Water is essential for life. You know that already. But every year, hikers perish from dehydration and heat exhaustion. Planning your water and having emergency plans can save your life.
Searching the internet, you can quickly find articles of hikers sadly perishing due to poor planning. Many times it is just not being aware of the environment they are going into. This couple went out into the New Mexico heat with only 40 oz of water for all three of them.
Most of these tragedies can be avoided with some simple preparation before a hike.
How much water should I carry?
There are many variables that can impact this answer. What is your stamina? How strenuous is the hike? What are the weather conditions predicted to be? What is the altitude? The humidity? Are there water sources to replenish along the trail?
As you can see, this is not a simple answer. But the guideline I use is too ALWAYS bring more then I think I will need. Water is the one item I will never regret over packing for.
I use a 3 liter bladder for most of my hikes. If I am unsure or never have hiked a trail, I fill the entire thing. If I am familiar with the trail and know what to expect (or know that there is refill spots), I may carry only 1 or 2 liters. The important thing is to do your research on the trail you are hiking. It is better to over prepare and have the extra weight then to be caught on a trail with depleting water and no place to refill. (fyi 1 liter of water weighs about 2.2 pounds).
What kind of backup plans should I have?
Again, this should start with researching the trail and climate you are about to hike. When I hiked in Sedona last year, having a water filter or tablets would have done me no good. There was nothing but desert and no water sources. The best plan for Sedona was to carry extra water. Much more then I would normally do on a day hike. But I would rather be finishing the trail carry the extra weight of a liter or two then to run out of water and be in an unsafe position on the trail.
Now if I was hiking the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon or parts of the Appalachian Trail out East, water filters and treatment tablets are great backup plans. Finding a stream can be fairly simple if you study your trail map before embarking.
- Always research the hiking conditions to have an idea of what hydration gear to bring.
- Always bring more water then you expect to need.
- For multi day trips or if you run out, water filters, iodine tablets or boiling water are good ways to purify water sources.
- Drink consistently and steady throughout the day. Chugging water before and after a hike is not a efficient way to keep you hydrated.