A trekker needs to drink liquids frequently and deliberately to avoid dehydration in winter. Water is required by your body to metabolise food, and thus to keep you warm and energetic. This permits you to better endure the physical and mental challenges of winter hiking. Nevertheless, cold weather suppresses the body’s thirst mechanism and it often requires a conscious effort to drink enough water and rehydrate. On a typical day hike, your body loses around four litres of water, which is more than many trekkers probably drink. This is further aggravated by high sweat rate which often accompanies strenuous athletic activity in winters. If you’re dehydrated by even 5%, you can experience a 20 to 30% decrease in your metabolism. Mild dehydration results in a headache, weakness, fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, and decreased resistance to hot and cold.
“ To estimate your state of hydration, check the colour of your urine. Clearer means that you are better hydrated — darker yellow indicates dehydration. ”
Yet, there is only so much plain drinking water you can consume on a cold winter day. Hence, to stay hydrated it is best to supplant plain drinking water with a warm drink. A warm drink goes a long way to ease the rigours of a cold winter trek. Besides being an immense psychological boost, a warm drink helps keep the body’s core warm and the trekker hydrated. There is no better way to enjoy winter trek than to have an invigorating warm drink in your hands.
Any winter trekker will agree that elaborate gourmet cooking is not something you look forward too when you’re cold, numb and wet. Thus, a warm drink for a winter trek in the Indian Himalaya has to be
- Easy to carry and prepare
- Quick to create
- Available off the shelf in India
- Tasty enough to look forward to
So here’s our countdown of the three best suited warm drinks for the Indian trekker.
3. A little bit of everything – Instant Soup
Instant soups come in more flavours than you can shake a stick at. This means anyone can find a host of flavours that they like. Plus, all it takes to make instant soup is hot/warm water. Although these soups offer little nutrition, I still recommend them for their taste and simplicity. Knorr instant soups come with bits of dehydrated vegetables or chicken as a garnish.
“Add half a cube of salted butter to a cup of soup. Not only does it enhance the flavour but it loads you up with calories for that steep ascent.”
2. Need for Calories – Hot Chocolate
Hot chocolate is my go-to drink for winter treks. Nothing sates hunger better on a trek than chocolate, period. However, a word of caution.
“Chocolate contains caffeine which is a natural diuretic. This means that when taken in excess chocolate will suppress both thirst and hunger sensations and cause your kidneys to remove water from your bloodstream faster than they normally would.”
That being said a cup of hot chocolate is a perfect drink if you sleep cold. A high-calorie drink helps keep the body warm at night and thus translates to better sleep.
My pick is Cadburys 3 in 1 hot chocolate. It tastes nice and it is available in easy to use sachets. These ready to use sachets mean you don’t have to prepare it beforehand for a trek. Add a sachet to a mug of hot or warm water and you’re good to go. Available at Amazon India
1. A riot of flavours – Kashmiri Kahwa
Kashmiri Kahwa is a fragrant tea infused with delicate flavours of whole spices. Kahwa is subtle in taste and it is ideal for times when you crave warmth yet don’t want the heaviness of classic milk coffee or tea. Kahwa is prepared from delicate green tea, thus being low on caffeine and it is also a natural anti-oxidant. This is my favourite way to stay hydrated on a winter trek.
“Garnish your Kahwa with almonds, it adds to the flavour and almonds are loaded with calories and protein. Infuse a few strands of saffron in the kahwa if you are craving more warmth.”
I enjoy my Old Monk Rum as much as the next person. Even so, I do not recommend drinking alcohol on any trek. Alcohol is a strong diuretic. Alcohol also dilates the blood vessels of the skin, giving a false sense of warmth and affecting your thermal regulation and sweat control (to say nothing of its effect on your judgement). Save the Old Monk for a celebratory drink when you’re back from your trek.