…But Did You Drink Any Water?
Water is the foundation of life. Not only does it keep us alive, but it also keeps us cool and energized.
Needles to say, it’s important to know how much water to bring hiking.
The funny thing about water is it’s everywhere. We can’t get away from it, it seems. We wash our hands with it, bathe in it, swim in it, cook with it, and yet, ironically, so many people forget to drink it. Drinking water is a healthy habit we all need to follow but still always seem to mess up.
We’ve all been there before. Maybe you’re feeling sluggish. A headache wraps around your skull. You’re fatigued and cranky. And when you share your concerns with friends or family you likely get the response, “Yeah, I understand but did you drink any water?”.
That question isn’t the health equivalent of the IT guy or gal asking if you’ve checked to make sure your computer is plugged in, it’s an important question we should always ask ourselves. And the question is asked often because lack of it is usually the cause of several annoyances.
Before you plan on starting a day hike or going for a long trekking adventure, your first thought should be, “how much water do I need for a hike?”. Trust me—there’s nothing worse than being half-way through a hike, parched, with a bone-dry water bottle. So let’s dive in and figure out exactly how much water you need for hiking.
Hiking & Water Consumption
It’s a toasty day. The heat from the sun hugs you intently as beads of sweat bead up from your pores. You retrieve your water bottle and unscrew the lid. Your lips stick together as you open them for that refreshing, revitalizing splash of H20 and … nothing. Uh oh.
Even though the prospect of adventure draws you in like a magnet, hiking with dehydration feels awful and is dangerous. Retreating with a sluggish pace and no gas in your tank flat out sucks. The last thing we need is to suffer serious dehydration and risk fainting, being exposed to the elements. A key element to remember with water consumption is to take in more water than you lose.
Whether you’re taking a day-long pace up a steep mountain or breezing through some mildly-challenging hills, it’s important to bring water when you’re hiking. Hiking is, although it may not seem at slower speeds, a physically demanding activity that burns tons of energy. Occasional swigs of clean, crisp water are important for preserving your energy levels and fighting off heat exhaustion.
The rule for how much water to bring during for a hike doesn’t apply only to hiking in hot weather—it’s a rule you should abide by even if you’re hiking in the rain or winter season, too. Nevertheless, you didn’t come here for the same lecture your parents use to give you about proper water consumption. You came here to figure out how much water hiking requires. So let’s splash right into it.
How Much Water Hiking Requires?
Hiking Water Rule Of Thumb
The general hiking water rule of thumb is 1 liter (32 ounces) of water every two hours. Water intake will vary depending on your height, weight, and outside temperature, but this number is an all-around safe number to stick with. Please note that this is the amount per person.
It’s recommended to bring a clear 32 oz. water bottle to help track your water intake.
If you don’t feel like having to remove a large bottle every time you need a sip, consider breaking down the amount of water into smaller bottles.
This rule, however, doesn’t factor in several other variables such as weather, pack weight, and other considerations.
One of the most important things to do before a hike is to drink water before you head out for the trail. This was a mistake I made when I was a beginning hiker, and it messed me up big time. Make sure you’re properly hydrated before you even leave the house.
Showing up to start a hike with a lack of water already in your system is a recipe for disaster and can cause you to pound through your water supply extra fast, leaving you parched.
Heat & Humidity
There’s no way around it. You need more water on hot days. Hot weather is going to increase your body temperature and, as a result, your body will lose more water. Factoring in the general rule of thumb, I generally add an extra 16 ounces (1/2 liter) per hour during hot and humid weather. This way I know I’m taking in the regular amount with a little extra to keep me hydrated.
Time Spent in Direct Sun & The Shade
Time spent directly in the sun or the shade also matters. When you’re in direct sunlight, your temperature rises, thus more water is lost. Though there’s not an easy, precise way to calculate this, keep it in mind when bringing water on a hike.
This is almost always overlooked when preparing your water stock-up for a hike. Additional weight on a hike requires more physical energy and will wring a little extra sweat out of you. If you’re bringing a heavy load, bring an extra half-liter per hour for your hike.
Your Average Water Consumption
Another hard-to-determine variable is your average water consumption. Some people, myself included, tend to drink way more water throughout the day than most people. If you frequently drink water already, consider how much you drink in an hour when you’re not exerting physical effort and add it to your total.
There. I said it. Yes, the color of your pee can tell you if you’re drinking enough water. If you go for a tinkle off the side of the trail (please don’t do this on the trail) and it’s anything but clear, you need some water. The closer your urine is to a clear consistency, the more hydrated you are. However, don’t wait until your trickling bronze streams to start drinking water.
Step-By-Step Calculation: Keep it Simple
That can be a lot to remember for figuring out how much water you need for a hike. Don’t freak out—you don’t need to sit down with spreadsheets to figure this stuff out. Let’s simplify how much water you’ll need for hiking.
- Determine Trail Length
- Don’t forget to add the length back if it’s a one-way trail!
- Estimate The Time to Complete Trail
- If you plan to have an average pace of 3 miles per hour, and the trail is 6 miles, that’s 2 hours to finish, which comes out to 1 liter of water. (trail length / pace = water required).
- Add extra water for other conditions (heat/pack weight/etc.)
- As mentioned, I’d recommend bringing an extra half-liter per hour. That’s my intake, yours may vary.
The formula for bringing the right amount of water to bring hiking: trail length / pace = amount of water needed. In hot, humid, or extra physically intense conditions, bring an extra half-liter per hour. That’s it!
Don’t forget to sip when you’re thirsty, not just because you think you need to drink extra water during the hike. A lot of beginner hikers get in the habit of drinking water “just because” during a hike and end up empty pretty fast. Even worse, having fluid slosh around in your belly when you’re trekking up and down hills is no fun.