Water is one of the most important things you will carry with you on any hike, and you should always pack more than you think you will need. Running out of water on a hike is not just unpleasant, but can be dangerous. You might be wondering what is the best way to carry water while hiking, especially when you are heading out on a long hike and need a lot of water.
Read below for 5 options to consider when you’re planning your next hike, and depending on the length of your hike and type of hiking, you may want to choose more than one option. These options are also the best if you are considering how to carry water backpacking. Water is likely the heaviest thing you will carry with you on your hike so finding the best way to carry it is important.
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5 Different Options for the Best Way to Carry Water While Hiking
Here are the five more common ways to carry water while hiking. You can read more below about some of the pros and cons of each method and also find links to find these items online:
- Water Bottles
- Collapsible Jugs
- Hydration Bladders
- Use Water Filtration and Purification
- Refill at Designating Drinking Water Stations
How Much Water Should You Take Hiking
Water may be the heaviest thing in your pack when you head out on a hike, and it’s easy to want to cut down on your water to save on weight. On one hand, you don’t want to carry too much water and all that extra weight, but getting caught on the trail without enough water can be dangerous and uncomfortable. Below are some general rules for calculating how much water to take hiking.
A general rule of thumb is to take 2 cups of water for every hour you will be hiking.
If you are hiking in hot conditions, take more water (4 cups, or 1 liter, for every person).
If you are planning to hike something hard and steep, take even more water as you will be constantly sweating.
If you are planning a long hike in the heat, you will likely want to find a water source where you can get more water and filter your water as needed to avoid adding so much weight to your pack.
5 Best Ways to Carry Water While Hiking
Water bottles are the easiest and often best way to carry water with you on a hike. The best water bottles for hiking are durable, lightweight, easy to refill and drink out of, and fit well in your pack. There are so many reusable water bottles for sale that you can easily find something you like.
Our favorite water bottles for hiking are the open-mouth Nalgene bottles. These bottles are sturdy and last for years. We also like the size and the open mouth is easier for filling than the narrow mouth. We have several similar bottles that don’t hold as much liquid as well. For many hikes, we each bring 2 of these Nalgene bottles.
We try to avoid packing heavy stainless water bottles since these tend to be heavier. These are great for using at home or out and about, but aren’t worth the extra weight.
Another option is to bring disposable water bottles. These typically make very lightweight water bottles for hiking but come with several negatives (besides not being as environmentally friendly). These water bottles can be difficult to refill and taste like plastic quickly. They are also not durable and we’ve had disposable water bottle crack and break when hiking when we set down our pack.
A collapsible water jug or even a collapsible water bottle makes a great option for carrying water on a hike, especially if you plan to carry a lot of water on your hike. These jugs come in a variety of sizes and once you finish the water, you can compress the jug or bottle down so it is easier to carry.
These are also excellent options if you plan to refill water and treat it on the trail. These are often hard to drink directly from, although there are some are more rigid and easier to drink. I often carry a water bottle and simply refill my water bottle from the jug.
I’ve also found that these collapsible jugs taste more plastic over time and use and don’t last as long as a rigid water bottle.
Hydration bladders can be the best way to carry water while hiking, especially if you have a bag designed to carry one of these bladders. Many backpacks now come with one of these bladders, and if they don’t they will have a pocket where you can put one. The benefit of these bladders is they come in a variety of sizes and can actually carry a lot of water and you can drink out of the hose as you hike.
These packs typically have a hose that brings water directly to the hiker’s mouth which makes it easy to stay hydrated when you are actually hiking. The two drawbacks to these types of bladders, is that they can sometimes leak and can be difficult to clean. If you are hiking in the winter, it is common for the water in the hose to freeze. If you ever plan to flavor your water, I would avoid doing this in a hydration bladder.
Use Water Filtration and Purification
If you are looking to carry a lot of water on a long hike or a backpacking trip, you should also consider filtering water your water along the way. There are several methods to filter water, and water filters have come a long way over the years. You can also treat water by boiling it although you will likely not have a stove on a day hike.
There are several filters that work well including lifestraws, water bottles with filters directly on them, and stand-alone filters. You should confirm that there is a water source on your hike before you go hiking if you plan to use a water filter.. If you are relying on filtering water and are unable to find a water source, you could end up in a dangerous situation.
Refill at Designating Drinking Water Stations
The final option when you’re considering the best way to carry water while hiking is to refill at clean water locations along your hike. If you will be hiking where there is a hut or facilities of any type, you will often be able to refill your water here. Always double-check that these locations are open when you’re hiking and that the water available is potable so you don’t get stuck with no water.
Common places to refill water bottles are backcountry huts and visitor centers.
Final Thoughts on the Best Way to Carry Water While Hiking
You will likely adopt a method of carrying your water that uses several of the items listed above. Remember to always carry more water than you need and double-check if you are planning to get more water along the way to make sure there is a current water source. When selecting you water carrying method, remember to consider:
- Ease of Use
Looking for more information about hiking, check out our Guide to Hiking or explore the articles below:
Common Questions about the Best Way to Carry Water While Hiking
How can I carry water without a backpack?
A backpack is the easiest way to carry water when hiking, but you can also use a small hydration pack that just holds a water bladder. It is also possible to carry a water bottle in your hand – this works best on easy and short hikes.
Is it better to backpack with a bladder or bottle?
This comes down to personal preference. In cold weather, I prefer a water bottle, while if I am going on a hike in the summer when I want water accessible while I walk, I usually hike with a water bladder.
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