Tips for Camping and Hiking at Altitude
Camping and hiking high in the mountains are some of the great pleasures of vacation. You can look out at spectacular views, experience new sensations, learn about new flora and fauna, and just feel like you’ve really gotten away from the hustle and bustle of your everyday life. But it is important to be prepared. This means being ready for the cold temperatures, the changing weather, and the changes that high altitude means for your body and your food. Doing anything at a high altitude means special accommodations need to be made for your health and safety. In this week’s article, we’ll look at two basic needs while in the high country: eating and drinking.
One important thing to remember about camping at higher altitudes is that your cooking habits will have to be adjusted. There are three factors that will lead you to change certain things about how you cook. One is the boiling point of water. As you go higher, the boiling point of water lowers. This means that it will take food longer to cook when cooked in or over water. At sea level, water boils at 212°F and, as the altitude increases, the temperature at which water boils lowers. This becomes important when you go over 2,000 feet, and the higher you get, the more remarkable the change is. For example, at 7,500 feet, water boils at 198°F.
If you live at a high elevation, as about one-third of Americans do, you may be used to some of these changes, but it’s always good to be reminded as you climb higher so that you make sure your meat is cooked to a safe temperature and that your rice or pasta doesn’t come out crunchy. The easiest way to figure out how much extra time you’ll need to cook you food is the rule that you add one minute of cooking for each 1,000 feet above 5,000 feet. And this seems the perfect point to let you know that the thermal heat generated by the water-activated heat packs of Barocook’s flameless cooker works at high altitudes. Yes, you will have to follow the rule about cooking foods longer, but our flameless thermal cooker stays hot for a long time after it hits its peak temperature, which allows your food to continue to cook for a longer time.
Another phenomenon that can affect cooking at high altitudes is that water evaporates more quickly. This can lead to water boiling away from an open container so quickly that it is gone before your food is cooked. The food you are cooking will need extra water added to it so that it doesn’t dry out and burn. If you cook using Barocook’s flameless cooking pots or thermal mugs, you won’t have this problem because of our container seal airtight.
The third phenomenon can affect campers who do some real cooking at altitude. This phenomenon (synonym?) is that leavening gases, such as carbon dioxide, air, and water vapor expand faster. This will affect foods like pancakes, cakes, and biscuits. This can lead to foods that are done on the outside, but the inside is still undercooked. You can add extra water, or if cooking in an oven, add a pan of water to the bottom of the oven to create steam and keep the outside later moist. Air bubbles inside cakes and bread will expand much more than at lower altitudes, and this can lead to collapse. You may have to experiment to find the formula that works for your food and your altitude. You may have to add more flour, less baking soda, or sugar and increase your baking temperature.
Dehydration and High Altitude Sickness
Whether you live at high altitude and are going higher or live down low and are taking a trip to the mountains, the effects of high altitude need to be paid attention to ensure you don’t risk your health in any way. It is important to know the symptoms of dehydrations and altitude sickness, or acute mountain sickness (AMS) so that they can be differentiated from other conditions, especially High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) or High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), both of which can be life-threatening. It is very important to stay hydrated at high altitudes to be able to rule out dehydration as a cause of some symptoms. A few of the symptoms of dehydration are thirst (always drink before you are thirsty), rapid breathing, muscle cramps, sunken eyes, blue lips, and confusion. AMS happens as a result of dehydration and low levels of oxygen in the blood stream. People become dehydrated more quickly at higher altitudes since the body loses up to a quart a day more in fluids just from breathing. This is exacerbated by the fact that there is low vapor pressure of oxygen in the bloodstream, which creates changes in blood chemistry. This results in blood that is more acidic and this, in turn, leads to a lower rate of absorption of oxygen into the blood. Symptoms of AMS are headaches, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and fatigue. The symptoms of HAPE, according to altitude.org, are breathlessness, even when resting. Symptoms of HACE include confusion, clumsiness, and stumbling. Either HAPE or HACE can be fatal, so it’s important to be able to distinguish between them.
Barocook thermal mugs are a great tool to have along on high altitude hikes and camping trips. Drinking enough water is key, but it’s nice to have a good heated drink to warm you up from the inside. With our flameless cooking heat packs, you can use the thermal mug to warm up tea, coffee, hot chocolate, or some soup that will hit the spot.
When you are going hiking or camping at high altitude be sure to add Barocook’s flameless cooking pots to your supplies so you can get all the advantages of our thermal cooking!