With so much emphasis on nutrition and the importance of a good diet, people often forget that hydration is imperative to our well-being and survival, even more so than eating properly. In fact, on an average day, the human body should consume up to two liters of water, let alone the other liquids we drink. Therefore it is important for hikers to take note of how much water to carry and how much more hydration is needed for a particular hike.
Whether you are an experienced hiker or just starting out, doing it as a weekend venture, packing the right amount of water should be at the top of your list. Many hikers realize that carrying a sufficient amount of water could significantly add to the weight of your pack. There are several hydration factors to take to heart when preparing for a hike.
Consider Your Terrain
When measuring the amount of water to take on your hike, you might want to calculate how much water you will need in ratio to the distance you intend to cover. Obviously, longer hikes will require more water. The weather, pace by which you hike as well as the terrain you cover, should factor into your water usage – which will be considerably more than the 2 liters required per day.
Hotter weather will probably induce thirst faster, therefore, warmer climes are considered as heavier water consumption hikes. However, the human body does not use less water in colder temperatures, so do not make the mistake of packing less water in the winter. The best rule of thumb to hydrate properly and need less space for packed water, is to hydrate before you embark on your hike. Take leisurely sips until you have consumed approximately one liter before hiking. This way, your body will take longer before getting thirsty on the hike and you can afford to pack less to carry.
On the subject of cold weather hiking, such as winter or snow hikes, you might want to think about an insulated water bottle. Drinking cold water will make you feel colder, but if you fill up your bottle with hot water just before you start your hike, you will have tepid water as you go. Another good idea is to opt for a bottle with a very big lid, so that you can easily uncap it without having to remove your gloves.
Not only do you have to consider the difficulty of the hiking trail, but when measuring how much water to take, it is important to carefully examine the amount of ground you intend to cover. Difficult hikes, those with some inclines or climbing involved, might prove to be more taxing on your muscles. When combined with a considerable distance of walking (and perhaps climbing), the amount of water you will need will vary accordingly.
Make sure that you take more water per kilometer of traversed country so that you will not find yourself dehydrated too soon. Higher altitude will also require more water usage, so if you are considering a high mountain hike, take care to sip throughout the day to replenish water lost. A liter for every hour is usually a good gauge.
There are several options for carrying water, but in the end, it is a personal preference based on your experience as a hiker. More experienced hikers have their own rituals for how and when to store their water on a hike, but for those of you who are still unsure, remember that carrying water adds weight to your pack and might exert you more than your actual hike.
Some hikers prefer bottles, others prefer bladders (or reservoirs) or some choose to use collapsible bottles.
The choice of most hikers, especially for shorter distances, bottles are durable and can be obtained practically everywhere, so they make for a good storage option. If you are not an avid hiker and just want to take a trail for an hour or two, a bottle is fine. Just remember that bottles are heavy and bulky, taking up more space in your pack. Longer hikes, where you might have to take 4 to 6 liters of water, might end up being a heavy burden to carry if you lug around three 2-liter bottles on your back.
Hydration bladders or reservoirs are the more comfortable choice if you do not wish to stop every time you need to hydrate. With bottles, you have to take a break from walking to retrieve your bottle from your pack to drink your hiking water, taking up valuable time.
With bladders, however, you can keep walking while you sip. Here is how they work: The reservoir (that looks like a hot water bottle of sorts) sits in your backpack, from where a small hose runs to a mouthpiece, called the ‘bite valve’, a stop valve from which you can randomly sip as you hike. Easy!
The downside? These hydration bladders could get punctured and are far more difficult to clean. Also, if you are really thirsty, you would not be able to do that pleasurable chugging when you need to fill up on juice and head out with a new zest.
The hydration bladder is the best option if you go hiking with kids, especially. Children tend to be too rough on bottle, spilling their water from the bottle or struggling to uncap it. With a hydration bladder, children will not have to handle the containers and it will be out of their busy little hands.
For those who want the best of both world, a collapsible bottle is the answer. There are two types of collapsible bottles.
The flexible type collapses while you drink and takes on its smaller size as the contents diminishes, while the rigid type maintains its shape even after you have drained it. However, once it is empty, you are able to fold it into a smaller size that fits better into your backpack.
Both can reduce in size to spare you some important space in your bag without having to toss them out when you are done. The only disadvantage about this type of container is that it can puncture, as it is not very durable.
A clever way to prevent having to carry extra water weight or take up too much space in your backpack, is to invest in a water filter. There are three different ways to utilize these devices to ensure that you can take water anywhere on your hike, including rivers and ponds: Squeeze, pump and chemical methods are best when it comes to water filtration to optimize hydration from almost any water source without fear of contamination.
With this handy, lightweight device (that resembles a tubular filter with two fittings on each side), you simply fill your container with dirty water and fix it to the bottle neck on one side. Squeeze the water through the filter and use the drinking spout on the other side to enjoy the filtered water.
This small size water filter pump could easily be carried in your hand. It is compact, although, compared to a squeeze filter, it is bulky, heavy and might take up more space in your backpack.
When you are at the water source, you simply dip the chord of the pump into the water and pump the water through the filter and into your container. The advantage of this method is that it can pump a larger amount of water at a time, therefore, it would be a good device to have on group hikes where more people will need to replenish their water stores.
Chemicals, like Aquamira, can be beneficial for cleaning dirty water. Two drops is all it takes in a bottle of water from a natural source. With the small size of the Aquamira container (like eye drop containers), this method is compact and ultra light to carry around. The only disadvantage is that you have to wait for the chemicals to clear up your drinking water, so this might not be the best method when you are hiking for speed or cannot afford to stop for long to hydrate.
In conclusion, hydration without carrying a ton of water in your backpack is not only practical, but less frustrating. With a lighter pack, you will find that your hike is easier and moving along faster without the weight or worry that you did not bring enough. It is always wise to consider the terrain you will be covering, the distance you are planning to traverse and the temperatures involved before you even start looking into your storage and filtration options.
Do not panic if you are on a new trail and cannot seem to find a water source. Just follow streams to their main origin. If you see a wet patch of ground with lush greenery, you can dig there for subterranean water and use your filtration to clean it up.