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water management / refilling at springs

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Offline russell15324

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water management / refilling at springs
« on: March 06, 2018, 10:39:30 PM »
Hi all,

Since my first post on this forum a few years back, I've been to BB 4 times! And I have endless gratitude for the advice I've gotten lurking here. I've done 2 stays in the Chisos and 1 in Marufo Vega, all of them single-night trips. I'm beginning to entertain the possibility of multiple night off-trail trips in the desert area.

I'm interested in learning all about good water management strategies for hikes of 2+ nights where it's too heavy to carry all the water you'll drink. So really my question is very open ended, tell me everything you know about water management! But my specific questions would be:

1. what do you do if you hit a place where you intended to refill, but it's dry? Are you forced to adjust your route to head back early, or omit some hiking to get directly to another potential water source? Or, do you carry enough surplus water that if any given refill point is dry, you can carry on to the next?

2. how much water do you typically start out carrying? I understand this is very individual and based on how much you consume given your size, etc, I'm just trying to get a rounded picture here.

3. how long does it take before water reports become outdated? I know I should always be cautious because it could change in a day, but if two weeks passed since someone reported "great flow at X spring and a little flow at Y spring", would you think it's now outdated? Or if four weeks or two months passed?

4. how often do you typically refill? Once per couple days, a couple time per day, etc?

Any advice is appreciated.  :notworthy:


Offline mule ears

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Re: water management / refilling at springs
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2018, 07:17:55 AM »
Russell, great topic and questions and one that had been discussed in many ways.  Here is a good thread on how much water to carry.

1.  The classic advice it to carry enough to get to your next guaranteed water source but you at least need to arrive with some back up in case it is dry.  A quart or two.  Yes sometimes you alter the trip plan to more directly get to a good water source.

2. Enough to get to the next guaranteed water source.  Could be a liter or two or gallons.  My rule of thumb is 5 liters a day (4 if it is cool, say highs below 60 or 70).  One for breakfast and early morning, one mid morning, one for lunch, one for afternoon, one for dinner.  You want to drink a lot (maybe a liter) but not crazy too much as the body really can only absorb so much in a short period of time at each water source.  So say you leave the trail head hydrated after breakfast and you will hit water late in the afternoon you might carry 3 liters.  If you would hit water the next morning then I would carry 5, etc.  Others can get by will a little less and others need more, you will have to find your happy spot.

3. I usually don't trust anything over a month old, then only for really strong springs.  The farther away from the rainy season (ends typically in Oct.) the less reliable.  April and May are the hardest as it is really getting hot and there are almost no water reports and the NPS will never give you any accurate information.  Late fall through early spring things usually keep flowing pretty well.

4.  As often as possible to keep the pack weight down but even if ample water maybe twice a day to reduce the time required (desert water sources are not like filling up in mountain springs, it can be tedious).  In a perfect world I try and camp near (not on top of) a water source so I don't have to carry my evening and morning water and can leave the source well hydrated.

Glad to hear that you are expanding your horizons, lots to explore out there but water is the limiting factor.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water


Offline DesertRatShorty

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Re: water management / refilling at springs
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2018, 02:52:21 PM »
A few general thoughts:

a) water consumption is highly dependent on temperature and exertion level. my water consumption for a full day of backpacking in big bend has ranged from 2.5 liters (high in the 40s, easy terrain) to 6-7 (high in the 80s, rugged terrain).

b) you have to gradually learn for your self what your requirements and limits are. start out conservatively and learn your comfort zone

c) when you are ready to commit to a trip, post you thoughts on your itinerary and water management and you'll get lot's of helpful, specific advice

d) some springs can dry up within a month as ME said, but others are known to be quite reliable, so again just ask when it's time to plan a trip.
I roamed and rambled, and I foller'ed my footsteps
   To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
   And all around me a voice was a'sounding
   This land was made for you and me



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