I have not had sufficient water on hikes with my daughter a number of times. Preschoolers have low tolerance for dehydration, I’ve learned. Once my daughter discovers we don’t have supplies to quench her thirst her emotional well-being follows a predictable pattern: things go from good to bad. I am forced to begin evacuation procedures.
The three ways I’ve found to run out of water include:
1. Intentionally do not bring water in the first place.
I’ve often made this decision when I estimate we’re going on a shorter hike. In the early days of hiking with my daughter I based my decision-making on my adult experiences. As an adult, water and other supplies are not always necessary (I have a high tolerance for dehydration). For a preschooler, that’s tantamount to treason.
2. Accidentally forget the water.
This most often happens when repacking, I find. The water was brought with us out of the house but gets left in the car or at camp. If I realize the mistake early enough during the hike I go back for the water. Otherwise the discovery that we forgot water is hard to recover from. The hike quickly goes into a tailspin.
3. Don’t bring enough water.
Determining the amount of water that my daughter will consume has proven to be complex. It varies a great deal based on how hydrated she is when we start the hike, the weather conditions (eg hotter days require more water), and how hard she works during the hike. There’s also the possibility that water is not consumed but the water bottle leaks. Or, my daughter spills the water (sometime intentionally!). Because this is difficult to predict, I have run out of water half-way through hikes and far away from any water sources.
To increase the duration of a hike water is necessary. To avoid the above scenarios and stay hydrated, I follow a few guidelines:
- I carry extra water organized in multiple bottles. For example, on a two-hour long hike, I will carry one bottle for my daughter and one bottle for myself (over-sized, that I plan to share with my daughter). While the weight is not ideal, it is preferable to an episode of dehydration. Using multiple bottles also safeguards against leaking or spilling.
- I mentally check our supplies before we hit the trail to ensure the water has not been left behind.
- If the trailhead requires a drive (or basecamp), I keep extra water bottles in the car or at camp to be available for the conclusion of the hike without having to wait to get back to our house.
While there are a lot of specialty water bottles made for outdoor activities, I use our everyday water bottles. My daughter’s sippy cup has worked well for years. Bottled water containers can be used.
This is part of a series of Hiking with Preschoolers.