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Water Capacity for 2014 April 16th Thru Hike
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Devin Karch

Locale: NYC
Water Capacity for 2014 April 16th Thru Hike on 01/20/2014 17:04:50 MST Print View

So I will be starting my PCT thru hike north April 16th. I understand that it is a record breaking (or close to it) year in terms of lack of waterfall/snow. I just read that the sierra has about 84% less snow than the 'average' year. Obviously, SoCal is much drier than that, so I understand water sources can and will be 20+ miles apart.

What was the biggest distance between water sources for you?

How much water carrying capacity did you carry with you?
I was thinking carrying (x2) 1.4L platypus containers and (x2) 1L gatorade bottles. That would be just under 7L capacity. I will also be drinking a liter of water at almost every water source to stay hydrated and because I love water.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Water Capacity on 01/20/2014 18:55:09 MST Print View

That sounds like almost 5 liters, not 7 (2 x 1.4L + 2 x 1L = 4.8L).

I'm starting on the PCT around the same time and I'm planning on 10L capacity for my wife and I (4 x 2L platy + 2 x 1L bottle). This is certainly on the low side though and possibly too aggressive.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Looks like I had 6 liters carrying capacity on 01/20/2014 20:24:55 MST Print View

Had to look it up.

I honestly don't remember how far the max distance to carry water was. My carrying capacity was plenty, though, and I rarely filled them all up. The only times I had to push the miles were the times where I knowingly cut it a little close by not taking as much water as I could have. YMMV.

A major strategic point which you've alluded to is to not get behind the curve in hydration. No need to overdo it, just stay fully hydrated. It will give you a considerable buffer.

James Reilly
(zippymorocco) - M

Locale: Montana
6L on 01/20/2014 20:37:26 MST Print View

I am starting April 18th this year and will have a 6 capacity.

Edited by zippymorocco on 01/20/2014 21:22:44 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Water Capacity for 2014 April 16th Thru Hike on 01/20/2014 21:07:42 MST Print View

Also depends on ambient temperature. Everyone is different.

Devin Karch

Locale: NYC
OOPS! on 01/21/2014 15:26:10 MST Print View

Actually its (x2) 2.4Liter platypus bladders. NOT 1.4l. Typo! Sorry. So it seems like having 6.8L capacity seems like within the realm of the other answers i've gotten. Cool. Im super excited. My buddy is coming too. Looking forward to seeing you people out there.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Water Capacity for 2014 April 16th Thru Hike on 01/21/2014 17:19:04 MST Print View

Usually we find 4 PET 1.25 L rocket bottles is enough for the two of us. On very special occasions I have taken a 5th bottle. They are lighter than most anything else except for a clean wine-skin - which I have also used.

It does depend extremly on day-time temperature.


Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
How much capacity? on 01/22/2014 09:02:30 MST Print View

In a normal year I'd suggest 6 liter capacity, though of course that depends on you and various other factors. Do you like to avoid using cache's or do you just take all you need at cache's? Do you follow the thru-hiker mantra of "tank up and camel up" at sources, perhaps stopping for a mid-day snooze near a water source and then hiking into the evening on hotter days? Do you start the trail in decent hiking shape so you can do the miles the very first day (Hauser will surely be dry ...) ?

I personally suggest platypus or similar bladders for extra capacity. Some talk about these getting leaks due to "needles in the desert"; my personal theory on that is that folks that report that problem are storing bladders in the side mesh of their packs.

In a dry year, I might want to take 8 liters of capacity. Any more than 8 liters needed and I'd start serious thinking about some night hiking instead of loading up that heavy.

Carl Umland
(chumland) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Crest Trail, mostly
"Water Capacity for 2014 April 16th Thru Hike" on 01/22/2014 13:05:39 MST Print View

To all potential PCT hikers,
Unless we start getting rain here in SOCAL soon, you'll be carrying a lot more than usual maybe up to two gallons. We are in an emergency drought situation. Most of the seasonal springs and creeks are dry and the sierras may not be much better. It's not just that the creeks are dry but when high daytime temps and low humidity combine it sucks the life out of everything.
Forget about any kind of open flame or campfires. What hasn't already burned in recent years is a tinderbox just waiting for a spark. Last summer smoking outdoors was banned in most all of the parks in California and this year looks to be dryer.
Good luck,
3rd gate water casher, San Diego Trail Angel and PCT hiker since 2004

Derek M.
(dmusashe) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: "Water Capacity for 2014 April 16th Thru Hike" on 01/22/2014 19:26:05 MST Print View

My wife and I are planning to do a PCT thru hike as well this year.

I had been hoping for a dry year, but things are getting a little ridiculous at this point, and I'm now hoping for at least a little more rain. SoCal needs it badly right now. I believe this is one of the driest years on record for much of Southern and Central California.

The water situation in SoCal has me very worried, same as all of you other thru-hiking hopefuls. My wife and I might not be able to start until June, in which case we would begin at Kennedy Meadows. Maybe that would be a blessing in disguise considering the water situation in SoCal. Still, I have trouble believing the SoCal PCT would be very passable in October if we wanted to flip back down to finish the whole trail in one season. That option might be off the table if we have to start in June, but who knows?

The weather could still turn around, I suppose, but things don't look to be going in that direction as it stands.

Edited by dmusashe on 01/22/2014 19:27:07 MST.

Seth Brewer
(Whistler) - MLife

PCT Water Carrying Needs on 01/30/2014 21:10:26 MST Print View

Having thru-hiked last year starting May 19th (well behind the pack) with a Sierra snow load of about 17% of normal (about what this year is looking to be) I had a max capacity of 6 Liters and was simply glad to have the ability to carry that much if needed. I ALMOST NEVER CARRIED MORE THAN 6 LITERS, but I was also hiking fast, taking the heat of the day off to sleep, and hydrating at each water stop. I you plan your hydration needs right, you'll be just fine. Sometimes if I was unsure how much water I needed on a stretch I'd simply bring 6 Liters to start, and give away the water that I didn't think I'd end up using (rarely done, but better safe than sorry).

FYI: I also did SoCal in 30 days (Starting May 19th and June 19th arriving at Kennedy Meadows) so if you're hiking a slower pace, you're water needs may be different then mine. I LOVED having electrolyte capsules with me (HAMMER ENDUROLYTES) and some CHIA seeds just in case.

Edited by Whistler on 01/30/2014 21:12:48 MST.

Ron Moak
(rmoak) - F
Re: Water Capacity for 2014 April 16th Thru Hike on 01/31/2014 08:35:43 MST Print View


What you need more than a water capacity is a water strategy. Having a water strategy means learning how to hike in reasonable comfort through areas that are hot with long dry sections. This means knowing when to hike, when to rest, when to start in the morning, when to stop at night, how to cook, when to cook, what to eat and when, how to dry camp, etc.

You'll be starting early ahead of the crowd. Which is good for getting water from the various caches. However, if you've not already developed a water strategy, it'll be harder to join up someone else and learn.

If you can, I'd try to get back to the Kickoff and attend the water seminar. At the least you'll want to bookmark the water report on the web. If you're carrying a smart phone, you'll want to update it to the latest report every time you hit town.

There are plenty of opportunities to add or remove water capacity at the various stores you'll pass. Developing a functioning water strategy is not so simple.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
Water Capacity for 2014 April 16th Thru Hike on 02/01/2014 15:18:27 MST Print View

I started on April 17th in 2009. I carried 6L when leaving the border at 2pm as Hauser Creek (the only source before Lake Morena) was bone dry. I ran out about 1.5 hours from Lake Morena the next day. It isn't just the raw distance you need to consider but how far you can hike in a day in heat and just how hot it is. I had the ability to carry 6-7L of water for Socal though I more often carried only 4.5L.

I'd plan my day around the PCT water report and tried to always have a little extra. I never depended fully on a water cache. I might top up at one, but in case it was empty I always had enough to safely get to the next source though I might have been thirsty. In fact, in place of some of the water caches, there are alternatives though they may involve hiking a little ways off trail or having to hitch into a town at a road that you didn't intend stopping at.

if the day was very hot, rather then hiking in the heat and having to drink a lot of water as a result, I'd stop around 11am and rest until about 3pm before continuing on. As I only cook 1 meal of the day and eat cold the other meals, I would use that long break to cook my so-called dinner for lunch and then nap away as I digested it. That allowed my dinner later to be quick as I wanted to maximize the last few hours of light to hike in as the temperatures are dropping. I'd get up at the first sign of light and be on the trail before dawn to try to get in as many miles as I could before it got hot. After taking my mid-day break, I'd hike until it got almost dark. I find that I hike much faster when its cool so I adjusted my day to take advantage of it. If I knew a section was going to be hot and no shade available, I occasionally did some night hiking. I'd hike into the night until 10pm or so or I would get up at 3-3:30am and hike in the dark until the sun came up inorder to try to hike through the area before it got hot.

You can adjust how much carrying capacity you have from section to section as you can buy a few drink bottles in a town when you need more and throw them away when you no longer need them.

Edited by Miner on 02/01/2014 15:23:13 MST.