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Question about how much water ULB carry
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Vlad Putin

Locale: Radio Free Pineland
Question about how much water ULB carry on 11/19/2006 23:57:30 MST Print View

I have traditionally carried two quarts or nowadays, two liters of water on backpacking trips. Whether the trip is a weekend trip or an extended trip, two liters/quarts has been my standard.

At times when resupply wasnt good and it was long stretches between water sources/caches, I have carried three liters. Thats getting on the heavy side, as I am sure you well know.

This was indoctrinated into me by BSA High Adventure programs at an early age.

Two liters to me is fine...its entirely doable and is totally the norm for me. I never had a problem with it before and still dont. But Ive been reading at this site and a few other places that many ULB and SULBackpackers only carry one liter or even half a liter. Half a liter to me sounds crazy and of poor judgment.

What does the typical ultra-lighter carry? One liter? Half a liter? Two liters? Does it depend entirely on the individual?

What does the typical super ultra-lighter carry? One liter? Half a liter?

I am very curious to hear these answers. How can someone do 20 miles a day carrying half a liter of water at a time?

I have "fastpacked" in the past way before the term ever developed. When pack weights get down to 20 lbs or less and you are very fit, it is very easy to walk extremely fast, breaking into a methodical slow jog or slog for long periods or doing the old "fox trot" method the Boy Scouts taught for years.

Fox trot: walk fast for fifty paces then jog fifty paces and repeat. You can cover tremendous amounts of terrain fast using this technique without becoming overly tired providing you are in decent shape to begin with.

While I have "fastpacked" before and done 20-30 mile days day after day after day after day (going up to even forty miles per day sometimes), one thing I couldnt do without was lots of water. Water water gotta have it. Even in cold weather. I would be drinking all the time, hydrating on the trail without stopping and eating easily digestible foods where you dont have to chew much like peanut butter out of a squeeze bag, soft cheese, oranges and apples, bananas etc. while on the move.

I once covered 50 miles in 17 hours with another guy my age in the Rockies using this method. I couldnt have done it carrying a half liter or one liter of water and I didnt have time to stop and look for water sources either.

Basically we just slow jogged 50 miles up and down mountains, hardly stopping but a handful of times. Mostly to refill our water bottles or eat a fast trail meal.

So whats the deal? When doing say, typical fastpacking of say, 20 miles a day at an UL or SUL load, what are typical amounts of water carried?

I bought a 2 liter platypus water container today, I noticed that is lighter than the traditional Nalgene hard lexan water bottles Ive used for years. Only thing I dislike about the platypus is it isnt wide mouthed, thus harder to fill.


(RavenUL) - F
Re: Question about how much water ULB carry on 11/20/2006 00:13:11 MST Print View

Im not "typical" of anything... so take it for what its worth, but I almost always start off with 3ltrs. I consume as much as I can, drinking whenever I can. Once Im down to about 1ltr, I refill up to 2ltrs leaving the 3rd ltr in reserve. Mostly, this is a habit from living out in the desert where I would often refill up to the full 3ltrs every chance I got because the next water source might not be there. I don't mind the "extra" weight. Im not hiking according to someone else's idea of what is right.

You can buy soft (like platypus) bottles from nalgene with the wide mouth.

Vlad Putin

Locale: Radio Free Pineland
Re: Re: Question about how much water ULB carry on 11/20/2006 00:39:51 MST Print View

>You can buy soft (like platypus) bottles >from nalgene with the wide mouth.

Yeah, I was looking at those wide mouth collapsible Nalgene canteens today. They are attractive, but heavier than the platypus. The platypus 2 liter weighs practically nothing and since Im trying to get into this ULB, I figured I should go with the platypus. Plus the platypus won the BPL "Lightitude" award recently.

I'd like to see a platypus that weighs the same amount (almost nothing) but with a wide mouth for easy filling.


(dealtoyo) - F

Locale: Mt Hood
Re: Question about how much water ULB carry on 11/20/2006 02:10:55 MST Print View

On many gear lists people put a half liter on it because sometimes they are carring a full liter and sometimes their bottle is empty, so the reported amount is an average. As for me, I can get away with only carring one liter of water because water is plentiful here in Oregon. I could easily only carry a half liter but I don't like to stop to fill up so frequently. With water every few miles I also prefer to carry a pump filter so I don't have to wait for water to purify. This method may add more weight to my pack however, it decreases the amount of water weight in my pack because I don't have to carry extra water that is not yet purified by chemicals. Some chemical treatments can take as much as four hours. That is more time than needed for me to come across another water source.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Re: Question about how much water ULB carry on 11/20/2006 03:19:57 MST Print View

Vlad, look for the Platypus "BIG-ZIP" reservoirs and "hosers". The BIG-ZIP is the key. I haven't had one open unexpectedly, but, after filling, you should always invert, squeeze, and test for drips, leaks, etc.

Has anyone out there had a "BIG-ZIP" open unexpectedly IF it was properly sealed and tested for leaks after filling? Please let us know.

You should be able to find the "BIG-ZIPS" in just about any place that sells Platys. For instance, check out the "store" on this website (just another good reason for someone to become a member, i.e., discounts at the "store").

Oh, in answer to your question: 2-3L, generally 2L.

Edited by pj on 11/20/2006 04:08:12 MST.

Nathan Moody
(atomick) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Question about how much water ULB carry on 11/20/2006 09:17:32 MST Print View

I carry a 3-liter Camelbak reservoir and a 1-liter Platypus flexible water carrier. I typically drink 2-3 liters a day while on the trail, and another liter or two in camp. I never backpack with the Platy full, however; I carry it for backup, refilling, and in-camp use.

This water issue seems highly personal. I've hiked with others who drink 1/2 what I do on a hot day. I prefer to fill up once in the morning, and once when I make camp...I prefer not to refill midday if I don't have to. My pack's side pockets suck, so a reservoir is a good solution for me. I also like carrying a backup of something that flexible (although, knock on wood, I've had both for three years with no incidents). Heavy hydration, for me, is also the key for avoiding altitude-induced headaches.

YHMV. ;-)

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Question about how much water ULB carry on 11/20/2006 09:40:43 MST Print View

Like you, 2 liters works for me. I carry two, one liter Platypus containers. This allows me to treat one while I drink the other. This of course, varies depending upon the number of available water sources. I also have a 2L Big Zip if I need more storage and a 6L for base camping. I've never had the Big Zip fail. I have the older model that is difficult to seal, particularly when it is cold but once sealed it works. I have a scout trip planned this January and plan to buy a 2L soft, wide mouth Nalgene for that. I am less concerned about treating water in the winter.

p.s. I'm sorry about our disagreement in the solo thread. No hard feelings here.

Edited by ericnoble on 11/20/2006 10:03:06 MST.

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Platy Big Zip, etc on 11/20/2006 10:03:39 MST Print View

I used to carry a Platy Big Zip and I can say I've beat the hell out of it with no leaks or failures. I've even used it as a pillow with no signs of leakage. Good gear.

I ditched the reservoir as its just too hard to dig it out and refill it. Now I just carry two 1 Liter wide mouth soda bottles. Not sure what they weigh but it can't be more than a few ounces. They're as tough as needed and readily replaceable. Out here in the Midatlantic water is never more than a few miles away so I only fill one at a time. I use Aqua Mira, so if I hit a water source when I'm getting low on the current bottle, I'll fill and treat the other. The overlap allows me to continue to drink without waiting. The only time I ever have more than a liter (or so) full is if I'm headed to a dry camp. Outside of some sort of catastrophic emergency I can't see a reason to carry more than that. I can't recall hiking in the east for more than half a day without coming across some sort of water source. During the hikes I've taken in the southwest I used the reservoir (2L) and one or two of the 1L bottles. In a few extreme cases I've lugged a gallon extra along for dry camps but carrying 2+ gallons of water sure bit and hard. The availability of water sources is more of a limiting factor for me than weather or route. Next time I'm out in the Grand Canyon I will cache if possible.

David Lewis
(davidlewis) - MLife

Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada
Re: Re: Question about how much water ULB carry on 11/20/2006 10:29:40 MST Print View

How much water your body needs doesn't change when you go SUL. How much water is available on any given trail does change. A lighter pack means you will probably be moving faster and taking fewer breaks... thus getting from source to source much faster. So if someone is carrying half a liter, it's not because they are SUL per se... it's (hopefully) because that's all the water they need to get from one water source to the next.

Now... if you go to Grand Canyon and only carry half a liter because you want to be super ultra light... well... you're also super ultra stupid... and soon to be super ultra dead :) Stupid people die in Grand Canyon all the time.

p.s. I generally carry 2L... 2 500 mL water bottles on my shoulder straps an 1L in a platy in the back pocket of my pack. I could get away with less where I backpack... TONS of water up here in Eastern Canada... but I like to carry lots. I often get to the next stream tho' and still have a liter in my pack.

Edited by davidlewis on 11/20/2006 10:47:13 MST.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
water on 11/20/2006 11:07:06 MST Print View

I filter. I am disappointed if I have any left by the time I reach the next source.

I carry a 5 quart capacity most of the time, but only carry what I need to get to the next source.

I have carried as much as 3 gallons going into the Grand Canyon.

Filtering takes time so I carry enough so that I only have to filter three of four time per day.

An exact number without considering the weather, location, etc. scares me.

Vlad Putin

Locale: Radio Free Pineland
Re: Re: Re: Question about how much water ULB carry on 11/20/2006 11:12:58 MST Print View

OK, most of these answers seem normal to me. Two liters/quarts has always been the norm for me going way back and it looks like most here carry 2L with additional lightweight backup. Water is nothing to mess with.

I just couldnt understand how a person can fastpack (and sweat like crazy) while carrying only half a liter of water with them. Unless they are fastpacking in a rainforest in the Pacific NW or a swamp or something.

I got a copy of that book "Lighten Up" and it is interesting. A lot of the stuff in it I already knew though, as I did a lot of lightweight backpacking in my past, but not UL. I think I have decided to go UL, although I will have to totally revamp most of my gear.

A few things I will NOT change though. My preference for mostly wool clothing for wintertime will not change. And I will stick to boots for footwear. But for the pack and all that goes in it, I am switching to UL.

Tarps are nothing new to me and I have been a fan of them since the eighties. I was reading here on this sight or the Bozeman Mountain Works site that BMW they sell extremely, ridiculously lightweight tarps. Ive used poncho tarps in the past, but these Bozeman tarps sound super UL.

Presently, I am using an LL Bean "Microlight" two person lightweight tent as my shelter. Its actually not a bad tent at all and has outstanding insect protection.


Vlad Putin

Locale: Radio Free Pineland
Re: Re: Re: Re: Question about how much water ULB carry on 11/20/2006 11:25:51 MST Print View

When I really think about it, most of the really long distance stuff Ive done in my past was done while carrying lightweight loads, not UL, but lightweight. I was doing "fastpacking" AKA 20, 30 or even 40 mile day before fastpacking was a common term.

You cant fastpack for more than a day or two if you are carrying a traditional 35-40 lb load. Ive known that since my Philmont days. They taught us at Philmont that to cover a lot of mileage, youve gotta go lightweight, use tarps instead of tents, etc. I understand that at Philmont now they require the use of floored tents due to some rodent virus, but when I went thru the Rayado Trek/Trail crew program years ago, it was common for higher mileage crews to ditch the issue tents and go with tarps.


David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: Question about how much water ULB carry on 11/20/2006 14:16:41 MST Print View

How much or how little water you carry is ninety nine percent about how much water is available and maybe a little bit about how often you want to stop and water up.

I've carried two gallons in the desert, and less than a liter in isolated river valleys with snowmelt-fed streams every mile or so.