Purify your water
Hikers have the dubious honor of having a disease named after them: backpacker’s diarrhea, aka giardiasis. Avoid this GI-wrecking protozoa (and other bugs) by treating water with one of the following:
» An ultraviolet-light purifier like the Journey SteriPEN ($100, 4.5 oz. with batteries, steripen.com). Fast and easy, it works best in warmer, fairly clear water.
» Chlorine dioxide tablets like Aquamira ($17, 2 oz., aquamira.com). Though lightweight and easy, they take 30 minutes to kick in. Iodine tablets also work, and often come with pills to neutralize the aftertaste.
» Boiling. Bring water to a rolling boil for one minute to be safe (not five minutes, as once thought). It’s fuel-intensive, but great for silty water, large groups, or when cooking.
» Filters like the MSR Hyperflow ($99, 7.4 oz., msrgear.com) and the Platypus CleanStream Gravity Filter ($100, 13.7 oz., cascadedesigns.com). Easy and aftertaste-free, they typically require field maintenance (for clogged filters and dirty O-rings).
Fry fish perfectly “Throw a wooden match into an oiled skillet that has been heating for about 10 minutes. If the match spontaneously ignites, it means the oil is between 375°F and 400°F—perfect for cooking a fish crisp on the outside, tender on the inside,” recommends Voyageurs Adventures guide Wade Watson (9/05).
Make tasty freeze-dried meals One bite of brittle, half-hydrated beef stroganoff is a gag-inducing flavor that will forever haunt you. Save yourself by preparing freeze-dried entrées with extra water and spices or mix-ins from home; this minimizes the risk of Styrofoam fare, while also delivering more fluids to your body. Another tip: To trap heat for faster, more thorough rehydration, nestle the pouch inside your jacket or a beanie while the food rehydrates.
Drink enough Your pee should look nearly clear. Thirst is often a good guide, but beware: 2004 research found cold weather dampens the thirst response. Hikers typically need three to four liters a day, but that varies with temperature and exertion level. Sip every 15 minutes; the body absorbs small, frequent amounts more efficiently. Replace electrolytes with sports drinks or salty foods. Signs of dehydration: headaches, dizziness, and confusion.