Water

8:34 p.m. on October 21, 2007 (EDT)
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What is the norm for how much water someone carries on a day hike (or at the beginning overnight backpack). Let's say it is a hike in the Northeast in June. Mayby a few miles in, ascend a 4000 footer, and back.

9:11 p.m. on October 21, 2007 (EDT)
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I have no idea what the "norm" is - but for any significant day hike I carry a minimum of 2 liters of water. In hot weather, I've been known to carry 4 liters, use it all, and feel thirsty by the end of the hike.

Now that I have a filter, I'll most likely always carry that with me, and on hikes where I can get water, I'll carry about 2 liters and get more along the way if I need it.

9:22 p.m. on October 21, 2007 (EDT)
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I'm not sure there is a "norm". In my local hills, I see people carrying a liter/hour for their hike and consuming it all in a 10 mile, 2800 ft total climb hike (5 liters or so), and others who carry only a 1 pint (half liter) bottle and have some left (and the runners who carry nothing for their run of the same trail.

Recommendations are the canonical "1 liter per hour" or some amount adjusted for temperature and humidity (i.e., drink more on a hot humid day, or "winter days at altitude dry you out, so drink more under those conditions").

The real way to judge is the old "clear and copious" criterion. Since each person is different, and every day on the trail is different, the only real way to judge whether you are properly hydrated is by the color and volume of your urine. The normal color should be clear to "pale straw". If it is yellow to dark orange (or darker), you are dehydrated (if it is darker, you are so dehydrated that you are getting blood from your kidneys into your urine). "Copious" means having to go about once an hour. You probably shouldn't worry if it is 2 hours, but much longer is another signal that you are dehydrated.

Another measure is your body weight - severe dehydration, with probable feeling of faintness, dizziness, etc, occurs at 10% loss of body weight (15 pounds for a 150 pound person), and in races, officials in sanctioned races will pull people from the race at a loss of 5 pounds (that's a deficiency of 2.5 liters of water or so). Of course, you don't carry scales with you, but you can learn to judge by measuring your weight before and after an exercise session.

In the Northeast in June (that's getting close to the 90-90 point, certainly day temperatures in the 70s and 80s and humidities well above the 50-60% range), the liter an hour prescription during your hiking is a good place to start. But at least you have plenty of streams to refill your bottle, so you don't have to carry 5 liters from the trailhead (11 pounds of water). You can get by with a 1 liter bottle (ok, 2 bottles, so you can fill one from the stream and put purification chemicals in it while you drink from the other bottle).

You can't judge dehydration by how thirsty you are - if you feel thirsty, you are already significantly dehydrated. Drink early and often.

1:28 a.m. on October 22, 2007 (EDT)
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I hear you, Bill. I know about the "clear and copious" criterion. Just looking for what folks normally start off with. You have a point about the streams in the Northeast. I assume everywhere would have plenty of them. I know no other area. Thank you for the replies.

3:40 p.m. on October 22, 2007 (EDT)
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There is not really a way to judge oneself on how much is too much or too little on taking in water. Taking in too much water can kill you also. Hyponatremia is an off set of your soduim/electrolytes. I just completed the Columbus marathon yesterday and about every two hours my intake was 2 cups. I drank a sodium drink along with a gel pak before the race and after the race. Temps were in the 70,s and I still passed clear fluids. Your body actually will get used to going without water to a point. As Ed did in his training, I train with little or no water during my training cycles.

Obey your thirst (drink when your thirsty) and watching your urine color is really the only way to know when someones body needs fluids. Remember many of the foods that we eat will dictate if we are thirsty or not, the heat index and the pyhscial exertion that our body is asked to do.

7:15 p.m. on October 22, 2007 (EDT)
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On a day hike (light pack) in the summer at a reasonable elevation, 2 liters will normally do fine for me. Remember that at higher elevation (this includes 4000 ft in the Northeast) the air is cooler. I can easily get to 70 degree weather in the Smokies in the heat of the summer.

Dry weather, or hiking the lowlands where it is really hot, or a long (15 mile or more) hike mean more water is needed.

Desert hiking is a completely different game. I have only done it a few times, and each time I did not take enough water. The Sierra can also be quite dry, and at lower (5000 ft or so) elevations you will go through water quickly.

This works for me, but you may be different. Carry a couple of liters plus a water filter if there are water sources along the way. That way if you underestimate you can get more. If you overestimate, you've learned something as well.

10:33 a.m. on October 23, 2007 (EDT)
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There are (as pointed out numerous times above) a large number of variables. In a year with normal rainfall around here (Pennsylvania) I'd head out with a liter, knowing that I could filter or treat and re-supply along most trails. This has not been a "normal" year, quite a few small springs and streams have gone dry due to a lack of rain, so for an overnight I'd tend to carry three or four liters, just in case. A couple years ago when most of the springs went dry just about the time the thru-hikers were coming up from the South on the AT I'd carry in an extra two liter soda bottle or two and leave them at trail shelters, just in case a thru hiker was counting on a spring that'd gone dry.
Know your environment and plan accordingly.

3:05 a.m. on October 24, 2007 (EDT)
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I think a lot depends on your build. I am thin and usually drink a water bottle or even two on a short day hike in the LA area in summer, so that is probably a liter or so. I drink a lot of water while skiing, too, but I have friends who seem fine without water under the same conditions, so it seems to be an individual need, not a general rule.

I tried one of those gel packs while skiing a while back and it made me sick, so no more of those. Too much of something in them for me. Clif makes something called Shot Bloks. They look like a cube shaped gummi bear and don't taste too bad. I think you need to drink plenty of water with any of those energy products because they are so concentrated.

September 17, 2014
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