How To Carry Water Backpacking (Volume & Storage Methods)

You need to know how to carry water backpacking. You never want to be without water on trails, especially if you’re going to go a long way. It’s important to stay hydrated, but you also want to have water in case you get lost.  

Having a good hiking backpack should help you transport water efficiently.  

Common Ways To Carry Water While Backpacking

Hard Water Bottles  

Hard water bottles are durable and won’t get destroyed inside of your backpack. They’re also easy to fill and carry. However, some people don’t like their higher weight, which makes it inconvenient to take backpacking. 

Overall, they’re the classic option. You can find larger bottles, making it possible to carry several ounces of water with you. 

Collapsible Water Bottles  

Collapsible bottles are another option. They resemble a balloon and are lighter than the hard bottles. They don’t take up as much space either- and are tiny when emptied. Many backpackers prefer this option since they’re more convenient. 

The only downside is some models are harder to fill with water.

Squeeze Water Bottles  

These water bottles only release fluid when you squeeze them, making it harder for them to spill in your bag. They’re light and usually easy to squeeze, so they’re not as durable as some other options. 

Disposable Water Bottles  

These are the basic plastic bottles you find at the grocery store. They’re pretty light, and you throw them out when you're done with them. However, this can be bad for the environment. They're also not nearly as durable as hard bottles and cost you more over time.

Hydration Water Bottles  

These bottles attach to your bag and are more convenient to carry. Since they’re built right into the backpack, you often don’t have to worry about them getting left behind or lost. Plus, they usually won’t hinder your movement at all. 

Thermos Bottles  

Thermos bottles have an additional layer in their construction, allowing them to keep your water cold for long periods. If you know you’re going to be outside for a long time, then they can help you stay hydrated. They’re also great for holding hot drinks, like tea or coffee. 

red hydro flask

Factors That Impact How Much Water To Carry  

Number Of Days  

The amount of time you plan on sticking to the trail also impacts your water use. You should always bring about 64 ounces of water per day as a base. From there, you add more, depending on the conditions outside and your hiking plans.  

If you're going for a day hike, you can bring one large bottle. However, if you’re going to be going on a longer hike, make sure you bring the proper amount of water. 

Distance From Water Source  

If you know you’ll be a lot further away from a convenient source of water, make sure that you bring more water. You want to ensure you have enough to make it to another water source if you have to refill your bottles. 

Weather Forecasts  

In the cooler months, you're going to sweat less- so you probably won't feel as thirsty. In hot weather, you always want to take more. If it's really warm, about 32 ounces of water per hour is a good idea. It’s a lot of water, you may not drink it, but it’s good to have it there. You don't want to dehydrate yourself. 

Drinking & Cooking Water Needs  

When out on the trail for more extended periods, you'll probably set up camp for the night. You want to make sure you bring extra water for cooking and drinking. Having another 32 ounce collapsible water bottle is a great idea- you can easily stash it away once you’ve used the extra water up. You can also consider cooler backpacks for shorter journeys and occasions with friends.

Exposure To Elements 

Finally, if it’s snowing or raining, people tend to drink a lot less. This is due to the weather helping to keep you cool, so your body isn’t using as much water as it may otherwise. You’ll want to still bring enough water for the day, but know that you might not go through all of it. Aside from this, make sure you have waterproofing for your backpack. Another option is to consider choosing a backpack made with waterproof materials.

man with hiking backpack standing on a mountain

How Much Water Should You Carry While Backpacking?  

  • Shorter Trips 
    You shouldn't deprive yourself of water, even on shorter hikes. You want to make sure that you always bring enough with you. Without it, you could wear yourself out and struggle with dehydration and exhaustion- two things to avoid on the trail!  With shorter hikes, you'll drink less water. You also have peace of mind knowing you're going home soon. For a start, drink 16 ounces before you leave. Then, carry another 32 ounces with you. You might not make it the whole way through the second bottle- but it's better to have extra than not enough. 
  • Longer Trips 
    With longer hikes, you can expect to travel over 20 miles in a single day. You should always bring as much water as possible. If you're cooking and eating outdoors, you'll need to bring even more water with you.  It’s best to bring about 32 ounces per every five miles that you plan on traveling. However, if you want to do a multi-day long trip, always bring more than you think you need. 

How To Carry Water Backpacking (Storage Tips For Minimizing)

Many people don’t like carrying a lot of water with them- it’s heavy! You’ll want to use the below tips to lighten your load some.  

First, drink before you hit the trail. You’ll make your water reservoirs last much longer if you don’t start drinking as soon as you step foot on the trail. Try to drink a large, full glass before you head out.  

Next, consider buying a water filter. When you come across a water source, you can use it to clean water. Then reload all of your empty water bottles. If you only bring one, this method is usually more efficient and lighter. 

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How do I keep my water from freezing while hiking? 

Insulated bottles keep the cold out, preventing the bottle from freezing. You can also store it close to your body, so the heat you give off naturally keeps it warm. Wide mouth bottles also help to prevent freezing. 

How do you best filter water when backpacking?  

Filtration is more convenient when the system is already attached to the water bottle. You simply fill it and wait for it to finish filtering the water through. There are plenty of models for you to consider. 

How much water do I need to hike a mile?  

For a mile, you want to bring about 16 ounces of water. This is the size of a typical water bottle, so you should have more than enough. 

Where do you put your water bottle in a hiking backpack?  

There are usually pockets on the outside you can put the bottles in. You just want to make sure they’re somewhere you can easily reach them. 


Overall, you need to make sure that you bring water with you on your hiking trip. If you don’t mind the additional weight, then adding more water is better.  

  • Updated November 6, 2021