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Need some good advice on large water carry
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Kristin Fiebelkorn
(kushbaby) - MLife

Locale: South Texas
Need some good advice on large water carry on 09/06/2011 09:38:48 MDT Print View

I'm going on a 2-3 night trip to a local state natural area some time in October (still should be quite hot here). While there is well water at the entrance to the area, there is only water in springs and creeks further in the park, and you have to treat. No big deal, I have a new Sawyer Squeeze I'm wanting to try out.

Problem is, there's not water. Anywhere. At all. We are in the midst of an extremely severe drought down here, and I suspected this, but just got the confirmation. While I can hike back every day and retrieve water from my car, that would sort of suck (less because of the hike, and more because of having to leave the natural area to go to a parking lot every day). And I'll probably go through a lot of water a day. To be conservative, I was thinking 6 or 8 L (but that may be overkill if it cools off a little).

So, I'm looking for tips on carrying a lot of water in hot environments. I have 3 2-L Platypus bottle/bags (in addition to any number of 1L Aquafina bottles, though space begins to be an issue). I can freeze a good portion of it at first, but that will only last so long, then it would be HOT water. (And any water carried in pockets on a bag also gets hot.) I can get more Platypus' (Platypuses? Platypi?) - I think that would be easier to deal with than a larger bladder or reservoir (or would it?).

I am not to a 10lb base weight yet (though I'm working on it), but you can bet I'll be going as light as possible on this particular trip to make sure I can carry a lot of water. Any suggestions on actually carrying it? Pack suggestions? (I don't think it'll fit in a ULA Circuit...) Help?

Aaron Benson
(AaronMB) - F

Locale: Central Valley California
Re: Need some good advice on large water carry on 09/06/2011 10:26:08 MDT Print View

This doesn't get at your pack/carry question, but if I may:

How far out will you be? You mention hiking back to the car if needs be, so I wonder if you can't do the first few miles from the car really packed down with water, then cache some when you get close(r) to base camp. Alternatively, you could make a few trips back and forth from the car the first day (in the cooler morning?) and cache some of it along the way. Whether you pack it in a larger pack or put a gallon each on the ends of a pole(!), caching some might save you some frustration, concern, and time...?

This is just me, of course, but when I'm hiking hard in the heat (upper 90's and higher) I can go through a gallon of drinking water/day. I would need more than 6-8L for a three nighter (four days?).

Edited by AaronMB on 09/06/2011 10:27:11 MDT.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Need some good advice on large water carry on 09/06/2011 10:43:40 MDT Print View

If you carry that much water, make sure the compression system on your pack can hold that water firmly in place. Don't expect the frame of most UL packs to provide more support than a limp noodle with that kind of weight, although there are a couple UL external carbon fiber frame packs that may be stiff enough.

Kristin Fiebelkorn
(kushbaby) - MLife

Locale: South Texas
Re: Re: Need some good advice on large water carry on 09/06/2011 10:43:46 MDT Print View

Oh, I meant 6-8L per day, not total! (Gosh, that wouldn't be much water). So, if I wanted a conservatively large amount of water for 3 days, that's about 18-24L or 40-50 lbs of water alone. (I would, of course, have plenty of water in the car anyway in case of emergency as a back up.)

It's about 2-3 miles from the parking lot to the campsites I'm interested in. I want the freedom to explore (have not been to this park before, and it's also an equestrian park, so I want the option to avoid the common trails), so I will probably sleep somewhere different each night. It's not really spread out too much, but, again, would like to avoid going to the parking lot.

I hadn't thought about caching (though, again, you get to the hot water issue), it's certainly something to consider (I'll have to make sure it's ok to do there.) Do animals raid water caches like food caches? (The animals are really pretty desperate around here.)

I'm also looking at the Cilogear 60L worksack as it's big but light (down to 2lb when removable stuff has been... well, removed) and very configurable up or down - gosh, looks like a great pack! If I could only afford the Dyneema version ($775)...

Or maybe I should just go somewhere else. (Though that feels like defeat - and this is probably something I'll run into again and again for local trips until the drought is over.)

John Whynot

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: Re: Re: Need some good advice on large water carry on 09/06/2011 11:02:18 MDT Print View

From the description, I'm guessing that you are refering to Hill Country State Natural Area. I've been there a number of times -- it's a small enough park that leaving water in your car (or leaving a cache at a couple locations accessible by car), and then refilling would be a good option. The parking lots are dirt, and don't really feel too much different than the backcountry. I would also say it's almost impossible to entirely avoid sharing the trails with horses...

Edited by jdw01776 on 09/06/2011 11:15:49 MDT.

Aaron Benson
(AaronMB) - F

Locale: Central Valley California
Re: Re: Re: Need some good advice on large water carry on 09/06/2011 11:13:22 MDT Print View

I don't know about animals and water caches. Depending on the animal(s), maybe you could cover the cache with rocks or hang...?

Hot water doesn't feel good going down the tube when it's already hot outside, but I think you're going to get hot water whatever you end up doing - you could keep an ice chest loaded in the car and go back for the cold stuff the next day (but that obviously puts you back in the parking lot). Unless your water containers are insulated, I'd guess that anything you freeze beforehand is going to melt that first day/night anyway if it's going to be that warm; freezing may also reduce the overall amount of water you can take in those containers (though I really don't know how much room will be lost from expansion).

2-3 miles isn't too bad, but four or five gallons of water, as you suggested, is very heavy. You could pack as much as you're willing/able, leave some in the car, then go explore. If you like the place, you could decide to cache some water and go back for the rest right away or, simply go one direction for a night or two, go back for more water, then go another direction for the other night(s). This gives you an option of calling it quits if you don't like the place or it's too hot, while not having hiked all across Creation with several gallons and "wasted" that energy.

Kristin Fiebelkorn
(kushbaby) - MLife

Locale: South Texas
Re: Re: Re: Re: Need some good advice on large water carry on 09/06/2011 11:15:50 MDT Print View

@John: Yup, that's where I was going to go (that or Pedernales). I don't mind the horses that much, I just want the possibility to move to narrower or less used trails.

That's very helpful info and some good tips - I was envisioning an asphalt thing, and even with the parks maps, it's hard to envision the way the trails work. It's always so much easier once you've actually been somewhere, and I've never been... Thanks so much!!!

@Aaron: Very good points. I like to keep my options open, so I like the idea of having it in the car, on me, and the option to cache in somewhere nice. :D

Edited by kushbaby on 09/06/2011 11:18:21 MDT.

Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
large water carry on 09/06/2011 19:08:07 MDT Print View

I would seriously consider an alternative, well watered destination. I have carried large loads of water and it really isn't a lot of fun.

Kristin Fiebelkorn
(kushbaby) - MLife

Locale: South Texas
Re: large water carry on 09/06/2011 20:28:53 MDT Print View

Like another state?

Just kidding (well, only sort of). It seems many places are like this right now (though it is true that some have more of an artificial water source, it is usually toward the front of the park/natural area). I am (foolishly?) hopeful that the drought will eventually break in the next year or so, and I'll be able to gather (and treat) water from natural sources then. Right now, I'm just antsy to get out there more (now that my ankle is almost back to normal).

But yes, you are correct, and upon reflection I am considering a different spot which I think has a least some water for now (and better resources) - there's a hike I want to do there anyway. Down side is that there are fewer remote campsites. If I do go to the Hill Country SNA, I think I will probably do a mix of carry, cache, and cooler in car (CCCC technique). I've carried a 60 lb pack before - it put me off of backpacking for a long while. No desire to do too much of that again any time soon.

It is an interesting thing to consider, though. I used to live in Georgia and we used to backpack along the first section of the AT, esp. Neels Gap and up Blood Mountain on weekends, but also further along toward Woody Gap. The primary focus was staying dry and warm - water was everywhere. Here (at least right now), the primary focus is staying cool and moist/hydrated, and I can't count on just carrying one bottle and sidling up to a stream with my filter. It's a different kind of thinking and planning for me...

Martha S.
(kitfox) - F
schlepping water on 09/06/2011 23:24:20 MDT Print View

A long-time desert hiking friend and trip leader wrote a lightweight-hiking guide with the following advice for estimating the water you need. While YMMV, he hasn't lost anyone yet.

Assume 2 miles per hour over the whole route, on average
Add 1 hour for each 1000 feet of elevation gain
add 1/2 hour for each mile off trail / cross-country

Example: you're planning a 2-day, 25-mile hike with 4,000 ft. elevation gain and 7 miles of off trail hiking. 25 miles /2 days = 12.5 + 4 (thousand feet) + 3.5 (off-trail hours) = 20 hours.

Multiply according to the temp. Water weighs 8 1/3 lbs per gallon, so...
for cool temps -- .8 lbs per hour
for warm temps -- 1.2 lbs per hour
for hot temps (over 90)-- 1.6 lbs per hour

My own thoughts, in no particular order:

When packing a lot of water, IMHO, rigid containers (big gatorade bottles, etc.)pack and haul better than floppy platypi.

Water carried in your stomach counts -- if it's very hot I slam as much as I can, even to the point of discomfort, before starting out. I'm not uncomfortable for long, and feel more energetic over the long haul when I do this.

I do freeze my water bottles and if I pack my sleeping bag around them they will stay cold for a good long while. That said, leave enough unfrozen for the first several hours of your trip. It will eventually get warm during your trip -- adding powdered Gatorade or similar helps it go down a little better. However, you will get used to drinking it this way.

You'll need less water if you hike in the very early morning, take a nice, long, shaded siesta mid-day, and hike again in the evening.

When carrying 2.5 to 3 gallons I'll take a pack with a frame.

I feel less thirsty if I avoid too many salty foods.

Err on the side of too much water vs too little -- if you twist an ankle, get lost, or otherwise slow yourself down, you'll need the wiggle room.

Someone suggested caching water and / or keeping water in your car for your return. Both are great ideas and if you have a good cooler wrapped with an extra sleeping bag, block ice may last for two or three days in there.

I hope this is helpful -- forgive me if any of it was self-evident. And... have a GREAT trip!