How Much Water to Bring on a Hike – Guide to Hydration

No one wants to end up dehydrated, tired, lethargic and sick right in the middle of an exciting hiking trip. So, having a sufficient amount of water with you during a hike is a must if you want to sustain your energy level and feel up to the mark. Getting dehydrated on long hikes can be scary.

Pure Water is the World’s First and Foremost Medicine. – Slovakian Proverb.

So, right now, you are pondering over how to cope up with this hydration issue on a hike. No worries, read along and know-how we have your back here!

The more you sweat, the more you need to pay attention to hiking hydration.

Why dehydration is dangerous?

Hiking is a strenuous activity, causing sweating, loss of metabolic fuel and electrolytes. In addition to feeling weak, dehydration makes you more prone to sunstroke and hypothermia. Meanwhile, you lose sodium along with body water during perspiration. So, there is a chance of getting disoriented which can be fatal for hikers.

How to calculate my water requirement?

Calculation of your water requirements on a hike depends on the duration of your hiking. On average, it takes approximately 1 hour to cover a one-mile trail. In case of hiking with kids and if you have a heavy backpack on, this can eventually up to two hours.

The average water requirement is calculated as the number of cups per hour. Adults require at least two cups or half a liter of water for every hour hiking. So, pre-calculate your duration of hiking and amount of water you need, before you start off.

Thousands Have Lived Without Love, Not One Without Water. – W.H.Auden

Keep weather and additional adverse situations like scarcity or availability of water on your trail and pack a little more like 2-3 liters of water in addition to your computed amount for things like cleaning yourself up or for an occasional wound cleaning, you will never regret it.

How do you carry water on a hike?

You can always choose normal plastic water bottles for hiking. But, people who are more frequent in hiking will usually go for a good water bottle or water bladder. They can be carried easily inside your backpack. Before choosing between water bottle or water bladder, you should keep some points in mind, like:

Attachable to backpack: Which permits easy access and gives more chance to remember drinking frequently.

Easy to open: This is particularly important in cold weather, when you are hiking with gloves on.

Hands-free and more convenient : A water bladder is more convenient, since it has the hose poking out making it easier to have a sip when necessary without removing or opening the backpack at first place.

No BPA: You certainly don’t want to sip in some chemicals while you are thirsty.

Insulated: Useful for hot or cold water and electrolyte-rich drinks in case of cold or hot, humid climate respectively.

How to Pack Water in a Backpack?

Water is a heavy item to carry inside a backpack, typically weighing around 2.2 pounds/liter. It is more convenient to put heavy items close to your back inside a backpack, but, when you are trying this method with your hydration pack, then the access is harder and you cannot find it easy to drink as much as you should.

Hard plastic water bottles are useful but they take space even when they’re empty. Another option is to use a hydration bladder, like a Camelback or Platypus, which you can keep inside your backpack, closer to your back and permits you to drink through a connected hose that comes through the shoulder strap of a backpack for better access.

If you have an available water source on the trail, you can also consider portable filters and purifiers. Pump or squeeze filters are mostly useful for backpacking or hiking individually or with a single companion.

Is it Safe to Drink Water from a Stream?

Well, the answer is “No!”. Backpacker Disease is something hikers and nature lovers would get while drinking water from the mountain spring or stream.

Most surface water sources (streams, rivers, creeks springs can be considered as a source of Giardia cysts causing a specific kind of diarrhea called Giardiasis which causes more dehydration instead of hydration. So, do not drink untreated water from a stream.

is it safe drinking water from stream
Gary Snyder – “Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”

My secret is one the world needs to know – nearly a billion people a year die from unsafe drinking water – Bella Thorne

How to Collect Water from Rivers and Streams?

In comparison to finding a water source, collecting water is quite easier. Water collected from swift streams and rivers must be done cautiously. Avoid stagnant water by aiming for flowing sections.

Stagnant water is a source of toxic materials and burdened with decaying plant and animal matter and accompanied microorganisms.

Select a collection point where the water source is running steadily and is easy to reach with a water bottle. Don’t stand on loose rocks or cliff edges, as these can be risky to traverse up and down.

Look for flat, stable banks, and for swift-flowing water make sure to have a ground stable enough not to fall in. Hold your water container in the flowing water and it should fill in easily.

How to Purify Water on a Hiking Trail?

There are few ways of purifying water on a hiking trail, like boiling, using water purifying tablets, using portable backpack water filters or UV water purifiers.

How do you stay hydrated while hiking?

Start with pre-hydrating yourself with a minimum of one liter of water before the hike. It is always better to have water inside your body than adding up to your backpack weight. Take small sips of water every 10-15 minutes, once you get on the trail.

No Water. No Life. No Blue. No Green. – Sylvia Earle

Drink before you feel thirsty since it is the first sign of dehydration. Don’t forget to add some electrolyte-rich drinks in your hydration list as well. Increase water consumption rate to double if you are hiking in hot and humid weather.

Plan to drink at regular intervals and do not gulp it all together. Particularly remember staying hydrated when you are hiking in cooler temperatures. You may not even realize when you are sweating but will get dehydrated.

Should I take only water for hydration?

Water is not the only thing that needs to be replenished. During hiking, you will be sweating out salt, metabolize sugar and electrolytes. But, you should consider keeping the sugar content from 6-8% of the total hydration pack.

Otherwise, you are going to lose more electrolytes during the metabolism of added sugar and end up more dehydrated. So, carry electrolytes-rich fluid for faster rehydration. You can keep 2- 3 packs of rehydration salts in your backpack.

How much water can you absorb in an hour?

In a usual hiking trip, an average adult can usually consume 2 cups or half a liter of water in an hour. In a hot and humid climate, it can increase up to a liter of water. In cold weather, one might absorb the average amount of water or even a little less.

How much water do I need for a 10-mile hike?

On average, it takes approximately 1 hour to cover a one-mile trail. In case of hiking with kids and if you have a heavy backpack on, this can eventually up to two hours. So, for a 10-mile hike, you will need 10-12 hours at an average (considering low levels of energy at the end and mid-hike breaks).

Adults require at least two cups or half a liter of water for every hour hiking. It means for 12 hours to complete, you need to consume a minimum 24 cups or 12 liters of water. Keeping some additional requirements like cleaning yourself up or for an occasional wound cleaning, you need to add 5-6 more cups or 2-3 liters to the sum up.

How much water should I bring on a 3 days backpacking trip?

Usually, a regular day on a trail ends up with 10-12 hours of hiking. Adults require at least two cups or half a liter of water for every hour hiking. It means for 12 hours to complete, you need to consume a minimum 24 cups or 12 liters of water.

Keeping the additional requirements we discussed before, you need to add 5-6 more cups or 2-3 liters to the total amount, considering the stress of the entire day. So, a 3-day backpacking trip usually counts as a summation of three times a regular day water requirement, which should be: 3×15 liters= 45 liters.

But, you cannot carry this huge amount of water in any hydration pack, so, you need to keep the total requirement in mind and plan your trip considering available water sources on the trail and keep the water purification facilities like water purifying tablets or handy small purifiers within your backpack.

If you feel, you can endure the weight, collect and carry more amount of purified water than you think you will need. Because it is always better to stay on the safe side.

How much water should I bring on a desert hike?

Considering the unavailability of water sources and the dry, hot, unwelcoming desert environment, you should aim for as much water as you can carry! It is always better packing more water than less in a strenuous activity like hiking in a desert where if anything goes out of your plan, chances of getting resupply is very limited.

You can lose up to almost two liters of water per hour hiking in the desert with mid-day sun, but you can only absorb maximum around one liter per hour, so that’s the minimum you should keep in mind for if you’re planning a hike.

For the real serious desert in the heat of summer, the amount of water should be a gallon per 3-4 hours, then calculate according to weather.

And another thing to consider here is, you should take electrolyte powders with you and mix it in your hydration pack according to the direction written in the package, since the sweaty desert hike is most likely to leave you electrolyte depleted, tired and lethargic, even occasionally causing painful muscle cramps.

Now, you have all the information you need about the necessities and amount of water you need for your hiking trip. Now, buckle up for the trail, the mountains are calling! Let me know if my tips were helpful enough! Good luck!

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