Beginner’s guide to staying hydrated while hiking

Staying hydrated is one of the most important ways to make sure you enjoy yourself outdoors, no matter what season it is. Hiking is 100 times more enjoyable when you have water…and you actually remember to drink it.

I can’t even count how many times just drinking some water has taken care of feeling like crap when hiking. This is particularly important somewhere dry like Colorado, if you’re hiking at higher altitude, or if you’re hungover (or, god forbid, all three).

And don’t let cold weather fool you into thinking you don’t need to bring water with you. It’s extra dry already, and your body uses up a lot of water to heat up the freezing cold air that you breathe in all winter long, making hydration a year-round priority.

Bringing water with you isn’t exactly rocket science, but buying a reusable bottle or using a reservoir will be more cost-effective in the long run, cuts down on plastic waste, and allows you to bring much more water with you. 

Types of water bottles

REI has a million options, and if the amount of options on that webpage overwhelms you, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

The orange bottle on the right is a Nalgene. This is a common style, but I also commonly spill water all over myself when I drink out of them.

The basic Nalgene-style bottles are typically the cheapest, but I usually end up spilling water all over my face because of the wide opening. Fortunately, Nalgene makes a narrow-mouth model. Nalgenes are buy one, get one free at REI for Labor Day 2020!

Camelbak’s Eddy bottle is one of the few allegedly spill-proof bottles with a straw. I used to love Eddy’s but mine have continuously leaked badly over the last few years, so I’ve given up. Baby OB has a child’s Eddy that so far doesn’t seem to have the same issues, but only time will tell!

Collapsible water bottles, like the one in the foreground of that photo, are a great option because they take up less space as you drink more water.

But everyone has a Hydroflask, should I get one?

Having an insulated water bottle like a Hydroflask (or Yeti or Takeya) can be nice to get your drinks hot or cold. However, they are MUCH heavier. I have a Takeya water bottle that I carry around home or throw in my running stroller, but it’s too heavy to take hiking.

Unless you’re camping or looking for a coffee mug, you likely don’t need to spring for something insulated.

(Personal note: I find it infuriating that Yeti charges $40 for a coffee mug that still, by their own admission, leaks, so I refuse to buy anything from them now.)

What if I need more water than fits in a bottle?

If you’ve decided to like hiking enough that you want to go for a few hours or several miles, you can also consider getting a bladder (also known as a reservoir, but I think bladder sounds funny).


These are awesome because you don’t have to reach back into your backpack thanks to the handy dandy straw. You can bring more water with you as well, and it doesn’t take up much extra room in your pack. I compared multiple models of reservoirs in this blog.

Is water all I need to drink?

If you’re going to be sweating a lot, consider adding an electrolyte to your water. I love Vitalyte because its taste discrete and the product is overall very cost-effective. I had some issues with fainting a while ago, and still have what some might call a delicate system, and Vitalyte has become my drink of choice to keep any light-headedness at bay.

I’ve also tried Clif Shots, but they are much more expensive and the flavor is way more noticeable. I haven’t tried Nuun or Tailwind because of their price. I’ll stick with my bag o’ Vitalyte in the meantime.

If you prefer pre-made sports drinks, at least try Gatorade Zero, since it has less sugar. I have nothing against Powerade, except for I threw up right after drinking it once and the blue flavor came up black. It was necessary to share that disgusting story with you to explain why I will never drink Powerade again. I could be biased, but getting your wisdom teeth taken out is traumatic enough without that experience added on.

Now that you’ve got that image in your head, get out there and recreate safely! Staying hydrated is key to enjoying yourself outside, so don’t skimp on the water and have fun out there.

Published by Laura Cardon

Laura Cardon moved to Colorado as an adult and quickly realized how difficult it was to get started exploring the outdoors in a state full of experts. She founded Outdoor Beginner in 2014 to fill the gap in beginner-friendly content for camping, hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities. In addition to Outdoor Beginner, she coaches beginner trail runners and works at Runners Roost in Golden, Colorado, where she lives with her spouse and toddler.

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