Water is one of the heaviest things in your backpack at at 2 pounds per liter it can really weigh you down if you carry to0 much of it when you don’t need to. I used to do this all of the time, first as a day hiker and then later as a backpacker.
As a day hiker, I used to carry 3 or 4 liters of water for a long summer hike, even though I was surrounded by water sources in the mountains where I hiked. I hadn’t learned to use a water filter yet, and would often turn back when my water started to run out rather than resupply from the streams at my feet.
I can still remember the first time I used a water filter. It was on West Hunter Mountain in the Catskills. I stopped at a stream and pumped 2 liters of water into my platypus hydration system. It was one of the most liberating moments I’ve ever experienced hiking! I knew from then on, that the distance I could hike in a day would never be limited by the amount of water I could carry in my pack.
But even then, I still carried two much water between fill-ups, especially on backpacking trips. I’d often carry 4 liters or more in my pack at any given time, even when I was experimenting with lightweight backpacking.
This was brought home to me a few months back when I met a trip leader I used to hike with a lot in those days. The first question out of her mouth was whether I was carrying too much water still! I can’t believe she remembered that about me after all those years.
Nowadays, I carry a lot less water with me on day hikes and backpacking trips, and top out at 2 liters max. If I need more, I just stop and filter some. Granted I mainly hike in New England or on the Appalachian Trail where water is plentiful, but it’s something to keep in mind. I’m not suggesting that you drink less, but that you carry less: I still manage to drink about 5 liters a day regardless of whether I’m day hiking or backpacking.
Here’s my system:
- I pre-hydrate by drinking a liter of water just before I start hiking because carrying water inside you is lighter than carrying water on your back!
- I start out with 2 liters and drink about 1 pint every hour.
- I plan my route carefully so I know where there is water if I run out, and can carry more if necessary.
- I camel up when I resupply at a stream or pond, drinking a full liter on the spot.
- I drink a liter at the end of the day, after I’ve finished hiking.
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