Desert hiking quickly sucks moisture from the body due to dry environments, lack of shade, and high energy requirements. The best hydration supplements help replenish the electrolytes you lose while hiking, while restoring the body’s natural balance of essential minerals — but it can be hard to find ones that taste good without being loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients. Here’s what to keep in mind to stay hydrated while hiking and seven of the best electrolyte supplements to stash in your pack before hitting the desert trails.
Importance of Hydration When Hiking
According to data published by the US Institute of Medicine, moisture loss from sweating alone can reach 10 liters per day when exercising in hot environments. This moisture loss, combined with high rates of evaporation in hot, dry climates like the desert, makes focusing on hydration absolutely necessary. And water isn’t the only essential. As people sweat, they lose salt and other essential minerals needed to keep the body functioning properly in any climate. So it’s crucial to replenish electrolytes such as sodium, magnesium, calcium, and potassium as well in every bottle you drink.
How Much Water Should You Bring on a Hike?
There’s no magic formula for how much water you should bring with you on a desert hike. A good rule of thumb is to drink 16-32 ounces of water (with electrolytes included) per hour when hiking. If you wait until you’re thirsty, it is too late. Also, drinking a little bit of water more frequently is better than downing a large amount of water all at once. That’s why hydration packs are so helpful. They make it easy to sip your way through even the most grueling hikes.
For planning purposes, 6-8 liters of water for 6-8 hours of hiking is a good starting point. The amount you drink will depend on a range of factors including humidity, temperature, whether you’re hiking out in the open or in the shade, and your level of exertion. Keep in mind that desert hikes are often wide open, without a lot of coverage from the intense sun, even when it is cold.
Before setting out on a desert adventure, we advise reading up on all the signs of dehydration.
Benefits of Having a Hydration Supplement
Hydration supplements are powders, tablets, gels, or prepared drinks that help the body maintain its ideal balance of electrolytes while replenishing fluids lost during strenuous activities like desert hiking. Supplements to increase hydration work by providing additional electrolytes to replace the ones you’ve lost through sweating. When your electrolyte levels get low, a whole range of physical symptoms can occur, including headaches, poorly regulated blood pressure, fatigue, and confusion. Lack of proper electrolyte balance can also impact the ability of your muscles to contract during exercise (including your heart).
7 Best Hydration Supplements and Electrolyte Powders
The best hydration supplements and electrolyte powders provide a convenient way to quickly replenish what’s lost during high-intensity activities while enabling your body to absorb moisture more efficiently. Here are seven of our favorites:
1. DripDrop Hydration
Image courtesy of DripDrop Hydration. Used with permission.
DripDrop Hydration is one of the best ORS (Oral Rehydration Systems) on the market. But don’t just take our word for it! If you ask Erem’s team member Jax Mustafa, she’ll tell you that one of the most critical things that helped her on her journey to become the 4 Deserts 2016 Female World Champion was the right hydration — and DripDrop Hydration was her go-to! DripDrop’s doctor Eduardo Dolhun developed rehydration solutions that will help you crush dehydration with 3x the electrolytes and ½ the sugar of sports drinks. DripDrop can and has been used as an alternative to IV treatment for dehydration. We recommend grabbing a variety pack of delicious flavors for your next adventure.
2. Ultima Replenishers
Image courtesy of Ultima Replenishers. Used with permission.
This is another top pick for our team. Ultima Replenishers has an amazing assortment of flavors and each one packs all the electrolytes you’ll need. It is worth noting that it also contains zero sugar and zero calories, so you should plan to get fuel from snacks of gels to stay on track with eating 90-180 calories per half hour. Choose from handy single-serve sticks or larger multi-serving canisters.
3. Skratch Labs Clear Hydration Drink Mix
If you love the idea of an electrolyte-restoring powdered drink mix without the heavy-handed flavors that characterize many hydration supplements, the Clear Hydration Drink Mix from Skratch Labs is your perfect match. It’s designed to taste like water with just a hint of lemon or orange. Its carbohydrate and sodium concentration is designed to match the composition of the sweat you’re losing and contains all the essential electrolytes you need to stay balanced during hot, intense hikes.
4. HALO Peach Powder
Image courtesy of HALO Hydration. Used with permission.
HALO’s Hydration’s hydration supplement powders contain a proprietary blend of natural electrolytes, trace minerals, and a daily dose of immune-boosting vitamin C. They currently come in three flavors: peach, berry, and pink lemonade and include only one gram of sugar per serving, making them an ideal choice for those trying to keep their sugar consumption to a minimum.
5. Klean Hydration
Image courtesy of Klean Athlete. Used with permission.
Gluten-free and vegan, Klean Hydration is one of the best electrolyte powder supplements on the market. It provides all the essentials to keep you hydrated including simple and complex carbs and additional minerals designed to replace those lost during strenuous activity. This hydration powder has a light orange flavor created without the help of artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners.
6. Thorne Catalyte
From one of the leading manufacturers of high-quality dietary supplements, Thorne Catalyte is a unique combination of C and B vitamins, electrolytes, zinc, chromium, and the amino acid taurine. This hydration powder replenishes electrolytes lost when sweating and also promotes the body’s natural muscle repair and rebuilding efforts. Calorie-free sweeteners derived from natural sources won’t bog you down with extra sugar.
7. Trace 40,000 Volts Electrolyte Concentrate
Image courtesy of Trace 40,000. Used with permission.
Don’t let the name scare you, but Trace 40,000 Volts Electrolyte Concentrate is some serious stuff! This liquid concentrate makes it easy to turn any beverage into an electrolyte-restoring powerhouse. One teaspoon per large glass of water, juice, or even iced coffee provides an ideal blend of full-spectrum ionic trace minerals and salts to help restore the body’s natural electrolyte balance. Each 8-ounce bottle contains 48 servings, making it perfect for bringing on longer backpacking or camping trips (like thru-hiking the Arizona Trail!).
Check out these top tips for hiking in the desert hiking before your next adventure.
Hydration, Check. Footwear Custom Made For The Desert?
The desert is a special place. At Erem, we cherish the peace, stillness, and breathtaking beauty that desert hiking provides. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to craft hiking boots designed for traversing these stark places. With unrivaled breathability and comfort, 100% leather construction, and single-piece, solid rubber soles, Erem’s boots excel in some of the harshest conditions on Earth.
Our desert hiking boots are made using sustainable, eco-friendly practices that respect the planet’s limited resources. Erem's Xerocole™ boots are Biocircular, made only with materials that have a proven path back to nature. All of our boots are designed for sequels and can be renewed through our Reboot program. Just send back your worn-out pair and we’ll renew them, returning them in new, “tough as a cactus” condition. Our men’s and women’s hiking boots are ideal for supporting rugged adventures in some of the world’s most unforgiving places. Erem boots have what it takes to keep your feet comfortable and protected on trail or off.
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