Are You Packing Enough Water For Your Hike?

Photo credit: Gideon Haden ChomphosyPacking enough water for your hike can be tricky. Tents can be made lighter, sleeping pads can be made more compact, but water is as technologically advanced as it will ever be. Sure, there are some water containers that are lighter or more portable than others, but water itself is heavy and it takes up a lot of space.

Unlike other things that might be cumbersome, water isn’t something that you can compromise on. That camping stool you own is big and heavy, but it’s also a luxury. You can can leave it at home if you decide that it takes up too much pack space, or if it adds too much pack weight.

You don’t have that option with water. You need water to survive, and having enough water is especially important when doing physical activity outdoors. Running out of water can be unpleasant, but it can also be dangerous.

Dehydration is no joke.

There are a couple of questions that you want to keep in mind when it comes to packing water for a hiking or backpacking trip.

  1. Are you packing enough water?
  2. How can you carry more water?

In general, most people don’t drink enough water over the course of a regular day, let alone while hiking. The most common reason why hikers don’t carry enough water is that they underestimate how much water they actually need to drink.

A 16-ounce water bottle is not enough for a full day of hiking. Even a 32-ounce water bottle could be inadequate depending on the conditions. Recommendations vary, but most adults should drink at least 2 liters of water in a normal day. Once you add hiking to the mix that the amount of water you need increases, and number of factors such as time of year, temperature, and geography that will also influence the amount of water you need to drink while hiking.

The National Park Service recommends 4 liters (roughly a gallon) of water for a full day of hiking. A great way to carry this much water is by using a 100-ounce CamelBak reservoir and an additional standard 1-liter Nalgene water bottle. This will ensure that you stay well hydrated throughout the day.

A gallon of water might seem excessive, but when you consider the dangers of dehydration, it’s better to carry more water than you need than it is to run out of water altogether.

Carrying all the water you need for your trip isn’t always an option, though. Not all hikers are content with just a single day of hiking. Sometimes hikers don’t bring enough water because it doesn’t seem practical. You can’t lug a 5-gallon water jug along a trail, even if you need 5 gallons of water over the course of your 5-day backpacking trip.

Carrying enough water to stay hydrated on extended hikes can be difficult, but you also have to carry enough water for cooking, cleaning, and hygiene.

That’s when it makes sense to invest in a backpacking water filter and a way to purify water. There are a number of different products designed to remove particles and organisms from water sources to make that water potable. Water filtering and purification become essential on extended backpacking trips when carrying all the water you need is no longer an option.

Here are some things to consider when trying to figure out how much water you need to carry on your hike.

  • The duration of your trip. The longer your trip the more water you need.
  • The temperature. Higher temperatures and exposure to the sun will cause you to sweat, which means you will need more water to stay hydrated.
  • How you will be using water. Are you just drinking your water, or will you be cooking, cleaning, and washing with it as well?
  • The terrain. Inclines require you to work harder which means you will need more water. Will there be any lakes, streams, or rivers where you can replenish your water supply?

Remember, it’s better to have more water than you need.

One Comment

  1. […] carrying enough water. Most people don’t carry enough water when they hike. Running out of water won’t necessarily be fatal, but it can be. Don’t take the […]

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