cloudhiking - maps and adventure guides

Site Links


Contact Us









Friends' Links

Appalachia & Beyond

Family Wilds


Marking My Territory

Outcast Hikers


307 Hiking Skills - The Ten Essentials - Water 2010-11-15


Water is definitely on everyone's Essentials List. The problem with water is knowing how much to bring. Water weighs two pounds per quart - 8 pounds per gallon. Soon that light day pack is a heavy weight, if too much water is carried. Ah, but yes, it is essential to carry enough.

Years ago we were climbing in the Tetons. The Tetons are notoriously hot in the summer. The east facing slopes bake in the morning sun. A group of six of us were going to climb Symmetry Spire by the fourth class, East Ridge Route. The trail going up Hanging Canyon was brutally hot.

Once on the ridge, the heat continued. Of the Ten Essentials there was really only one that was in demand - water. We had a filter with us, the problem was there was no water on the ridge to filter. After making the summit, the descent took a toll on the group. It was still hot; but now we had to negotiate the descent of the steep scree slopes of Symmetry Couloir. Slowly we crept down the gully. Several in the group ran out of water. There was still no water to filter.

Finally we made it to the trail around Jenny Lake. Amy and I were afraid one person in the group really needed water. As soon as we were all re-grouped and headed in the right direction, Amy and I went ahead to a known source to filter water. Slowly, the rest of the group continued on the trail. Tourist hikers asked if our parched friend needed water. He refused one offer; but then bowed to his thirst and accepted water from the second. He must have really looked thirsty. Once we were reunited at the creek, we had plenty of filtered water for everyone to drink.

This was not a life or death emergency, but it was getting critical. Without water, our bodies start shutting down - just what we didn't need on a steep rocky trail. Once the group was re-watered, everyone's energy returned and we were all happy campers with only this abbreviated story left to remember the day.

A few watering tips...

  • If you are going hiking where heat could be a factor, train in the heat prior to the hike.
  • If you are planning a long hike, drink lots of water the night before the hike. Then, drink before leaving the trailhead.
  • Two to three quarts is usually a good supply to carry on a day hike. Until you know just how much water you need, keep a log of how much water you drank for the length of the trail and the conditions.
  • Research maps and guides for water sources along your route. If the sources seem intermittent, check with online sources to find current information. Adjust your water supply to compensate for the length of the trail between water supplies.
  • Keep a small quantity of water purifying tablets in your emergency kit. These tablets are just to see you through hard times, so it does not really matter if they leave the water with an odd taste. You are just looking for safe water to drink.
  • Of course you can treat all your water with tablets, we prefer water filters.
  • Check to make sure the filter is working before storing it in the bottom of your pack.
  • Carry water in lightweight water containers. The container weight is always there, whether it is filled with water or not.
  • Carry water in at least two containers. Do not rely on one container as your only water supply. Leaks do happen.
  • We generally carry a hydration bladder and a 16 to 20 ounce lightweight container of water.
  • The small extra container is especially important if you are using a bladder as your main source of water. As you are walking it is hard to judge how much water you are sipping from a bladder. If you empty your bladder, you still have water in the extra container.
  • If we finish the water from our extra water container, we will refill it from the bladder. We want our extra water to be safe from accidental sips.
  • Once you have drank all but the extra container of water, ration your supply. Re-check the map and guide for the distance to the next water source. No matter how thirsty you are, do not drink all of your water. Once you are at the next source of water, then you can finally drink the rest of your water!
  • On overnight trips we carry larger, empty water containers to be filled at or as close as possible to camp.
  • On a short hike, an emergency supply of water might be all that is needed.
  • To use less water, do not walk in the heat of the day.

We use...

CamelBak - hydration bladders ... the review

Platypus - extra water containers ... the review

Katadyn Hiker Pro - water filter ... the review

Portable Aqua - iodine tablets

Happy water is essential trails.



Name (required):

Comment (required):

Please Introduce Secure Code: