How Much Water Do I Need For A 4 Hour Hike? | Hikers University

When going for a fairly long hike, a question you may ask is, “how much water do I need for a 4-hour hike?”

Apart from your wits, the most important thing to bring on a hike is water. You want to ensure that you are sufficiently hydrated during your trip, but you also do not want to bring so much water that you have a hard time carrying it around. After all, you want to pack light and cover longer distances while hiking.

An adult who goes hiking requires 2 cups of water for each hour that they hike. This means that for a 4-hour hike, an adult would need 8 cups of water. Children, on the other hand, need 1 to 2 cups of water for each hour they hike.

Of course, while this is the recommended amount of water you need for a hike, the weather conditions, your thirst, and the water you filter on the way are also factors to keep in mind. That being said, it is best to be cautious and bring more water than you think you will need.

As seasoned hikers who’ve faced their fair share of dehydrations, we’re here to help you calculate the amount of water you need when hiking.

Table of contents


How Much Water Do I Need for a 4 Hour Hike - How to Calculate

Step 1: The Duration of Your Hike

If this is the first time you will go hiking, understanding how much water you need will be tricky. It should take you approximately 30 to 60 minutes to hike a mile. Of course, this also depends on your abilities and how difficult the trail is. The duration of your hike could also differ if you are hiking with a child or with a friend with whom you keep chatting. The number of breaks you take mid-trail also makes a huge difference.

Before going hiking, look for the trail guide’s estimate of the trail distance and the estimated time completing the hike will take. When you look at the time, it is important to be honest with yourself. Do not think that you will be able to finish the hike faster just because you are fit. If you have not worked out for a while, consider adding a few extra minutes to the given time- it is possible that you might take some extra time finding your footing and more breaks than the average hiker would.

Step 2: Number of Cups of Water per Hour

Here is how you can calculate the amount of water you need to bring to a hike:

  •  Adults: Approximately ½ liter for every hour that they hike. This amounts to 2 cups for each hour.
  • Children: 1 or 2 cups for every hour that they spend on the trail.

According to this calculation, if your hike is 4 hours long, you will need to bring approximately 8 cups of water for each person in your group. Of course, these are only general rules. Some hikers may feel thirstier than others but this is a good guideline to roughly follow.

The amount of time needed per mile might be shorter or longer- this depends on the incline and terrain of your trail. Hence, we recommend measuring the amount of water you need per hour instead of per mile.

Step 3: Weather Conditions

On a hot day, most people consume more water than on a cool day. It is no wonder that many people forget to drink water in the winter!

Hiking on a hot day is difficult. Hikers sweat more and lose more water from their bodies. Moreover, this causes them to tire more easily. Water is used as fuel to ensure that they do not get dehydrated. Hence, it is only natural for hikers to drink more water when it is hot and humid; otherwise, they can faint and injure themselves mid-hike.

Step 4: Figuring Out Sources of Water on the Trail

If you are planning a hike, it’s best to choose trails around a water source. As long as the source is reliable and you have a water filter, you will not have to constantly worry about whether you are carrying sufficient amounts of water to get you and your team through the hike.

Now, it is imperative to understand that the water source you find has to be reliable. You may see a couple of reliable water sources on the map before your hike, only to discover that they have dried up in the summer. Now, you no longer have a water source and did not even bring sufficient water for your hike- it sounds like you are in trouble. Hence, we would recommend confirming whether the source of water is present. You can do this by asking the individuals responsible for the trail.

If you find that the water sources are reliable, all you have to do is carry containers to fill the water in for yourself and the team.

If you are hiking in the backcountry, you must be aware that it may contain protozoa and bacteria before consuming water, regardless of how clean it may look to the naked human eye. Some specific hiking areas are particularly problematic as viruses commonly grow in water, so you must have a water purifier on hand to get rid of them before you safely consume it.

Keep in mind that if the water contains chemicals from factories or agricultural runoff, the purifier may not be able to clean it fully; which means that it will not be safe for human consumption.

Step 5: How Thirsty You Get

If you are going on a hike all by yourself, it is vital to understand yourself and your needs. Do you drink a lot of water? Do you barely drink water?

If you usually drink a lot of water when you are lazing around at home, you must remember this before you set out on the trail. It is highly likely that you will require more water than the general guidelines, especially since the hike will exhaust you, and your muscles will require water to continue.

We would recommend carrying water with you so that you do not end up dehydrated. How much water you bring is up to you- just remember that you do not want to carry too much water as this will only increase the weight during your hike, and you do not want to rely solely on a water source since you must have a backup.

Tips for Carrying Water on a Hike

Always Be Cautious

If you do not understand how much water to bring on a hike, we would recommend that it is always better to be safe than sorry. Think about how much water you would ideally need, and then bring more than that.

According to the number of accounts we have read by hikers, we recommend bringing double the amount of water you think you will need on your first hike. This is because there are high chances that you are not calculating properly, or you don’t know what is in store for you. Moreover, if you get lost, it is always better that you stay hydrated so that you can think properly during this time.

Drink Before You Start Your Hike

Before you begin hiking on the trail you have chosen, you should drink a lot of water. Not only will you remain hydrated, but you will also be able to concentrate on the trail without worrying about your first for a number of miles.

Moreover, drinking water right before hiking is a tactic that hikers use to lower water weight. Hiking light is always better, especially if you are a beginner or you have not hiked that particular trail before. This is also a trick that older hikers use since they cannot carry too much weight and want to hike as lightly as possible.

Take Small Sips of Water When Hiking

Keep in mind that if you are feeling extremely thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. Hence, do not wait for the thirst to hit you. Instead, start taking small sips of water before you feel thirsty.

For the first couple of times that you hike, keep 15-minute reminders on your phone or watch so that you can take a couple of sips of water every now and then. This will ensure that you do not feel hydrated or tired and do not develop a heat stroke.

Use a Water Bladder If You Take Children with You

When you go on a hike with children, there is a high possibility that they will drop the water bottle or knock it over, completely draining your water supply. This can be a problem, especially if that is your only water supply for the entire hike.

Hence, it is better that you use a water bladder so that even if it falls, it does not break. Keep in mind that children are usually clumsy and can misuse things because they see them as toys. You wouldn’t want to finish your hike 2-hours after the expected time only because you were too tired and dehydrated throughout because your kid dropped your water supply, would you?

What Should You Store Your Water In When You Go on a 4-Hour Hike?

You can always use a simple plastic water bottle each time you go hiking. However, hikers who find themselves on the trail more than once a month find that they benefit more from a hiking water bottle or bladder.

Here is why you should invest in a hiking water bottle if you see yourself hitting the trail more than a few times a year:

  • You can attach it to your pack so that it does not get lost.
  • It will be easier to open.
  • You do not have to worry about losing your lid.
  • It will remain insulated.


Peter Brooks

Peter Brooks

I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.

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