Taking care of yourself is number one on a multi-day hike. Good nutrition and hydration are fundamental ways to help yourself stay healthy and enjoy your time on the trail.
Water is a tricky one in Southern Ontario. I can’t give complete approval to drink any untreated water source. Drinking untreated water is a quick way to contract a water-borne illness, which can leave you on your back with cramps or taking urgent trips to the washroom. Georgian Bay is the only water source I have drank from, even treated. I fear agricultural runoff, which you may have to contend with in streams. My best suggestion is to stock up on water before heading out, ask to refill your water bottles at public locations and use a filtration or purification system properly before drinking from any untreated water source. Drinking from water sources is all about your own personal risk assessment, but here are a few things you should consider:
Check the expiration date:
Water purification drops and tablets have an expiration date and should not be used past it. Certain filters also have an expiration date and, when frozen, should be immediately replaced. Frozen moisture in a filter will damage the cartridge irreparably, allowing many pathogens to pass through into your drinking water.
Avoid Stagnant Water sources:
Pick one that is moving if you choose to drink from a spring or stream. Make sure the water is also free of sediments, and if you can source your water from a ground spring, doing so closest to the source may help with contamination. Remember that even water coming straight from a ground spring still needs to be treated!
Plan your water accordingly:
Water can be heavy! (1 Kilogram for every Litre if you are interested in the simple conversion) Consider where your next water source is and stock up when available.
Consider the weather:
Staying hydrated on a hot day takes more fluids than a crisp fall day. Also, consider the season in which you are hiking as well. Water sources will be more scarce in the later summer than earlier as some temporary streams dry up. If you are choosing to depend on smaller water sources, ensure you have enough to make it to a bigger one.
Food is the fuel for your hiking engine. Food makes your days much easier and is the best way to portion out your day hiking (Snickers-o-clock is anytime after 3:00). Here are a few things to remember when considering meals on the trail so that you always have a full belly and a happy spirit.
Protecting your food:
You are not the only one out in the woods who wants to eat oatmeal and protein bars. Animals are tenacious when it comes to getting to your food. When they are successful, you are going hungry. In Southern Ontario, we do have black bears, though it is much more common that you must deal with smaller crafty animals such as raccoons, squirrels, or chipmunks. These animals are also controlled by their stomachs. Protect your dinners overnight by hanging your food in a bear hang, using an animal-resistant container such as a bear canister, ursack, or bear barrel. Keeping your food close by throughout the day means you can chase away any chipmunk that gets the wrong idea.
The difference in the amount of food you eat at home and on the trail must be considered. As you spend so much of your day doing physical activity, you may need more food than you would if you were not hiking.
A side note:
Your food is for you! Please do not feed the wildlife, as much of what we eat is unhealthy for the animals. Feeding animals may also reinforce the wrong behaviours, such as begging and create a dependency on humans. Feeding animals becomes problematic when that animal loses its ability to find food independently.
What food should I pack is a very personal question. Nobody should tell you what to eat when you are hiking. Measure your Food needs amongst several personal criteria. Is it tasty to you? Will it provide you with the calories, proteins and nutrients you need? Is it easily accessible to you along the trail? (Sometimes you just have to eat what is available.) Does it fit within your budget? Is it light/compact enough to carry? Will it spoil without refrigeration? Are you prepared to carry out the packaging? It is up to you to weigh these questions when making your meal plan.
Aaron “Talus” Holden
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