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.
By the end of a 4-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 perspiration 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. I don't mean chug it down, I mean drink a 1/2 cup or so every 5 minutes or so.
Water is THE most critical survival item - whether in the wild or at home.
Rule of 3:
- 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.
How much water do you really need? Does it matter where you are, the time of year, or the elevation?
Once you locate water, you're not home free. There're lots of critters living in that water and they'll make life miserable for you. It's a good idea to treat all water you find and here's how to do that.
Now that you have all the water you need, your stomache will only hold so much. You need to carry the rest down the trail until you find more water. Secure, comfortable, inexpensive transportation of water is the key.
Jul 26, 2012 - Robin
Is three liters enough for hiking 8 or 9 miles at 8500 feet, minimal gain/loss?
Jul 26, 2012 - Hiking Dude
Robin - every person is different in their water needs, but 3 liters would be more than I'd take. If I drink up before the hike and know there will be water at the end of the hike, I'd take 1 liter on the 8-mile hike to drink. If there were others with me, I'd bring an extra 1-liter bottle as a 2-pound insurance policy - just in case it's needed.
Also, if you know there is water along the route, you can carry less and gather water as you need.
Oct 23, 2012 - Madison Tabor, III
This is very helpful to relay to our scout troop, especially the new scouts.
Feb 23, 2013 - Chris Darling
What is your suggestions to prevent leg cramps while hiking, esp. up steep grades -- the anterior and posterior thigh muscles.
Feb 26, 2013 - Hiking Dude
Chris - Ask a doctor for medical advice. If you're experiencing that, it could be peripheral arterial disease. Or, it could just be dehydration, overworked muscles, or poor warming up first.
Drink more water, and eat fruits and vegetables to gain magnesium, potassium and calcium - that will generally help.
Sep 07, 2013 - Linda
Last year i went on a hike to prairie view trail and it was my first one but i didnt eat any breakfast because i was in a rush to be at school on time .. Walking up some steep hills i got breathless and so very tired, and im going again this year... Any advice?
Sep 30, 2013 - Alex
Wow - thinking I drink too greedily ... I drank 4 liters on a 6 mile 5 hour hike to Mount Killington. Oh well , it was fun ((and I was definitely hydrated))
Sep 30, 2013 - Hiking Dude
@Alex - If you drink up before you start your hike, you'll probably need to carry and drink less, but pee more. There's no problem with drinking more water, it just weighs more on your back.
Sep 30, 2013 - Alex
@HD , Good advice, but believe it or not - this was after drinking a liter during the car-ride. I think my snag might have been not regularly drinking small amounts; I waited until I was hot and thirsty and downed upwards of half a liter all at once. Perhaps regular 'maintenance drinking' would alleviate that.
Mar 29, 2014 - Glenn Beachy
Opinions based on observation, no lab research: if you just feel tired, drink more. I do know that dehydration is almost always present in hypothermia cases. If you are cramping, add electrolytes in food or powdered version and take note of when that happens so you can dose yourself in a way to prevent cramps the next time out. Nearly everyone I saw on the AT carried at most 1 liter. It is just too heavy up and down hills to carry more. Exception would be when you expect a dry camp so need enough to cook and get a start the next day. Happy hiking!