The longest journey begins with a single step.
Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching
|Drinking plenty of water is a necessity out on the trail. Making sure that you bring enough water with you can often be the difference between a safe trip and a dangerous situation.
Keeping hydrated is an often-overlooked item on many checklists. However, this may put things in perspective: you can live for nearly a month without food, but only around a week without water. Therefore, it's essential to drink enough water anytime you go for a hike. Since water isn't always available from streams or brooks, you should plan to carry all the water you need. If you're going for an extended period of time or if you're planning to drink water you find along the way, bring along a filtering system or iodine water purification tablets.
There are several schools of thought on how much water you should carry, but a general rule of thumb is to pack more than you'd think you need. It's better to err on the side of bringing too much water than too little. If you're drinking enough water your urine will be clear, not dark. Plan to drink water throughout your trip, and since thirst is already a sign of dehydration, don't wait until you're thirsty to drink.
It is NEVER safe to assume any natural water source on the trail is safe to drink. What appears to be a clear mountain stream could contain giardia and a host of other debilitating and hike-ending bacteria. Quite often, drinking from a contaminated stream doesn't result in immediate symptoms; the bacteria lie dormant in your system, then may appear sometimes weeks after drinking. Therefore, always filter, chemically treat or boil water you've taken from an unprotected source.
Water treatment gear can be found at outdoor equipment stores, as well as ordered online.
Dehydration can lead to poor decision-making, heat exhaustion, cramps and heat stroke. So remember to: