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Staying hydrated when you’re working outside, exercising in- or outdoors, or enjoying a sunny day is vital to your health. Dehydration can cause a host of medical problems that are easily avoided by drinking plenty of water when your active or it’s hot. While a bottle of water may be sufficient for most people, if you sweat a lot or are going to be outside all day, a better choice would be a hydration pack.
How Much Water Do You Need?
Most people know that they should be drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day to stay hydrated. However, if you’re working outside on hot days or exercising indoors or outside, then you will need to drink more than eight glasses.
Several factors go into determining how much water you should drink while participating in activities like exercising, working outside, or being outside on a hot day. These factors include:
- The intensity of activities.
- Length of activity time.
For instance, when you’re working out, regardless of whether it’s indoors or outside, the guidelines for water consumption from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommend:
- 17 to 20 ounces of water about two to three hours before working out.
- Eight ounces during warm-ups, or 20 to 30 minutes before starting your exercise routine.
- Seven to 10 ounces about every 10 to 20 minutes during your workout.
- Eight ounces no longer than 30 minutes after you’ve stopped exercising.
Staying Hydrated When Working Outdoors
In an effort to prevent heat illnesses from working outsides on hot days, it is recommended that workers try to drink enough water to replace the sweat they lose. Some people can produce as much as two to three gallons of sweat.
To replace this moisture, workers should make an effort to drink five to seven ounces of water or other fluids every 15 to 20 minutes while they’re working. However, access to water isn’t always convenient if you’re working in a field, on top of a roof, or on a factory floor where time is tightly controlled.
Instead of depending on water breaks, carry water with you, so it is always within reach. Although you can carry an insulated cooler with bottles of cold water, an insulted jug filled it, or clip an insulated bottle to your belt, your water supply could quickly run out on extremely hot days. Another alternative is to carry a backpack designed to hold water.
What is a Water BackPack?
Water backpacks, also known as hydration packs, are made to carry water to provide a convenient way to get a drink when needed. Most of them have drink tubes connected to a water reservoir located in a backpack to allow the user to take a sip as they are working, hiking, gardening, or doing other activities.
In larger capacity hydration systems, the water reservoir is either held in place with clips or an interior pocket located in the pack. Most companies make them in different sizes and for doing certain activities. When selecting a hydration pack, look for one that’s:
- Designed for the primary activity, you will be doing.
- The proper capacity for both the water and gear you’re carrying.
- Properly fit for the size of your hips and torso length.
- Made with the features you want.
Types of Hydration Packs
Several brands of water backpacks are available in different sizes and for specific purposes. Hydration packs are made for:
- Winter Sports
Hiking Hydration Packs
If you trail hike on weekends or when camping, then there is a hiking water pack made for your needs. These packs contain a reservoir for water and enough room to carry the items you will need on a hike, like sunglasses, a change of clothes, snacks, and first-aid supplies. They vary in size from water waist packs that are ideal for day hikes to larger ultralight hydration packs for longer hiking adventures.
Cycling Hydration Packs
Cycling water backpacks are made primarily for road cycling and mountain biking. Packs for road cycling are usually smaller, lighter and have a low-profile fit to avoid wind resistance. Mountain biking hydration packs have a larger capacity, so they can carry a water bladder, clothing, repair kits, and the gear you may need. A waistband helps prevent interference while pedaling your bike.
Running Hydration Packs
To ensure that you’ll stay hydrated during short runs on a hot day or while training for a marathon, you’ll find water backpacks that are specially made for runners. They are available in two designs: running vests or running backpacks.
Running vests fit over the shoulders and back like a backpack. While most of them contain a water reservoir with a sipping tube, running vests may also have pockets on the shoulder straps for carrying water bottles.
Running backpacks fit the body like a daypack and feature low-profile designs, extra pockets to store necessities, pockets on the shoulder straps for water bottles, and many of them have hipbelts to hold the pack against your body. Some of them also have pockets to carry snacks and extra clothing for trail runners.
Winter Sports Hydration Packs
If you’re into downhill or cross-country skiing or snowboarding, there is are hydration packs for your needs as well. Water backpacks for snow sports are designed to keep the water from freezing.
The sip tube may have a bite valve cover and fit into a small pocket on a shoulder strap to keep water in the tube from becoming ice. Some models, like the Camelbak hydration pack, include room for extra layers of clothing, food, and a helmet.
Hydration packs are sized by their water capacity and include bottles or reservoirs that hold:
- 0.5-liter packs: 16 fluid ounces or less.
- One or 1.5-liter packs: 32 or 50 ounces of water.
- 2 or 2.5-liters: 70 or 85 fluid ounces.
- 3 liters or more: 100 fluid ounces or more.
Fitting a Hydration Backpack
Hydration backpacks need to be fitted to the body to ensure they are carried correctly to prevent back strain or injuries. Some hydration packs are available in several sizes, so you need to know the measurements of your torso and waist to select the correct one.
To get an accurate measurement, you’ll need someone to help you and use a cloth measuring tape to find the length of your torso. Start by tucking your chin into your chest to reveal the C7 vertebra. It is located where your neck and shoulders meet.
Next, place your hands on your hip bones with the thumbs positioned along your back. The bony shelf you should feel is called the iliac crest. Have your helper draw an invisible line between the thumbs to the center of your spine.
They should place the end of the measuring tape at that point and then move it up to the 7th cervical vertebra. The helper should make a note of the measurement, which will be the length of your torso.
Don’t move from your position and have your helper measure your hips at the iliac crest. This measurement will help ensure you get a hipbelt that properly fits you if the style of water pack you want to buy has one. Most hipbelts will fit most people as they usually measure from about the mid-20 to the mid-40 inches or bigger.
Some manufacturers made water backpacks specifically for women and children to conform to their bodies for a better fit. Women’s packs are slightly narrower and shorter than a man’s water pack. The packs made for kids are smaller and usually carry less water than those for adults.
Once you’ve bought a pack, fill it with water and try it on to adjust the shoulder and chest straps, as well as the hipbelt. The weight of the pack should be carried on your hips, not your back, so adjust them as needed.
While most people can easily stay hydrated by only drinking water, if you’re going to be working out for more than an hour doing high-intensity exercises, then you should consider drinking a sports drink to replace the electrolytes that are lost while sweating.
When you sweat, your body loses sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and other nutrients that make up electrolytes. Sports drinks may include some of these nutrients, especially potassium and sodium, to replace those you’ve lost.
Along with replacing electrolytes, some sports drinks can also provide your body with a burst of energy as they contain carbohydrates. However, the carbohydrates in sports drinks come from sugar, but you can avoid it by choosing low- or no-calorie varieties.
Another way to avoid carbohydrates is to choose an electrolyte mix. Put some in a water bottle, shake it to dissolve the mix and carry it on a shoulder strap or in the pack.
By carrying a hydration pack, such as a Camelbak backpack, you can prevent dehydration when exercising or participating in outdoor activities. Choose the appropriate pack for your favorite activity and size it correctly before leaving on your next excursion.