Determining how much water to take hiking depends on several factors. The weather conditions, the availability of water along the trail and the length of the hike all factor in. Researching the answers to these questions will provide a guide to how much water to bring. Read on for more specifics.
Many less experienced hikers don’t bring enough water. Most experts recommend bringing at least 8 ounces of water for each mile to be hiked as a general rule. Not everyone will drink this much, but it is better to have too much water than to get dehydrated or be caught without it in a pinch. Never count on finding water along the trail, unless the hike leader has specifically indicated it will be available. This water would need to be purified anyway before drinking and this takes time and effort.
Additional water may be needed when hiking in hot weather or at a higher altitude. Hot weather will cause hikers to sweat more and, thus, will require more water to drink. High altitudes have drier air and, even though hikers may not be sweating as much, they are still losing water faster than they would at lower altitudes. The National Park Service recommends planning on drinking 1 gallon of water per day for visitors hiking in the Grand Canyon. They also recommend drinking 1 quart of water each hour of the hike. The air in the Grand Canyon is hot and dry and many hikers are not even aware they are sweating. If there is a question or concern about a specific hike, contact the hike leader or the local park expert for advice.
Some trails will have streams or other sources of water available along the way. This can be an excellent source of water when camping. Hikers carry in only enough water for the hike itself or the first day and then sterilize water for the rest of the trip. All water from natural sources should be sterilized either by boiling, chemical sterilizers or water pumps that automatically sterilize the water. Never drink directly from a stream or pond, no matter how clean the water appears. If there is no known source of water along the hike, be sure to bring more than 8 ounces per mile of the hike to ensure enough water is available for the entire hike.
It is a good idea to check with experts or experienced hikers who are familiar with the specific trail chosen to hike and listen to their recommendations. They can identify any local water that might be available and give tips on weather conditions or if the trail is difficult. Ensuring hikers are sufficiently hydrated before the hike begins is also a good idea. If the trail is not difficult and the weather is not overly hot then the general 8 ounce rule should be enough.
It is important to carry enough water on any hike. Water can be heavy to carry, but it is used quickly so the weight is not as important as ensuring no one becomes dehydrated along the way. You never want to find yourself lost or dehydrated without any water at your disposal.