Carrying water while geocaching: How much and how to carry it

I got asked the question:

What’s the best way to carry water while geocaching. A Camelbak seems like overkill!

~ Roger

Great question, Roger!

You might not know this but I spent about 10 years volunteering for Yavapai County Search & Rescue. One thing that was common was that people didn’t carry nearly enough water!

While geocachers probably AREN’T hiking 10, 12, 15 miles in a single stretch water is something that you should always have plenty of.

Jess carries a TON of water with her all the time!

Jess carries a TON of water with her all the time!

It’s important as well to know your personal water needs. My friend Jess needs about double the water I do. On a recent 10-mile day hike, she carried SEVEN LITERS! But she knew she needed it! I’m typically good with 3.

And don’t forget to take weather and activity into account as well. If it’s hot you’ll want more water. If you’re exerting (up and down hills) you’ll want more.

Here are my top tips:

1. Carry at least a gallon of water per person in your car

I buy the gallon jugs from the supermarket when they’re on sale for $0.89 and they just hang out in the truck. If I use it, great! (Or part of it!) And if I don’t it goes back into the garage for the next outing.

One time on a backpacking trip we hiked to the truck – pretty much STRAIGHT up hill. Even though the water bladders were full at the bottom by the time we got to the truck, I was empty. And no extra water in the truck and an hour on a back road to town.

Totally broke the cardinal rule of heading out: Carry Water!

(Don’t tell my dad!)

After that trip, yep, I always have water in the truck. I also carry a half gallon extra per dog.

2. Carry water with you while on the trail

I carry 3 liters with this set up.

I carry 3 liters with this set up.

Don’t forget, Roger, you can get CambelBak (or other bladders) in a variety of sizes. I’ve got a 1.5-liter in a “kid” backpack for short trails and a 3-liter for day trips. You don’t have to fill it FULL if weight is an issue.

I also carry at least one 1-liter Nalgene water bottle with me. A carabiner through the lid and I can attach it to my belt or bag. (Or, more often, to Ben!)

The best ways to carry #water while #hiking or #geocaching. Share on X

Last spring we did a hike where Ben & I BOTH ran out. I was full at 3 liters and he was carrying 5. It was hotter, harder work, and farther than we had originally planned. And yep, I got a “you need to drink NOW” headache.

(Again, DON’T tell my dad!)

Thankfully, we had water in the car. See item 1!

3. Carry an emergency purification method

You can’t drink wild water. It’s not safe!

Let me say that again: Don’t drink wild water! It’s not okay if it’s moving, it’s not okay if it’s bubbling up from a stream, it’s not okay in a “clean” puddle. It’s just not okay!

(I know SOMEBODY is going to tell me they do it all the time and they’re fine. I don’t care. 10 years in SAR speaking here!)


So what do you do? You need to carry at least one emergency purification method. That can include:

UV water sterilizer in action.

UV water sterilizer in action.

Sure, the water might taste gross but a high-quality emergency purification method lessens your chance of contracting a water-borne illness. And some of those… they can kill or cause permanent bodily damage.

I get it that water is heavy and can be a pain to carry. But it’s ALWAYS better to get home with more than you needed and pour it into your houseplants than to get into trouble on the trail!

As an aside, I don’t recommend re-filling store-filled water bottles or energy drink bottles. The plastic is designed for single-use only and can grow bacteria. Invest in a hydration system or refillable water bottle.

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