How Much Water Should I Bring When Hiking?
When planning your backpacking journey, you must consider how much water to bring between sources. Lacking the proper hydration and being stranded without a fresh supply of H2O could be dangerous, while lugging around too much can add unnecessary weight. How do you find equilibrium and carry just enough?
For most hikers, a general rule of thumb is to bring one liter of water for every two hours of hiking. This can vary depending on certain external factors such as the temperature and humidity levels, altitude, intensity level of your expedition, or even your body weight.
Consequently, determining the amount of water you should bring on your backpacking journey does not have a straight answer. Each hiker has distinct requirements and each environment will be unique. However, as you become more experienced in hiking, you’ll learn to adjust how much water you must take with ease. Listen intently to what your body tells you and if any doubt arises – always err on the side of caution!
How to Come Up With a Water Carry Plan?
Before you embark on your backpacking trip, create a clear and comprehensive water plan. Research the available sources of hydration along your route and calculate how many miles lie in between each refill location. Distance is not enough to determine exactly what amount of H2O you will need; rather, factor in the estimated time it may take for completion based on the ruggedness of terrain encountered as well. The more challenging trails can slow down progress significantly so be sure to add extra buffer into your calculations!
As previously mentioned, when it comes to how much water you should bring on a hike, the long-standing suggestion is one liter of water for every two hours spent outdoors. Bear in mind, though, that this rule of thumb does not consider all factors and will vary depending on weather conditions, individual metabolic rate and intensity of physical activity.
Weather. Our bodies naturally perspire more when trekking in warm weather compared to cold temperatures. According to Science Direct this difference could be up to 20 percent or 300 ml per hour and level of sweating is usually determined by two primary factors: the metabolic rate and how well-adapted we are to certain temperatures.
Additionally, covering ourselves up in warmer clothing during cooler hikes creates a personal climate that can be as hot – if not hotter – than the ambient temperature when we hike during summertime. This often results in sweat-inducing temperatures as well!
For the best outcome, carry at least the amount of water mentioned above, regardless if it’s hot or cold. We recommend increasing the amount of what you bring with about 200 ml per hour for every 10 °F higher than what you consider to be comfortable temperatures.
For instance, if it’s 60-degrees and you are not sweating excessively, then carrying 1 liter for every two hours is adequate. However, in 80-degree temps you may want to bring up to 1.4 liters per two hours instead.
Level of activity: Different trails require various levels of hydration depending on their varying degrees of difficulty or terrain type. When embarking on a hike, it’s essential to prepare for the type of terrain you’ll be facing. With more strenuous trails that involve arduous elevation gain and challenging topography, perspiration will likely increase; thus, so should your water intake in order to replace lost fluids.
As such, research the route beforehand—if the trail is relatively gentle and easily navigable with minor altitude changes throughout then 0.5 liters per hour should suffice! If you’re planning a strenuous journey with a high elevation gain, it’s best to bring an additional half liter of water for every two hours on the trail – something you’ll surely not regret.
Naturally, the amount of water you require will also be largely determined by your personal hiking style. Are you somebody who takes a leisurely stroll or someone who prefers to power walk? If it’s the latter, chances are that you’ll become parched much more quickly and thus need to replenish with additional H2O.
Personal hydration needs. Every hiker is unique in their physiology and hydration needs – some of us seem to guzzle down our water bottle while others prefer a more frugal approach. The key takeaway here is that you should always tune into your body, since what works for one person may not work the same for another. As such, it’s important to remember that the “one liter per two hours” rule serves only as an estimation rather than a hard and fast guideline.
How to Properly Hydrate
Before Hiking: Prior to making your journey into the wild, it is important to stay hydrated. If you start off dehydrated, your body will be unable to quickly replenish its water supply and could put you at risk of facing serious consequences. To keep this from happening, experts advise drinking 17-20 ounces of pure water 2 hours before commencing a hike. Avoid or limit substances that can act as diuretics such as coffee, tea or soda with caffeine.
After Hiking: After you’ve had your fill of hiking for the day, it’s important to drink plenty of liquids in order to help rehydrate and replenish your body. Make sure that within two hours post-hike, you have drank somewhere around 17-20 ounces of water so that not only are you refreshed but also energized enough for tomorrow’s adventures.
Be Careful of Dehydration
When you’re trekking and engaging in strenuous activity, it’s easy to become dehydrated without knowing. I experienced this firsthand when hiking the DeCaLiBron Loop; despite feeling hydrated while scaling the mountains, upon reaching the end my body alerted me of dehydration by way of severe headache and cramping stomach. This incident taught me an invaluable lesson which I share with the aim that you avoid similar discomfort – stay ahead of your hydration needs!
When your body is losing more fluids than it’s taking in, dehydration can quickly set in. Without enough water to keep its operations running smoothly, the human body will make sure you get the message by displaying certain key symptoms. Here are a few of them:
- Dizziness and Nausea
- Extreme thirst
- Dark urine
Dehydration treatment: what to do if you’re showing symptoms
If you’re exhibiting any of the above symptoms, your initial impulse may be to immediately rush to the nearest water source and chug as much as possible. Unfortunately, this could end up doing more harm than good.
Instead, you should immediately stop hiking. Take a break and retreat to the nearest shade and rest for a bit. Fuel up with water and electrolytes, salt, or sports drinks to replenish lost fluids. Submerge a shirt or cap in cool water to reduce your body temperature. Only resume activity once the symptoms have dissipated.
Methods for Carrying Water
Soft bottles: When I am backpacking, my go-to way to carry water is with 1-liter soft water bottles. These are much lighter than their hard-sided counterparts and can be easily attached to a filter so that you can drink directly through it.
Hard-sided plastic bottles: Renowned for their durability and strength – they can withstand drops without breaking. However, that incredible sturdiness is accompanied with a hefty weight penalty; in comparison to the other options out there these hard-sided water bottles simply aren’t competitive anymore. The modern consumer has access to better alternatives when it comes to transporting H2O.One good use they still have is for winter backpacking. You can heat up water on your stove and fill these bottles with hot water and put them inside your sleeping bag to help keep you warm at night.
Collapsible water bottles: These water bottles are becoming increasingly popular amongst backpackers due to their lightweight and ability to fit into small spaces. However, it is important that they are treated with caution since sharp objects can easily pierce through them.
Hydration reservoirs: Hydration reservoirs are a love-or-hate item; their convenience is undeniable with the accessible drinking hose, yet they can be bothersome to refill and it’s difficult to know how much water you have unless you take them out of your bag. Additionally, cleaning these reservoirs takes up extra energy. In short – hydration reservoirs give us easy access to water while hiking but do come with some caveats that need consideration before investing in them.
Check out our article “The Best Way To Carry Water While Hiking” for a more in-depth comparison between water bottles and hydration reservoirs.
How Much Water Should I Bring When Hiking?
With a bit of pre-planning and knowledge about your water requirements and hydration levels, you can make your backpacking journey much more comfortable and enjoyable. By taking the time to assess these details ahead of time, you’ll have an incredible outdoor experience!