When I think about survival, hydration is top of mind. It is fundamental to us as humans, as in over half of our bodies are made up of water.

Being dehydrated can lead to serious complications and side effects, with fatigue, headache and crankiness being some of the first signs. Water allows our bodies to carry out basic chemical reactions and essential functions.

That’s why it’s so important to drink lots of water, especially outdoors. But how much should you drink? How often?

  • Men should drink at least 15.5 cups of fluids a day and women should drink 11.5 cups, according to the Mayo Clinic. You’ve probably heard the advice of 8 glasses a day, but depending on your physical activity, climate and personal body type, more might be needed. One way to tell if you’re drinking enough is to check the color of your urine.
  • To Be Prepared for emergencies, you should have a minimum of a three-day supply of water on hand (1 gallon per person, per day).
  • Drink plenty of fluids in the days leading up to your next trek. The water you consume today can help prepare for how you will feel tomorrow.

Let’s talk water filters

It is always a great idea to have a water filtration system in your pack when you head into the backcountry. Filtration systems reliably remove common contaminants like E. Coli and Cryptosporidium that could make you ill if you ingest them from a lake or stream.

For an in-depth review of water filters available at the Scout Shop, click here. While some physical Scout Shop locations have been temporarily closed during the COVID-19 outbreak, ScoutShop.org remains open for business and is shipping right to your door.

To read other ways of finding and cleaning water in the backcountry, check out the Wilderness Survival merit badge pamphlet, this Boys’ Life story or click here to read “Survivorman” Les Stroud’s advice.

For fun, Boys’ Life tested different water filters by running soda through them (Don’t try this at home! Or in the backcountry!) Filters are made for water, not sugary drinks; although, the test revealed some surprising results.

Hydration is important

As you plan your next trek, consider hydration. Drink water often – do not ration it. As stated in the Emergency Preparedness merit badge pamphlet, “Trying to make water last longer does more harm than good.”

Water is critical for our bodies to function, so be sure to drink before you are thirsty, even in the winter, and definitely anytime you are outside being active.

Always have at least a full 1-liter water bottle with you and take regular drinks from it. If you are planning on being out for a long hike, take an extra liter or more (psst… this backpack holds 3 liters!) You should drink enough water that you don’t feel thirsty and your urine is clear or light yellow. And opt for water, rather than energy drinks.

For more, encourage your Scouts to review the Emergency Preparedness merit badge pamphlet, the Wilderness Survival merit badge pamphlet, the Scouts BSA handbook and the BSA Fieldbook.

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