Summary of Backpacking Water
Wayne Hill (whill@CBIS.ECE.DREXEL.EDU)
Wed, 16 Apr 1997 10:09:10 -0400
I was asked to post this on SCOUTS-L by some of those who contributed.
My original question was how much water does a person need a day when
backpacking? I received a lot of good information...more than I asked
for...which is a good thing. Please keep in mind the following is a
summary of many peoples opinions and should be used as a general guideline,
I'm just the organizer. I hope I have done them all justice in condensing
everyone's remarks. I'd like to especially thank Bob Amick, Blaine Jackson,
and Grant O'Neil, thanks guys.
1) First water weight (4 quarts = 3.786 Liters)
8.6 pounds per gallon (4 quarts)
2.27 pounds per liter
3.8 Kilograms per gallon
1 kilogram per 1 Liter (The beauty of the Metric System)
2) Most people recommended carrying either 2 or 4 liters (2 to 4 quarts) of
water per day. The amount depends on the type of food being carried, your
weight, activity level, and the climate. If you are carrying dry food where
you need to add hot water to reconstitute the meal, you should carry on the 4
liter side. If you are around 100 lbs less water, 2 liters. If the trail is
going to be a lot of up hill you need more water, 4 liters. If the air is
dry more water. So its a balancing act between 2 to 4 liters a day. For
I'll carry 4 liters, my smaller scouts will carry 2 liters (due to weight)
until I gain more experience.
3) Always carry water purification tablets even if you carry a water filter or
have a planned water pick up point, both can fail. Follow the instructions
on the tablet container.
4) Once you are down to 1 liter per person finding water should become a
5) Error on the side of having to much water instead of to little.
6) Have each person's water divided into two containers, one for their
drinking the other for community use. Community use being water used for
meals, coffee!!, and Hot Chocolate.
7) Drink between 1 to 2 cups of water an hour when walking to avoid
Drinking a lot of water at the end of a trek is not as helpful as spreading
it out over the trek. Also, drinking a lot of water at once after being
exhausted, thirsty, or weak makes some people nauseous. So drink a little
a lot of times.
8) One method mentioned several times to determine if you are drinking
enough water is that if your urine is any color other than clear this is an
indication that you need more water.
9) You can be slightly dehydrated and not feel thirsty. The signs and
symptoms of dehydration "may include fatigue, chest pain, irritability,
dizziness, indigestion, grumpiness, feeling tired, and getting cramps"
quote from Bob Amick. These symptoms make it tough to determine if there
is a another serious problem. If you know people have been taking frequent
water breaks it gives you better chance of determining the real problem.
10) Use caution with drink powders. It is recommended that they are used
at half strength because sugar needs water to metabolize. Electrolyte drink
mixes like Gatorade are a better choice because the electrolyte replacement
will help fend off muscle cramps and heat exhaustion, but should still be
half strength. If you're eating a nutritional diet the only real purpose
for using electrolyte drink powders is to get the boys to drink.
11) Remember to clean your water container in particular the threads,
especially if you use drink mixes because bacteria or mold can grow which
may cause dysentery.
12) Avoid caffeinated soft drinks, they act as a diuretic. Yes...that also
includes coffee and some tea.
13) Don't use salt pills.
14) A reliable source of water is an important part of the itinerary. If
you cannot plan on water being there change the plan.
Just a water story before I go, my brother was camping in North Jersey
along the Appalachian Trail near the Delaware Water Gap. Great Trail!
Anyway...he had his water in a 2 1/2 gallon container hanging from a tree
by a cord. (This was for ease of use in pouring water, not to keep it way
from bears.) Some brown bears wondered into camp looking for food. One of
them found his water and squeezed it and the nozzle popped off and squirted
water all over the bear. The bear started batting the container around
which was suspended on a cord. My brother lost most of his water but gained
a great story and an old water container with some neat bear claw marks in
it. Even the best layed plans of ........
Thanks for all the replies. I hope this is helpful.
ASM, Troop 165
Gloucester City, NJ
Camden County Council
Lekua 77 Brotherhood
...a good ole " We are all products of our choices "
Bobwhite too... " Scouting is a good choice "
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City