How Much Water to Bring Camping: A Simple Approach

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It’s no surprise that water is at the top of the list of camping essentials, but it can get tricky trying to figure out just how much to bring with you!

Remember that not only do you want to account for consumption, but you’ll also have to keep in mind other uses for water throughout your trip.

A Simple Water Estimate for Camping

As a safe rule of thumb, you will want to bring two gallons of water camping per person per day: one gallon per person per day for drinking, and an additional gallon per person per day for additional needs.

Considering that 60% of the adult human body is water, it goes without saying that we have to replenish that resource within the body regularly.

While this isn’t difficult to maintain daily, sometimes you don’t always have water as readily available when you are camping!

Avoid Dehydration

Aside from discomfort, if you neglect to pack enough water with you on your camping trip, you run the potential risk of suffering from dehydration.

Many people think that thirst is the primary indicator of their body needing water when it is often an early dehydration sign.

You may be exhibiting symptoms of dehydration if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Extensive thirst
  • Limited urination
  • Urine with a darker color
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Confusion

Dehydration is severe and can impact individuals of any age group. Luckily, you can reverse the effects in mild or moderate cases by drinking significantly more water.

Extreme dehydration, however, will need immediate medical treatment.

Determining Factors of How Much Water to Bring Camping

As expected, there are several factors to consider when determining how much water to bring with you camping.

From climate to hygiene, it’s essential to consider all factors so that you have enough water throughout your whole trip.

Climate

The climate you will be camping in will play a significant role in how much water you will need to bring with you to keep yourself hydrated. If you are camping in the desert where the climate is hot and dry, you will need more water than camping in the forest, cooler, and damper. 

Desert climates make for some of the most incredible camping adventures out there, but just be sure to come prepared with extra water.

The more you will be sweating and releasing water from your body, the harder you will have to work to bring more water back in.

Activity

Like climate, the amount of activity you plan on doing when you are camping will also be a determining factor in the amount of water you will need to bring.

If you are physically exerting yourself, especially in a desert climate, you will quickly need to double your water consumption.

Even if you don’t plan on hiking or doing much strenuous physical activity while you camp, you’ll want to make sure you are keeping hydrated.

Cooking

In addition to having enough water to keep yourself hydrated, you will find that you have several other needs for water while you camp. One thing that often gets overlooked is cooking.

It takes water to cook meals while camping, especially if you are trying to stay healthy!

Many of the energy-rich food staples for cooking, like pasta, rice, or oatmeal, require water to cook correctly. Don’t forget to keep that in mind if you think you are packing too much water.

Personal Hygiene

Although you might not be taking proper showers while you are camping, it is still nice to have the option to rinse off a bit at times. You can even purchase portal showers if you aren’t a fan of the outdoorsy feeling of camping.

In addition to keeping yourself clean, think about washing your hands, brushing your teeth, and even washing dishes.

While disposable plates and flatware is one option, if you are trying to be more eco-friendly, you’ll need to account for cleaning your reusable dishes.

Pets

Bringing your pets along with your camping is one of the better parts of having a pet in the first place. But, don’t forget that they need to stay hydrated too!

Much like you, if they will be joining you in the desert or on your hikes, you’ll have to make sure you account for the extra need for hydration. The last thing you want is a pup suffering from heat exhaustion.

How to Effectively Pack Water for Camping

Now that you know how much water you need to bring with you camping, it’s time to figure out how to pack it all with your gear. Finding an effective way to pack all the water you need for camping can be half the battle. 

Some people opt for buying disposable one-gallon jugs of water from the grocery store. While this may be a convenient option at purchase, it will come to bite you later on when you’re trying to figure out how to pack them all in your car and then lug them to your campsite.

Go out and buy yourself a couple of large water jugs to use for your next camping trip – it will make such a huge difference. They can be conveniently stored and easy for pouring into reusable insulated bottles for your carrying.

I’ve used this one from Desert Patrol for the last several years and have been very happy with it! It’s unique shape ensures that it doesn’t take up too much room in your vehicle, while also having a built-in spout that makes pouring much easier.

Desert Patrol 6 Gallon Rigid Water Container

The Desert Patrol is a rugged short term water storage vessel. It comes with a standard 3-piece spout system for accurate bulk pouring. The angled handle is designed for single or two handed gripping for easier lifting and pouring. 

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If you plan on being on the go a lot while you camp, whether it be hiking or kayaking, you might also want to consider purchasing a hydration backpack (recommendations here).

You will quickly fill your backpack from your water jug and not have to worry about frequently stopping to keep yourself hydrated.

Best Ways to Purify Water While Camping

It won’t always be the case that you are planning a camping trip in the desert without any water sources nearby. Camping near lakes or rivers is equally as fun and exciting.

If you are lucky enough to set up a campground nearby a natural water source, you could potentially save yourself a lot of packing space. Keep in mind, these natural sources of water might not always be safe to drink.

Never rely on natural sources as the primary means to fulfill your hydration. Weather can quickly change the water levels and bacteria in them from drinkable to unhealthy levels.

Keeping that in mind, it’s always good to know the best ways to purify your water while camping.

Boiling

If you are ever unsure about the quality of water you want to consume, the simplest solution is to boil it.

Even if you plan to use the water for cooking your food, make sure you boil it first to kill off any unwanted bacteria.

Chemical Treatment

You can purchase chlorine tablets that you can dissolve in your water to purify. Typically, you’ll drop a chlorine tablet into your water and let it sit for 15 minutes, and you’ll have drinkable water.

Bleach is a chemical treatment alternative to chlorine. Use one half of a teaspoon of bleach to five gallons of water, doubling it when necessary in really murky water.

Another chemical treatment option involves iodine, which you can purchase in tablet, crystal, or tincture form such as the ones below.

Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets

These purification tablets disinfect contaminated drinking water in any situation. Two types of tablets are included:

(1) Germicidal Tablets to make water bacteriologically suitable to drink and

(2) PA Plus tablets to neutralize the after-taste and color in the water

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Note: You should note that iodine should not be a purifying treatment option for pregnant women or anyone with thyroid issues.

Gravity Water Filters

Gravity-fed water filters are an excellent option for purifying your water while camping, but it does not entirely rid your water of potential viruses. They will filter out any muck in the water, though, so you will have a nice clean drink.

Sawyer Gravity Water Filtration System

Ideal for backcountry trekking with family and friends or keeping on hand for emergencies, Sawyer's Single Bladder Gravity Water Filtration System provides an easy-to-use, portable, and high-flow gravity-based water filtration system that's great for filtering large quantities of water.

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You can purchase gravity-fed water filters for personal use or larger ones for more people, depending on your needs.

Portable Water Filters

Portable water purifiers are an excellent choice for camping because they combine filters and chemical components, making your water exceptionally clean. What’s even better is you can find them at incredibly reasonable prices online.

One extremely popular option for its compactness and effectiveness is the LifeStraw filter.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

Perfect for your family and friends to use during camping, hiking and backpacking or for your emergency kits at your home, car and office. Each Life Straw personal water filter will provide 1,000 gallons (4,000 liters) of safe drinking water!

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In the United States, to market as a water purifier, it must meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Guide Standard and Protocol for Testing Microbiological Water Purifiers. All EPA products must kill the following at the appropriate rates listed:

  • 99.9999% of bacteria
  • 99.99% viruses
  • 99.9% protozoa

Ultraviolet Light

When ultraviolet light, or UV light, is at the correct intensity, it can destroy the DNA in microbes to make safe, drinkable water. Handheld UV purifying units are readily available, although they tend to be a bit pricey.

One of the most popular options to take a look at is from SteriPen as shown below.

SteriPen UV Water Purifier

Fast, light, easy and effective, the SteriPen provides the ultimate protection from waterborne illnesses. The process is simple but effective, destroying over 99.9 percent of harmful microorganisms. Great for camping, hiking and backpacking!

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An upside to using a UV light for water purification is that the radiation involves not using chemicals, so you are left with pure-tasting water. Just make sure you filter out sediment first for optimal results.

Conclusion

When in doubt, bring more water than you need! It is the better alternative to running out of water while you are camping.

It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Dehydration can become very serious very quickly, and without readily available resources could become fatal.

Don’t let yourself get into a sticky situation and come overly prepared. And don’t forget, on top of your drinking water, you’ll have several other water expenditures to keep in mind as well.

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