Articles and Photos by Beau Martonik
From the Rockies to the Appalachian Mountains, outdoor activities such as hunting, hiking and cross country skiing are in full swing during the winter months. As much fun as it can be when you finally catch that buck’s track in the fresh snow, or finding that group of bulls in their honey hole; it can be a dangerous time to be out if you don’t pay attention to your hydration. During the summer and into the fall, we are focused on having enough water and supplementing our bodies with the right fuel and vitamins for long, hot days in the mountains. It is just as important to ensure your body is hydrated during cold weather endeavors.
During cold weather, your kidneys don’t conserve water as efficiently as they do in warmer weather which leads to increased urination. The fluids that are lost must be replenished with additional fluids to reduce the risk of dehydration. Your body’s response to thirst is greatly diminished in colder weather caused by constricting blood vessels. In addition, you don’t feel as if you are sweating as much during high exertion, but in reality your sweat is just evaporating quickly in the frigid air. All of these can be a recipe for dehydration if you don’t take it seriously. With the increased risk of dehydration comes a decrease in your core body temperature. When your opportunity finally presents itself to take an animal, dehydration can greatly reduce your odds of making a clean, ethical shot. How so? Well, when your body isn’t properly hydrated, your mental clarity is diminished and anxiety can rise. This can lead to the increased target panic and “buck fever”, leaving you in a situation that could result in an unfavorable shot.
Signs of Dehydration
· Dizziness and Headaches
· Dark Urine
· Back/Side Pain
· Muscle Cramps
· Extremely tired and lethargic
· Dry mouth and skin
What Can You Do?
Drink fluids! Sounds simple, right? It’s easy to say that you need to drink more fluids to stay hydrated, but we all know that it’s not easy to drink cold drinks when your face is wind burnt and your motor skills are slow. To combat that, drinking warm or hot fluids can be a great way to warm up your inner body. The warm or hot fluids don’t actually warm up your core body temperature, but drinking fluids in general will. Our bodies use water to maintain its core temperature in hot and cold weather.
If you are backpack hunting, you are most likely using a stove to rehydrate your breakfast and dinner meals. Using dehydrated breakfast meals from Heather’s Choice only use 4 ounces of water. This is important, because you can heat up 16 ounces in your jetboil or other form of stove and use the remaining 12 ounces to enjoy a warm MTN OPS Ignite drink. Ignite and Enduro have an ingredient called L-Arginine that is a naturally occurring amino acid which helps in increased blood flow and oxygen to the muscles and cells of the body. This will fight against the cold weather that can constrict your blood vessels, as well as keeping you hydrated.
The energy and mental clarity you will get with the help of Ignite can be just the boost you need to keep you pushing hard on the cold, long days in the mountains or treestand. During day hunts and long days in the treestand, I take a Yeti Rambler bottle filled up with a warm drink. There isn’t a better feeling to have that hot fluid touch your lips after hours of cold wind pounding your body.
On those really cold days, your water bottles can freeze completely leaving you in a tough situation. One tactic to continue to get the necessary fluids is to melt snow using your stove. You can drink this melted snow right away or use it to melt the ice in your Nalgene bottle. Be sure to have water purification tablets or a Steripen with you for this method. If you have ever tried using a hydration bladder during cold weather trips, you soon realized that they freeze very quickly. Even insulated hoses and bladders can still freeze in really cold temperatures. So if this is your preferred method, make sure to have a Nalgene or other bottle as a backup plan. Note that there are tips that will reduce the chances of freezing such as always blowing back the excess water out of your hose into the bladder. Another method is to put warm water in the bladder from the beginning of the trip, but this will only work on day hunts.
Whether you’re sitting dark to dark in a snowy creek bottom treestand in Pennsylvania, or running a ridge top in the Colorado backcountry during a cold September snow storm in search of elk, your hydration is an essential component to keeping you warm and focused.
· Enjoy a warm drink with the help of a cooking stove or an insulated bottle to make consumption pleasant. Although it doesn’t warm up your core body temperature much, it encourages you to drink more when the cold suppresses your thirst.
· Sometimes water can be bland to drink and can make it less encouraging to consume. Add MTN OPS Ignite and Enduro to the mix to give you the delicious flavor you like, as well as the nutrients to stay energized, focused and hydrated. Since these come in single serving trail packs, it has never been more convenient to throw them in your pack and mix them in the field.
· Get your digestive system working to burn the calories from a high protein and fat meal such as a Heather’s Choice breakfast or dinner. Even snacking on a calorie dense Packaroon will help get your body working.
· Our bodies use water to regulate its temperature. Dehydration can greatly increase your chances of hypothermia. Clothing layering systems are important to staying warm, but cannot be utilized to their potential unless you are properly hydrated.
Don’t let a lack of hydration during cold weather hold you back from succeeding on a hunt, and more importantly staying safe!