooler. Dry is good when you are cold. Not when you are hot.

The key to staying cool is focusing on your core temperature and those things you can do to mitigate raising it to levels where your body does not respond positively. Cooling your skin is only about 15% of the issue. Drinking cold liquids literally goes to the core of the matter. Breathing cool air is even better. Protecting your body from direct sunlight goes a long way. And wearing thin clothing is an absolute must.

I've run the R2R race in the Grand Canyon many times (google it). It's the hottest event I do. Canyon air temps are above 120 and ground temps go above 132deg. Thin cotton poly blends are what we use for shirts. Hydration packs + Smartwater bottles. Most of us stop at pre-determined locations, toss off our packs, and jump right into the river to cool off. Then go right back to running / hiking. Most of us also have umbrellas now. There is no shade in the Canyon so if you aren't moving fast enough to avoid the real furnace, you have to have shelter from the sun, and a umbrella is way better than you would expect. Hats are also a problem. If your hat doesn't breathe, then it's no good. Flipside, you want to keep the sun off your head, but can't run very fast with an umbrella. So you have to pick a thin, breathable hat with good coverage.

Always use the shade you have. And if you aren't a warm weather person, simply avoid it by getting up at 4am. #1 issue during the R2R is electrolyte imbalance, not dehydration (even in those dry heat conditions). Drinking water simply is not enough. Drink cool, electrolyte-rich solutions.

Then of course, only carry what you need. And only carry a bag big enough to barely fit that stuff. Light = fast = less time exposed. The "essential 10" concept is too general and way outdated. It's actually a bad idea in a lot of ways because you end up toting around so much stuff you likely will never need, especially on a day hike. Points of advice:
1. The longer the trip, the more planning you should do down to where your stops will be.
2. A smartphone, a small paper map and a $5 compass will get you out of 90% of jams you might get in.
3. If you are planning a long trip, scout the areas first. Don't just walk off in a direction. Know the area. The more knowledge you have, the less stuff you haul.

Couple other misnomers:
1. People lost in the woods survive all the time without overnight shelter gear. The guy that won the Tour Divide this year didn't carry a tent or bivy. The top 10 finishers of Furnace Creek don't carry anything special for sleeping or overnight stops. "Just in case" overnight stuff is simply not needed if you know what you are doing. Especially on non-competitive day hikes.
2. Ditch the military stuff. It's all heavy. None of it is as good as real outdoor gear for hiking and running. A 1L water bottle from a gas station is 1/3 the weight of a Nalgene and radically lighter than a military canteen and it's far cheaper.


I could go on but it would be a while...
 

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Thanks for sharing your experience. It's been crazy hot/humid here in the Northeast as well, and that's kept me out of the woods.

- I too wonder whether cotton or synthetic would be better for evaporative cooling but think I'll lean toward thin synthetic here in the NE since it evaporates faster thus feel cooler (against high humidity, and with plentiful water sources). But think cotton would work better in drier western climates. I fill my dirty Sawyer 1L bladder with stream water, and using a platypus pull top, I keep wetting down my hair, shirt, and neck bandanna for constant evaporative cooling.

- Definitely synthetic shorts, or at least zip-off pants, and I'd even consider wet-down silk long underwear underneath the shorts. Jeans are warm when dry, and heavy and binding when wet.

- There's perpetual shade from the tree canopy here, but if you have little shade, I would highly suggest hiking with a light colored, or aluminized, umbrella. (edit... already mentioned above)

- I'm even considering my 2oz. USB fan for sleeping at night (backpacking) 2 Eneloops will give my ~4 hrs, enough to get through the worst part of a hot night. (tested on a recent overnight power outage).

- I'm getting old, and now have a bad knee, so for safety and piece of mind while solo adventure traveling, I have invested in an Inreach satellite tracker/text messenger/PLB/GPS.
 

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I have to agree with IC and Dade. A light cotton or cotton blend works well in hot weather. You want the fabric to hold some sweat so it evaporates against your body and thus cooling you. If the shirt gets soaked take that as a sign you need to stop and rest. Also a sign that you should be proactively drinking water. Preferably with an electrolyte additive. And you want to over drink early.

For athletic activities where a soaked garment inhibits your movement then a pure synthetic is needed to wick away sweat. But it evaporates away from the skin so you loose the cooling effect.

Some other tips; lemon or citric drinks help your body absorb water better. Carbonated water helps your body absorb water better. (Helps the slightly increased pressure in your intestines helps water be absorbed into the blood faster.) Water that has recently been boiled helps your cells absorb water better. (When boiled the oxygen is pushed out of the water and thus the cells absorb faster. Don't drink hot!)

Another tip taught to me by my grandfather. If there is a cool stream nearby place your arms in up to the elbows. In your wrist area the blood flows very close under the skin and will cool better than most areas of your body. Many years ago he and I put a new roof on our cabin in 95 degree heat. He was 80 years old at the time and worked right along with me (I was 17). We would work on the roof for 25 minutes then we would get off and put our arms in the spring for 5 minutes. Then we would drink a couple large glasses of lemon juice that was cooling in the spring. Then back on the roof for another 25 min, etc. Three days we got the roof done.

I've learned through experience that carrying more water than I though I would need in summer is often a wise choice.
 

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Average Joe
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I would never even dream of hiking in any sort of jeans in any weather- the amount of sweat they would hold and the chafing would be ungodly. I usually wear a thin, loose synthetic shirt when doing hard work in the heat. It sticks to your body when it gets soaked with sweat, and the evaporative cooling effect can make me cold enough to get the chills in the middle of summer in full sun when I stop for a rest.

As for being a heat casualty, I am another guy that used to be a competitive bicycle racer and have had my share of visits to the emergency room due to lack of proper hydration and nutrition in the heat. It really sucks to finish a 100 mile ride in 100 degree heat and have a blood sugar of 40 and a blood pressure of 85 / 40. Yep, instant trip to the hospital. In the heat, you need to eat and drink often. When it is that hot outside on a hike, I literally eat pretty much all day in addition to my main meals, and can easily go through 5-6 gallons of water a day.
 

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When it is that hot outside on a hike, I literally eat pretty much all day in addition to my main meals, and can easily go through 5-6 gallons of water a day.
That's 18-22 liters of water? That seems an awfull lot. The human body can only physically process around 1L per hour on average. That's when you're busy and in hot weather, that amount actually lessens under more normal circumstances. If you drink that much, you're overhydrating which can also cause issues. Best way i've found is to drink till you're not thirsty. Your body will tell you howmuch you need. Symptoms of overhydration include confusion, nausea/vomitting, headaches and fatigue, and in more severe cases can lead to musclecramps and coma (ironically, many of the same symptoms of dehydration). Been there when i had kidney stones and they told me to "drink a lot of water". Learnt to ask: how much do you mean with a lot?
 

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The good news is you are okay. It is important to know your body and affects like dehydration and heat exhaution. The trick is to routinely drink water and eat snacks to help absorbtion. Ive spent time in jungles, deserts and the humid south east. My wife and i did over 80 miles on the AT with temps in the mid 90's and heat indexes in the low 100's. Conditioning helps, but you really need to know when your heart rate is going up because of over heating vice just physical exertion. Shade and cooling down is important when over heating. Water, water, water...have it and use it. All other points are spot on.

ROCK6
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I'd like to comment on your choice of cotton as a shirt. In those circumstances, cotton is a good thing. Because it stays wet longer, it has a more cooling effect.
In that heat and humidity there was no cooling effect. The heavy cotton shirt was burning me up.

Since the hiking trip I have switched to a blend of cotton and polyester for working in the heat.

Thanks for sharing your experience. It's been crazy hot/humid here in the Northeast as well, and that's kept me out of the woods.
Thank you.

wow, just wow....

First off, glad to know you made it thru..

Secondly, thanks for putting it out there for others to learn from...
Thank you. It was an experience. A couple of times I thought about stopping and maybe spending the night, but decided to press on.
 

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Only politics *****.
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In that heat and humidity there was no cooling effect. The heavy cotton shirt was burning me up.

Since the hiking trip I have switched to a blend of cotton and polyester for working in the heat.
In my experience this is still due to the heavy cotton instead of a light cotton shirt. I can't handle hot weather well, and always find a light cotton shirt to keep me atleast somewhat cooled because it stays wet. Water transports heat a lot better than air which is a good insulator. So body to sweat to air, is better than a quickdrying: body to small amount of water which evaporates very fast, to air. I prefer the blends or pure poly (or bamboo, or any such wicking material), when it's a bit colder, and when sweat needs to quickly disappear if i'm outside. If i don't have a spare cotton shirt left, i usually go with my merino baselayer since that just lets the wind breathe through, but for me, nothing beats a light cotton shirt in hot (for me 26+C) conditions.
 

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Original Orange President
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"Originally Posted by kev View Post
In that heat and humidity there was no cooling effect. The heavy cotton shirt was burning me up."


There is always "cooling effect" as long as the air temp is lower than the aqueous solution held in the fabric and air is moving over that surface. Cooling effect stops when the aqueous solution evaporates faster than it is added to the substrate. Stop in some shade, take your shirt off and wave it around for a minute, then put it back on. It's cooler because air rushed over the aqueous solution held in your fabric (the substrate).

I'm not trying to be a jerk when I say this and it may read obvious: Do not wear heavy fabrics in hot temps. Doesn't matter what the fabric is made of, if it is densely woven, it's not for the heat.
 

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Renaissance Man
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This is good info and something that rarely gets talked about here among the "what firearm/knife/fire type should I use" threads. And for those of us in hot and humid areas, it's extremely important. Heat kills just as easily as cold.

In the dog days of summer, I always try to keep under tree cover while moving, and have been known to dip into streams, creeks, ponds, or other bodies of water to keep cool. I generally try to get most of my travelling done before noon and take it easier for most of the rest of the day. This time of year down here, it can still be 90 degrees at 8pm, so even the evening isn't much better.

Also, getting used to the heat is critical. If you sit in an air conditioned office and take your air conditioned car back to your air conditioned house, you will suffer far more in the heat than if you acclimate yourself to it.

Az
 

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You talkin' to me?
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DISCLAIMER: I don't hike.

However, I do live in Texas not far from Kev. I do work outside, a lot. Summer time isn't pleasant, its hot as hell from late June 'till mid September, 95+ is normal. I drink 7-8 bottles of water daily, every day. More if I'm doing hard work outside or working in non-climate controlled new construction. Heat is a killer same as cold, make sure you're prepared with the proper clothing/equipment and water.

Glad you made it okay Kev.
 

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This is good info and something that rarely gets talked about here among the "what firearm/knife/fire type should I use" threads. And for those of us in hot and humid areas, it's extremely important. Heat kills just as easily as cold.

In the dog days of summer, I always try to keep under tree cover while moving, and have been known to dip into streams, creeks, ponds, or other bodies of water to keep cool. I generally try to get most of my travelling done before noon and take it easier for most of the rest of the day. This time of year down here, it can still be 90 degrees at 8pm, so even the evening isn't much better.

Also, getting used to the heat is critical. If you sit in an air conditioned office and take your air conditioned car back to your air conditioned house, you will suffer far more in the heat than if you acclimate yourself to it.

Az

Yep. Take your bug out bag and weapon load out in this heat/humidity and you will learn real fast just how far you can travel in a day, what water resources you need, and what other sustenance your body needs. And you will learn what weight is practical. Likely adjust the overall list.
 

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thanks for an excellent thread kev. i never imagined that east texas looks so nice to hike. if i go out for a long hike here in the northeast i like carrying your steel canteen and cup, poncho, bic lighter, knife, plus extra socks. i usually take 3-5 pbj sandwiches, chocolate and oranges, not prepared snacks, and 2x1 liter bottles of water if hot. i always bring a handgun, if nothing else a .22 for 3 shot distress signal.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

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I have been experimenting with an oral rehydration formulas. Dry powder I can mix in water as needed. The lite salt is 50% potassium chloride, seems to really help with cramps.
 

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I have been experimenting with an oral rehydration formulas. Dry powder I can mix in water as needed. The lite salt is 50% potassium chloride, seems to really help with cramps.
I've just started investigating the same thing. Packets of electrolyte you can add to a canteen of water. Post the brands you find effective. I plan on doing the same once I get out to test.
 

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Renaissance Man
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What I've found to be easier and cheaper than powders, gels, and other supplements is to simply make sure I eat regularly. Real food.

That pretty much eliminates the need for electrolyte supplements.

Az
 

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What I've found to be easier and cheaper than powders, gels, and other supplements is to simply make sure I eat regularly. Real food.

That pretty much eliminates the need for electrolyte supplements.

Az
That can work for most people. Especially if you are at home during the week and do day or weekend trips. But on longer backpack trips I always found supplements to be useful. Especially as I got older.

Now this year I have an additional challenge. This spring I came down with Meneire's disease. It's a somewhat common problem with the inner ear which causes equilibrium issues. Too much fluid in the inner ear. So the most used treatment is to take a diuretic (which draws sodium and fluids from the body) and a low salt diet. Thus when I'm exerting myself on even a day hike in the summer I have to monitor my situation and increase fluid and salt proactively. Once I get back home into my weekly work routine I go back on the medication and low salt diet.

I find other people that are in their 50s and 60s have other problems that require similar attention to stay out of trouble. (High blood pressure being common.)
 
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