Water for Day Hikers: What to Pack, Why, and How Much-Panergy

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Water for Day Hikers: What to Pack, Why, and How Much-Panergy

What Not To Do
I recently went on a hike with a friend that was about 7 miles with 3,000 feet of elevation gain in the middle of summer.

We get to the trailhead at the same time as another group doing the hike.

Only 1 person in the entire group was carrying a backpack and water. Everyone else was carrying literally nothing!

No water and no other essential hiking gear.

This is something that I see happening a lot.

Water Bottles
The second most common thing I see is hikers carrying just one water bottle in their hands while they’re hiking.

While I guess that's probably better than nothing, it’s still a limited amount of water, and probably not enough for the duration of the hike.

Not to mention, it can be annoying to hold it the entire time.

You also have no way of getting more water if you run out.

Sometimes, people pack water bottles in their backpacks while they’re hiking so they don’t have to hold them in their hands.

This is not a great system in my opinion because now, every time you want to drink, you need to stop and dig your water bottle out of your bag.

That's probably not something you're going to stop to do often, and therefore, you won't end up drinking frequently enough to stay hydrated.

Day hiking in Utah.
How To Carry Water On Day Hikes
This brings me to what I use to carry water on my day hikes.

I use something called a water reservoir or a bladder.

They come in different sizes and there are many benefits to using one:

They hold a lot more water than a single water bottle. (I have a 2L size.)

They easily fit into your backpack.

It's very easy to sip on water and drink frequently throughout the hike without having to stop.

Not only can I carry 2 liters of water easily in my backpack, but I also end up sipping on water frequently throughout my hike.

Gear Highlight:
HydraPak 2 L water reservoir for hiking.
HydraPak 2 L water reservoir for hiking.

Osprey Sirrus 24 L day hiking backpack. (smaller size)
Osprey Sirrus 24 L day hiking backpack. (smaller size)

Osprey Sirrus 36 L day hiking backpack. (larger size)
Osprey Sirrus 36 L day hiking backpack. (larger size)

How Much Water Should You Carry?
How much water you carry will depend on factors such as the time of year, length, water availability on the trail, and duration of your hike.

We’ll talk more about water availability and safe drinking water below.

According to an article on REI.com, “A good general recommendation is about a half-liter of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures.”

I typically fill up my water reservoir completely, unless I’m certain of water sources along the hike.

Carrying the water weight doesn’t bother me. I’d rather carry extra than not have enough.

In general, I think listening to your body and developing the habit of sipping on water frequently throughout the hike is more important than trying to stick to a rigid rule, but it can be a helpful guideline as you’re getting started.

Please note that the recommendation is for “moderate activity” in “moderate temperatures”.

Amanda using a Sawyer Squeeze to get more drinking water on a hike.
How Will You Get More Water On The Trail?
So the water bladder makes it easy for us to carry a lot of water and drink it frequently throughout the hike, but it's still a finite amount of water.

What if I need more? What if I have to stay out longer than expected?

I want a way to get more safe drinking water when I'm out on a hike if I need it.

To accomplish this, we need to do some research and planning at home, and we need to carry the appropriate gear.

Research At Home
Before I head out on a hike, I’m doing research at home about the hike and getting a good sense of the landscape as a whole and where the water sources are.

For example: Am I hiking up to a lake that has water year-round? Will I cross a stream or river at any point? Does the trail parallel a river?

If I'm hiking up to a lake, I know that I will be able to get more drinking water with my filter if I need it. So having this info in your head beforehand is important.

There might be hikes where you don't have access to water.

In the desert, that happens a lot. Even still, it's important info to know because then you can access the risk of what you’re doing and perhaps pack even more water on the hike.

Water Filters Or Purifiers
Now you know where the water sources are, so we need the proper gear in order to get more safe drinking water out on the trail.

I've found that most day hikers don't carry any sort of water purification or water filtration system with them.

The mentality is: "I'm just going on a day hike I can carry the amount of water that I need."

And yes, while that may be true, it’s still important to carry a water filter on your day hikes.

Regardless of the length of the hike, I'm always packing my Sawyer Squeeze water filter.

I've been using this filter for years and I love it. It's lightweight, small, and has a great flow rate. It's very easy to use and take care of too.

This allows me to filter water from the lake or stream that I'm hiking by and get more water if needed.

It's also nice because if I'm on a really hot hike, I can get cold water from a stream that’s so refreshing compared to the room temp water in my backpack.

There are many water filter options on the market, so do some research to find the best fit for you.

Gear Spotlight:
Sawyer Squeeze water filter for hiking.
“Two Is One, One Is None”
There's an old adage: "two is one, one is none" when it comes to your life-saving gear.

In other words, you want backups.

What if the water filter that I'm totally dependent on fails me? What if I lose it? What if I drop it and it breaks?

For backup, I personally choose to carry water purification tablets.

I would much rather use my filter, and luckily I've never had to use the tablets, but they are there just in case.

Also, when I'm hiking with Nick, he also always carries a water filter, so within our group of two, we have more than one filter.

A water filter is something you should encourage everyone in your group to carry.



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