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How Much Water to Bring On a Hike?

Hiking is a great way to feel better mentally and physically, as you can lose excess fat, achieve better fitness, and even cut away the belly fat that gives you nightmares. However, hiking does not just cut off excess fat. It also reduces your body’s water content. Hiking creates perspiration, so you get to lose fluids much faster due to sweat and can run at risk of dehydration if you do not get enough supply. This is why hikers are generally advised to bring just about enough water for their hikes.

But how much water is enough water for a hike? This is a question that does not have any one answer because of the variables that affect hiking. No two hikers are the same, and hiking terrains significantly differ, so just claiming that a particular measure of water is good enough can be problematic.

Fortunately, this guide will carefully highlight how you can determine how much water is enough for you, irrespective of the terrain. We will outline flexible metrics that help you easily determine how much water will be enough for you for any particular hike.

How to Stay Hydrated: Knowing How Much Water Will Be Enough

The difficulty of knowing how much water is enough for a hiking session has existed for a long time. So it is really not unusual for you to feel a bit confused about how to measure how much water you need. Most veterans have found the balance for their water requirement; you can know yours too.

To know how much water you need for hiking, you have to consider some variables:

  • How long do you intend to hike
  • Accessing your overall fitness level in the most objective way possible
  • The terrain of the hike
  • Your projected intensity for the hike.

All of these variables are what we have used to create the following flexible and realistic steps for knowing how much water you need for hiking.

Bringing water on hike

Steps to Know the Right Quantity of Water You Need

Ensure to Carry out Your Pre-Hike Research

Carefully researching all the necessary and relevant factors that could determine your hike hours before starting the trip is one of the most significant ways to determine how much water you need. Before you hike, ensure you have carefully planned your route. You can use maps or an available hiking route guide for your intended terrain to identify if there are water sources available. These sources could be from natural or local stores around the terrain.

If you are lucky enough to have water sources that are close to being evenly distributed on your trail after researching, you won’t need to worry much about your water quantity. You can equip yourself with a keg that can hold just enough water for 2 days. You can forgo cooking and eat tag-along cooked foods and packaged pre-cooked edible foods for your first two days until you get to your first water source.

However, if you do not have water sources on your trail, you will need to prepare better, and below are tips for doing that.

Making the Calculation

To calculate your water quantity, employ the simple suggestion rule to start your estimation. Yes, what you can get when calculating how much water you need is an estimation and not an exact perfect measurement.

For years, it has been suggested that a liter of water is enough for 2 hours of hiking. So you can actually start from here. Of course, you may need less than one liter of water after two hours of hiking or even more.

However, 1:2 is a good base for your calculation. Now to be more specific with your measurement, here are some metrics to consider

Time Planned To Spend Hiking

This is a major way to know the right water quantity. You should be able to tell your planned mile coverage or at least have an estimate and also the route you plan to hike. You will spend more time covering 10 miles in a steep terrain compared to an even terrain. So why you are covering the same number of miles on both terrains, the steep elevation will see you spend more time, exhaust more energy and leave you more dehydrated.

Lower elevation tends to be a bit faster than even elevation. This is why your aim should be to determine your mile coverage and terrain choice.

The Required Amount of Water

Once you have determined your mile coverage and choice of terrain, you can use the Naismith Rule, which states that you should allow one hour for every three miles walked and an extra hour for every 600 m ascent. You can use the calculation to time how long you will spend on the trail. The Naismith Rule is adjustable for terrain types. So you can allow yourself about 1 hour 30 minutes for a steep elevation, especially when your fitness level is not great.

Determining how long you will spend on a trail will determine the quantity of water you will likely need on an hourly basis. Since terrain elevation and fitness level can influence how long a person spends on the trail, water needs should only be calculated on a per-hour basis.

Recall that we stated how you could manage with 1 liter per 2 hours. Based on the Naismith Rule, this would mean that you would likely cover 6 miles before exhausting a liter of water. However, due to terrain variables, you should plan 1.5 liters for every 2 hours of hiking or 6 miles you cover.

Also, since there is a possibility that you would want to rest and catch your breath when hiking, you would likely need more water and, as such, should plan for it. So roughly, you can budget for an extra half liter of water after 10 hours of hiking. This means that while you would ordinarily need 7.5 liters of water for every 10 hours, making it 8 liters won’t be a bad idea. That is if we are calculating 1.5 liters for 2 hours.

Of course, this is a near-objective estimate and will vary for other subjective factors you may experience.

Hiker drinking

Major Subjective Variables that Affect Water Quantity

Slowest Member Effect

The slowest member effect arguably plays the biggest role in how long you get to finish your hike and, subsequently, how much water you need. We are more likely to hike in groups than alone, which means we can only walk as fast as our slowest group member.

This time, it is not really about your fitness level or how incredibly strong you are on your foot. A group gets to leave the trail together except in rare circumstances. Each session is finished together, and except you do not care about others thinking you are a bum, you will have to wait and ensure every member of the group, including yourself, camps at the same time.


Temperature matters so much when it comes to your water quantity when hiking. This factor is actually very easy to understand. In cold weather or winter, you may not even finish a liter of water after two hours of hiking because your temperature is low, making dehydration risk very low. On the other hand, summer hikes would most likely see you require more than a liter of water. A BASELINE OF 1.5 LITERS is good when hiking in the summer.

You need to understand that you must not starve your body of the revitalization water offered during hit periods because you can become dizzy and experience short moments of depression due to extreme thirst and tiredness. So ensure you are not lacking when on the trail in the sunny season.

Personal Metabolism and Absorption Rates

Sometimes, you may not be a huge water gulper because of low absorption rates and may not even need as much as one liter per hour. You may also love to guzzle water a lot after a few moments of hiking and will need more than a liter every two hours.

You have to ensure that you are taking your absorption rate into account so that you are fully prepared for your hike and do not become exhausted halfway. Most hikers sadly underestimate this particular problem, and the result has often been undesirable.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how much water you need for a hike is measurable when considering the right variables. In most of this guide, we calculated the amount of water you will need for a 3-hour and 10-hour hike. These calculations were subjected to different scenarios and factors for better streamlining, so a realistic range is reached for all types of hikes.

Now you can easily determine your water recommendation for a long or intense hike and even for a hike in any of the extreme temperatures, be it cold or hot. So good luck on your next hike, and we hope you crush it like a champ.

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