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Food and drink

The need for food and drink is both physiological and pyschological. The body can actually function for quite long periods without food, surviving on its reserves, But the pyschological side should not be overlooked; lack of morale through being hungry can lead to poor decision making and, if nothing else, slow progress. The need to 'have a bite to eat' to keep going (and happy) can vary considerably from person to person.

Hence what you carry in terms of food and drink is very much down to personal preference. Some people like to have a full lunchbox with sandwiches, pies, cakes, biscuits, you name it. Many really benefit from having a flask of hot soup, tea, coffee or whatever, and in cold weather it can give a genuine boost. Others prefer to travel a little lighter.

The choice is to some extent governed by the length of the route and the amount of energy you will need to replace. Having a stack of high energy foods - like cereal bars, chocolate or dried fruit - is highly advisable. You should make sure there is enough for the whole party and, if possible, some extra for emergencies. If it's going to be a long day then you will probably want some foodstuffs that release energy more slowly; that's where your sandwiches or even a pot of pre-cooked pasta can come in.

It's also important to start out having had a decent breakfast, so you have a good store of energy for the day, and to stoke up again on your return.

Replacing fluids lost through sweating is more crucial. You should always carry enough water - on most hill walks one litre per person would be a minimum. Dehydration can lead to your becoming very unwell, possibly unable to continue the route or even collapse.

Most people try to carry enough water for the whole day. You may be able to refill bottles from fast-flowing mountain streams if they are running over rocks and you can see there is nothing contaminating them for at least 100m upstream. There are risks from drinking untreated water but, providing you are careful about the source, they are generally less than the dangers of dehydrating. If you are concerned about water quality from streams on the hill you can buy very effective water filter systems (like the LifeSaver Systems bottle) or water purification tablets.

One thing to be aware of is that if you are feeling very thirsty, you are almost certainly already suffering from dehydration.  At the same time it is important not to drink too much as this too can lead to complications; it's a question of being aware of how much fluid you are likely to be losing through sweat and keeping topped up with just enough water to maintain your fluid levels. Plain simple water is absolutely fine, and you may find an 'energy drink' beneficial. But keep your consumption of alcohol for the pub on your return!

Watching out for low blood sugar levels
You need to be particularly careful if you have someone in the group who is diabetic. They will know how to manage their own condition but it is a good idea to have them explain the symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) to the whole group before you set out. These symptoms are often characterised as 'wild, white and wet' - that is pale skin, sweating and confused behaviour. The treatment is very simple - to eat something sugary. Jelly babies are excellent.

 

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