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A personal lesson on beating the heat during festival season

I would like to preface this with a huge and thankful shout-out to the medical and harm-reduction teams at Shambhala Music Festival for saving my bacon on numerous occasions, and their continuing amazing work for all of us ravey types.

Boys and girls, learn from me: You need to drink more water than you think you do if you’re up and about during the day at Shambhala Music Festival. So, gather ‘round, its time for the story of how I have managed to get horribly dehydrated while stone cold sober, two years in a row. Hopefully, when I attend in 2019 I will have actually learned something and will not end up sitting with an ice pack on my forehead in my reserved spot in the medical tent.

Me at Shambhala 2016, shortly before risking heat exhaustion. | Photo: Astrid Nicolson

Dehydration occurs when your body doesn’t have enough fluid to function. Daytime highs at the Salmo Ranch can reach a baking 40 degrees Celsius (that’s 104 Fahrenheit to the Americans reading this) and if you happen to be as painfully pale and suited to a cold climate (i.e north of Vancouver) as I am, the hot temperatures can get dangerous, fast. Couple this with long walking distances, physical exertion from dancing, and you have an elevated risk for heat exhaustion and dehydration.

My partner does the smart thing and soaks a shawl or towel in the river and drapes it over his head before walking back to the tent. He has a 2-liter jug of fresh water to sip on every few seconds and keeps a fan on hand. I did the silly thing and drank a single 250 ml bottle of water down at the river, thinking that would be enough before the trek around the festival. (Spoiler alert, it was not).

Within thirty minutes I was feeling sick, dizzy and far too hot. I started to feel very weak and my partner and pals noticed I was not doing so well. They quickly transported me to the medic center where I was checked over, re-hydrated and made to eat my weight in Freezies.

It’s also worth mentioning that the consumption of electrolytes (salts, sugars, and some vitamins) is also an important part of keeping hydrated. In my case, this came in the form of Gatorade and a bag of chips while I took in the water and ice pops my body badly needed. Certainly, there are other ways to get electrolytes back into your body. The point is that you need to remember to do that AS WELL as consume water. This is just what I had to do at the time.

Drinking or using any other substances aids in dehydration and can cloud your judgment. As we always say, do those things responsibly. Heck, you might want to try sober raving just to get a well-rounded experience.

Your choice of clothing is also important. During the day I tend to be topless and wear bikini bottoms, sunglasses, and sturdy lightweight hiking-type sandals (all the better to swim in the river with) In contrast, my nighttime outfit at Shambhala usually includes my spirit hood, a thick hoodie, fluffies, and leggings. Yes, it gets THAT cold at night, but once you’re dancing/running/searching for the rabbit hole behind the Grove you’ll warm up quickly.

Fractal Forest 2017, Saturday night, nice and cold | Photo: Astrid Nicolson

Tune in next time for how I miraculously managed not to get heat exhaustion in the middle of the Mojave Desert at EDC Las Vegas 2018, which admittedly I partially attribute to being in an air-conditioned hotel room whenever the sun was in the sky.

Don’t forget to check out all of our other great pieces on harm reduction and feel free to shoot us a question if you have any.

How do you regulate your temperatures when it’s hot or cold out? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter?

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