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How much water do you need?


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How much water do you need to drink on the trail?

On our trip to Death Valley, we took what we hoped would be enough water for the two of us for an overnight backpacking trip: Slightly more than a gallon per person for 24 hours. In terms of water bottles, it was 14 quarts, and that turned out to be about right. We drank three quarts during our hike to the campsite (this was, after all, Death Valley) and then used another three quarts for dinner. And then used another two quarts for breakfast the next day…and drank two more on the way out. So we drank ten quarts (five quarts per person) over the 24 hours of the hike. We were a little under-hydrated on the first day, as we were hiking in the afternoon sun. And we had some water left over (which is not a bad thing in the desert).

If we were to do it again, we’d probably take about the same.

In the Sierra, of course, you can fill your water bottles along the way. We generally only take four quart bottles for the two of us on those hikes. We always camp near water, so we don’t need to worry about carrying the water for dinner or breakfast. And we start the day with four full bottles---enough to get us through lunch and into dinner. Some people prefer to carry less weight, and may only carry one bottle per person---or even hike from stream to lake and drink what’s available. But we don’t like to take the time to pump and filter while we are on the trail—we prefer to hike. So we carry a little extra weight, and stop less often to pull out our water filter. Either way works, as long as you keep drinking enough water.


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Aaron Zagrodnick

I usually start a trip with 4 liters, 3 inside my pack in a Platypus Hoser and the other liter in a side pocket...Nalgene or disposable. This gets me through a full day of hiking with a bit left over, and like you I'd rather carry extra weight (That's constantly getting lighter) than stop more frequently to refill. However I also tend to drink quite a bit while hiking. Usually camp by water as well so after setting up shelter, I'll fill everything I have which gets me through dinner and back on the trail the next morning with enough water to hike til around noon or so, at which point I'll probably fill up at the first convenient source combined with a break for lunch. After that, the process repeats itself. But this is all in the mountains. In drier areas I tend to throw an extra 3L Hoser (Without the hose, just a cap) in my pack for extra capacity and how much I carry just depends on availability. For Utah trips I frequently find myself measuring what I'm taking in gallons instead of liters...Once in the Maze, I packed in about 4 gallons, including a gallon jug that needed to be carried by hand until I drank it....but luckily that didn't take long. :D

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  • 3 weeks later...

I normally always carry three Nalgene bottles. I will drink before leaving the car and always have extra in the car for when I am done. Backpacking, I try to stay overnight near water also. Day hikes, I carry iodine tablets if I need to refill during the trip. I have them in my pack when backpacking, but always have a filter with me.

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