How Much Water Should You Carry On A Bicycle Tour?

I just finished a 10-day bicycle ride from Istanbul, Turkey to Varna, Bulgaria and it was SUPER HOT out there on the road. It was also SUPER AWESOME!!! (see some of the photos here)

Because it was so hot, I was drinking a lot more water than I normally do… and I was carrying WAY more water on my touring bicycle than is typical.

Which brings up the question, “How much water should you be carrying with you on your own bicycle touring adventures?”

Many road and off-road touring bicycles come with three or more water bottle cages, which might sound like a lot of water compared to the typical one or two water bottle cages found on most mountain and road bicycles. But in some cases, even three water bottles isn’t nearly enough to keep you hydrated (and alive) when cycling through especially hot and desolate stretches of road – like the ones I encountered on this recent bike ride across Turkey and Bulgaria.

In some cases, you need to be carrying WAY more than three bottles of water…. but figuring out exactly how much water you should be carrying is the tricky part.

Like so many things with long-distance bicycle touring, how much water you need to carry depends on a number of different factors:

  • The temperature
  • The terrain (flat vs. hilly)
  • How you are feeling that day
  • The road conditions (paved road vs. dirt/gravel)
  • The availability of natural drinking water along your route (glacier melt, streams, etc)

And probably the most important…


This is where planning your bike trips out in advance and knowing how to read a map (or operate a GPS) is so incredibly important.

While temperature, terrain, and road conditions are important factors to consider, you can usually determine how much water you need to carry by figuring out the distance between your current location and the next significant city, town or village on your route where water can be obtained.

  • If it is super hot out and only 10 kilometers to the next town, for example, you’ll probably be just fine with the water bottles on your bike.
  • If it’s 50 kilometers to the next town, however, and it’s super hot and hilly out, you might need to load up on some extra water while you can.
  • And if it’s 100 or more kilometers to the next significant water stop, but you plan to camp for a night before you get that that next destination, you probably need to stock up on a major supply of water.

To be honest, I don’t have a good formula for figuring out exactly how much water you should be carrying on your bike at any one moment. But I do have a few pieces of advice for you when it comes to carry enough water for your bicycle travels.

1) You need to be drinking a lot when you cycle. Dehydration sucks and I’ve seen it destroy a lot of people’s bike tours. Drink lots of water!

2) Pay attention to the sun. Wear sunscreen and sunglasses in order to protect yourself from sun damage and drink more water on days when it is especially hot.

3) Have a plan for carrying more water on your bicycle if you need to. See my picture here for an example of how I was able to attach 4.5 extra liters of water to the back of my bicycle while cycling through Turkey.

4) Finally, realize that adding a massive amount of water weight to your bicycle is going to slow you down and potentially do some damage to your bicycle. If you put too much weight on your bike, there is a chance that the frame, spokes, rims or racks could break. This is why having a quality touring bicycle and high-quality racks/wheels is so important on longer and more challenging bicycle tours.

Anyway… I hope this helps.

Be safe out there. Have fun. And drink lots of water!


3 thoughts on “How Much Water Should You Carry On A Bicycle Tour?

  1. Beverley says:

    Hi Darren

    I easily get dehydrated – I’m wilting long before anyone else – I have found that a great way to last longer is this:

    Rather than putting lots of water inside me (and still feeling hot and bothered), I put it on the outside. I drench my upper half – I remove my top and soak it in water, I wet my hair, AND I wear a light, but long-sleeved blouse over my tshirt – the blouse is also soaked.

    *** In other words, I cover as much skin area as I can with wet clothes. That way, the sun is dehydrating my clothes, rather than me – it feels ten times better.

    Do this BEFORE you feel awful – nothing much helps once you start feeling bad.

    Keep your crotch area dry!! chafing happens in just a few minutes, but lasts a few days (in my experience)

    • Darren Alff says:

      I’ve never used water filters in the past, which is why I’ve never discussed them on I guess I’ve never been in a part of the world where I really needed one. There has always been some source of clean water on my travels. Or… almost always 😉

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