How to Carry Water While Hiking: 3 Best Techniques

Right up there with camping, hiking is one of my favorite things to do outside. There are few things better than getting out in nature and going for a hike in the middle of a primitive camping trip. The sights, the sounds, the serenity of the great outdoors. 

If you’re here reading this, you know what I’m talking about, and you know how important it is to stay hydrated during your hike. Considering you usually want to carry as little extra weight as possible, knowing how to carry water while hiking will make a big difference 

The three best ways to carry water while hiking are:

  • Backpacks with water bladders
  • Backpacks with water bottle pockets
  • Water bottle attachments

Everything here at Outdoor Andrew is based on my own personal experience and the experience of people I know combined with extensive research. My goal here is to create only the best outdoor-related content for you, and I want as many of you as possible to get outside and go for some more hikes. 

So I hope that when you’re done reading this, you know everything you need to know about carrying water while hiking!

Understanding the Importance of Hydration While Hiking

Staying hydrated while hiking is essential to maintain your body’s proper functioning and ensure a safe, enjoyable outdoor experience. 

Since hiking is such great exercise, you’re almost always going to break a sweat while doing it, causing your body to lose water as it tries to cool itself down. While the human body is great at cooling itself off, you need to make sure you’re combating this fluid loss by staying hydrated. 

Otherwise, it can lead to dehydration, which might cause a range of symptoms like fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and even more severe issues if not addressed promptly. This is even more vital if you’re hiking while it’s super hot out, as you can put yourself at risk of even more severe issues, and staying hydrated will only help.

In general, you should aim to drink at least 0.5 liters of water for every hour of hiking, but keep in mind that this is just a general rule of thumb for typical temperatures. If you’re hiking in a hot, humid climate, you should plan on bringing ever more water with you depending on the hike, how long it is, how hard it is, and other factors.

By prioritizing hydration during your hiking adventures, you’ll be supporting your body’s overall performance and well-being and you’ll just simply feel a heck of a lot better during the hike. Remember to listen to your body’s signals and rest any time you need to. And don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids during every hike!

Ways to Carry Water While Hiking

To effectively carry water while hiking, it’s important to distribute the weight evenly across your body and have easy access to your hydration gear. If you’re planning on doing any sort of long or strenuous hike, I’m going to assume you’re planning on bringing a hiking backpack with you to carry your snacks, extra gear, and of course, your water!

Here are some techniques for carrying water during a hike.

Hydration bladder

A hydration bladder or reservoir is a lightweight and convenient option. This flexible container fits into your backpack and has a hose that allows you to drink water without removing it from your pack. Most dedicated hiking backpacks are designed with these in mind, providing extra support in the back and an opening in the fabric for the hose to slide through.

Ever since I got serious about hiking, carrying a backpack with a water bladder has been my go-to way to bring plenty of water along. Most bladders are 1 to 3 liters in size (if not bigger), which gives you enough water for at least 2-6 hours on their own. 

But the backpacks that have these bladders also usually have the next technique built-in for even more water-carrying capacity.

Water Bottle Pockets

This one is probably the easiest way to carry water while hiking, and it’s as simple as using the water bottle pockets built into the sides of the backpack. There really aren’t any groundbreaking tips with this one, considering most of you probably put these pockets to use without even really thinking about it.

Most hiking backpacks will have a pocket on each side that’s designed especially for holding water bottles and keeping them within arm’s reach. While the bottles are in these pockets, you can reach back and grab one yourself or whoever you’re hiking with can easily reach over and pull a bottle out for a quick drink.

These pockets make it easy to slip at least two 1-liter bottles in so you have enough for a decent hike without even needing a bladder. While these pockets are great on their own, you can bring a couple of water bottles along while also filling the bladder and you’ll be set for a whole day’s hike!

Bottle Attachments

Lastly, you can carry even more water on your next hike with water bottle attachments like clips or bottle holders that attach to your backpack, belts, or other hiking gear. Since you may not have a dedicated hiking backpack that came with a water bladder or water bottle pockets, these simple attachments make it possible to carry water with you no matter what.

I haven’t personally used too many of these attachments myself since I’ve always used a backpack with a bladder and pockets, but I know many hikers that love them. They keep the bottles within reach and you can add as many holders as you want. 

This is also an easy way to make sure the weight of your gear is evenly balanced since you can add the bottles however you need to!

How to Choose the Best Water Carrying Equipment for Hiking

When selecting a water container for hiking, prioritize cleanliness, lightweight materials, and appropriate size. Choose a container with an easy-to-open lid that prevents leaks. Material options include stainless steel, BPA-free plastic, or collapsible silicone. 

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Clean: Ensure your chosen water container is easy to clean and dry to avoid bacterial growth.
  • Lightweight: Opt for a container made from a lightweight material to reduce the load on your hiking backpack.
  • Size: Consider the amount of water needed for your hike, taking into account factors such as the hike’s duration and weather conditions.
  • Lid: Select a container with a secure screw-on lid or a flip-top design to prevent spills and leaks during your hike.

In addition to containers, consider investing in a water filtration system if you plan on sourcing water from natural sources, such as streams or rivers. This ensures that your water is free from harmful contaminants and maintains essential minerals such as sodium and potassium.

How Much Water Should You Bring on a Hike?

Hiking can be a physically demanding activity, and ensuring adequate hydration is crucial for your overall performance and safety. As mentioned above, it is recommended to drink at least a half-liter of water for every one hour of hiking in typical moderate temperatures and conditions. But this amount will change depending on a number of factors.

To determine the right quantity of water to carry during your hike, consider the following factors that can influence your water intake:

Duration and Distance

The length of your hike should be one of the primary factors in determining the amount of water to carry. Aim to carry about 0.5 liters of water for every hour you plan to hike. For example, if you’re planning a 3-hour hike, you’ll need 1.5 liters of water.

Trail and Terrain

Difficult trails, steep inclines, and rough terrain can lead to increased sweating and the need for more water. Factor in the difficulty of the trail and make adjustments to the amount of water needed. Always err on the side of caution and bring extra water!


Hiking at higher altitudes can cause increased respiration and increased water loss through your breath. If you’re hiking at altitudes above 8,000 feet, consider increasing your water intake. This is due largely to the fact that it’s harder to breathe at higher elevations, so your body will be working harder to get oxygen, tiring you out without you even necessarily noticing. 


Your hiking pace can affect your water intake as well, as a faster pace can lead to increased sweating. If you’re planning on going on a fast hike or even a jog, you’ll likely need much more water than if you’re intending on a leisurely stroll through the woods. 

Age and Activity Level

Your age, fitness level, and activity level will affect your water needs during a hike. For the most part, you typically need more water when you become older, and you’ll also need to bring more water along if you’re not quite as active as you’d like to be. Younger people or those in tip-top shape may not need quite as much water on a hike as someone who’s not used to it.

Weather and Temperature

Hot weather and high temperatures can cause increased sweating and a higher risk of dehydration. In cold weather, staying well-hydrated helps maintain your energy levels and body temperature. Always plan ahead and adjust the quantity of water according to the expected weather conditions.

Taking all these factors into account, an age-old rule of thumb suggests carrying one liter of water for every 2 hours of hiking. However, this estimation should be adjusted depending on your specific circumstances and the variables listed above. 

Keep in mind that water is heavy – over 2 lbs per liter – so it’s essential to strike a balance between staying properly hydrated and not overburdening yourself with unnecessary weight.

Managing Hydration in Extreme Conditions

When hiking in extreme conditions, such as high altitudes or scorching temperatures, managing your hydration becomes crucial for a successful and safe experience. As you climb to higher altitudes, the air becomes thinner, and your body needs more energy to keep functioning. This may result in increased water loss due to increased respiration and perspiration.

To maintain proper hydration, it’s essential to drink fluids at regular intervals. Aim for 0.5 to 1 liter of water per hour for adults and 0.25 to 0.5 liters for children, depending on factors such as age, pace, temperature, and terrain. Staying well-hydrated helps prevent altitude sickness, muscle cramps, and fatigue.

Monitor your urine color as an indicator of hydration. Pale or clear urine signifies a well-hydrated state, whereas dark yellow urine may indicate possible dehydration. Dehydration can lead to decreased energy levels, impairing both your performance and decision-making abilities on the trail.

In extreme temperatures, balancing electrolytes is crucial as you sweat out essential minerals. Replenish them by consuming electrolyte-enhancing snacks and beverages such as sports drinks or salty foods. This helps prevent muscle cramps and maintains overall energy and focus.

Keep in mind that your body’s nutritional needs change with altitude and activity level. When climbing, consume easily digestible carbohydrates and high protein snacks for energy. Your body will demand more calories, so pack additional nutrient-dense foods for sustenance.

Importantly, before embarking on a hike in extreme conditions, ensure you have researched the terrain and local weather, and carry an ample amount of water or fluid resources. By staying informed, you can adjust your hydration strategy according to the environment’s demands and ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience.

Tips to Remember

As you prepare for your next hiking adventure, it’s essential to consider how you will carry water to stay hydrated throughout the journey. Remember, there are different options to choose from, and it ultimately depends on your personal preferences and hiking needs. 

Here are the main takeaways:

  • Choose the water-carrying method that suits you: You can carry water with hydration bladders, in water bottle pockets, or with bottle attachments. Each has its pros and cons, so pick the one that works best for you and your hiking style.
  • Consider the water source availability along the trail: If you can refill your water on the trail from sources such as streams or lakes, don’t forget to bring equipment to purify the water, like filtration systems or purification tablets.
  • Keep hydration in mind based on exertion and weather: A physically demanding hike or hiking in hotter weather will require you to drink more water to stay hydrated. For instance, hotter and more arid locations may necessitate carrying extra water or knowing the location of potential water sources.
  • Integrate water-carrying solutions with your backpack: When possible, choose backpacks with dedicated compartments or exterior pockets designed to hold water bottles or hydration bladders for easy access.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can stay hydrated and make your hiking experience way better, allowing you to enjoy the great outdoors while staying safe and healthy. Remember to always plan your hikes carefully, research the trail conditions, and understand any potential risks — especially if you’re hiking when it’s super hot out! 

So get out there and hit the trails. Just make sure you bring plenty of water with you!

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