A nine-year-old had been monopolizing the inflatable kayak since lunch. She had been playing hard and loving it. She’d taken a few swims and crawled back into her boat laughing. When we arrived at camp and set everything up, her mother came to us. She was concerned. Her daughter, who had been having a blast just a short while ago, was suddenly headachy and grumpy. She had holed up in the tent and wouldn’t come out. She was only communicating in one-word sentences. We had dehydration on our hands.
Unfortunately, these stories are way too common on the river. Dehydration mitigation is among the top first aid treatments guides have to administer on a rafting trip. And it’s not just kids who have to be careful. Watch yourself for symptoms too. Seemingly rapid onset or unjustified irritability could indicate dehydration. Headaches are common dehydration clues. So is dark yellow and infrequent urine. But let’s just avoid these symptoms completely, because they’re a big trip bummer.
Here are a few simple tips for how to avoid dehydration on a rafting trip–one of the most common (and easily preventable) mistakes people make:
Not really a water drinker? Add a little (not much, mind the sugar) Gatorade or lemonade to the water and make it more palatable.
Set benchmarks. Try to drink one bottle between getting up in the morning and launching on the river, one bottle by lunch, one by the time you reach camp, and one by the time you go to bed. Even if you don’t achieve these goals every day, you’ll feel more up to that afternoon waterfall hike if you focus on how much you’re drinking.
Fill your water bottle before going to bed and keep it by your pillow. That way, when you wake in the night to roll over, go to the bathroom, or check on your kids, you can take a few swigs and replenish the water you lost that day in the sun.
Mind your drink. You’re on vacation, so have a few beers. But be mindful that with each alcoholic libation you consume you’ll lose more valuable water. Go drink for drink with water and beer.
Hydrate before you get to the riverside put-in. Several days before your rafting trip, ramp up your water intake at home. Drink water on the plane, as you listen to the safety speech, and as you put your life jacket on. Because if you start the trip nearly dehydrated you’re twice as likely to be taken down by it when you’re on the river.
Make it easy to stay hydrated. Always keep your water bottle within reach. On the rafts you can use a locking carabiner to clip it to a secure place that’s easy to get to in calm water. Every time you hit a mellow stretch of the river, drink.
Follow all these guidelines and you won’t be the sad kid who has to miss the campfire because you went to bed dehydrated at 7:30 pm. Stay hydrated.