On the Pacific Crest Trail, hikers have only one god to answer to: water.
Where the next water source is, how much water you currently have, and the reliability of your water information are all incredibly important pieces of information on the trail. And said information will easily occupy 50% or more of your time spent talking with other hikers (followed closely by where you came from (that day) and where you intend on hiking to (i.e. camp for the night)).
Running out of water on the PCT (especially in the desert) accounts for numerous hiker rescues every year, and dehydration can kill as easily as an angry bear.
For example, I am currently stopped for the night between water sources and I have one liter of water (not typically how I enjoy camping, but today was not a good day – I lost the trail for around two hours and impaled my arm on a log (lots of blood)). It is approximately 10 mi / 16 km to the next water source which means I do not have enough water to make it there comfortably (especially when you take into account that I am currently quite parched, and it is only around 17:00).
And we’re back.
Wait, back from what you ask? Well, I just made my way over to an older gentleman (Harold) who recently arrived at my campground in his truck, and I asked if he by any chance had some water to spare and/or sell. And as the magic of the trail would have it, he opened his trunk to reveal an entire case of water.
Giving me three bottles free of charge, he officially restored my morale and gave me reason to forgive his loud talking to himself as he set up his camper and I tried to sleep.
Like I said, water can be incredibly valuable on the PCT, and hikers should heed the authority of water: the one true god.
So how can you, a non-hiker (or a hiker not currently hiking…or a hiker currently hiking on his/her phone) take advantage of this? Get yourself a giant cooler of ice-cold water and make your way out onto a long waterless stretch of the PCT on a hot summer day. Every hiker that passes will grovel at your feet and praise you as the water-bearing god you have become.
It is funny how quickly one’s priorities change out on the PCT (yet toilet paper remains incredibly important).