I’m usually pretty good at gauging my own hydration levels (and keeping myself hydrated), but sometimes I do get a shock at the colour of my urine when I take a few steps off the trail for a bush-pee.

I stumbled across this on Twitter the other day and thought it might be a good idea to share. It’s the chart that firefighters in the NSW Royal Fire Service use to gauge their own hydration levels. A very important thing for a firefighter, one would imagine, but almost as important for anyone out hiking in the Australian summer heat.

Monitoring your hydration can actually be just as important when hiking in winter. Sweating may be less noticeable and may even increase due to the dry air stripping moisture from your body more quickly.




Dealing with hydration should always start before your hike, though. I make a habit of drinking at least a litre of water, slowly, over the hour or two before I start hiking.

I bring a hydration bladder on almost every hike and try to take regular small sips rather than periodically stopping to drink large amounts. On really hot days, I might bring along a sports drink to replace some of the salt, potassium, and electrolytes that I lose through sweating. An alternative to sports drinks is adding a pinch of salt and sugar to your hydration bladder or water bottle.

Aside from the colour of your urine (I’ve been on hikes where my hiking buddies don’t urinate at all, while I stop for a pee every 15 minutes), headaches are probably the first noticeable dehydration symptom. If you get a headache while you’re hiking, don’t ignore it.

When dehydrated, your best course of action is to have a rest in the shade and address the problem. If you’re worried about time, just make it up later by deciding not to spend that 15 minutes trying to get the right angle and lighting for that photo of a mushroom.

Edit: After a couple of suggestions from readers (thanks guys!), I just wanted to add that you also need to beware of drinking too much water. This can result in a condition called Hyponatremia, which can also be fatal. Apologies for overlooking this obvious piece of advice. I will definitely publish an article on this at some point in the future.


Got any other tips for staying hydrated? Tell us in the comments section below.