The other day I looked at some of the best foods you can take on a day hike. They’re my favorite ones but they are very common and most regular hikers would be familiar with them.
Today I wanted to extend this on to another critical aspect of sustenance while you’re out on the trail, namely hydration.
When you are out on the trail you are of course expending effort while, depending on how long you like to hike for, putting in lots of miles. This of course while mean you sweat and so you need to drink water to replace what you lose as you move
A question that comes up for a lot of folks, especially if you’re new to hiking, is ‘how much water should I take on a hike?’ As well as that, I also often hear ‘What other drinks are good to take with me?
In this post I thought it might be useful to outline what I do and hopefully you can use that to help you gauge what you may need.
How Much Water I Take on a Day Hike
Water is the most important sustenance you have in your day pack, there’s no question about that. You can survive a long time without food. Without food, on a day hike you might at worst be grumpy and annoyed.
Not the same with water as it is of course critical and if you get dehydrated, performance and safety can take a hit quite quickly.
On one of my normal average day hikes, about 15 – 20 km (9 – 12 miles) over 4- 6 hours, I pack away 3 liters (105 fl oz) of water in my hydration bladder. I also, especially in Winter, take a half liter of hot tea in a thermos flask with me. It’s not water of course but it all counts.
As a general rule, I don't take any other type of drink on hikes with me although I did take a can of coke when I went to the top of Mont Blanc. That was mainly as I needed a fast and easy way to get a quick sugar blast. I would never do this on a normal hike, it was very tasty though 🙂
Now, water is heavy (1 liter (35 fl oz) weighs about 1 kg or about 2.2 pounds) so there are other options you can do to compliment your supply rather than carrying it. If you know there are good water sources on your hiking route, plan your route accordingly to pass them.
Then, using a water purification method, you can fill up from streams and pools. For shorter day hikes, I just carry my water from the start but if I plan to be out for longer times, I will plan to use water I find on the way which I filter before drinking.
Sometimes, if you're lucky water purification may not be necessary and you can drink straight from the source e.g. a fast flowing river high up in mountains, but be very careful if you do this, you can just get unlucky and drink something bad. I have drank direct from streams many times but I try to avoid it when I can.
Now, good water sources are not always available on your route. If that’s the case you need to think about how you will accommodate your hydration needs on the way.
For example, you can’t drink snow but, if you pop some into a flask and put it in your pack close to your back, it should melt as you hike and so providing you with drinking water. Remember to still purify it though.
If you’re hiking in a desert, well, that’s a whole different kettle of fish and you’ll need to be very mindful of how you supply your water needs as any error in that type of environment could be swiftly punished by mother nature.
What about Longer Treks?
Similar to longer day hikes, on longer multi day treks I plan to utilize water sources on the route as I go. If I’m camping out, I will have my stove with me to cook so I will also boil water for hot drinks. For water, I filter it as normal or if there's a good, clean and reliable source nearby, as mentioned above, I'll drink it straight from the river.
Again though, be very careful if you choose to do this! I generally know the areas and the water pretty well when I drink directly from it and I know it is good. It doesn't mean I couldn't get unlucky though!
I am a very thirsty person and so I do drink more water than most. Carrying 3.5 liters (3 liters of water 0.5 tea) on an average day hike, can seem like a lot and there is no doubt it adds weight. However, purely for convenience, and probably a healthy lump of laziness too 🙂 , I am happy to do it.
It’s important to remember that everyone is different. I hike with a few folks and they’re very light on the water consumption front. Where I drink 3 liters, 1.5 liters would do them.
Take some time to learn what your needs are on shorter hikes. After you get more experienced you’ll know how much water you’ll need based on your planned hike.
As I mentioned, for longer hikes, I’ll utilize a filter and top up from water sources as I go. Another really important aspect for me is how I carry water on my hikes.
For me there is no contest on this and I use a hydration bladder to drink as I move, by far the easiest way to travel in my opinion. In truth, sometimes I’ll still carry a bit more spare in water bottles though too lol 🙂
I hope you found this post useful. I think you need to work with a few different things to find what fit's your style and needs best i.e. how much water you need for the type of hiking you do. When you know that, you can use a combination of the methods mentioned in this post to help you plan accordingly.
What are your thoughts on carrying water? Do you filter as you go? I'd love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments below.