Did you know your body exhales and perspires twice as much moisture at 6,000 feet above sea level as your body does at sea level? It’s true. At altitudes higher than that, the rate is even higher. That means for those who like to explore, hike, and boondock at high altitudes–I think this applies to most of us–you need to drink more water than you normally do, as much as a quart or more a day.
Why do our bodies require more water at higher altitudes? Basically, it comes down to the lower air pressures or thinner air found at higher altitudes. The lower pressures and thinner air result in more rapid evaporation of moisture from our skin and from our lungs. Compounding matters even more, if you explore and camp in regions that have dry air–like the notoriously dry air found in the American southwest–the rate of evaporation from our bodies is accelerated even more. This means you need even more water to keep your body functioning. Even when the temperatures are cold.
What are the symptoms of dehydration? What are the signs you should be looking for when you’re out and about? The same when you’re not drinking enough water on a hot summer day. Nausea, headache, and fatigue are the first symptoms I get when I’m dehydrated at high altitudes. Other symptoms of dehydration include muscle cramps and tightness, shortness of breath, and dizziness. These symptoms can strike suddenly or come on gradually during the course of the day, so be aware. If these troublesome symptoms do strike, remember to drink small mouth fulls of water rather than guzzling it as this gives your body time to use the water rather than just peeing it all out. In addition, avoid caffeinated drinks as these can dehydrate your body even more.
So what does all this mean for you, the active RV Owner? During your high altitude excursions, bring extra drinking water–lots of it. I’m not a fan of bottled water, but I am during trips in our camper. Bottled water is cheap, is portable, and is easy to carry whether you’re in your RV, rock crawling in your Jeep, or hiking on a mountain trail (just make sure you recycle the bottles when you’re done with them). If bringing along large cases of bottled water seems like a pain, then you can buy either a fixed water purification system that ties into your RV’s fresh water system or you can buy a portable water purification unit like the Doulton SS2 water filtration unit. These water purification systems work great, but for those who have small fresh water holding tanks in their RVs like mine, drinking from your fresh water tank does use a sizable portion of your fresh water supply. Do what works best for you.
Another tip that works well for me when I’m active and trying to stay hydrated is to use electrolytes. I’m not talking about Gatorade, though this works well, too. I’m talking about a mineral additive like Lyte Balance that you add directly to your water. This superb product contains a potent blend of sodium, potassium, and magnesium, essential electrolytes that your body needs to function properly and feel good. What I like about this product is that there’s no sugar in it like Gatorade. I add one cap full of Lyte Balance to my water bottle and it really helps keep me going. Keeping your body hydrated and your electrolytes in balance is important for you to feel good and stay active. I highly recommend it.
So if you’re hiking and camping in your RV at higher elevations and you find yourself feeling nauseous, dizzy, and weak, you’re probably dehydrated. A little rest and a couple bottles of purified water with electrolytes should be all that you need to start feeling like your old self again.
A special thanks to Dan Schechter for permission to use his photo.