View Full Version : Water Availability

12-30-2002, 22:57
I am considering hiking the AT in '04. I have a question for those of you that have completed a through hike. Is adequate water available along the way. What's the longest amount of time/miles that I might expect to go without water?

Any perspective would be appreciated.

12-30-2002, 23:12
It depends on if it is a wet year or a dry year. If it is a wet year, you will no doubt find water everywhere. (Sorry, couldn't help that one!) This year was dry and several water sources mentioned in guides were non exsistant.

The group I was traveling with through most of VA, ended up hiking extra miles twice cause our expected stop for the night didn't have water. We started preparing our food when we hit water sources near meals times in case we didn't have water at our campsite. Then we carried enough water to get us a few more miles down the trail, and some for the next morning.

If you stay aware of how much water you have, you won't have a problem.

12-30-2002, 23:16
Pushing Daisies:

Thanks for the response. Last summer, I hiked in Virginia (SNP) on some side trails and was disappointed to find dried up creeks at our destination. It was kind of scary since it was very hot and we didn't run into ANY water for nearly two days. I started thinking that if was on a through hike, trying to carry water for more than a day or two would be very challenging. I'm 6'3" and over 200 pounds---I need my water!

Did you ever have to go more than a full day without water?


12-30-2002, 23:16
Oh, and (for me) the longest stretch without a water source was about 15 miles somewhere in VA. I can't remember where off the top of my head.

12-30-2002, 23:24
Pushing Daisies:

Thanks again. 15 miles isn't too bad. Just one more thing...

What's the most amount of water that you felt you had to carry at any given time (2 quarts, a gallon)?

Did you use a water filter or iodine?


12-30-2002, 23:41
As I drink a lot of water I usually started off from a water souce with three liters after "cameling" up at the water source.

Cameling is where you drink as much water as you can at a water source. I would usually drink about a liter before I left.

I started with a filter (MSR miniworks), exchanged it at Neels Gap for AquaMira, which is a two part chemical similar to what they use for public water treatment. That's what we were told at least. :) In Hot Springs, I went back to a filter (PUR Hiker) because I was worried about low water sources.

When I go back this year, I will be using AquaMira again. If you go this route, make sure to wash out your water containers as the chemical taste seems to get stronger the longer you go without rinsing.

12-30-2002, 23:48
Pushing Daisies:

Why not go with the PUR Hiker filter again? Is it because of the weight? I would think the filter offers the advantage of drinking cold, refreshing water immediately---versus waiting for the chemicals to take effect.

Thanks, Glenn

12-30-2002, 23:55
The weight is one reason, but the time it takes to pump is annoying. (plus due to a car accident a few years back, I don't have very much strength in my hands.)

For AquaMira- you mix the two chems (so many drops of each) and let them react for a few minutes. Use this time to get your water, and it really doesn't take much more time than a filter.

12-31-2002, 00:07
Pushing Daisies:

Thanks for all of your help. I appreciate it.


12-31-2002, 09:39
First, the ATC website posted updates on the water situation, or lack there of. So, before starting your hike, you might check with them for the current conditions.

Now, Daisy and I both hiked Georgia this year. They reported less than normal rainfall, yet, I found no shortage of water along the trail there, so availability is a relative thing.

One of the easest ways to stay updated on water conditions is to read the shelter registers and ask hikers going the other way what the water situation is like ahead of you.

Myself, I used the Pur hiker filter. Didn't want to wait for chemicals to work.

Although I hiked the trail over 2 dry years, I seldom carried more than a liter. Typically, I'd drink a liter in the morning, a liter at mid day, and a liter in the afternoon. So, as long as I could refill during the day, I was fine.

12-31-2002, 11:38
I carry 100oz ~ 3qts with me at a time when hiking the long trail. I'm about 6'1 225lb, and I too drink alot. I have 2 platypus dromedary bags, a 70oz and a 100oz. I always carry both even on day hikes (1 empty for filling in emergencies, like when a water source is dried up, and I need to lug extra fluids). I drink about 16oz/0.5qt every hour, and even more if I'm strenuously hiking uphill. Hiking ~3 miles up the difficult burrows trail to the summit of camel's hump in northern vermont during a 95*+ august day, I drank almost 2.5quarts of water in 2 hours. Trail and environment conditions always modify this estimate for myself. The same hike in 50*F moderate fall weather and slowing my pace from 1.5mph to 1mph, I might only drink 1.5qt or so.

Weight is also a factor. But a 120lb woman carrying a gallon of water is alot different than myself, almost twice her weight carrying that same gallon of water. Water is roughly 2lb a quart.

Jack Tarlin
12-31-2002, 15:25
The "worst" sections in recent years have been in Pennsylvania, new York, and New Jersey. The section just after Lehigh Gap, PA. is especially notorious. Also, the ridgerunners and maintainers in these areas have NOT been very good lately about keeping hikers informed of such things as broken wells, missing water tanks, etc., so in sections you know in advance to be short on water, NEVER take for granted that a "listed" (i.e. in the Data Book, Guidebook, or map) site such as a shelter or spring will be flowing when you get there; in many cases this past year, folks would arrive at a "listed" spot late in the day that turned out to be bone dry, forcing them to do extra miles at the end of very long days. Not a lot of fun, believe me. (Oh, the section North of Hanover, NH was also very dry this year, with many "listed" spots dry). They are predicting easier conditions next summer provided we get sufficient snow and a wet spring, but who knows. I ALWAYS carry at least an extra pint, and often, more than that.

01-13-2003, 17:49
Just in case you're condering Aqua Mira:

The water in New York was HORRIBLE this year. When it could be found (which was rarely, we depended a LOT of the kindness of strangers who had left us gallon bottles) the water was extremely tannic, brown to the point of looking like coca-cola, and supposedly safe to drink but VERY unappetizing in appearance and odor. Thankfully, the filter helped with some of that, but if we had relied solely on aquamira, we would have died of thirst before attempting to drink it. I vividly recall walking in TEARS for a good 17 mile stretch where there was no drinkable water and it was 100 degrees. I would have killed to go to town that night :)

01-14-2003, 00:04
The SNP was certainly very dry this year. many watersources were very very low. the only things that were atleast partially relyable were springs, but dont count on them always flowing. i especialy noticed dry areas off the AT corridor and allong side trails. these trails ofcourse are not designed the same as the AT so there is a greater risk of wandering from major water sources, but even large streams in the area were way bellow their banks. it seemed to be quite a dry year. NJ had quite a drought this past year as well (as i hear it only ended a few weeks ago) so i am sure the trails were very dry in this area as well.