↑ Return to Trekking Tips

Trail and Camp-Water Discipline


It has been said often enough that a person can survive for several days, even weeks, without food, but only for a few days without water. The period of survival being dependent on the weather as a most critical factor. When the sun is out, even trekking inside the forest line can result in the loss of much body water via sweating and breathing out.

It may come as a surprise to non-locals, but even in a tropical area like the Philippines, trekkers can become victims of dehydration. Water sources may be off the regular trails, unknown to trekkers unfamiliar with the area, or these may be too far in between for some. And, on the upper reaches nearing the peaks, there are no springs, only possibly impounding areas. In places like Mt. San Cristobal in Dolores, Quezon Province, the impounded water in the crater area is not suitable even for cooking. In the middle slopes of Mt. Mayon, the volcano in Legazpi City, Albay Province, the only water sources are depressions in the dried lava beds (and these could dry out in the peak of a really hot summer).

Hence, it is important that a trekker, anywhere, knows how to conserve water. Of course, one should know how to spot and locate likely water sources, but that is for another session.

Some tips to follow:

  • Water conservation starts at the meal planning stage. Plan on meals that require minimal post-meal washing of cooking equipment, plates and utensils.For example, pots used to prepare instant noodle soups require much less washing than pots used to cook rice or fried items.
  • When unfamiliar with the route, assume that water sources may be scarce. Start off with enough trekking and cooking water. What is enough is dependent on the weather and terrain, the physique and condition of the individual, and the distance between water sources. Better to over-estimate the need for water than to under-estimate this.
  • Replenish water supply at every chance. Do not leave off doing this at the next known or likely source. The next source may have dried out due to natural causes.
  • When the need to drink occurs, drink just enough to satiate the thirst. Over-drinking is wasteful and may even cause discomfort. The body will get rid of excess water soon enough. But, drink if you have to.
  • To maximize the benefit of drinking, particularly in warm or hot weather, do not take it in big, instant gulps. Swish the water around to freshen your mouth before swallowing, and give the stomach enough time to send signals to the brain that it has had enough.
  • In campsites far from accessible water sources, conserve wash water. Use just enough to wash food residue off plates and utensils. Do not use soap, and do not waste the water, drink it! It may seem yucky and un-hygienic, but, remember you ate the food that left all that residue. (Note: do not drink if drinking water requires treatment and is kept separate from wash water.) Finish off cleaning by using tissue or pieces of paper to wipe the items (and remember to stash the used tissue or paper into your garbage bag).
  • You may still brush your teeth after each meal, just make do with less and smaller mouthfuls for gargling. And, if you decide to forego with the brushing, take in a regular mouthful of water, forcefully swish it around to loosen those bits of food, then swallow the water. Do this at least a couple of times. This helps in the dental hygiene aspect and conserve water to boot. (Note: in both cases, use treated drinking water, if water requires treatment for drinking purposes.)