Ask a Trail Steward: How Much Water Should I Pack for a Hike?

June 11, 2021
Melanie Schuck, Trail Steward
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


Ask a Trail Steward: How Much Water Should I Pack for a Hike?


It’s a sunny, beautiful day as you reach the summit on your picture-perfect hike. That is, until you stop to take a breather and realize you’ve ran out of water! With half your hike left, what do you do?

Preparation and packing is arguably the most important part of any hike, and water is one of the most important items to make sure you've got covered. Most of the human body is made up of water, so having enough of it packed ahead of time is crucial.

At a trail like Breakneck Ridge in Dutchess County, N.Y., the Trail Conference’s Trail Stewards tell hikers to pack at least two liters of water per person for their trek. Seasonal timing along with weather impacts how much water should be packed.

So What’s The Secret Formula To Know How Much Water I Need?

Every body is different and has different hydration needs depending on the conditions. Proper hydration is dependent on factors such as age, activity duration, intensity, weather conditions, and your body type. For moderate weather and intensity, it is recommended to pack half a liter per one hour of hiking. For more extreme temperatures and intensity, make sure that you drink 1 liter or more per hour of hiking.

Don’t Forget Water for Your Four-Legged Companions

If hiking with dogs, it is important to make sure to bring enough water for them as well as yourslef. Be sure to carry at least 8 ounces of water per dog per hour of hiking. Many hikers will bring a collapsible bowl that clips onto their pack to use as a water dish. On particularly hot days, you can freeze a mostly-full water bottle that will melt throughout your hike providing cool water for your trail pup. Remember: do not freeze a 100% full water bottle. Water expands as it freezes, and your bottle will bust!

Want to learn more about hitting the trail with your pup? Check out our Ultimate Guide To Hiking With Your Dog written by Arden of our Conservation Dogs program.

In Case You Run Out: Water Filtration

One final piece of advice when it comes to water preparedness is investing in water purification tablets or a water filtration system. In the event you run out of water, you can find a water source along the trail. Potential water sources and springs are indicated on Trail Conference maps with a “W.” Availability of water at these sites is dependent on the time of year: Springs tend to dry out in the hot summer months. Filtering your water will get out bacteria that may be harmful to humans.

Have More Questions for Our Stewards?

You’ll find our Trail Stewards stationed at:

Our Steward program is possible through the support of our generous donors and sponsors.