Let's say we have a liter of coke and liter of water. Both of them weight nearly the same. However, the coke contains a lot of calories whereas the water contains none.

Despite other health-related topics (teeth etc.) and personal taste, would it make sense to carry soda instead of water in respect to save weight (you can carry less food because you have energy in your "water")?

  • 3
    1L of Coca-Cola has ~400 calories, which is roughly 85-90% water, the rest sugar and what-not, but no protein, no vitamins... but a helluva lot of caffeine. Other soda's are available for purchase.
    – Aravona
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 8:35
  • 6
    you don't save weight. Whatever calories that is in the soda comes in form of sugar. You basically carry 900ml water + 100g sugar. (in terms of weight and calories).
    – njzk2
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 15:17
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    @StrongBad water is more commonly measured as volume, but under most circumstances 1ml weights 1g. The OP accepts in the question that the density of soda is very close to that of water.
    – njzk2
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 18:45
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    @Aravona: no protein, no vitamins I assume the question refers to a day hike, since you obviously aren't going to carry enough soda for all your drinking needs for a longer trip. On a day hike, there is no reason that you need to consume protein or vitamins. Consuming nothing but carbs for a full day is perfectly OK and will do you no harm. Only on a longer trip (maybe a week or more) do you really need to start worrying about the balance of macronutrients, or about micronutrients.
    – user2169
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 18:57
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    @BenCrowell I was simply stating what is basically in a Litre of coke.
    – Aravona
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 19:00

5 Answers 5


Would it make sense to carry soda instead of water in respect to save weight (you can carry less food because you have energy in your "water")?

No, for a variety of reasons (leaving out, as you say "other health related topics"):

  • Sugar, powdered Gatorade, and many other water additives all weigh less than soda.
  • Soda comes in cans/bottles which you'll have to pack out.
  • You'll generally filter/purify at least some of your water anyways, so you're rarely carrying all the water you'll use. In this case to replace soda with water you'd have to carry more.
  • In warmer weather, soda cans and bottles will start to smell pretty quickly unless washed out.
  • Re packing out the bottles, my usual water containers are 1-2 liter plastic soda bottles which I've washed out and refilled. They've lasted for years, and are lighter than any alternative I know of. Cheaper, too.
    – jamesqf
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 18:05
  • @jamesqf -- Sure, but if you're carrying soda as your water source, you're going to have more than one bottle. Commented May 4, 2016 at 19:23
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    Also, personal taste, but on a hot day warm water is preferable to warm (possibly flat if it's been open a while?) soda. Plus fizzys get well fizzy, you may accidentally waste some of your drink :)
    – Aravona
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 19:38

For a day hike, yes, it could make sense, if it's the type of day hike where you need to carry water rather than drinking from sources along the way. It's really just a matter of what you enjoy. If you enjoy drinking soda, bring soda.

Let's say we have a liter of coke and liter of water. Both of them weight nearly the same. However, the coke contains a lot of calories whereas the water contains none.

This is not quite right. The coke contains some carbs, which are part of its weight and volume. If you aren't a person who enjoys drinking coke, then you'd be better off carrying those carbs in some other form that you'd enjoy more. It doesn't give you an advantage in terms of weight carried.

  • 7
    Many decades ago, my father went on a 30+ km trail run in rural Mexico. Bottled water and Gatorade were pretty much non-existent back then (at least in that area). Whenever he came to a town or village, he'd buy a soda (he'd shake it to remove the gas). Not a thing he remembers fondly, but it was useful and he didn't have to carry a lot of water. Anyway, depending on the situation it could make sense. +1
    – Roflo
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 16:44

Let's say we have a liter of coke and liter of water. Both of them weight nearly the same. However, the coke contains a lot of calories whereas the water contains none.

The law of conservation of mass, tells us that the total mass/weight of a solution is equal to the sum of the masses of the solute and solvent. So if you add 100 g of sugar (the solute) to 1000 g of water (the solvent), which is roughly the ratio of sugar to water in soda, the sugar water solution would weight 1100 g.

There is no such law for conservation of volume. Sugar has a density of about 1.59 g/ml and water has a density of 1 g/ml. When you add 62.90 ml of sugar (which will weigh 100 g) to 1000 ml of water (which will weigh 1000 g) the sugar will dissolve into the water and the total volume will change. I am not sure how to calculate the exact volume (or density) of the solution but it will be more than 100 ml and less than 162.9 ml.

What this means is that there is no weight benefit of premixing the sugar and the water, but there is a volume benefit and possibly a taste benefit. Since sugar has a relatively low caloric density (2.4 cal/g) compared to fat (9 cal/g) you would be better off carrying fatty foods to eat with pure water.


From a fluid perspective - The energy density of most soda (non-diet types) is high enough to kick off a digestive system response for processing food, which requires fluids and oxygen. In the case of dehydration or high levels of exertion, where fluid replacement is the aim this is undesirable. Coke and energy drinks that contain Caffeine add a diuretic, meaning they are even less effective for hydration. In these situations Soda is a bad choice (although infinity better than nothing) for fluid replacement.

As long as you are on a gentle hike with moderate temperatures, you will be able to maintain hydration with Soda. If there is any chance of becoming dehydrated or needing to maintain high fluid intake to maintain hydration, Water is by far the most preferable option.

A better option than Soda is isotonic sports drinks, however, be aware that most items sold as sports drinks are not much better than soda. Most of the modern ones contain way too much sugar and not enough salts and minerals, because true isotonic sports drinks taste a lot like watered down sweat and don't sell well at the convince stores.

All that said - (nearly) anything you drink is infinity better than something you don't like the taste of and won't drink. If you would drink 2 litres of Coke over a days hiking vs sip only 200ml or water, take the Coke.

From a food/energy source perspective: Sugar is bad for hiking. It gives you a short high then a massive crash. Without careful management, this cycle can make an otherwise pleasant day one from hell, especially if you are not used to doing it. Solid food is a better way to get energy has you have a more accurate idea of what is going into your system, and you tend to take foods that provide better slow release, longer lasting energy.

Each person is different, so what does not work me may be perfect for you. All I suggest is try it on a shorter easy trip and see if it works for you. For me, first and last time I tried energy drinks on a trail, I spend the next miserable hour with stomach cramps and no energy - I'm sticking to water and isotonic drinks for my fluids.


I'll be brief.

100 grams of sugar and 900g of water when mixed still 100g of sugar plus 900g of water, not a miracle of 100g sugar and 1000g water concoction.

Mass preserving law, considering almost no nuclear or chemical reaction inside your Cola (I'm not so sure about this hell mixture). So, if you want fast calories at hike, take carbohydrates as the maltodextrins. If you want the most light-weight calories, grab a pure fat.

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