How Much Water Should You Carry While Hiking? | Hikers University

If you are going on a hike, you should know how much water should you carry while hiking. But how can you figure out the right amount of water?

Hiking is an exciting and refreshing activity, but some things are crucial for a hike, and the right amount of water is one of the top ones. However, what is the right amount of water you should carry on a hike? What if you carry too much water, ultimately weighing you down?

The amount of water you carry on a hike depends on various factors such as the weather, your level of physical exertion, and your hydration needs. On average, the human body needs ½ liter of water every hour. So, if you are going on a four-hour hike, you should have two liters of water.

However, hikes can be much longer than just four hours. But you can carry only so much water. There are solutions to sufficiently storing water on a hike, including water filters, hydration packs, pump or squeeze filters, etc.

As for hiking enthusiasts, we have been on hundreds of hikes over the last decade and know how much water our body needs depending on the variants. This guide will help you understand your water needs on a hike.

Table of contents


Water for Hiking: How Much Water to Bring on a Hike

Depending on your hiking experience, you may need a different amount of water than simply jogging. Generally speaking, you need about 1/2 liter of water every hour. If you are hiking in extremely high altitudes or hot conditions, you may need more water. The amount of water you need depends on your hiking experience, altitude, and other factors.


Hiking in hot weather? Make sure to pack plenty of water. Even if you're not thirsty, your body is still losing water through sweating. And if you're hiking at a high altitude, your body will need even more water to stay hydrated. To be safe, aim to drink about a half cup of water every 20 minutes.

Cold weather hikes are a whole different story. You might not feel as thirsty in the cooler temperatures, but that doesn't mean you don't need to drink up. In fact, it's even more important to stay hydrated in cold weather since dehydration can make you feel even colder. So how much water should you drink on a cold-weather hike? Again, aim for about a half cup every 20 minutes. And if you start to feel thirsty, that's a sign that you're already dehydrated, so chug away!

Level of Physical Exertion

Generally speaking, you should drink about two to four cups of water per hour when hiking at a moderate pace in moderate weather conditions. If you're exerting yourself more heavily or hot outside, you may need to drink even more. And if you're hiking at high altitudes, you may need to drink even more water to offset the effects of altitude sickness.

Personal Hydration Needs

Most people know that it's important to stay hydrated when hiking. Still, many don't realize how much water you can vary depending on several factors, including your personal hydration needs. For example, if you sweat a lot or are hiking in hot weather, you'll need to drink more water than someone who doesn't sweat or is hiking in cooler weather.

Calculating Your Trip Time

If you're unsure how to calculate your hiking trip time, it helps to use a hike time calculator. These tools can help you calculate the time needed to complete a hike, as they give an interval time for different hiking speeds. You can choose imperial or metric units and enter the number of miles or kilometers hiked, along with the elevation gain. After recording your hike time, you can input additional information such as your pace and elevation gain to determine your overall travel time.

The most reliable way to calculate your hike time is to apply the Munter method. It was developed by Werner Munter, who based his calculations on a subjective rate of travel. Though there are general guidelines, you will need to adjust the rate based on your conditions, the type of activity, terrain, and group size. You can use Naismith's rule as a starting point when calculating your hiking time.

Naismith's rule is one common hiking speed formula, which uses twenty minutes per mile or thirty minutes per 1,000 feet of ascent. The problem with using this method is that it doesn't account for breaks and delays. Therefore, if you're hiking in a mountainous area, you can use the Book Time formula instead. This method will accurately estimate the distance you'll cover and the pace you'll need to maintain.

What Are Some Signs that You're Dehydrated?

If you've been hiking for years, you'll have a keen eye for the water sources and how much you need to bring. You'll know if you've dehydrated if you feel thirsty and get dizzy, cranky, or nauseous. Dehydration can lead to heatstroke or heat exhaustion - both of which are very serious conditions that require immediate medical attention. While boiling water is foolproof, it also requires fuel, and it's also not always a good source of water.

How Can You Tell if a Stream or River is Safe to Drink From?

When it comes to collecting water while hiking, seasonal streams are vital to your safety. You can see these streams as stippled blue lines on topo maps. However, you should beware of seasonal changes in water availability. Early summer, for example, may have snowdrifts and patches of snow to melt. Similarly, late summer may have a lack of water. To avoid running out of water while hiking, you should carry enough water to last day and night.

It's also important to know how to clean water from natural sources. Whether a stream or a pond is natural, it can still harbor many harmful microorganisms, including parasites. Giardia is one such microscopic parasite, which can cause symptoms that can be dangerous if you ingest it. Although you can boil water to kill parasites, drinking it can cause gastrointestinal problems and worse. Always carry a water filter or purifier, if possible.

What are the Best Ways to Store Water While Hiking?

Hard-Sided Bottles

The best way to keep hydrated is to carry more water than you think. You should consider purchasing a more durable water bottle for hiking. The Embrava Best Sports Water Bottle is a great option, as it has a large mouth and leak-proof cap. Plus, it is made of eco-friendly material. Besides, you can use the bottle in any season!

If you plan on hiking in hot and dry climates, you'll need more water than usual. You should also consider the type of water purification system you'll be using. You'll need a more advanced system to prevent dehydration, heat exhaustion, and other heat-related illnesses in hot and dry climates. Because of this, you should pay particular attention to the bottle's volume while empty.

Water Filter

Alternatively, you can also use a water filter. These filters make water drinkable within 90 seconds. But keep in mind that these devices require a wide-mouth hard plastic bottle. While hiking in the mountains, you should not use one as it might leak chemicals and debris. In addition, stainless steel water bottles do not absorb bacteria and odors and are much safer than plastic. And unlike plastic bottles, stainless steel bottles are available in different sizes and designs. And some are even insulated, which is another consideration.

Hydration Packs

The most convenient way to carry water on a hiking trip is with backpacks having mesh side pockets. It will allow you to reach back without taking off your pack. While hard-sided bottles are the best choice for hiking, they also take up space in your pack. You can also opt for a soft bladder-like bottle, which is reusable but has lower durability. Soft bladder-like bottles are not recommended for hot liquids, and they are not very convenient for backpacking.

Pump or Squeeze Filters

One of the main questions you might have is whether you should use pump or squeeze filters when carrying water. There are many benefits to either type, and it's up to you to decide which works best for your needs. Expandable water capacity is a key consideration if you're planning a long hike. A gravity filter, for instance, uses a dirty water bag as additional water capacity. Wide opening containers make filling filter bags easier and save space, especially when you have a large group.

Squeeze filters are also a good option if you're looking for a water filter that doesn't take up too much room. These are convenient but have limited water capacity and require regular cleaning. Pump filters are heavy and difficult to clean, and they need to be replaced after a certain amount of use. Squeeze systems can be upgraded with carbon filters to remove toxins from the water. However, they tend to be a little more expensive than other options.

One popular option for backpacking is the Trail Base. This small, collapsible flask can be filled quickly from any water source. Pump filters are better suited for longer trips, and their high output rate is ideal for day hikes. Pump filters, however, require frequent back-flushing, while squeeze filters require physical cleaning when they become clogged. They are also useful for carrying water while running, especially when it is not readily available.

Generally, it's best to carry a liter or two of water for a day's hike. Carrying too much water will only increase weight and prevent you from drinking enough water. It's also better to "camel up" while you're at a water source to make sure you have enough to carry yourself back to the car.


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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