What Do Hikers Drink? Part 1 - Water: The Essential Hydration for Hikers

What Do Hikers Drink? Essential Hydration for Hikers

Want to know what hikers drink whilst out on the trail? Are you an avid hiker looking for the best way to stay hydrated on the trail? Or perhaps you’re a beginner, wondering what kinds of drinks are best for quenching your hiking thirst?… Either way, you’ve come to the right place!

In Part 1 of our What Do Hikers Drink Series, we’ll be looking at:

Water: The Essential Hydration for Hikers

We hate to bore you but facts are facts, water is by far the most popular hiking drink in the world

Water and hiking really are the perfect pair!

Drinking enough water is crucial to maintaining our energy levels, preventing dehydration, and staying comfortable on the trail. Luckily, many popular hiking trails offer stunning views of natural water sources like rivers, streams, and lakes, which not only provide a chance to take in the scenery but also offer a convenient place to refill water bottles or hydration packs.

Additionally, being in nature and surrounded by water can have a calming and rejuvenating effect on our mental health, making hiking near water sources a truly enjoyable experience. So the next time you plan a hiking trip, remember to pack plenty of water and embrace the beauty of the natural water sources along the way!

Why Does Hiking Make You So Thirsty?

If you have been out for a hike you will know that it’s thirsty work! But why do we hear you ask?

We get thirsty because our bodies need water to function properly. When hiking, we often lose more water than we consume. Causing our bodies to produce a hormone called vasopressin that signals to the brain that we are thirsty. Thirst is a natural mechanism that helps us maintain proper fluid balance in our bodies.

Hiking can make you thirsty for a few different reasons:


Sweating is a natural process that helps regulate our body temperature by releasing heat through the evaporation of sweat on our skin. When we hike, our bodies expend energy and generate heat, causing us to sweat more than we would in our daily routine. This process causes us to lose water and important electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, which are crucial for proper muscle and nerve function.

Dry air

Many popular hiking destinations are located in dry or arid regions, where the air has low humidity levels. Breathing in dry air can lead to increased water loss through respiration, which can also contribute to thirst.


At higher elevations, the air is thinner and drier, which means you lose more water through respiration. This can lead to increased thirst and a greater need for hydration, even if you’re not exerting yourself as much as you would at lower altitudes. So if you’re planning a high-altitude hike, make sure to pack plenty of water and stay on top of your hydration needs!

Salt loss

When we sweat, we also lose salt (electrolytes), which can make us feel thirsty. Drinking water alone may not be enough to replace the electrolytes lost through sweat, which is why some hikers also drink sports drinks or consume salty snacks on the trail.

In short, hiking makes you thirsty because you’re expending energy, generating heat, and losing water and electrolytes through sweat, respiration, and other bodily processes. Staying hydrated and replenishing lost electrolytes is key to staying comfortable and energized on the trail.

What Do Hikers Drink? Part 1 - Water: The Essential Hydration for Hikers

Why Water Is So Important For Hikers

  • Our bodies need water to function properly, and hiking can cause us to lose fluids through sweating and breathing.
  • Dehydration can lead to a number of negative side effects, including fatigue, dizziness, and even heat stroke in extreme cases.
  • Drinking enough water can help regulate body temperature, particularly in hot or humid conditions.
  • Hydration can help improve athletic performance and prevent cramping and muscle fatigue.
  • In some cases, lack of hydration can lead to cognitive impairment, making it harder to navigate or make decisions on the trail.
  • Water can also help keep us feeling full and satisfied, preventing overeating or snacking on unhealthy foods.

So How Much Water Should You Drink While Hiking?

The general rule of thumb is to drink at least one liter of water for every two hours of hiking. Of course, this can vary depending on factors like temperature, altitude, and exertion level, so it’s important to pay attention to your body and drink more if you’re feeling thirsty or experiencing other symptoms of dehydration.

Water sources are not guaranteed in the wilderness so pack enough water for your hike and stop to refill if you find a good clean source.

Can You Drink Too Much Water While Hiking?

Yes, it is possible to drink too much water while hiking. Drinking too much water can cause a condition called hyponatremia or water intoxication. This is however very uncommon as the amount of water required for this is much more than most would try to consume (approx 3-4L in one sitting)

Hyponatremia occurs when the balance of electrolytes in your body is diluted by consuming too much water, causing the concentration of sodium in your blood to become dangerously low.

Symptoms of hyponatremia can include nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, seizures, and even coma. It’s important to note that hyponatremia can be life-threatening if left untreated.

To avoid hyponatremia while hiking, it’s important to balance your water intake with electrolyte consumption. You can do this by drinking water with added electrolyte powders or tablets, eating salty snacks, or consuming electrolyte-rich drinks like sports drinks. It’s also important to listen to your body and drink when you are thirsty, rather than forcing yourself to drink a certain amount of water based on a set schedule.

What’s The Best Water Temperature For Drinking?

The best water temperature for drinking is generally considered to be between 50-59°F (10-15°C) for optimal hydration and taste.

This temperature range is cool enough to be refreshing and thirst-quenching, but not so cold that it causes discomfort or constricts your blood vessels. However, personal preferences may vary, and some people may prefer their water colder or warmer.

It’s also important to note that in some situations, such as during extreme heat or high-intensity exercise, drinking water at any temperature is better than not drinking any water at all!

Water Sources on the Trail: Where to Find Water While Hiking

When hiking, it’s important to plan ahead and know where you can find clean, drinkable water sources along the trail.

Here are a few tips to help you find water while hiking:

  1. Research ahead of time: Before heading out on a hiking trip, research the trail to see if there are any water sources along the way. Many trail guides and websites will indicate where you can find water sources like streams, rivers, and lakes.
  2. Map it out: Bring a map of the trail and mark any water sources you find during your research. This will help you plan your route and ensure you have enough water for the entire trip.
  3. Look for signs of water: Even if a trail guide or map doesn’t indicate a water source, you can still keep an eye out for signs of water along the trail. Look for areas of lush vegetation or greenery, as these can be indicators of a nearby water source.
  4. Check with locals: If you’re hiking in a new area, ask locals or park rangers about where to find water sources on the trail. They may have insider knowledge or tips on where to find water that isn’t listed in trail guides.

Remember, not all water sources are safe to drink from. Before drinking from a natural water source, make sure to purify the water by using a water filter, iodine tablets, or boiling the water for at least 5 minutes. By planning ahead and knowing where to find water sources, you can stay hydrated and enjoy your hiking experience to the fullest.

a water source

How To Ensure Clean Water Out On The Trail

The best way to ensure that your drinking water is clean is to carry it from home or drink from marked safe sources. If you are deep in nature or on a multi-day trek, however, this may not be possible. For such instances, it is possible to filter water using some of the methods listed below.

Pump filters

Pump filters are one of the most popular options for filtering water on the trail. They work by pumping water through a filter, which removes harmful contaminants. Pump filters can be heavy and require some effort to use, but they are generally reliable and effective.

Gravity filters

Gravity filters work by using gravity to filter water through a filter. They are often lighter than pump filters and require less effort to use, but may take longer to filter the same amount of water.

Straw filters

Straw filters are a lightweight and compact option for filtering water on the trail. They work by sucking water through a filter, which removes harmful contaminants. Straw filters are convenient for quick hydration breaks, but may not be as effective as other filter options.

Chemical treatments

Chemical treatments, such as iodine tablets or drops, can be used to purify water on the trail. They work by killing harmful bacteria and viruses in the water. Chemical treatments are lightweight and easy to use but may leave an unpleasant taste in the water.

Boiling water

Boiling water for at least 5 minutes can be an effective way to purify water on the trail. This method requires a heat source, such as a stove or campfire, and takes some time and effort, but can be a reliable option for purifying water.

UV Filters

UV filters are a fast, lightweight, and effective method to filter clean water on the trail using ultraviolet light to kill harmful microorganisms in water. They require batteries or a power source to work, and may not remove sediment or physical impurities from the water. They can be more expensive than other filter options upfront but are cost-effective in the long run as they don’t require replacement filters or cartridges.

No matter which method you choose, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use caution when filtering water on the trail. Always make sure to purify water from natural sources before drinking, to ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience.

What’s The Best Way To Carry Water On A Hike?

When it comes to carrying water on a hike, there are several options available. The best way to carry water will depend on the length of the hike, the weather conditions, and personal preference. Here are a few popular options:

  1. Water bottles: Water bottles are a simple and affordable option for carrying water on a hike. You can choose from a variety of sizes, materials, and styles. Some hikers prefer to use reusable bottles to reduce waste, while others prefer disposable bottles for convenience.
  2. Hydration packs: Hydration packs are backpacks with a built-in water reservoir and a drinking tube. They allow you to carry a larger volume of water than a water bottle and provide easy access to water while hiking. They are a popular choice for hikers who prefer to drink small amounts of water frequently throughout the hike.
  3. Collapsible water bottles: Collapsible water bottles are lightweight and compact, making them a good choice for hikers who want to save space and weight in their backpack. They can be rolled up or folded when empty, which is convenient for storage.
  4. Water bladders: Water bladders are similar to hydration packs but can be used separately or inserted into a backpack. They can hold a large volume of water and are easy to refill. They can be a good option for hikers who want to distribute the weight of the water evenly in their backpacks.

Fun Fact!

Did you know that the world’s highest waterfall, Angel Falls in Venezuela, was discovered by a hiker who was thirsty and searching for water?

In 1933, a pilot named Jimmy Angel was flying over the Venezuelan jungle when he spotted a waterfall in the distance. Intrigued, he decided to land and investigate.

While exploring the area, he and his companions became thirsty and followed a stream to its source, which turned out to be the magnificent Angel Falls. Today, Angel Falls is a popular destination for hikers and adventure-seekers who want to experience the beauty of one of the world’s natural wonders.

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