When hiking at extreme heights and altitudes, the less oxygen available there will be. Our bodies will reach a limit and begin to gasp for air, which is why we pack oxygen tanks to breathe properly and make it to the top without problems. But at what altitude do you need oxygen when hiking, exactly?
Read on as I show you what to expect as you hike towards higher altitudes and when you need oxygen!
At What Altitude Do You Need Oxygen When Hiking?
You’ve probably heard of bottled oxygen used for hikes, but never really understood it. After all, doesn’t the Earth have oxygen all around?
Well, oxygen levels decrease as the altitude increases! If you’re on a recreational or minor hike, you don’t need the extra oxygen. But if you start hiking higher and higher in major climbs, you will need to pack bottled oxygen or portable tanks to stay healthy.
Oxygen is required once you reach an altitude of 7,000 meters, or 22,965 feet above sea level. It’s practically mandatory once you reach 8,000 meters, or 26,246 feet and above. Anything beyond 8,000 meters beyond sea level is known as the so-called death zone.
Why? Because after reaching 7,000 feet, the atmospheric pressure and oxygen percentage decrease rapidly, making it difficult to breathe the more you ascend.
For a more detailed view:
- High altitude is between 4,900 to 11,500 feet above sea level or 1,500 to 3,500 meters
- Very high altitude is between 11,500 to 18,000 feet, or 3,500 to 5,500 meters
- Extreme altitude is anything above 18,000 feet or 5,500 meters
The Oxygen Levels At Altitude
At sea levels, we have almost 21% of oxygen present around the air we breathe. This is necessary for humans and we have evolved to be adapted to this percentage. However, a few groups of people who have lived at higher altitudes for years have adapted to fewer oxygen levels.
Despite adapting, you can never escape the lack of oxygen, as it’s absolutely necessary for you to live.
So what are the oxygen levels at altitude?
Take note that you lose around 3% of oxygen for every 100 feet, as the air begins to thin. So for example, if you are on 7,000 meters, then there is only 8.7% of oxygen. If you are on 9,000 meters, there is only 6.8%!
This is the time you should bring out your oxygen bottle. However, there is more to it than simply carrying oxygen. You also need to prepare your mind and body with proper training and other equipment to prevent altitude sickness, which is caused by very low amounts of oxygen in your blood. Altitude sickness, among other risks in major hikes with high altitude, can be dangerous and fatal if not prepared for enough.
Be sure to focus on aerobic fitness with weights to build both strength and endurance. Furthermore, pack enough food and water, and dress appropriately to the weather.
When climbing, acclimatize by increasing elevation by no more than 1,000 feet, or 300 meters a day when climbing. If you have trained and are an advanced mountaineer, you may ascend up to 6,500 feet, or 2,000 meters in a day without a problem. However, it’s better to take it slow and have a limit if you plan to do a major hike that will take a few days or weeks to finish.
Do you want to learn more about hiking and altitude levels? Check out this helpful video:
Wrapping It Up
Reaching the peak of a major climb is quite rewarding, but it only feels that way when you prepare correctly. Without proper oxygen, as you enter higher altitudes, it can destroy your goals and even detriment your health! That’s why you need to prepare and know your limits, ensuring that you have enough oxygen as you go further.
I hope that this article answered your question, “at what altitude do you need oxygen when hiking?” Now that you know the answer, start preparing for your major hikes properly now.