Carry Water On Your Back Like A Camel.

In my younger days, my friends and I launched our adventures without giving a thought to proper nutrition, hydration and so on. On one fondly remembered camping trip, provisions were down to shredded wheat, peanut butter and warm beer, and we still had fun.

Dehydration is pretty common and may be the reason for low energy.
Dehydration is pretty common and may be the reason for low energy.  Benefits of drinking water are many. No joke.

Now we have the benefit of decades of research in sports medicine, nutrition and physiology. When planning my slope time, I try to take advantage of this knowledge to give myself any boost I can, whether it’s diet, exercise or technique. Proper hydration, while an often-discussed topic, is easy to overlook when it comes to winter sports yet surprisingly easy to maintain.

Easy to overlook, because, well, it’s cold out! Cold, dry air and modern technical clothing which so effectively manages perspiration combine to mask how much you may be sweating even on the most frigid day. The “start/stop” exertion common to skiing, where you do a run then relax on the chair, can further hide the amount of water you may be losing through sweat. Medium intensity steady exercise can cause you to lose an average of two liters of water an hour; even if you halve that because the exertion in skiing isn’t steady, it’s still a significant loss. If you get cold, you can still lose through “cold dieresis”, where the body loses water through increased urine production.

The benefits of staying well hydrated are many: You avoid fatigue, confusion, irritability, dizziness. Your joints function better. When dehydrated, the body will draw water from the blood; decreased blood volume leads to colder extremities and greater susceptibility to hypothermia and frostbite. As dehydration increases the heart rate can rise as blood pressure drops.

For my water supply, I like to wear a hydration pack. I prefer a simple, minimal design like the CamelBak Bootlegger ($55) which is made to be worn under your jacket. This keeps the drinking tube from freezing and keeps the pack from shifting around as I ski, or snagging on a chairlift. It’s a simple matter to unzip my jacket a bit & pull out the tube to take a sip every 15 minutes or so,

Camelbak Bootlegger carries the right joy juice to keep hydrated. Credit: Camelbak
Camelbak Bootlegger carries the joy juice to keep you hydrated.
Credit: Camelbak

whether stopping for a breather on a run or while sitting on a lift. The Bootlegger holds 1.5 liters; usually I’ll only fill it halfway and press all the air out to keep it as flat as possible. It’s easy to refill when stopping for a break or lunch. The bulk is barely noticeable, and the water bladder is sturdy enough that I can lean back on the chair lift without fear of bursting it.

I use plain water, which makes keeping the bladder and tube clean very easy. Sports drinks like Gatorade aren’t necessary; they all contain some form of sugar, and some contain up to 150 mg of sodium per cup, which may be an issue if you need to watch sodium intake. I think electrolyte loss in skiing is minimal; it’s more an issue when hot-weather exertion causes copious sweating.

A hydration pack is a much more comfortable way to carry water than having a big bottle banging around in your pocket. Making access easy and convenient means you’re more likely to stay well-hydrated and keep the fun going!



  1. Jack Murray says:

    Have you ever fallen on it?

    • Michael Maginn says:

      Working on getting Mike Conley to share his experience, Jack. Stay tuned.

    • Michael Maginn says:

      Interesting question!

      The short answer is, no. If you did, it could be a mixed blessing: on the one hand it could possibly cushion the shock of falling but on the other hand, if it burst you’d get a bit wet.

      This question made me think about the (happily, rare) times I’ve fallen. I’ve fallen forward (hitting a slush patch in the spring) and I’ve fallen on my side but I can’t recall falling flat on my back – seems you’d really have to be in the “back seat” for your skis to shoot out from under you.

      I have at times forgotten I’m wearing it and thrown myself back into a chair with some force and I’ve never even had a tiny leak result from that.

      Hope that’s helpful!

      Mike Conley

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *