A Water Supply Depletes Fast

The worst case scenario is to run out of drinking water while hiking. The extremely dry Arizona climate can be absolutely unforgiving. Unfortunately, due to inadequate hydration practices, several hikers over the past few years have fallen prey to the scorching and relentless sun along some of the most popular hiking and biking trails in the region. How can this happen? It would seem most hikers carry substantial amounts of bottled water and hydration bladders in their backpacks. This is simply not true. I have personally come across numerous hikers within the desert carrying no water at all and the ones that do are on the verge of running out soon. Excuses range from, “My friend and I are sharing” or “I’m only going a few miles” or “I don’t like to carry a lot of water with me, it’s too heavy.” Regardless of the excuse, hikers find themselves in big trouble when they do finally start to panic realizing their water supply is depleting fast.

Be Smart, Carry Less Water, but Plan!

Over the past couple years, I’ve been experimenting with the idea of going on various hikes knowing that natural water sources are available along the trail. Having these watering holes available is one example to help keep my backpack load much lighter, in effect, reducing the stress on my joints and Achilles’ tendons and allowing for a much smoother and less tiresome trek.

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Water Pool Along Secret Canyon Trail

I’ve concluded that by planning out my adventures in explicit detail days before, I always end up with more plentiful drinking water than I could ever have imagined.  One day while hiking along Secret Canyon Trail, I noticed a plentiful water supply rushing down the creek beds and trapped deep pools of water cooling in the shaded areas against the red rock cliffs. In the summer months following, I re-hiked the trail noticing the same pools of water hydrating the canyon. I said to myself, “Why on earth am I carrying 100 ounces of heavy water when there is plentiful water to drink everywhere?”

I began searching for a water purification system that was easy to use and one that fit my style of long day hikes. After a thorough review researching a multitude of systems, I chose the Camelbak “All Clear” UV Water purification system. It fits my needs perfectly and may not be designed for everyone. (See video above)

How to Carrying 25 Ounces of Water on a 12-mile Adventure

Here is an example of how I would prepare my hydration hike carrying only 25 ounces (750ml) of water. View the illustration above for the 6 mile loop. An additional 6 miles is added in for bike riding to the starting point.

  1. After riding down a dirt road on my mountain bike for 3 miles to water source no. 1, I would drink all 25 ounces of water in my Camelbak All Clear Bottle and refill. At this point, I would hide my bike in the woods.
  2. Next, I would then hike to water source no. 2 and drink another 50 ounces of water by purifying two more times. I might add a Nuun electrolyte energy tab to the water bottle for some flavor.
  3. Continuing onto water source no. 3, I would decide whether or not I would purify water and fill it into my empty hydration bladder I keep in my backpack as a backup. Filling it up would give me an additional 100 ounces (total 125 ounces including my filled water bottle). Keep in mind, water source no. 4 is about 1.4 miles away.
  4. Once reaching water source no. 4, I would rehydrate again and have some trail mix and a power bar. At this time, in the summer, it would be about 90 degrees. I have to consider how deep the pools of water have been to determine if water source 5 and 6 will sustain me back to the beginning.
  5. If water source no. 5 is plentiful, I will drink as much water as I can, fill up my bottle and bladder and move onto retrieving my bike.
  6. Water source no. 6 in the summer months is usually 1/3 of what is shown on the satellite view image.

Now keep in mind, this is certainly way more water than I would normally drink on an easy 6-mile hike. But, my point is to map out all water sources using waypoints on your GPS device or plot them onto your map. Going off trail 50 yards sometimes is necessary for keeping you hydrated and your water bottle or bladder filled to the brim. Also, I retro fitted my Camelbak All Clear with a bladder tube so I can sip along the way. I like to keep moving.

My advice would be to GPS log water holes, streams, forest tanks, and lakes. Be sure to also note the time of year and perhaps depth and length. You may need a flat plastic bag in shallow water holes to gather the water then pour it into your hydration bottle.

I have now used the Camelbak All Clear system for about 3 years and have never gotten sick. Trust me, some of my sources were sketchy at best. As long as your water is clear the UV system will purify the contents. I don’t recommend murky or heavily cloudy water during the 60 second purification process.

Being prepared is the key to an enjoyable desert adventure. In order to have a safe and pleasurable time hiking with friends, certain precautions must be abided to. Simply be certain everyone in the group has enough drinkable water per person to complete the trip.