The top 3 best electrolytes for hiking, backpacking, and camping

by | Sep 20, 2022 | Food

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Electrolytes include sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, and magnesium. Electrolyte mixes, which contain all or most of these minerals, are designed to help you rehydrate by replacing the fluids and electrolytes you’ve lost.

The idea is to combine your mix of choice with water or fruit juice to help you replaces lost electrolytes through physical exertion and sweat. The “best” electrolytes for hiking, backpacking, or any camping trip depends a lot on personal preferences and your activity level.

Types of electrolyte mixes

Different sports drink mixes.

Electrolyte mixes typically come in one of four forms:

Powder: This is the most popular form of electrolyte mix for backpackers especially. You can get a bit tub of a powdered mix or individually wrapped singles.

Tablets: These look like big vitamins. Just drop one in a bottle of water and let it dissolve.

Capsules: These are similar to tablets, but you don’t mix them in water. They’re chewable, so you can just pop them in your mouth and wash them down with water.

Concentrate: This is a liquid form of electrolyte mix. You squeeze it in your water bottle to your desired concentration.

Our top 3 picks for best electrolyte mixes

There are so many electrolyte mixes out there, and not all of them are made equal. We decided to focus on the top three that stood out the most from all the rest.

Best All-Around: Nuun Sport Electrolyte Tablets

Nuun Sport electrolyte tablets come in tubes containing 10 tablets each, and you get six tubes per package. Just drop a tablet in water and wait for it to dissolve.

Honestly, this is really just a good, overall electrolye mix. It offers a little bit of everything without going overboard on too much filler, relying more on natural flavours and sweeteners rather than artificial ones.

There are tons of awesome flavours, it comes in a convenient tube, and there’s no messing around with pouring messy powders into your water when you’re on the go. Best of all, they’re super affordable. You can get 60 tablets for just over $30 USD.

X Per ServingAmount
Sodium300 mg (13% DV)
Potassium150 mg (3% DV)
Calcium13 mg (1% DV)
Chloride40 mg (2% DV)
Magnesium25 mg (6% DV)
# of Flavours13
Water per tablet16 oz
Other benefitsVegan, non-dairy,
non-GMO, gluten-free
Price per serving$0.53 USD

What we like about Nuun Sport

  • Great combination of essential minerals
  • Low in sugar and sweetened with natural Stevia leaf extract
  • Large variety of flavours (some of which include caffeine for an added energy boost)
  • Additional products to try include Nuun EnergyNuun Immunity, and Nuun Instant 

What we don’t like about Nuun Sport

  • Tablets may not fit inside bottles with narrow openings
  • Doesn’t dissolve instantly
  • Not the best choice for people watching their carb intake

Best quality: LMNT keto electrolyte powder packets

LMNT Keto Electrolyte Powder Packets take hydration to a whole other level by cutting out all the unnecessary junk and focusing on all the good stuff—including salt.

Contrary to what the FDA leads us to believe about the dangers of having over 2.3 grams of salt per day, LMNT challenges this guideline with scientific findings that suggest most people need at least 5 grams per day.

We’re really impressed by the research and care that’s gone into developing LMNT keto electrolyte powder. In addition to being ideal for people following a keto or gluten-free diet, it’s also one of the healthiest electroyte mixes out there because it contains zero sugar, fillers, or artificial ingredients.

Unlike other electrolyte mixes that make flavour a big part of their product, LMNT keto electrolyte powder only includes subtle hints of flavour from natural ingredients only, so it doesn’t need any of that extra stuff.

X Per ServingAmount
Sodium1,000 mg (43% DV)
Potassium200 mg (4% DV)
Calcium0 mg (0% DV)
Chloride0 mg (0% DV)
Magnesium60 mg (15% DV)
Calories5 – 10
Carbs1 – 2
# of Flavours8
Water per packet16 oz
Other benefitsVegan, non-dairy,
gluten-free, sugar-free,
paleo and keto-friendly
Price per serving$1.75 USD

What we like about LMNT keto electrolyte powder

  • Contains the highest quality of ingredients
  • One of the highest concentrations of sodium
  • Great hint of flavour without being overwhelming
  • No additives for artificial flavouring
  • Sugar-free and paleo/keto-friendly

What we don’t like about LMNT keto electrolyte powder

  • Expensive!
  • Maybe not suitable for people needing to watch their salt intake

Best for convenience: Mio Sport liquid water enhancer

Mio Sport liquid water enhancer is an electrolyte concentrate. Just pop the cap open, squeeze some into your water, and drink up.

Convenience is a big deal when you’re busy exploring what the wilderness has to offer, and we think Mio Sport does a great job at at being super easy to carry around, use quickly, and put away. Each bottle has 18 servings and is small enough to carry around in your pocket.

You can also easily adjust the concentration to suit your preference by squeezing less or more into your water. No mess and no fuss with finicky packaging.

X Per ServingAmount
Sodium80 mg (3% DV)
Potassium40 mg (1% DV)
Calcium0 mg (0% DV)
Chloride0 mg (0% DV)
Magnesium0 mg (0% DV)
# of Flavours4
Water per
quick squeeze
1 cup
Other benefitsketo-friendly
Weight per bottle70g
Price per bottle$2 to $5 USD

What we like about Mio Sport liquid water enhancer

  • Super easy to mix with water with a couple squeezes
  • Can easily mix desired concentration with more or less squeezes
  • Delicious and refreshing flavours
  • 18 servings in one bottle mean less fuss with single-serve packaging
  • Small and lightweight bottle makes it easy enough to carry in your pocket
  • Available in many grocery stores

What we don’t like about Mio Sport liquid water enhancer

  • Low concentration of essential minerals
  • Sweetened with artificial sweetener (sucralose)
  • Contains additives to enhance flavour and colour

Why you need electrolytes: Dehydration is always a risk

A couple taking a break from a hike to drink electrolytes.

It’s easier than you think to become dehydrated when you’re working hard. This is especially the case when you’re out in dry conditions—like in the desert, or in sub-zero winter temperatures.

When you perspire, you’re not only losing water, but you’re also losing electrolytes like sodium and potassium. These are essential for keeping your body hydrated and functioning properly.

If you don’t replace these fluids, you’ll become dehydrated.

To make matters worse, dehydration sets in before you even realize it’s happening. By the time you actually begin to feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

Dehydration makes you feel mentally sluggish, impairing your judgement and slowing your reaction time. It can also lead to physical symptoms like cramps, dizziness, and nausea.

When you’re dehydrated, you’re at a higher risk of injuring yourself or making bad decisions. This is why it’s so important to be mindful of how much and how often you’re replenishing your fluids—especially when you’re exerting more energy.

Some of the first telltale signs of dehydration include:

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Dry mouth
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

But do they really work to replenish electrolytes?

A man drinking an electrolyte drink in the winter.

Why not just drink some water and eat a nutritious snack, like a banana or some trail mix? You could certainly do that.

But a drinking an electrolyte mix could just be more convenient, and therefore more effective. After all, you probably don’t want to be eating a banana every half hour or so.

In a scientific study that looked at the hydration impact of Nuun—a brand of hydration tablets we mentioned above—in active men and women, the tablets were shown to improve fluid balance and volume of urine produced after drinking it (relative to that of those in the control group who drank water only).

So, yes, electrolyte mixes do indeed work. You just need to choose one that tastes good to you and is easy to mix with water when you’re on the go.

What to look for when choosing an electrolyte mix

A nutritional label with highlighted colours.

Here’s your daily recommended intake of each essential mineral:

Sodium: 1,500 mg (1,300 mg if you’re 50+ or 1,200 mg if you’re 70+)

Potassium: 4,700 mg

Calcium: 1,000 mg (1,200 mg if you’re 50+)

Chloride: 2,300 mg (2,000 of you’re 50+ or 1,800 if you’re 70+)

Magnesium: 320 mg for women, 420 mg for men

A good electrolyte mix will contain a goo combination of all or most of the above. Keep in mind that you’ll get many electrolytes by eating a balanced diet, but you may need more or less depending on your age, activity level, and any health conditions you may have.

Some electrolyte mixes also contain carbohydrates like glucose or fructose, which are sugars. These help to improve absorption and can provide you with some extra energy. However, they’re not necessary, and some people prefer to avoid them—often for reasons related to “empty calories” that could contribute to weight gain, or because they have diabetes.

The best electrolytes for hiking are those that dissolve easily, taste good, and don’t leave you feeling bloated. They should also provide a good balance of electrolytes without being too high in sugar. And, of course, they should be affordable.

When choosing an electrolyte mix, you’ll also want to consider the following:

Essential minerals: Does the mix provide a healthy combination of sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium? How much of each? Is there anything left out?

Convenience: Can you easily mix it with water on the go? Is it easy to pack? Does it weigh a lot?

Taste: This is obviously a matter of personal preference, but it’s worth considering. Some mixes can be quite bitter, while others are very sweet.

Calories, sweetener, and extra ingredients: How many calories are in each serving? Is there anything you’re trying to avoid, like glucose, fructose, or artificial sweeteners?

Price: Most electrolyte mixes are affordable, but they’ll vary in price per serving depending on the brand. Obviously, you’ll want to find one that fits your budget.

Factors that will affect your own electrolyte needs

A woman drinking an electrolyte drink while hiking at sunset.

Depending on the type of activity or trip you’re doing, your electrolyte needs may vary. Here are some factors to consider when thinking about how to best rehydrate with an electrolyte mix:

Intensity: The harder you’re working, the more fluids and electrolytes you’ll lose. If you’re doing a lot of strenuous activity, you’ll need to replenish your fluids more often.

Duration: The longer you’re exerting energy, the more fluids you’ll need. Make sure you have enough to last you for the entire trip.

Terrain: Steep, rocky terrain will demand more energy than a flat, even trail.

Climate and weather: Hotter weather and higher altitudes will cause you to perspire more, resulting in greater fluid loss. In these conditions, it’s especially important to stay hydrated.

Sweat rate: Some people simply sweat more than others. If you know you’re a heavy sweater, make sure to account for that when choosing an electrolyte mix.

Sweat composition: Everyone’s sweat is different. Some people sweat more salt than others, which can affect how much sodium you need to replenish.

Medications: Some medications, such as diuretics, can cause dehydration. If you’re taking any medication, make sure to speak with a doctor before using an electrolyte mix.

Existing health conditions: If you have any medical conditions that affect your electrolyte levels, such as diabetes, make sure to speak with a doctor before using an electrolyte mix.

The best way to figure out how much fluid and electrolytes you need is to experiment before your trip. Try out different types of electrolyte mixes and see how your body reacts.

And remember, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. It’s easier to drink too much water than not enough. When in doubt, drink up!

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What’s the healthiest electrolyte mix?

The healthiest electrolyte mix is one that contains a balance of essential minerals, is low in sugar, low in calories, and doesn’t contain very many additional ingredients.

How often should you replenish your electrolytes?

The key to staying hydrated begins before you even start working hard, or start feeling thirsty. Drink two cups of water before you start your hike or other outdoor activity. Then, drink small amounts of fluid (about half to three-quarters of a cup) every 15 to 20 minutes while you’re exerting energy. And finally, continue drinking fluids after you finish working out, until your urine is light yellow in colour.

How much electrolyte mix should I bring?

To estimate how much electrolyte mix you’ll need on your hike or trip, consider how much water you’ll need first. A good rule of thumb is to have access to one litre of purified water per two hours of hiking—plus a little extra if you’re upping the intensity (such as by carrying a heavy pack or hiking on steep terrain).

So, if you’re planning on backpacking for an average of six hours during a five day trip, you’ll need approximately 15 to 18 litres of water. From there, you can estimate how much electrolyte mix you’ll need to add based on the concentration of the mix.

Can I make my own electrolyte mix?

Yes! Making your own electrolyte mix is a great way to avoid any extra filler ingredients and get the added nutritional boost of other healthy ingredients. Unfortunately, it’s not very convenient for backpacking or camping trips because it involves using raw ingredients.

However, they’re great to make at home and drink after a day trip or home workout. Try this:

Combine 1 and 3/4 cup coconut water, 2 tsp raw honey, 1/8 tsp pink Himalayan salt, 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice, 1/4 tsp calcium powder, and 1/4 tsp magnesium powder. Stir, shake, or blend in a blender, and enjoy!

Can you drink too much electrolytes?

It’s rare to drink too many electrolytes, but it can happen. This is called “over-hydration,” and it can occur when you consume more fluids than your body can process. Symptoms of over-hydration include headache, nausea, vomiting, bloating, cramping, and mental confusion or disorientation.

Make sure to pay attention to the serving size of your electrolyte mix and mix it with the appropriate amount of water. The study mentioned above also suggests that you only need to replenish electrolytes when you’re active as there are little benefits to doing so in a rested state.

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Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

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