Water is essential for survival, especially when you're backpacking. But how much water should you take? This is a question that has plagued many backpackers, and the answer varies depending on the circumstances. In this blog post, we'll go over some basic tips to help you figure out how much water you should take on your next backpacking trip.
The general rule of thumb is to take about 1 liter of water for every 5 miles that you're hiking. This is the advice that I have received from many experienced Pacific Crest Trail thru hikers who have had to deal with lack of water in the desert section of the trail. Of course, this amount may vary depending on the weather conditions. If it's hot and sunny, you may need to take a little bit more water than if it's cold and overcast.
Let's say you're going to hike 15 miles, and there are no water sources on the map, you'll want to take at least 3 liters of water for the day. However, things become more complicated if you're dry camping, meaning that there are no water sources available where you're camping for the night.
If you're dry camping, you'll need to make sure that you have at least half to one liter of water for the next day to get you to the next water source (depending on how far away it is...I try not to camp more than about 6 miles away from my next water source). You'll also need to factor in the water you'll need to rehydrate your backpacker meal, wash your dishes, brush your teeth and drink during the night. If you're dry camping, you should take at least 2 liters of water for your campsite, plus the extra water you'll need to get to the next water source.
Unfortunately, if you're backpacking 15 miles in and dry camping, you may need to carry up to 5 liters of water, which can be quite heavy. Dry camping can definitely be stressful and worrisome, especially if you're not used to it. But there are many scenarios where you may not have a choice. You can definitely avoid it altogether, but it does limit the trails and mileage you can backpack. Like with most things, the more you dry camp, the more comfortable you will get with it.
In this video I go over some more details and personal experiences about water carries and dry camping.