H2O On The Trail

I receive emails and messages regularly from novice hikers or those thinking about hiking, asking questions and seeking tips. A question I’ve been asked recently has been about water. Yes, a simple, but sometimes overlooked item of importance when preparing for a hike.

Don’t even think of starting on a hike that takes you more than a mile from home without a bottle of water along. You should have at least two quarts of water with you and drink 1/2 to 1 cup every 30 to 45 minutes. Keep the water coming into your body even if you don’t really feel very thirsty. If you are hiking, you are losing moisture and you need to replenish it, even in the winter months.

By the end of a four hour hike, you should have drunk both quarts of water and you should be able to use the toilet. If you don’t need to, then all that water came out as sweat and you still need to drink more water to stay hydrated. After a hike, you should drink additional water until you need to use the toilet. Drink a 1/2 cup or so every 5 minutes.

Water is THE most critical survival item – whether in the wild or at home. You can live 3 minutes without air. You can live 3 days without water. You can live 3 weeks without food.

You’ll have air to breathe unless you’re under water or in a cave-in.  If you run out of food, you can struggle on for 150 miles if needed.  But, if you run out of water, you have only a day or so to figure out a solution.

Ways to Conserve Water

  • Hike during the early morning and evening when the sun is less direct and the temperature is cooler. Rest during mid-day.
  • Hike at a slow, steady pace so you are not sweating or breathing hard.
  • Shade yourself with a wide-brimmed hat or umbrella.
  • Know your route and where water will be available. Carry adequate water with a safety margin, but not an excessive amount. The extra weight means you work harder. Don’t hike anywhere if you are not sure of available water or able to carry enough with you.
  • Pick routes that have more shade, such as creeks, north sides of hills, and forested areas.

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