Water. You can’t live without it. You need it for your body to survive. It is an essential component of daily living. But if you are running, exercising, or heading outdoors, what is the exact amount you need? The short answer is it depends. The long answer is what follows as I seek to answer just that in this article, How Much Water Should You Drink When Hiking? Hydration Basics.
Let’s get started.
Pre-Hydrate with a Liter Before Starting
Life is a lot easier when you prepare. You will feel less dehydrated on your hike if you drink some water beforehand. It’s best to play it safe. You will need less water on your hike if you are already set to go before you even start.
Do not drink the liter all it once too. You need to spread it out over 30 minutes to an hour.
Answer Some Important Questions First
How Long Are You Going to Be Hiking?
You are going to need more water for a 10 mile than you are for a 5-mile hike. If you are planning to be outside hiking for 10 hours, then you will need more water than on a 2-hour hike. Your body needs more fluids if it is to handle the difficulties in the former situation.
Is There a Reliable Source of Water on Your Hike?
For a day hike, I do not bring along a water filter. I think it is unnecessary because you are not going out there for too long. That is just my personal preference. If you prefer to drink and stop at water sources along the way for whatever reason, you can do so. If you factor water sources into account, then it means you do not have to carry as much gear and water along with you.
Water is heavy at a pound per cup (1 L/0.91 kg, 2 lbs/L), making it quite an expensive item to carry along with you. If you can cut that down with a filter or water purification device, then go right on ahead.
If you want to learn more about how to purify water on your hike, then I suggest you check out one of my previous articles, 5 Ways to Purify Water for Drinking – a How to Guide. It gives you an overview of all the options you have available to you.
How Much Water Does Your Body Need in a Day?
Without exercise, the human body needs 2 L of water a day. For any day hike I go on, I bring 5 L at a minimum to be on the safe side. Since I am a bigger guy, I go through a lot of water and I want to have plenty of fluids in my body. You might be smaller and need less water. You might be bigger and go through 7 L of water per day. It all varies from person to person based on their body.
A general rule to follow is this:
Adults: 2 cups (1 L) of water for every 1 hour of hiking.
Children: 1-2 cups (0.5 – 1 L) of water for every 1 hour of hiking.
Nobody is equivalent so you will have to tailor the amount of water you bring to the particular person. A bigger person is probably going to need more water than a smaller person.
What is the Weather Going to Be Like?
You need a lot more water on a day hike in the desert than a cool afternoon on a coastal plain. The sun is a lot sharper in the former, so your body burns through fluids like a Ford truck.
When I hiked and picked fossils off the ground in Kenya, I went through 5 L of water per day. I was sweating and moving my body in more ways than one. I had never gone through so much water in my life. If I did not drink enough water, I would get dizzy and have to sit down for a bit. Some fellow students could not even fossil hunt because they did not drink enough water. You need water or else you will get stuck on the bench.
Also, just because it is winter outside and there is plenty of moisture does not mean you do not need water. Drink on a regular basis. You burn a lot more fluids during the Winter than you would think.
The Bottle or the Bladder? Both Work Well
There are a number of different ways you can carry water when hiking. The three main ways are the bottle, bladder, and hybrid. Each have their pros and cons.
The Bottle Always Comes Along with Me.
I always bring a bottle along with me. If you are forgetful, you can be sure to pick up a plastic water bottle at the grocery store before your hike. You can also reuse plastic bottles fairly easily and you can be sure to find plenty of reusable hard plastic ones. You can also chug if you need a lot of water now.
The only downside to the bottle is its weight. With metal and hard plastic containers, the weight can quickly add up, slowing down the speed of your hike.
The Bladder is Needed for Longer Hikes.
If you are hiking in the desert, in a group with infrequent breaks, or in a fluid draining environment, then a bladder provides you with constant ease of fluid replenishment. You can hike and drink water at the same time. This also works better for children. They can run out ahead of you and they always have water at the ready if need be. You can sip constantly with a bladder in your backpack.
The bladder does have a couple drawbacks though. It is hard to clean, punctures easily, and cannot be chugged.
When I hiked in Kenya, I ran into sickness because I forgot to clean my bladder. The sun shown on the bladder, melted the plastic a little, polluted the water I drank, and made me sick and I had to slow down as a result. I did not clean it often enough. In that situation, I should have been cleaning it once a week, but I did not.
To be honest, the puncturing is not too much to worry about unless you are in a puncture prone situation. Not being able to chug is also a drawback. If you need lots of fluids now, you cannot get that with a bladder.
The Bladder/Bottle Hybrid
If you cannot make up your mind, do not worry. There is a solution, the collapsible water bottle. It has the thin, light walls of the bladder and the ability to chug just like a water bottle. Once you are done with it, collapse the bottle and you now have more room in your backpack. Some even come with in built filters for you to enjoy clean water.
There are a couple drawbacks though. You cannot find these bottles everywhere, so it does take a bit of planning to get beforehand. You have to go to an outdoor store. Also, these puncture easily, so do not store these with a knife nearby.
On my hiking trips, I always bring the bladder and the bottle. I like to have the benefits of both, the chugging capability of the bottle and the constant re-hydration of the bladder.
Two Tips to Be Well Hydrated
1. Drink Water as You Go.
If you drink water throughout your hike, then you feel less need to be hydrated. Drink water, at least small sips, every ten to fifteen minutes.
2. Play it Safe and Err on the Side of Caution.
When you go without water, even for a couple hours, you deteriorate. You can experience dizziness, headache, fatigue, muscle cramps, joint aches, mood change, irritability, sunken eyes, shriveled skin, and constipation.
When you go without water for a longer time, greater than twenty-four hours or more, you can experience low blood pressure, a rapid heart beat, fever, delirium, sever diarrhea, vomiting, and an inability to keep fluids down.
When you go without water on and off for an extended period (like six months to a year), you experience a slow metabolism, increased hunger, irregular temperature, digestion problems, general fatigue, and increased blood sugar. You need water to survive.
If you bring plenty of water with you, then you can account for the unknown. Maybe you were thirstier today than usual or your sibling needed some extra water. Life happens.
Are You Going to Get Outside this Week?
Well, you should now all be hydrated and ready to go. It is now time to test out the knowledge you learned in this article. Knowledge is only as good as it is applied. You will find a link to AllTrails.com below. It is my go to site for finding trails near me. I cannot recommend them enough. You will be a better person after you go on a hike. So what do you say? Are you going to get outside this week?
If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please share the article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!