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#193676 - 02/15/16 01:55 PM Water
hikingdoe Offline

Registered: 02/15/16
Posts: 16
Loc: Illinois
I have spent several weekends car camping and have spent 2 whole summers in the woods at a boyscout camp. I have recently been looking into backpacking. I have found a local state forest that has a 15 mile looped trail and I think it would be a great opportunity to give it a go, they even have 12 backcounty sites.

My question is this: is there any way to estimate how much water to carry? There arent any readily available places on the trail to fill up (no taps, ponds, springs, streams, etc)

Its about a 15 mile hike, I would do it in 2 days (spend 1 night). I need enough water for drinking, cooking, and washing for the 2 days. I also want to try and pick a weekend that has mild temps (60 - 80 degrees)

Dont want too much due to weight, but also dont want too little for obvious reasons

#193680 - 02/15/16 10:36 PM Re: Water [Re: hikingdoe]
Glenn Roberts Offline

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1404
Loc: Southwest Ohio
I'm from Ohio, and spent some time in Illinois many years ago, in the Air Force (Chanute AFB, Champaign-Urbana.) I'm a little surprised that there aren't any readily-available water sources - in the well-watered eastern US, there's usually a stream, pond, or spring you can filter water from. It's especially odd that, if they have established an elaborate system of backcountry sites, that they haven't made provisions for water sources.

There are really too many variables for me to estimate how much water you'll need. These include whether you normally drink more of less water, how hot it will be (you need more water at 89 degrees than at 60), how fast and hard you'll be walking ((uphill? Downhill?) how you cook (freeze-dried versus from-scratch; freezer-bag versus dirty pots that need washed), whether you want additional beverages with your meals, and so forth.

Having said that, I can tell you that in southwest Ohio (or at Shades Park near Crawfordsville, Indiana - just short of Illinois), I'll drink 3 liters of water during the day's hike (including lunch) on a 75-degree day with an 8 -10 mile hike. I'll use another liter for breakfast, and a liter for supper, plus a liter overnight and to the first source the next day. That's a total of six liters a day - for me. You need to think about your own needs.

One alternative to carrying 12 or more liters of water would be to cache water. Often, trails will cross a road near a campsite, or there will be a short service road the park uses for maintenance of the backcountry campsite - store your evening and second day's water just inside that road, then go get it after you set up camp (your empty pack can easily handle a couple of gallons.)

Another alternative, depending on where you are in Illinois, is to get your passport in order and go to Shades Park in Indiana. The trails are beautiful, you can adjust the length of your hike to suit your needs and the weather - and there's plenty of water, both from fountains at the picnic and parking areas, and from the plentiful streams if you filter. There's even a spigot (and a really nice latrine) at the backcountry campsite (about a two or three mile hike from the nearest parking lot). If you're not quite sure how to gauge your water needs, and sources are uncertain or non-existent, you might be better off to take your first trip somewhere that has reliable water. That way, you can get a feel for how much water you use, without having to worry about how much to carry or cache.

Edited by Glenn Roberts (02/15/16 10:39 PM)

#193682 - 02/16/16 08:36 AM Re: Water [Re: Glenn Roberts]
bluefish Offline

Registered: 06/05/13
Posts: 677
I agree with Glenn, it makes no sense here in the east to place a backcountry campground far from a water source. It very well may be located several hundred yds. away for sanitary reasons and to discourage people bathing and dishwashi8ng in it, but probably there none the less. You may require a filter. Filtering water isn't a big chore, usually, and it saves carrying 10+ lbs. of water. I'll not suggest an amount to carry, as it has quite a few variables. but err on the side of caution if this truly is dry camping. Glenn's number is safe as a benchmark. I backpack into places where the campsites have no water, but use topo maps to find sources nearby, or along the way. Next weekend is an example. My wife and I will start our hike with about 40 oz. apiece, hike 12 miles with some stream crossings along the way (re-fill if needed) and fill up our 4 liter bag in a year round spring I've located 1/2 mile from where we will camp near a shelter. The second night is a loop done from that same campsite, so we'll use the same source, the day we return to our starting point, crosses several streams, so no great amount need be carried. I would contact whatever state agency controls where you want to camp and see what they say about water sources. If you can obtain a topo map, you'll be able to find where water sources are, even if you have to go a little bit out of the way. To me, it's part of the fun of backpacking to locate and acquire water. Too much in life is handed to us on a platter, a little adventure is grand, especially done with safety in mind.

#193685 - 02/16/16 10:46 AM Re: Water [Re: hikingdoe]
4evrplan Offline

Registered: 01/16/13
Posts: 658
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
I see three possibilities with why they would say there's no water there. One, there really isn't, which seems unlikely. Two, they're worried about liability and err on the side of caution, telling people there isn't any water. Or three, the water that is there wouldn't be safe to drink, even filtered. This could be due to runoff from farming, ranching, mining, etc.

The USFS says there's no water available in my local national forest, but I've never seen it completely dry. However, it is in a relatively flat area surrounded by ranch land, so it very well may be that they're worried about runoff. It could also be that it is indeed dry on rare occasion, and they're playing it safe.

Just a few things to consider. I would definitely carry or cache your water the first time you go there, just to be sure.

#193696 - 02/16/16 03:28 PM Re: Water [Re: 4evrplan]
OregonMouse Offline

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6404
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I've been to a number of campgrounds where the public is told that there is no water. Actually, there are streams, but no "potable water," meaning that the water is not drinkable without treatment. In those cases, I've filtered or chemically treated the stream water.

I agree with going where water is available rather than trying to carry a couple of gallons (16 lbs.!). Now if you were in the desert, you'd have no choice, but you're not.

Just make sure that the problem is really lack of water rather than lack of potable water. Unless the water is polluted with agricultural chemicals or mine runoff, there are many easy ways to make it safe to drink.

Edited by OregonMouse (02/16/16 03:30 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

#193701 - 02/16/16 09:05 PM Re: Water [Re: bluefish]
hikingdoe Offline

Registered: 02/15/16
Posts: 16
Loc: Illinois
I will definitely try to find a topo map, but as of right now I havent found any info suggesting there is water nearby. It seems very strange to me as well, maybe I just need to do some more searching


#193710 - 02/17/16 10:11 AM Re: Water [Re: hikingdoe]
finallyME Offline

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Here is a link to a great source for free topo maps.

As for how much water, I can only tell you how much I bring. I live in the dry west. I can usually find a source by looking at the map. Once I went into some pretty dry mountains during a drought. I had to search out all the springs to find any water at all. I carried 2 liters with me. Normally I carry 1 liter, with an empty bottle to be able to carry 2 if I had to.
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

#193746 - 02/19/16 12:45 PM Re: Water [Re: finallyME]
orclwzrd Offline

Registered: 08/11/09
Posts: 82
Loc: Illinois(I just live here)
I'm in Illinois. where ya headed, I might have some info. should be able to have a days worth of water pretty easy in most places in the state. I even know were the trail magic hand pump is near Garden of the Gods in southern Ill!


#193771 - 02/21/16 04:45 PM Re: Water [Re: orclwzrd]
hikingdoe Offline

Registered: 02/15/16
Posts: 16
Loc: Illinois
Looking at Sand Ridge National Forest. Looks like there are some spots within the campgrounds to go get water, so I might have to do that. I guess its not true backcountry/backpacking, but for a first experience it might all work out.

I definitely want to check out Shawnee National Forest too at some point

#193791 - 02/22/16 06:51 PM Re: Water [Re: hikingdoe]
billstephenson Offline

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3892
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By hikingdoe
Looking at Sand Ridge National Forest. Looks like there are some spots within the campgrounds to go get water, so I might have to do that. I guess its not true backcountry/backpacking, but for a first experience it might all work out.

I definitely want to check out Shawnee National Forest too at some point

Wow. I took a look and that place really looks like it'd be hard to find any water unless it just rained and there was a pool of it still standing. I lived in Rockford for quite a few years and I've seen huge downpours sucked up in just a few hours. The ground there can be like a huge sponge and that spot fits the bill from what I could see on Google maps.

I've only driven through the Shawnee NF and what I saw is beautiful. I'd love to backpack there. The Ozarks are good for backpacking in cool weather, and the Shawnee NF is a part of that range. I suspect it could be pretty uncomfortable by mid April and until late October. If you go then bring bug spray and use it. Ticks and chiggers will probably be thick.

"You want to go where?"

#193957 - 02/28/16 07:12 PM Re: Water [Re: hikingdoe]
wgiles Offline

Registered: 05/19/14
Posts: 142
Loc: Central Illinois near Springfi...
I think that you are talking about Sand Ridge State Forest. Here is the link to the trail map, which has drinking water locations marked on it.

Here is a link to my Caltopo map of the area:

This link will expire in seven days, so download the pdf while you can.

It's rare for water not to be found somewhere in the area, except in dry weather, but there are no obvious sources other than wells. This area is unusually sandy and may not have much surface water, it's hard to tell from the map.

#193958 - 02/28/16 07:27 PM Re: Water [Re: billstephenson]
wgiles Offline

Registered: 05/19/14
Posts: 142
Loc: Central Illinois near Springfi...
Ticks are usually worst in the spring when the weather starts to warm up. Chiggers are bad all of the time. Permethrin treated socks and clothing seem to be the best defense. I've gone to Insect Shield socks for most of the warm weather. If I was in the woods, I'd probably add a treated shirt.


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