Carrying sufficient water, and hydrating (rehydrating) regularly are fundamentals thatare often over-looked by new hikers, the volume of water that you should be carrying depends on a variety of factors, and there are really no hard and fast rules. I can however give you some guidelines that will help you decide how much you would take with you. I would also like to talk a bit about best methods of hydration and the consequences of dehydration. Carrying water should be a priority unless you have a water purifier, and then; you should know the routes you can take with easy water access. You can survive almost a month without proper nourishment, however you will die within days of running out of water.
The first thing you need to consider is how much you are going to drink. There are a few factors that affect this.
First of all you need to consider how much you should normally drink. The average article says the average person should drink 2 litres a day on average (I did that on purpose). This two litres however is just to replace the liquids that you lose on a normal day, which is actually in the range of 2.5L but you can sneak the rest of the fluids you need to get back to status quo with the consumption of food.
This all changes when you are exercising, you will perspire, and breathe more exhaling valuable water both increasing the amount of fluid and electrolytes are lost. This means replenishing more, which in turn means carrying more. Those of you who are going on day hikes have a little bit more leniency with what you have to take along with you, Overnight and Multi-day hikers beware! Not carrying or drinking sufficient water is quick road to being very ill. In Australia, dehydration; especially in summer is very easy to succumb to, only good drinking habits, (yes you can have good drinking habits as well as bad ones) will stop dehydration headaches, dizziness and the nastier side effects that follow including sun stoke and death.
Carrying Water hiking
Roughly 3 litres of water in addition to food is a good starting point to plan on for a temperate day, on what looks like a hotter summer day, this can be 4L and you may still need more. Your body is an extremely good judge of how much water you need, that’s what the sensation of thirst is (duh). I find that I drink slightly more than this, I carry a 2 Litre Camelbak for drinking while walking and then have another 1.5L bottle for cooking, making tea / coffee and washing dishes Per day. To clarify, a day is a full day, going on a 3 or 4 hour hike during the day, you should be fine with a single litre or so, again heavily depending on the weather.
For hikes of more than two days (ie set out one, camp and return the next day) I would highly recommend carrying a water filter if at all possible, As every litre of water is very close to a kilo of weight on your back. There may be times when you need to carry more than that, but obviously nothing is perfect.
I’m sure its quite clear to anybody that dehydration is a bad idea, however most people don’t really think about how they should be drinking. I’m sure you have all seen the movies with the angry Sergeant who tells the exhausted private to sip. This isn’t because he wants the private to be thirsty for longer, its because after about three sips, you start drinking more water than you will absorb. Regular sips of water is absorbed into your body much more readily by your body, meaning more water on the inside and less stopping for toilet breaks. It is incredibly important that water is drunk regularly, BEFORE you are thirsty, this is probably the hardest thing to do. Its very easy to forget, but if you’re thirsty, your body is already on the way to dehydration. In addition to drinking water, you should try and replace lost electrolytes, now now, don’t go and buy a giant tub of Gatorade powder and mix it in with everything you drink (unless you want to) but the replacing of salts through food and snacks is a good way to do this. Some hiking stores sell powders you can mix in with your drink, I haven’t tested this yet, I tend to eat salted nuts and trail mix to make up the difference, but I plan to try the mixes this summer as the food just cant replace them as fast.