Avoiding Altitude Woes: What To Bring On Your Next Ski Trip

skierThere are few things that bum out a ski trip more than altitude issues. Even if your symptoms are just in the form of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) – headache, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia or nausea – it’s often enough to make you wish you’d stayed at home.

I live in Colorado, and have resided in a couple of high-altitude ski towns in the past. Since our ski season just kicked off, for the purposes of this post I’m only focusing on AMS, rather than more serious forms of altitude sickness.

Predisposition to AMS is subjective. Age, physiology, genetics, and physical fitness may or may not play a role. If, however, you’ve got congestive heart failure, a nice alpine getaway may not be the best thing. Conversely, if you’re not in the habit of drinking lots of water at elevation, you’re going to feel like hell, regardless of how fit you are.

The higher the elevation, the harder your body has to work, because air pressure is lower (i.e. there’s less oxygen, which is also why it’s dehydrating). The body responds by producing more red blood cells to increase circulation. The short answer is, high elevations stress the body.

To ensure your next visit to the mountains is free of altitude-related woes, follow these tips:

  • Hydrate – with water, not soda or other sugary beverages – then hydrate some more. Amounts vary depending upon your gender, activity level and weight; 2.5 liters a day is considered a rough daily estimate necessary for good health at sea level. If you’re seriously shredding the pow, then a sports drink with electrolytes at day’s end is also a good idea.
  • If you have health concerns, acclimate slowly, if possible. Try to spend a night at a lower elevation before heading to your destination. Example: Fly into Denver (5,280 feet), before heading to Aspen (7,890 feet).
  • Go easy the first 48 hours, as you acclimatize.
  • Since you’re burning and expending more calories, be sure to eat small, regular meals or snacks when you’re out there tearing it up on the slopes.
  • Reduce (I know better than to say “avoid”) consumption of alcohol. At altitude, one drink has double the impact. This makes for a cheap date, but it can do a number on your head and body. Pace yourself, and drink a glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage. You’re welcome.
  • Take Diamox, ibuprofen, or aspirin, which will eliminate many of your symptoms such as headache, sluggishness, or dizziness. When I attended culinary school in Vail, one of our classrooms was located at 11,000 feet. Our first week of school, most of us were nodding off due to the altitude, and aspirin was far more effective than caffeine.
  • If you’re having trouble sleeping, you can try an OTC, or avail yourself of the local hot tub or a warm bath before bed (remember to hydrate afterward!). If you already have insomnia issues, be sure to bring your prescription or regular OTC with you.
  • Slather on the sunscreen. Not only is the sun far stronger at elevation, but its reflection off the snow can reduce your skin and eyes to cinders. Know what else a potent sunburn does? Speeds dehydration. As well as photoaging and skin cancer, but that’s a topic for another article.
  • Don’t get cocky. I live at 5360 feet, and sometimes, even I forget to follow my own advice – a certain crushing hangover in Vail two weeks ago comes to mind. Just because you live at altitude doesn’t mean you’re used to higher altitude. You’ll be better conditioned, yes. But you still need to hydrate regularly, and for the love of god, go easy on the bourbon rocks.

For more detailed information on altitude sickness, including extreme elevations, click here.

Wishing you a safe, happy snow season!

[Photo credits: skier, Flickr user laszlo-photo; tea, Flickr user Kitty Terwolbeck]

Gadling Gear Review: Bamboo Bottle Company Water Bottle

I’m always losing water bottles. I’m grateful that they’re swag at so many events, because I’m continually leaving them behind somewhere — on airplanes, in hotel rooms, in the back seat of the rental car. Carrying a water bottle is The Right Thing to Do, not just because throwing away plastic bottle after plastic water bottle is bad. It’s the right thing to do because you’re on the move, man, you need to stay hydrated, and if you have a water bottle, you’ll do a better job of that. So, yeah, a water bottle, you should have one.

I’m partial to stainless screw top water bottles, they fit in the site pockets on my day pack and if I’ve remembered to grab a carabiner, they clip in to place. I know lots of folks who like the non-BPA wide mouth plastic bottles too, they’re easy to deal with and you can keep more than water in them — I’ve used them to stow the cables for all my electronic stuff, for example.

Both of those options are lightweight, good for when you have to haul your stuff around, which I do, often. I mention this right away because the bottle I got from the Bamboo Water Bottle Company is heavy. It looks cool. It’s well designed. It’s made out of snappy materials. It’s heavy. And that’s before there’s water in it.

The bottle pretty, it’s really pretty. It’s got a blond bamboo sleeve that protects the glass bottle inside from breaking. The sleeve also provides some insulation. The lid has a built in straw so it’s easy to drink from while you’re driving or riding your bike. There’s a version with a flip top — it snaps shut so your drink won’t spill when you knock it over. The bottle comes apart so you can wash it; you can put everything but the bamboo sleeve in the dishwasher.

Here’s the truth: I’m probably not going to use it much for travel. When the weather improves around here, it will be great for drinking ice tea out of while I swing in the hammock in the backyard. If I’m packing a picnic, I can see filling it with gin and tonic for one, or some other summer cocktail. It’s a nice bottle for leaving on your desk at work, a good water bottle really does go a long way towards helping you ease up on the office coffee.

But given my tendencies to leave a trail of water bottles across the planet? There’s no easy way for me to clip it to my bag. And the weight alone is enough to make me reconsider packing it. I like this thing, it’s an attractive piece of gear. I’m just not convinced it’s something I need for travel.

Gear Tip: Store your hydration bladder in the freezer

If you love hiking, cycling, mountain biking or any other outdoor activities, you need a good hydration pack. Carrying your water in a bladder stored in your pack keeps your hands free and you hydrated. The problem with hydration packs, however, is keeping the bladders clean. Try as you might, you won’t be able to get all of the water out of them when you get home. Stagnant water is a breeding ground for bacteria, which will make water stored in your bladder taste funky and potentially unsafe to drink. Bladders aren’t cheap, so you don’t want to replace them the minute they start to smell poorly. So, how do you keep your water bladder clean and safe? Here’s a simple trick to avoid bad smells and worse bacteria.

Store your hydration pack’s bladder in the freezer. The bladders aren’t that big when they’re empty (even a three liter bladder, like the one in the Osprey Raptor 14 that we reviewed), so you’re bound to be able to find some space in your ice box for one. Go ahead and put the hose in there, too. Any part of the bladder that might have water left in it should get put in cold storage.The frigid temperatures will kill any bacteria and prevent odor from forming. The next time you need your hydration pack, simply take the bladder out of the freezer, fill it up as you normally would and enjoy how cold your water stays because of the temperature of the bladder. Your water will taste fresh and smell pure. Assuming, of course, that you’re filling your bladder with good water.

Sure, you can spend the money on a cleaning kit, but even those aren’t perfect for killing bacteria and don’t ensure that you get all of the water out of the bladder once you’re finished. Plus, they cost money.

You already have a freezer. Storing your bladder in there is free, easy and a way to keep your gear fresh.

You’ll thank us the next time you hit the trail.

Gadling Gear Review: Osprey Raptor 14

gadling raptor osprey 14 daypack

I have a bit of a fetish for daypacks and, as such, I’ve become quite particular about what I like and what annoys the heck out of me. That’s why I was so excited to try out my new Osprey Raptor 14 on a recent trip to Zion National Park. With temperatures pushing 100°F, hikes lasting hours and the air as dry as a bone, it’s incredibly important that you have the right supplies and that you’re comfortable throughout your time on the trails.

Did the Raptor 14 live up to Osprey’s reputation?The Raptor 14 has a 14L volume (duh), so it’s neither a tiny scramble pack nor a large daypack. Even with its 3L reservoir full of water, there is still plenty of room in the pack for other supplies. It features an exterior compression pocket, a small front storage pocket, a large main compartment, a small top pocket and the reservoir sleeve. Beyond that, it also has Osprey’s new favorite feature, the LidLok, which allows you to attach your bike helmet to the exterior of the pack. Additionally, there are two small pouches on the hipbelt (more on those shortly).

Osprey packs always feature impeccable construction and the Raptor 14 is no different. It feels indestructible. The reservoir is held snug and I never felt any sloshing around when I was hiking. The Raptor series utilizes Osprey’s AirScape suspension system, which helps distribute weight evenly and allows for airflow so that your back doesn’t become a sweaty mess. That said, it definitely adds some weight and the Raptor feels slightly heavier than other packs its size.

gadling osprey raptor 14 daypackThe pockets do not feature a tremendous amount of organizational options, but that’s to be expected as this is a pack for outdoor rather than urban use. However, I was disappointed in the lack of pockets on the shoulder straps and the pouches on the hipbelt. I hate having to constantly take my pack off to access gear, which is why I enjoy convenient pockets for storing a snack or my phone. I certainly understand wanting to maintain a sleek profile, but some pockets on the shoulder straps – the kind that you see on Osprey’s Momentum series – would be useful. The pouches on the hipbelt are always open. The lack of zippers disappointed me, as I never felt comfortable storing anything in those pockets.

The reservoir is a 3L Nalgene bladder. It has a bite valve, which I love, and clips magnetically to the harness so that it’s always conveniently located and never dangling annoyingly. The handle on the reservoir makes removing, filling and repacking the bladder significantly less awkward than with other hydration devices and is a simple feature that makes a huge difference.

Thanks to the compression straps, it is easy to squeeze the Raptor 14 down once you’ve packed it. I’ve never been one to utilize hipbelts on small packs, so I was particularly thrilled to see the small loop on the front of the pack that allows you to neatly wrap the hipbelt around and clip it so that it is out of the way and doesn’t dangle uncomfortably off of your torso.

It’s small details like that, the LidLok, the reservoir design and abundance of large pockets on a small pack that make up for some of the minor disappointments on the Raptor. Combine those positives with Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee (a lifetime guarantee to repair any damage or replace anything that cannot be fixed) and I was won over by this pack. If it had pockets on the shoulder straps or the hipbelt (I refuse to use the open pouches), it would put icing on the cake, but that is certainly not a deal-breaker.

While the $109 price tag certainly is steep, the lifetime guarantee ensures that you’ll get your money’s worth from the Raptor 14 for years to come. It’s built for aggressive outdoor use but is plenty comfortable for even the most casual adventurer.

Let’s break it all down:

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • Ample storage in multiple pockets
  • Comfortable on shoulders and back
  • Magnetic bite valve and handle are my favorite features on any reservoir I’ve tried
  • Holds reservoir tightly
  • Lifetime guarantee
  • Slim profile
  • LidLok for holding bike helmet

Cons

  • Suspension does add some weight
  • Lack of convenient harness pockets
  • Pouches on hipbelt cannot be closed

Would I recommend the Raptor 14? Absolutely. The few things that it failed to check off of my wishlist are more than made up for in its positives.

The Raptor 14 is available now for $87.20 at EMS but normally retails for $109 at REI and other outfitters.

Daily deal – Camelbak FlashFlo 1.3-Liter Hydration Pack (pink) for $11.41

My daily deal for today is for the Camelbak FlashFlo 1.3 liter hydration pack. This waist mounted hydration pack has an insulated 1.3 liter pouch and a drinking tube that attaches to your shirt.

The FlashFlo even has room for your keys, wallet and an iPod or other MP3 player. The front of the pouch also has reflective striping to help increase visibility on the road.

Products like this are perfect for hikers, runners, or anyone else who enjoys being outdoors and understands the importance of staying hydrated. The Camelbak FlashFlo lets you drink without having to stop and dig a water bottle out of your backpack.

The Camelbak FlashFlo hydration pack normally costs $40, but if you don’t mind wearing a pink waist pouch, you can pick one up today for just $11.41. Amazon Prime members can get the product shipped for free, anyone else will have to pay shipping, or add another $12.59 in products to reach $25 and qualify for free shipping (Amazon is currently offering a free one month trial of Prime)

When you get to the product page, be sure to select the PINK version of the pouch from the dropdown menu to get the low price as none of the other colors are on sale.

(via Fatwallet.com)

Edit: the price has gone up to $17.99, which is still a good deal, but obviously not as “hot” as the original price.