Saturday, March 2, 2013

Don't skimp on water when day hiking with children

As water is the heaviest item you’ll probably carry, there is a temptation to not take as much as one should. Don’t skimp on the amount of water you bring, though; after all, it’s the one thing your body most needs. It’s always better to end up having more water than you needed than returning to your vehicle dehydrated.

How much water should you take? Adults need at least a quart for every two hours hiking. Children need to drink about a quart every two hours of walking and more if the weather is hot, dry or cold and if at a high altitude. To keep kids hydrated, have them drink at every rest stop. Don’t presume there will be water on the hiking trail. Most trails outside of urban areas lack such public amenities. In addition, don’t drink water from local streams, lakes, rivers or ponds. There’s no way to tell if local water is safe or not. As soon as you have consumed half of your water supply, you should turn around for the vehicle.

Adds Walt O., of Bozeman, Mont., “To be safe, keep extra water in the car just in case you underestimate the amount of water needed or if canteen spills leave you short on water during the hike. Water could be frozen in bottles so that when you arrive back at your vehicle, it’s still cold but melted.”

Bottled beverages containing juice or sports drinks are fine, but they also are no replacement for pure water. If your kids bring them, make sure they also drink water on the hike. In addition, don’t let children bring boxed juice, which can easily spill and attract stinging insects.

Finally, remember that when children are young you’ll need to carry their water as well. Accommodate for that in your packing.

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.