View Full Version : How much water to carry?

09-14-2016, 16:00
I will be doing a 5-6 day section hike in early Oct. starting at Springer Mt. I'm not sure how much water to carry. I do a lot of day hikes and the occasional overnight in some Florida state forests where water resupply does not exist. That means carry and/or cache. I have a 3 liter Camel Bak
and carry 2 or 3 water bottles. Are the water bottles overkill for the AT? I don't want the extra weight if not necessary. Thanks in advance for your help.

Gambit McCrae
09-14-2016, 16:07
your 3 liter camel should be more then plenty. I carry 3 liters during dry times, and as a rule, drink 1 liter at every water source, and fill my bottles back up. I rarely get down to my last bottle but have walked about 13 miles in august without water, and I don't like running out. my rule of thumb would be to put 2 liters in your camel back, and stuff a 1 liter bottle down in your pack. That way IF you have to pull the bottle out, you know your running low and will conserve it.

09-14-2016, 16:51
I rarely get down to my last bottle but have walked about 13 miles in august without water, and I don't like running out.

This scenario gives me nightmares in the middle of summer. On the BMT I ran low a few times, particularly on the last day getting towards the Tellico River road. It doesn't help that I go through unusually high volumes of water. A couple of months ago when we did the 4 state challenge I realized at the end of the day I'd gone through just shy of 3 gallons.

09-14-2016, 16:58
I believe the best resource for water on the trail are hikers heading in the opposite direction that you are that may have already passed known water sources. If you have AWOL's guide, he shows you where the water should be. Other hikers confirm that. If you don't know, then err on the side of caution. I am a big proponent of running out of water just as I get to the next water source, drinking a liter at the source, then packing enough to get me to the next source. I purposefully drink 10 ounces every half hour. I know I usually hike 4 miles in around 3 hours, so I can calculate how long it might take me to get to the next water and how much to carry. Generally, under normal water conditions in GA, I never had to carry more than two liters, plus my 20 oz gatorade bottle that I keep on my strap in front.

09-14-2016, 18:01
What you carry will depend on the information you get as noted above, and your tolerance to a dry bottle, also noted above.

On my AT hike, I carried a one-liter repurposed soda bottle (1 oz) and a two-liter platypus bladder (1.5 oz) which I only used two or three times when I chose to dry camp. On some climbs, if another hiker verified water was available in a published source on the downside of the climb, I would often drink my fill and dump the rest of my water to reduce load carried on the climb.

I also know I have the ability to hike ten or more miles easily after I've had my last sip, so on the AT I just didn't worry about it very much.

I had only two+ ounces of empty water bottle weight. If you have Nalgenes, weigh them and consider ditching them if you're concerned about the weight.

09-14-2016, 18:34
you just take it section by section. My goal is to use all my water I carry, or at least a half litre or less to spare. I don't like carrying 6.6 lbs of water around when there is a water source 5 miles away. Useless stuff feels heavier to me

09-14-2016, 18:46
Learn as you go. Camel up when you're at a water source. As a general rule, water is usually found in low places, and harder to find the higher up you go. Hot day, I carry more. I have a 3L Platy and usually carry 1 or 2 soda 16-oz soda bottles as backup in case the Platy leaks or runs dry. (It has never leaked, but I'm paranoid.) Worst thing in the world is running low on water and being dehydrated. It's really bad for you. I'd rather carry too much than find myself without water. Maybe that's just me, but I've dealt with kidney stones and they're no fun at all.

If I'm expecting a dry camp, I start looking for water an hour or two beforehand and fill the Platy bag.

09-14-2016, 19:45
I don't think that I've *ever* carried more than 3L of water on my AT section hikes, and many of those were in the Fall when water is more scarce. If you're at all concerned then buy a lightweight (< 1.5 oz) collapsible water container that you can take advantage of if you're just not confident.

I'd be more inclined to carry a "dip bottle" to make it easier to get water from low, almost dry sources. I bring a little plastic 6-oz screw-top bottle that started life as a chocolate milk container. Of course, if you are lugging a (heavy) water filter than that should be able to handle low levels of water. That also gives you another 6-oz of water carry, which would be sufficient for a few more miles of hiking in cool weather.

As mentioned earlier, camel up at each water source if you're not confident of availability. I once drank a liter+ of water at the base of a 1.5-mile mountain in Phoenix on a 90-degree afternoon. That allowed me to get up and back (no pack) without dehydrating overly much.

09-14-2016, 20:48
As Turk said, get - and share - intel from hikers going the opposite way, that way you can minimize carrying extra water. I rarely carry more than a liter, except in dry spells. 3 liters is plenty for me to do a dry camp.

09-14-2016, 21:42
After discovering the AT guide, I usually never carry more than 1.5 liters. The most I have carried was a full gallon - but that was after deciding not to stay at Siler Bald shelter (GA) due to the massive amount of trash / food left behind by others - so carrying a full jug up the hill to the bald ensured I had enough for dinner, tea, breakfast, coffee, and fill the 1.5 liters before hitting the trail.
A large , lightweight container is nice to have so when I get to camp, I don't have to keep getting water.

09-15-2016, 12:29
I hiked seven days from Springer Mtn. to Franklin, NC with a 2-quart (1.9 liter) canteen, and that served me fine. There are lots of streams through there from which to replenish (just make sure you filter or treat). For safekeeping, I tried to camp near streams and boiled the stream water for my evening noodles/freeze dried meals rather than use the water in my canteen.