This Simple Ice Hiking Hack Will Help Keep You Hydrated

Staying hydrated while hiking is extremely important because dehydration affects your body in many ways. This includes muscle fatigue and impaired decision-making, which can be dangerous during a difficult trek. However, while we all want to bring plenty of water on a hike, the main problem is that it takes up space and adds weight. In fact, water is likely to be the heaviest item you have in your backpack, weighing in at around two pounds per liter. Plus, for longer hikes, you may need to pack extra water to mix with electrolytes, as well as a cooler with some food to help you refuel. Luckily, there's one simple trick that can help you cut back on pack weight while still bringing everything you need, and it involves freezing your water bottles and using them as ice packs.

While it may sound a bit too simple at first, this hack can make all the difference and works by replacing the weight of ice or ice packs in your cooler with frozen bottles that have multiple uses. Not only will these frozen water bottles act as ice packs to keep your food cold at the beginning of your trek, but they will also eventually melt, allowing you to drink them and stay hydrated and refreshed throughout your journey.

Why frozen bottles are better than ice

When it comes to methods for keeping your food cold while on the trail, there's no question that loose ice cubes in a cooler are the worst choice. This is because small ice cubes melt quickly and create a watery mess that can start leaking into your backpack or even get inside your food baggies — turning your turkey sandwiches and trail mix into a mushy, soggy mess. A frozen water bottle is the better choice because when it melts, all the water will be contained, keeping the inside of your cooler clean and dry.

On top of this, frozen water bottles will keep your food colder for longer than loose ice. This works because larger pieces of ice melt more slowly than smaller pieces, making frozen water bottles better for long-term cooling than ice cubes. Frozen water bottles also help conserve water because the water inside can still be consumed, whereas the water from the melted ice inside a cooler is dirty and must be dumped out. 

Frozen bottles versus ice packs

Ice packs, like frozen water bottles, are useful on hikes because they don't make a mess and won't leak into your backpack and ruin your gear. However, the reason that frozen water bottles may be the better choice (besides the fact that they help save water weight) is that the plastic of the bottle is often difficult to break or puncture. On the other hand, many gel ice packs are contained in a thin plastic covering that can sometimes tear when jostled around or squeezed. While this is a rare occurrence, it is also a dangerous one as the contents of many ice packs are toxic and should not be consumed even in small amounts, per Poison Control. This means that if your ice pack breaks open on a hike, all of the food in your cooler should be considered contaminated (unless unopened and sealed).

But that's not to say that plastic water bottles are better than ice packs in every situation. In fact, because ice packs are specifically designed to cool small spaces for a long time, they are often more effective for longer than frozen water. Therefore, if you are embarking on a multiday trek, you should choose an ice pack over a water bottle. However, a frozen water bottle should do the trick for most day hikes.

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