How to Hydrate at High Altitudes

The atmosphere at higher elevations contains less oxygen and pressure, causing water to evaporate from your lungs and skin more quickly than lower altitudes. In addition, bodies react to the thinner air with increased urination and faster breathing, causing even faster loss of hydration. Staying properly hydrated at high altitudes is a matter of being diligent about the frequency and kind of hydration you practice.

Drink plain water, not soda, alcoholic beverages, coffee or any other fluid. The additives in other drinks can actually cause dehydration. Water is always the best choice. Carry bottled water or a hydration pack with you at all times. Drink water with and between meals at both high and low altitudes.

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Drink plenty of water on your way to a high altitude location so you do not arrive dehydrated. Begin drinking two to three liters of water a day for several days before your trip. Carry a bottle of water with you as you travel and drink from it as often as you can. Avoid coffee, soda and alcohol.

Consume extra water if you participate in sports or other activities at high altitudes that cause you to sweat. Drink an extra 1 ½ to 2 ½ cups of water for an exercise period lasting less than an hour. For longer exertions, especially for grueling activities such as marathons, supplement your normal water consumption with sports drinks during the exercise to replace sodium and other nutrients lost through perspiration. Continue drinking water after the activity to replace lost moisture.

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Increase your water intake at any elevation if you are ill with fever, vomiting or diarrhea or if you are pregnant or breast feeding. For any health condition, consult a health care professional for the recommended amount of water to drink for your specific situation.

Eat foods high in water content to help maintain your hydration. Fresh fruits and non-starchy vegetables have a high percentage of water and help keep you hydrated at high altitudes.

Drink water regularly enough so that you don’t feel thirsty. You should be producing about 6 1/3 cups of colorless or lightly colored urine per day.

Carry water in a portable hydration system for outdoor activities at high altitudes. Do not wait until the activity is finished before you drink water.


If you have heart disease, are pregnant or have a medical condition, check with your doctor for a recommendation about how much water to drink at high altitudes.


Watch for signs of dehydration, which include thirst, cramping, fatigue, nausea, dizziness and inability to focus. If you experience these symptoms, stop exercising, drink lots of water and see a doctor immediately.