Water in the desert
Feb 28, 2016 at 8:58 am #3385258
I’m going with some scouts on a desert overnight on March 12. It will be a short relatively flat hike in with packs – 2 to 3 miles , then dayhiking for hours, re-hydrating dinner and maybe breakfast and then the hike back out.
How much water would you carry and have scouts carry each for about 24 hours?
There will be no water there. Temps expected in the 80s during the day and maybe 40 at night. Scouts don’t drink coffee, but they need to be comfortably hydrated. We’re teaching them to be prepared. I think they should have at least a half liter after they walk out.
What do you BPLers think?Feb 28, 2016 at 12:38 pm #3385333
can you cache water a few days before or even drop some extra liters a mile or two in?
Do you have sme Philmont studs eager to show off by carrying a few gallons in?Feb 28, 2016 at 1:15 pm #3385352Buck NelsonBPL Member
I think Matthew is thinking along the right lines. It makes all the difference that you are so close to the road.
I’d leave a cooler or two at the vehicles with cold drinks for when you get out. I’d cache a quart of water each at the half-way point and bring 3 quarts all the way to camp.
I talk about how I cached water along the Desert Trail here.Feb 28, 2016 at 2:10 pm #3385368
I don’t know about kids… ages? Do small bodies require less water? Or does their higher metabolism require more water?
for I figure a gallon a day in the desert at those temps… maybe more. The way I interpret your trip it will be a day and a half. That’s 6 liters of water. Maybe more for cooking. And yes, caching along the way is good. If their packs are too heavy maybe just do two trips in? One trip to haul water, one for the normal backpack full of stuff. It’s only 2 to 3 miles so doing two trips is not a real big deal. Try to start early when it’s cool.
BillyFeb 28, 2016 at 2:12 pm #3385369
Also. Do you have shade at your camp? if not, maybe take in some opaque tarps for shade.
billyFeb 28, 2016 at 2:13 pm #3385370
… and wind break… opaque tarps for shade and windbreak. The wind can really suck the moisture out of a body fast…
billyFeb 28, 2016 at 2:40 pm #3385380
I like the idea of everyone carrying 4 liters and caching one halfway in. That gives you a nice buffer.Feb 28, 2016 at 3:21 pm #3385386
Full disclosure, I am planning to cache water and I’ll have to see who signs up. We have a big troop and there is an OofA event that weekend, plus this is considered a beginner’s backpack trek so it might be more young or even recently bridged weblos. I don’t think we’ll ask new 11 year olds to carry a gallon, but any older scouts looking forward to long summer treks should probably carry their share.
Tarps are a great idea. We are going to the wind caves, so presumably it can get windy there. Never been to Philmont, but heard someone say the started using a tarp there and carry one on all trips since.Feb 28, 2016 at 3:36 pm #3385392
Obvious comment: make everyone drink a bunch of water before you start the hike.Feb 28, 2016 at 4:48 pm #3385406
Obvious but welcome Matthew!
This can easily be forgotten during the pack checks.Feb 28, 2016 at 4:52 pm #3385408
Yea… water, not coke or coffee or tea which have caffeine which is a diuretic.
billyFeb 28, 2016 at 5:09 pm #3385412David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
And when you make them drink water before leaving the cars, do like the military or an expedition would: measured and witnessed. That doesn’t mean you can’t make a game of it. A fun-sized candy bar for each pint consumed, minimum of 1, max of 3.
The water you leave in the car for when you return? Freeze the jugs and leave them in a hard cooler or soft insulated cooler. Two or three gallons, out of the sun, even in a hot car or (better yet) trunk, will take that long to thaw. Throwing a jacket or blanket or sleeping bag over and it will last much longer.
If you’re careful about dinner prep and washing afterwards, I’d say a gallon each. But have extra in the car so if it’s hotter than you expect, 3 or 4 of the stronger hikers could go get more.
Watch the overweight, out-of-shape boys closely – they can be dripping sweat and legitimately need twice or more of what the other boys do. This applies equally to overweight, out-of-shape dads!Feb 28, 2016 at 5:31 pm #3385417Gary DunckelBPL Member
“Obvious comment: make everyone drink a bunch of water before you start the hike.”
I totally agree with that statement. The most efficient way to fully hydrate is not at the trail head though–it’s at home the day & night before. Have all the boys drink a lot of water the day before, pee a lot, and keep doing this (tell the parents to watch over this to make sure that it happens). The body can only absorb a small amount of water per hour (up to a pint?), and once a person starts to get dehydrated on the trail it is really hard to catch back up. It might take a few days to become fully rehydrated.Feb 28, 2016 at 5:53 pm #3385419
Good points^Feb 28, 2016 at 7:21 pm #3385436Buck NelsonBPL Member
As far as hydrating before the trip, I agree with this triathlete:
To get to this optimum [hydration] state the first and most important thing to do is to avoid dramatically over-drinking. Whilst it is a good idea to take in one or two additional cups of fluid each day in the final couple of days to make up for any lingering shortfall in your system it is certainly not necessary or beneficial to go crazy with the drinking over and above what your body is telling you that you need. Urine colour and thirst remain the most helpful indicators of hydration status that you have at your disposal. Ensure your pee is not too dark in colour or low in volume and don’t mistake a large amount of really clear urine as a universally good thing. If you are getting the balance about right you should be passing reasonable quantities of straw coloured pee a few times a day and not feeling too thirsty. Trust your body on this.Mar 3, 2016 at 1:42 pm #3386524
We are going to the wind caves, so presumably it can get windy there.
Wind Caves eh? Sounds like you’re heading out to Anza Borrego in the Fish Creek Wash neck of the woods. I haven’t been backpacking out there but I have been off roading and car camping quite a few times. I’ve only had really windy conditions out there once. Other than that the weather has been great.
Depending on where your route takes you I’d cache water in order to keep from having to haul too much, especially with the younger guys.Mar 3, 2016 at 1:59 pm #3386536
“Sounds like you’re heading out to Anza Borrego in the Fish Creek Wash neck of the woods”
That’s the place Jake. If you’ve been there you know the vehicles with reasonable ground clearance usually get through split mountain and then can drive for miles. I recon’d the hike last month, but storms can mess up the wash and we’re expecting one this weekend – trek is a week later.
I’m pretty confident we will be able to send one car ahead through the canyon with extra water just in case. Maybe even a firepit and some firewood – although that should be a surprise to the scouts.
It’s a beginner’s backpack and I want them to experience the necessary reliance on what you can pack-in, but also want it to be fun for all. We’ve told the scouts to bring 5 quarts of water, but if we make them drink one before departing the vehicle area then that should be pretty standard 1 gallon per scout per day – standard for SoCal where water sources are often unreliable or non-existent. I like the idea of a candy bar for anyone who drinks that quart on the way there.
If anyone is truly in trouble with that 8lbs of water then we’ll see what the scout-led patrol comes up with as a solution. Not counting on the water cached in the car for emergencies.Mar 3, 2016 at 3:44 pm #3386565
If you’ve been there you know the vehicles with reasonable ground clearance usually get through split mountain and then can drive for miles.
I’ve driven down the Pinon Mtn Road from the back side and down into fish creek wash. There’s a few hairy spots on that route, but you have to be looking to go there to get there. You’re right about ground clearance. A little clearance and careful tire placement on a low slung car when driving in goes a long way. I’ve seen Subarus all the way up into Sandstone Canyon at the end where it turns into wilderness in the past, before it was blocked by a rock slide last fall.
Looks like the weather will be nice out there this weekend, might get a bit breezy at night according to the NWS forecast. Our troop is heading up to Death Valley this weekend for family camp. I’m really looking forward to the wildflower show that is going on up there. I missed the last “superbloom” in 2005.Mar 3, 2016 at 11:58 pm #3386638David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
“If anyone is truly in trouble with that 8lbs of water then we’ll see what the scout-led patrol comes up with as a solution. Not counting on the water cached in the car for emergencies.”
The kid in back gets his water drunk by others on the hike (and replaced once in camp) so as to lighten his load. M&Ms are dispensed down the line from front to back: 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7 M&Ms. . . to successive scouts so someone doesn’t game the system by intentionally hanging back.
If you will be transferring or refilling water containers, a large funnel is only 2 or 3 ounce and will save a lot of water from being spilled.Mar 11, 2016 at 10:34 am #3388301
How did your trip with your troop go out in Anza Borrego? Interested as to what route you took and how you handled the water situation.Mar 11, 2016 at 10:56 am #3388316Nick GatelBPL Member
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
I think everyone missed Buck’s post, since no one commented on it. I am not a triathlete, I just walk in deserts. I don’t drink extra water before a trip. Actually I usually drink my normal amount of breakfast coffee on my way to a trailhead.
As far as hydrating before the trip, I agree with this triathlete:
To get to this optimum [hydration] state the first and most important thing to do is to avoid dramatically over-drinking. Whilst it is a good idea to take in one or two additional cups of fluid each day in the final couple of days to make up for any lingering shortfall in your system it is certainly not necessary or beneficial to go crazy with the drinking over and above what your body is telling you that you need. Urine colour and thirst remain the most helpful indicators of hydration status that you have at your disposal. Ensure your pee is not too dark in colour or low in volume and don’t mistake a large amount of really clear urine as a universally good thing. If you are getting the balance about right you should be passing reasonable quantities of straw coloured pee a few times a day and not feeling too thirsty. Trust your body on this.Mar 11, 2016 at 10:56 am #3388317
Meet up at 6:30 am Saturday for the drive out. We’ll be there Saturday mid-morning through Sunday.Mar 11, 2016 at 11:19 am #3388322
Meet up at 6:30 am Saturday for the drive out. We’ll be there Saturday mid-morning through Sunday.
Ahh, I thought you guys were heading out there last weekend. Hopefully the rain forecasted for the area will have abated by then. Looks like the wildflowers are starting to take off out there, mostly in the northern part of the park but there should be some stuff in bloom out in the neck of the woods where you guys will be.Mar 14, 2016 at 11:06 am #3389059
Weather was great – mid 70s and not a cloud in the sky. I guess Friday was windy according to some other scouts we ran into that drove out Friday night and were car camping in the area. Saturday had a mild breeze that calmed about sunset.
First, thanks to all that replied on the water. We had one extra adult not interested in backpacking, who drove the family SUV through the canyon to the base of the wind caves trail and then to our campsite nearby. They had the water cache and a small fire pit as planned. Scouts started stashing all kinds of gear into that car. What would they be training for anyway? The youngest scout (who didn’t quite catch on) had the biggest pack, almost 30% his weight. His 1P tent was an REI 2P camp dome. We removed half his water and he did fine. Some of the older scouts were at 12-16 pounds, and strolling along. It was a beginner backpack, my co-leader’s sons were leading the way offloading gear into their car, and of course it is a scout lead trek. Scouts had already decided to bring the car camp patrol box because of this arrangement. Me and a few scouts carried all our gear, but we were probably light on water. It’s amazing how much water you can drink in the desert – even with mild temps. 5 quarts would have been adequate, but we would have been washing pots and mess kits in sand or with wipes.
The beauty of the hike and amazing weather overcame any angst I had about not doing a real backpack. Plus I had a “new” Tarptent Notch (purchased here) to try out for the first time. I’ll also plug the Zpacks Multipack and the ULA Ohm 2. All great light gear for an ASM trying to keep up with teenage scouts on the trail.
If you haven’t been to the Wind Caves near Split Mountain before, it’s really a playground for kids of all ages. Rangers say they are not allowing groups to camp there anymore and you can clearly see the artifacts of those less “clean in their outdoor manners.” Even so, worth the trip. Someone could have slept (maybe not comfortably) here:
Here’s the big picture…
and in the other direction is the Elephant Knees (we didn’t make it that far)
On the way out Sunday, packs were stashed in the car and we day-hiked out with water and essentials. The scouts decided to mark their accomplishment in the rocks. So much for leave no trace – not sure how we straighten that out.
One more story to share. On the way there Saturday morning we stopped at the Slot – another popular hike in Anza Borrego, near scissor crossing. I’ve been there a few times, but it’s cool enough to take anyone who hasn’t seen it before. This time was unique, due to thousands (maybe tens of thousands?) of caterpillars all over the place. Maybe it happens every month or year, but I’ve never seen it. It had us tip-toeing down the canyon. Again worth the drive if you can see it – even without the caterpillars.
That’s all for this weekend. Probably getting too late for another desert trek this season. The local mountains are calling next.
Thanks for reading,
Bob (Slbear)May 30, 2016 at 10:41 pm #3405931Tom PetersonBPL Member
@tpeterson1959Locale: Pacific Northwest
I realize you completed this hike, but I thought I would weigh in. Although I live in the Puget Sound area now, I was a SM in Las Vegas for nine years. As a rule, we made sure all participants had at least one gallon of water per person, per day, no matter where we went. If we were in a desert camp site (i.e. Death Valley or Mojave National Preserve), or on a beach in the desert (i.e. Lake Mead or along the Colorado River), we would increase it to a gallon and half. We required each person carry all his own water, and if that resulted in a pack that was too heavy as a percentage of body weight, we redistributed OTHER gear so that everybody always had their full ration of water. On multi day backpacks, we cached water ahead of time. On hikes, we enforced drinking rules and made sure everyone drank at least once per half hour. We particularly watched for mild headaches – the first sign of dehydration. For first aid, we emphasized treatment for heat exhaustion and heat stroke so everyone could help treat a case if it came up. All of this stemmed from a news report I read with in a few weeks of moving to Las Vegas about a Las Vegas Eagle Scout who died of heat stroke because he decided he didn’t need water before going on a hike.
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