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Leg Cramps
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Bill Segraves
(sbill9000) - F - M
Night cramps on 08/12/2012 04:59:04 MDT Print View

My own experience with night cramps in specific muscles on backpacking trips was that it was due to the use of muscles that I hadn't conditioned adequately before the trip. They'd tighten up at night and I'd awake with spasms. Dietary solutions didn't help. Shifting my exercise routines at home to better simulate hiking and doing a little post-hike stretching and massage each day ended the problem.


Good luck!


Bill S.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Leg Cramps on 08/12/2012 09:00:02 MDT Print View

I basically picked the Vitalyte because it appears to have less sugars than most and because I tend to bloat on anything with high sodium. It also has a pleasant taste, while I've found several other brands I've tried quite obnoxious. YMMV, of course. Note that I dilute it to half of what is recommended, too. It does work for me, especially in hot weather. One time last summer when I wasn't using it, I was so tired when I got to the car that I didn't think I'd be able to drive home. I mixed up a pint, drank it and within an hour I felt fine.

I certainly don't want to minimize the importance of stretching, and daily exercise, though! If you're going to go for a vigorous hike when out of condition, you're going to be sore! For the last three months I've been doing extensive stretching 3-4 times a day for my plantar fasciitis (which is now a LOT better). I suspect that (because I had a severe case) I'll have to keep doing those stretches for the rest of my life, just as I have to keep doing knee and lower back exercises. However, back in the days of my pregnancies, I'd experience leg cramps the last 2-3 months which the doctor specifically said was due to low calcium. There's both a dietary and exercise component here.

Re the dried banana labels--potassium is not one of the items that the government requires on the label. Just because it isn't listed doesn't mean it isn't there.

Anthony Weston
(anthonyweston) - MLife

Locale: Southern CA
leg cramps on 08/12/2012 17:25:19 MDT Print View

I've always had leg cramps. I have had many nights where I had to throw myself out of the tent into the snow trying to straighten my leg because of the pain.

I tried most everything.

The one thing that did help was product called Sportslegs, you can get it on You take it before you start hiking and it works. It's vitamin D, Calcium and magnesium and lactate. I think taking it before you hike is what does the trick.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: leg cramps on 08/12/2012 17:58:27 MDT Print View

I've taken Magnesium Citrate capsules, about 400mg total, and that has helped me with leg cramps in my regular, non-backpacking life. It can also help you sleep and keep you regular.

Matthew mcgurk
(phatpacker) - F

Locale: Central coast California
salt and potasium are electrolytes on 08/18/2012 14:41:51 MDT Print View

Your problems would be solved by prehydrating with gator aide. Using water on the trail and gatoraide with lunch. Make sure to put massive bannana chips in your oatmeal. I have suffered too but mine were hamstrig cramps. It has kept me up all night. I drink emergen-c at times in the morning to bolster and a multivitamin. Salts are important and should be added to the backpackers meal plans. Many of the premade entre's have huge levels of sodium for a reason

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"Leg Cramps" attn. Mary D on 08/18/2012 16:37:57 MDT Print View

Mary: you've probably heard this, but I thought that I might mention a really easy stretch that I do for my mild--now virtually non-existent--plantar fasciatis. Someone gave me a shaped wooden dowel that was designed to roll your spine through. So picture
a dowel with two "bumps" in the center that contain your spine. Actually the bumps are pretty thin and have an edge. When sitting in a chair--say, watching tv-- I can roll this apparatus underfoot and stretch out the entire bottom of my feet at a wide variety of angles. It feels really good. This is the same principle as using a ball or a frozen can of orange juice but I like the variety of stretches this thingamabob gives me. I also do other stretches as well. since I also will be doing this for years to come, it's nice to be able to do it sitting down; and I'm more likely to do the stretches too!

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Electrolytes on 08/18/2012 17:22:11 MDT Print View

"I make my own electrolyte mix out from 41g of Morton Salt Balance (lite salt) and 108g of Calcium/Magnesium Complex."

+1 albeit in different proportions for my shorter, less demanding trips.

And if all else fails on especially hard days, I have found Hyland's Leg Cramps, a homeopathic formulation, does the job. It can be found in "health" stores and many regular pharmacies.

Tim Drescher
(timdcy) - M

Locale: Gore Range
Re: Re: Electrolytes on 08/19/2012 10:31:34 MDT Print View

Brawndo, Its got Electrolytes. It's what plants crave.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Re: Electrolytes on 09/19/2012 23:03:49 MDT Print View

i recently started cramping in the evenings after sweaty hikes during the day. I can't stand electrolyte drinks - the taste, the sugar, and the black gunk that starts growing in water containers.

I started using SaltStick Caps and SaltStick Caps Plus - the Plus is caffeine.

I take one per hourly rest stop, where I drink 250-500 ml of water. I feel much better while hiking, and the evening cramps are gone. If I'm not sweating hard, I take fewer. On really hot days, I take a few more in the evening. I'll take one or two in the middle of the night if I wake up with cramps or other symptoms from under-dosing during the day. I like being able to control how much I take.

I like the Caps Plus, I get my caffeine fix without the hassle of boiling water, etc. But I take a few plain ones along for the middle-of-the-night scenario.

I can't say these are better or worse than any other brand, but they worked for me.

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - MLife

Locale: Western Washington
Cal/mg to the rescue! on 09/20/2012 13:30:39 MDT Print View

On my 6 day backpack, I had *no* leg cramp issues. I don't think I was any better conditioned, as work has been challenging and finding time to exercise has been too. However, I took a calcium/magnesium supplement with me, and took 1 capsule at bed-time. No problems whatsoever. So, that will make it into my backpacking kit from now on, it was worth it!

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Electrolyte on 10/23/2012 06:47:32 MDT Print View

My cramping issue is caused or compounded by blood pressure medicine.

I carry a tiny little vile of Lite Salt(Sodium and Potassium salt).

When I get cramps, I sprinkle a little on my tongue for almost immediate relief.

If I start to feel like a cramp is coming on, I take a little bit. This seems to prevent any cramping.

I will add a pinch of Lite Salt to my drinking water on hot hikes. This almost totally prevents heat cramps for me.

Kyle Meyer

Locale: Portland, OR
Dietary Supplementation on 10/28/2012 12:16:07 MDT Print View

This is one of the few areas in which the more "sciencey" the food, the better. Compared to previous generations, even the most conditioned of us are relatively unconditioned for the trials we put our bodies through while backpacking. I think it's foolhardy to recommend to anyone to eat a banana or lick salt without understanding the science behind it, and then to expect that their condition will improve.

My recommendation would be to read about muscles. This is a reasonable article about electrolytes that describes some pitfalls. Once you get the basic understanding of electrolytes and how much you need based on environmental and personal factors, you can make a much more informed choice on what you supplement with.

Personally, I carry little electrolyte pills called Endurolytes for everyday backpacking, and switch to liquid calories from Perpetuem for anything over 20ish miles. It really makes a world of difference to how I feel the next day.

Edit: link got filtered. Trying again:

Edited by kylemeyer on 10/28/2012 12:17:02 MDT.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Dietary Supplementation on 10/28/2012 22:09:49 MDT Print View

As a person with diabetes I often have terrible legs cramps that debilitate me. For me it is due to insufficient vitamin B12. Taking it, and eating right (for me, lowering my carb intake) has virtually eliminated leg cramps for me.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Leg Cramps on 10/29/2012 22:31:21 MDT Print View

I get cramps on backcountry ski trips sometimes - hardly ever when hiking or backpacking, but often on ski trips, mostly in the first couple days of a week-long trip. It's pretty hard to get the legs and feet into skiing shape without skiing! But I also think the colder temperatures have to do with it - work the muscles hard and then cool them off. Stretching seems to help, and I eat dried bananas - not banana chips, mind you, but whole dried bananas. They are getting harder for me to find, but I eat 2 a day when I'm out. Plus I usually drink Electro-mix (made by the same folks who make emergen-c) at lunch. I find that helps with general muscle issues - I am less stiff the next day when I use it. I tend to sweat a lot, so I figure I'm losing a lot of salts that way.
Worked with an older guy once who had leg cramp problems in everyday life - his doctor prescribed a banana a day, and it worked for him.