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Opinions on electrolytes while backpacking

I find supplimental electrolytes help when backpacking.  I'm planning a three week hike in September and was looking into current options.  Does anyone have a favorite that does not have artificial sugar? 

I used Skratch labs on my thru-hike to give me some calories with real sugar and taste and I like SaltStick Fast Chews for chewy salt to get me to drink more. 

It looks like there are other brands that may have higher concentrations and additions, like vitamin C in Ultima powder.  I wanted to try Tailwind for running and it could help here, along with thinking LyteShow drops may be easier to pack than powders that can get wet or microtrash from single serve packets.

Thoughts?  Any others that you enjoy?  Again, I don't like artificial sweetners, so most of what you can find in the supermarket won't work for me.

9 Replies

Don't forget that a properly balanced diet will provide adequate electrolytes.  All the same, I usually add something to my water just to be sure.

I am currently using various Nuun tablets.  Looking at a label, they state15 calories and one gram of added sugar and of course all the good stuff - calcium, magnesium, etc.

I started using electrolyte supplements when doing marathons and other long runs.  I found that Gatorade did not sit well when running hard, although I can tolerate it when at a hiking pace.  Diluted 50% with water, it did much better



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I am a big fan of Nuun.  You can choose to have the added sugar in a seperate pill if you choose but the electrolytes and vitamins are great to help keep me going.  I also utilize shot blox chews when I need a boost and they usually provide a bit of a lift to my mood/energy levels within 30 min or so.  These were my goto energy supplements for a JMT in 2017 and worked great.  




@hikermor , I use it for when it's really hot out and I'm sweaty a lot.  There are bottled Gatorades that have lower sugar that sit better for me, but in general, I agree.  I once got a nasty migraine from some sort of prerun product before a half.  Everyone swears by Nuun, but I forgot to mention I hate the taste of stevia, which all the easy to purchase supermarket varieties seem to include.  Looking at their website, the endurance formula doesn't look bad though.  I'm going to add it to the list!


I did some research on this a few years back after getting severe leg cramps hiking down from a Mt Washington Climb.

Electrolytes are basically sodium+postassium, so I researched about 15 brands on the market comparing each ones sodium/postassium contents.  From my comparison, a few years ago, camlelbak tablets had the highest concentrations of both.  Some other brands tabs were higher in sodium and not so much potassium, others high in potassium, low in sodium. 

Anyway they have worked for me (and my wife when she started have leg cramps at night for a time).  Put 1 tab in your liter botter, good to go.  good luck

REI member since 1979/retired engineer

REI Member Since 1979

@Philreedshikes I want to include the camlebak tabs in my comparison, but it seems that I can't buy them anywhere.  I wonder if they're replacing them with something new or there no longer made.


hmmm, I can't find them either!  Another product bites the dust!

REI Member Since 1979

Nuun tabs work well for me. Sometimes the carbonation tweaks my stomach a bit with the first one or two sips, but after that things are fine. I also like that I can vary the concentration as-needed using 1 or 2 tabs. I've tried the Gatorade chews in the past but found they tend to melt and become gunky in the summertime.

You mentioned the best one out there in your original post.  From doing long hot grueling cycling I can tell you that Scratch is the best I've tried by far and I've tried most.  Avoid gatorade completely imo.  It will make you have sore stomach and most of the energy chews also will sit like a rock in your gut, including shot blocks and most other gels.  Stick with Scratch Labs and for some quick snacks, Honey Stinger waffles are great.  Those do not hurt stomach.  If it works for cycling, it definately will work for hiking.  Last thing you want it your stomach to feel heavy and painful or cramped.  

If you don't have it yet, pick up the Feed Zone Cookbook available on Amazon.  

Hope this helps.  


I tried out some new (to me) products while thru-hiking the Long Trail the last few weeks!  We ended up really enjoying Ultima packets, which tasted way too sweet to me at first, but didn't end up too bad when diluted appropriately and served as a candy like boost to help with motivation. I also included Tailwind, which I had wanted to try for running purposes.  This one was key as we were trying to get as many calories daily as possible without lugging too much weight (sadly we both lost more weight than we wanted...).  These were 200 calories a piece and most of the flavors in the variety pack were great!  As for straight salt, I also always use Saltstick tabs and so these came along as well.