When you’re packing your backpack for your hiking trip in the Sonoran Desert, you’ve got to think about both comfort and safety. From choosing your hiking shoes and attire to planning how much water to bring, the amount of planning you do can make or break your hiking trip!

We’ve paired research with firsthand experience to give you the best information possible about how much water to drink while day hiking in Arizona.

Of course, check out our information on general hiking safety before you head out, and speak with a medical professional if you have any questions/concerns surrounding your ability to hike safely. 

The Function of Good Hydration

Water has several important functions in your body:

  • It regulates your body temperature,
  • lubricates your joints,
  • helps transport nutrients, and
  • helps your heart pump blood throughout your body.

When you exercise, your heart rate increases and your body produces sweat to prevent you from overheating. As a result, you lose important fluids from your body. The role of those fluids is vital: your heart function relies on proper hydration, and your physical and mental well-being while hiking depends greatly on how hydrated you are. Without being hydrated, you probably won’t feel well and likely won’t enjoy hiking.

Image by FelixMittermeier from Pixabay

How Much Water to Bring Hiking

The general rule of thumb is to drink between 0.5-1 liter of water every hour that you spend exercising. This is equivalent to between half to a full quart-size mason jar, or 16-32 ounces. 

This doesn’t mean that if you plan to hike for three hours that you should drink 1.5 liters of water before you hit the trail and leave your water bottle in the car. Not only will this probably give you some major stomach cramps, but it will also likely result in your being dehydrated by the end of your hike. 

Consistency is Key

Your water intake should be consistent. You should be taking small sips of water basically every few minutes. This is easy to achieve if you bring a water bladder backpack with a tube – like a CamelBak – but those definitely aren’t required. Just keep your water bottle in the side pocket of your backpack so you have easy access, which will encourage you to take sips of water more frequently and consistently.

Your water needs will vary depending on a few factors: temperature, elevation, trail difficulty, and your personal stamina. If hiking in the Sonoran desert, check out the weather before you head out. If it’s going to be a scorcher, don’t be conservative – drink the full liter (32 ounces) of water every hour! 

Photo by Autri Taheri on Unsplash

Dangers of Dehydration

Dehydration can happen whenever you’re losing fluid from your body more quickly than you’re taking it in. It impairs your body’s ability to regulate heat, causing your body temperature and heart rate to rise. It’s a dangerous situation that can lead to life-threatening conditions such as heat stroke and hypothermia. Certain drinks like alcohol, caffeine, and other drinks classified as diuretics can lead to dehydration since they increase urination. These should be avoided while exercising. 

Signs and symptoms of dehydration:

  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea/ vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Hard, fast heartbeat

Final Thoughts

One of our best hydration while hiking tips is that good hydration starts long before you ever hit the trail!

The day you plan on hiking, (the day before is even better) go ahead and start paying attention to your water intake. Jumpstart your hydration for the day by drinking a liter of water as soon as you wake up.

If you aren’t sure about how much water to bring hiking, you can book one of our beginner-friendly hiking tours and leave the planning to our professional, experienced guides.