Backpacking with no water resource

12:23 p.m. on May 11, 2011 (EDT)
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In July my boyfriend and I will be in Wyoming scouting an area for hunting in September. So we'll be making this trip twice. We're about 90% sure there's no water resource. We will have a base camp and be hiking up a ridge and staying 2-3 nights up there (which is where there's no water). So my question is, how much water would you take with you? The hike up will be about 4-5 miles and fairly difficult, but once up there we shouldn't be putting on more than a couple of miles a day. We'll need water to drink (obviously), cook dinner for 2 for 2 nights, brush teeth, and wash face. It will probably end up being 3 days and 2 nights at a time.

Also, come September our load will be heavier, because my boyfriend will have his 12lb rifle with scope and bullets. I will be carrying the food for us both, our tent, and the majority of water to compensate for all of his heavy hunting gizmo's. We will hopefully have killed a mule deer as well, which may entail more hiking, packing it to where we're camped, and then down to the base camp. So that will add about another 100lb-125lb divided between the two of us on the trip out. Also, in September, we'll be taking more breaks to glass areas with our binoculars to look for deer.

I have read the average backpacker/hiker drinks 2-3 liters a day. Maybe it's just me, but there's noway I drink that much, even on steep ground with big time elevation gain. My boyfriend drinks more than I do. I'd say almost 2 if not 3 times more while hiking up hill. As for me, I don't get my 8 glasses of water a day, more like 4.

1 liter of water weighs about 2.2 lb. I've weighed my entire pack of gear pretty much down to the ounce and so far for a 2 night, 3 day trek I'm at 23.4 lbs. (That's including my 4.9lb of camera gear.) My goal was to stay under 30lb., so I'd be under 80lb on the way down (I only weigh 115lb). So 4L of water would put me at about 32.2 lbs and my boyfriend could take a 2L or 3L bladder. Do you think 7L of water would be enough? First my boyfriend thought 5L was too much, now he says it's not enough. He doesn't do much backpacking and I've always had water recourses, so I'm coming to the experts.

We did a similar trip in the Bitterroot Wilderness area in Idaho last November for 10 days. We hiked from base camp everyday doing a mostly uphill 4-5 mile hike a day with about 15lbs. I drank about 3 20 oz bottles of water/Gatorade in 24 hours and he probably had 4.5 or 5. We drank more the day the deer were killed/packed. That ground was steep, but WY will be a tad harder yet.

12:28 p.m. on May 11, 2011 (EDT)
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I should also add there's no trail. We're basically making our own. Most people, or should I say, few people, make it to the top by horse from the other side of the mountain.

1:51 p.m. on May 11, 2011 (EDT)
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Hello Capow,

At least in July, I really think you will drink much more water than you expect. When doing strenuous backpacking, especially at higher elevations, staying well hydrated is extremely important. I find that it is difficult for me to drink less than 1.5 liters a day, and if I do, I quickly become badly dehydrated. 

On the less-strenuous day of your trip in November you drank nearly 2 full liters a day, and your BF drank over 3L a day. Considering that you drank more on the pack out, I think you really need to plan on at least 3 to 4L/day per person. That is a lot of water, for sure. I think finding out if there is water to be found within a mile of your camp is imperative. If there is, you can always refill each day at some point, or at the least make a water trip or two the first day to have you supplied for the trip.

Where specifically will you be in Wyoming- can you give us a Google marker for the location? I ask because your elevation as well as the gain/change you will navigate will have a large impact on your water needs and consumption, as well as the likelihood and difficulty of obtaining water up there. I spent some time up in the Shoshone NF north of Dubois, WY last September. During the 8 mile traverse I had access to water within a half mile during the whole trip, so I think there might be hope :)

Regardless, you will want to have several gallons of extra water back at the truck for emergency access.

2:43 p.m. on May 11, 2011 (EDT)
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I would go with no less than 100oz each per day.  AND, that is cutting it real thin.  If you find that you have together not consumed 200oz (you maybe less and BF mayube more than 100oz) at the end of the first day, drink the rest of the 100oz that night and then drink an equal of the first days left over the next morning of day two's water.  This will lighten your pack load a little for day two and give you an even better idea of consumption rate.  You will benefit from hydrating.

A note on the rifle weight = 12lbs with sight, Uuum that seems heavy.  Look for an alternative rifle/combo/gizmo's and with the weight save turn that into water.  Also do one last check of gear, lighten load to your absolute minimum, then add a little more water.  If still under your set weight limits add more gizmos.

2:46 p.m. on May 11, 2011 (EDT)
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If you have a space blanket packed in you're emergency kit, it makes a good rain catch.  Weight the corners down with rocks and place somewhere where it will catch the runoff from the tent in addition to what it catches on it's own. 

If I'm working hard at elevation, I will drink 4-5 liters of water a day, especially on the way out. 

3:52 p.m. on May 11, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks Gonzan. That's going to be a lot of water. Oh my, ha-ha...I'm not exactly sure where we're going. It's really remote, about 20 miles out of Alpine, WY. I think we start out between 5,800-6,000 ft and end up just under 10,000 ft. We gain most of it in the first mile and a half to two miles. The last mile is fairly flat on top of the ridge. We're pretty sure there's no water. My boyfriend hiked about half way up when he was there two years ago and besides the river, he saw no water anywhere in the 10 days he was there. We've also looked on google earth over the area and nothing looks like water. There was also a t.v. show where some guys packed up there on horses and they brought in water on their horses. 

Day one is when we'll drink lots of water. Day 2, I bet we'll walk less than three miles in 12 hours. Lots of sitting and glassing. Day three, we'll hunt in the morning, pack up our stuff, hunt a little into the evening and then head back down. Except for in Sept., hopefully we'll really see some animals then. 

We will have lots of water back at the pickup. We're going to be there for up to two weeks and two other people will be there. Plus the main camp is right next to a river. 3L/day per person...dang. That would be almost 40 lbs of water. No way! Hahaha...

I'm going to e-mail an Alpine Outfitter and ask if he can tell me if there's water up there.

3:59 p.m. on May 11, 2011 (EDT)
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I have no experience in Wyoming, what kind of terrain/environment is it where you will be? Being July, and it being alot warmer than November I would not really use your other trip as too much of a guide. I would say plan on at least 3L a day each. You could get by with that I would think if your not doing anything real streneous. It can be outright dangerous to not drink enough, especially so in the heat. Beware of dehydration symptoms which will lead to heat stress/stroke.

When I am taking a trip in the summer where water is non existant or scarce I usually have at least 5L a day. Hiking in the desert I carry 8L of water per day at a minimum, sometimes 12L depending on conditions.

The one thing I hate is running out of water. I would rather carry a little extra and not need it than to carry too little and run out.

I would look up the usgs topo map for the area(you can download them from for free) and see if there are any potential water sources near by. Is there a local park offie, ranger office, hiking club etc that you can check with to see if they know of any reliable water sources in the area. If there are deer in the area there is close is another story!

One option for you. How close to the area do you live? A week or so prior you could take a day hike to the top of the ridge and stash a gallon or two of water. Or if you know anyone in the area you might be able to arrange a water stash. In any case I agree with leaving an emergency stash in the truck just in case.

Good luck with your trip and hope your scouting trip pays off.


4:14 p.m. on May 11, 2011 (EDT)
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It's one thing planning a trip when you know what to expect and it's an entirely different thing planning for the unexpected. I would carry extra water for sure. It may be pretty heavy starting out but it get lighter each day. From the sound of what your planning an Argo rental may be in order.

4:25 p.m. on May 11, 2011 (EDT)
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Considering you are looking at around 4,000ft in elev. gain without an intermediate night, and will be spending most of the time around or above 9,000ft, hydration is really important. The thinness of the air that high effects your body significantly, and dehydration is less easily avoided and a much greater threat. AMS can be triggered by and is exacerbated by poor hydration.

I am really curious to look at the exact terrain where you'll be. Looking at the topo maps of tghe area, all of the higher ridges and areas that I see outside of Alpine have glacial pools, streams, or at least promising drainages. I am sure water is difficult to find, but like The Rambler said, if there are deer, and the terrain suggest it, there is water somewhere. I think finding water sources might need to be a high priority on your July scouting trip. If you can get the exact ridges and route you'll be taking from your BF, I would like to check out the topos and see what might be there for sources.


6:32 p.m. on May 11, 2011 (EDT)
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Callahan- He has other rifles, but he is set on taking his Remington Sendero 7mm mag. Possible 800+ yard shot, he can't do it with his smaller calibers. His tripod, spotting scope, range finder, and binoculars actually aren't that heavy and they're all top of the line products, like Leica and Leupold, so he doesn't want to purchase more just to shave ounces.

Here is why he is taking that gun as well. Deer like this live there.


WISam- that's a good idea. I don't think it rains much there, especially in July, but if it does I'll be on top of it!

Rambler - I always like to have extra water too. That's what is worrying me. I am from Oregon, so I'm almost 900 miles from there! Ha-ha. My boyfriend asked about stashing water when we go up in July, but that won't really work will it? It'd be up there for almost 10 weeks. Even if you were to treat it again or something. Sounds gross and too sketchy to me.

Look through the photos on this website. This is what the terrain looks like. We'll be on stuff more like the mountains in the background of most of the pictures.

DrReaper- that's another thing we thought, it will only get lighter. The hike up will just totally suck. Plus, we shouldn't get within 1-2 miles of where we're camped once on top, so we can leave most of our water/gear there.

Gonzan- if you go into alpine, wy on the topo maps, follow the Grey's river rd. that's the type of terrain we'll be in and the main camp will be set up right on the Grey's River. I doubt he'll give exact coordinates, because it's like secret hunting ground. He's goofy sometimes. =) I'll have him download one of those maps and take a look. The town isn't very big, so I'm going to e-mail some hunting outfitter companies and see if they can tell me if they know of any water or what they do. Although, they all use horses and mules, so if there isn't water they just pack it on their animals and bring it to their drop camps. Maybe they can drop some off for us. (joking)

We're almost certain there will still be snow up there in July. We will get there on July 2nd I believe. Alpine, which is about 5,700 ft gets an average 500" of snow fall each year. So if that's the case, we may be able to boil/treat the water from the snow. But for September, if we end up not finding any water we're just going to have one heavy load for a few miles.

7:07 p.m. on May 11, 2011 (EDT)
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Great catch

7:08 p.m. on May 11, 2011 (EDT)
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Post a trip report when done

7:08 p.m. on May 11, 2011 (EDT)
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with photos

7:35 p.m. on May 11, 2011 (EDT)
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Will do Callahan!

8:37 p.m. on May 11, 2011 (EDT)
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Haha! Ok, I understand now :)

My brother is an avid Whitetail hunter here in the Southeast, and is equally as "goofy."

That river road looks amazing! I so hope I get to drive through there sometime.

I hope you guys are able to find some good leads for water, either on the Topos or via the guides.

I had one more thought to help with water for the September trip: as long as there is snow available in July, you could use that as the primary source for water on both your trips. Here's what I'm thinking- you carry in some extra empty bottles along with the filled ones you need for the  first trip. Before you leave, you can boil and store enough water in the extra bottles as well as any you don't need for the hike out. Cache this in a well hidden and safe place for your September trip. That way you only have to carry water for the first day of your next trip.  Of course you would want to re-boil or filter at that time before drinking, etc.

Even if there turns out to be water within a mile of your camp, melting snow in July might be easier. The only factor that may be important is whether or not it is legal/allowed to leave a water cache in the area you will be hunting.

Best of luck!

6:42 a.m. on May 12, 2011 (EDT)
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Actually the idea of cached water is a good one.  Buy bulk bottled water, it will keep potable just fine, as long as it isn’t opened.

I do quite a lot of “dry camping”, and found one gallon per day to be a wise rule of thumb. If you drink less, you have a bit to wash up with.  Use disposable eating wares, so you won’t have to worry about washing dishes and stuff.   The silver lining of dry camping is the water can be carried in forms other than in a bottle, such as in a steak!  So indulge and pack in fresh foods, it will help offset the sense of suffering under those loads.

You lament your boyfriend won’t part with his heavy gun and kit, yet I can’t help but note 4.9 pounds of photo gear is at least as extravagant, considering the good digital cameras out there that weigh a small fraction of that weight.  Perhaps it is time to get a lighter weight camera for trekking?

As for cross country trekking, I strongly recommend both of you bring along hiking staffs, or trekking poles.  You will find such devices handy aiding balance.  A lightweight, cheap and effective staff can be had purchasing a six foot length of one of those green plastic covered tree stakes from a garden nursery.


11:56 a.m. on May 12, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks Ed. I do have a trek-tech pole. It's a walking staff that converts into a tri-pod for taking photos or shooting off of. I believe my boyfriend will be taking his shooting sticks, so he'll probably use those.

You're right about the camera, I do have a small point and shoot, but the little guy won't be able to take good close-ups past 100yds (if that), so it's the telephoto lens I'd like to have with me. That's the piece that weighs so much. My DSLR body weighs less than a pound. Which I want my DSLR so I can have manual override of the aperture/shutter speed. Then I have two batteries, the remote, and a harness. One of these days I'd like to get the equipment for telescoping, since we take our spotting scope with us quite often. Then all I have to do is hook a few rings up to a small lens and just take photos through the spotting scope. But, I don't have that kind of money available right now.

We will have 3-4 cases of bottled water with us plus 4 5 gallon jugs. I didn't really think about taking fresh food up with us, good point! 

Here's what I'm thinking. In July we will have lighter packs and Lord willing there will be snow up there still, so between the two of us, we can take our first days water, plus a gallon of store bought water each. Stash the store bought in a cool place and that will save 16.5 lbs in September and it will be potable, like you said. Then, drink treated snow melt the last two days in July. In September I'll take 2 3L bladders and the BF can take 1 3L, plus the almost 8L will be up there. Sounds good to me!

Gonzan- Wyoming is pretty amazing. I think it would be well worth a trip if you ever have the time/money. Checkout Jackson if you're ever close. Western Wyoming, Western Montana, and Idaho are all gorgeous.

12:39 p.m. on May 12, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks Capow,

I made it out to Jackson for the first time last September, and spent a week in the area. Most of my time was spent in and north of Dubois and the Shoshone NF. I Loved every minute of it!

I will be going out there again this fall, and hope to take a couple extra days so that I can spend a few backing in the tetons.

As long as you are planning on melting snow in July, just throw a couple extra empty bottles on the pack. I bet you'll be glad of the extra cached water later :) 

3:33 p.m. on May 12, 2011 (EDT)
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Someone should invent instant water!

4:12 p.m. on May 12, 2011 (EDT)
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GaryPalmer said:


Someone should invent instant water!

Link to instant water.  I think I'll keep my money in my IRA.


6:25 p.m. on May 12, 2011 (EDT)
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As an archery hunter I would look for the place where the deer drink.  Not only would I ambush deer there but I would refill there and purify the stuff for personal use. 


12:20 a.m. on May 13, 2011 (EDT)
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Water stashing is what we've done here in the AZ deserts when ever posible. Was a little easier since we were closer to home tho. If theres going to be water/snow there on your first trip definitly do a stash, as much as possible. We used cheap jugs, but up in that area you have to consider that the jugs might take a hard freeze and split. So find something that could take it. It might be a PITA now, but you'll sure be happy later when you've got water-o-plenty

11:57 p.m. on June 7, 2011 (EDT)
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The bags that "wine in a box" come in are a cheap, light way to store water. They should survive freezing if you don't over fill them. They fold up so you can easily carry them in your pack. For camp use, I fill them with unfiltered water then filter only what I'm going to drink. When you get home they can be rinsed with bleach and dried ready to use on the next trip. The only drawback is you have to protect them from getting punctured just as you would any water bladder. That means keeping the kitty away from them when you fill them with bleach water to clean them at home.

9:08 a.m. on June 8, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks Catherine. We have a local store that carry's some collapsible 5 gallon water jugs, so I think we're going to take two of those with us and fill them. I don't think they weigh a whole lot. I will have to compare them and try to get the lightest without giving up the strength of the plastic.

9:48 a.m. on June 8, 2011 (EDT)
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Collapsable jugs are perfect.

Something I forgot to mention if you cache snow melt water: adding a couple drops of bleach per liter to boiled water will keep it safe to drink for many months. Taking a small dropper vial of bleach would do the trick. I am sure there are other chemical treatments available retail that would accomplish the came thing (aquamira, maybe?) 

In lieu of some other method, the use of nonscented houshold bleach to treat water is safe and universally accepted. Here are two online resources for info:

2:30 p.m. on June 8, 2011 (EDT)
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woops.. replied late.. others already covered what i was going to say.. good luck

3:50 p.m. on June 8, 2011 (EDT)
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I would consider leaving any food that requires cooking back at the basecamp and take nuts, fruit, cheese, tuna fish, pack some sandwiches, energy bars, whatever, for the 2-3 day scouting part of the trip.   You can save some weight, and reserve more of that water for drinking.   Then cook up that giant ribeye and baked potato when you get back to the truck.

9:57 a.m. on June 9, 2011 (EDT)
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Gonzan - the website says not to boil the water first:

Should I boil the water before storing it?

"Boiling the water before storage is not recommended. It will not prevent all problems that may occur during storage. In addition, boiling may concentrate other contaminants as the water evaporates away."

So, should we just melt the snow and pour it into the jugs through a coffee filter, then do the bleach process?

11:43 a.m. on June 9, 2011 (EDT)
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Interesting, I didn't read the whole article, as I was just looking for info on the correct ratio of bleach to water.

 The way that is worded, it seems to imply what is being discouraged is boiling as a sole means of purification- either that or because it is unnecessary if you are using bleach as well.  I also wonder if those reccomendations are being given in the context of potential disaster situations, where there is a much higher likelyhood of chemical or concentrated of bacterial contamination. That might present an issue if you boiled the water down considerably.

Under normal trekking circumstances no one would discourage boiling as a means of water treatment for consumption, so I don't think their caution is pertinent in that context. You would also have to boil the water for far longer than necessary to concentrate contaminants much at all.  My concept was to use boiling as a primary treatment, only adding a very small amount of bleach (-2 drops/Liter) as a means of keeping the water sterile. As long as your containers were cleaned before hand and are effectively sterile on the inside, any ammount of bacteria introduced in potting would be a small. A small quantity of bleach would insure that it is nutralized and will not breed over time. Of course, you could merely melt the snow and not boil it, and use bleach or another chemical treatment as your only method of nutralization, which would work perfectly well.

1:17 p.m. on June 9, 2011 (EDT)
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Okay. I think I'll skip the boiling and just use bleach. For our second trip there will be another guy with us, so the first trip we are going to store 10 gallons. I don't want to take that much fuel and spend that much time boiling that amount of water. We're only taking a small/lightweight pot, so it would take forever. We could also treat the water a second time before drinking it when we go back just to be on the safe side.

4:04 p.m. on June 9, 2011 (EDT)
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Sounds like a good plan, Capow. Let us know how it goes, and if you have other questions, we'll be glad to try to help.


11:32 p.m. on July 7, 2011 (EDT)
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Just finished reading the thread and wanted to add something.  Hopefully you have not already left.  :)

You can take 2 or 3 small black trash bags with you and put a layer of snow in them about a inch or two thick.  Leave then out in the sun all day and most of the snow should be melted.   This would help a lot in reduced fuel to melt the snow. 

Also, the store bought plastic water bottles will handle a freeze fine if you empty about a 1/4 of the water and then squize then as you put on the lid.  I do this when I am working outside in the summer so I have cold water to drink at breaks and lunch. 

Good luck and I hope you have plenty of snow. 


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