How Much Water to Bring Camping

When camping one of the key supplies to pack is water. As we all know, water is key to our survival in any situation. When in the outdoors that is even more important as you may not be near a ready water source at all times. You want to make sure that you and everyone you are camping with have enough water to keep you hydrated. 

Staying hydrated when camping, whether in a national park in through backcountry, is key to making sure your trip is an enjoyable one. Staying properly hydrated can be the difference between life and death in some events. It is crucial to take proper hydration into account when camping.

Several factors can impact the amount of water you should bring with you on a camping trip. To learn more, continue reading below.

The Risk Factors of Dehydration

As we all know, water is crucial for our survival. It is especially critical if you are hiking or doing other intense activities while camping. Drinking plenty of water helps to replace the liquid lost from perspiration. 

Not having enough water causes problems in the body’s ability to regulate body temperature. Heat exhaustion or heat stroke can be fatal if you are in a harsh environment. 

Dehydration can also cause muscle cramps. This can be a dangerous situation depending on what activity you are doing. It can slow you down on the trail or cause difficulty when swimming. Even without the risk of serious injury, muscle cramps can cause serious discomfort and put a damper on your trip.

Just as dangerous as dehydration is overhydration. This is when you consume too much water. This can cause issues with the sodium level in your blood and can cause serious health issues. While this is rare, it is important to be aware of. A good rule of thumb to remember, if you are thirsty then you are dehydrated. Just don’t overdo it.

It is important to plan ahead on where you are traveling and be prepared with enough water to keep yourself and the rest of your group healthy. Bottled water should be a major item on anyone’s pre-camping checklist.

How much Water Does the Average Person Need?

Most experts agree that the average adult needs at least 8-8 oz. glasses of water a day to stay properly hydrated. This is called the 8x8 rule and is important to keep in mind when packing your water supply.  That estimate is approximately half a gallon (1.89 liters) of water per day for regular activity. 

Water intake can also be determined by body weight. Most doctors recommend drinking half an ounce to an ounce of water for your body weight. This is another important factor to keep in mind as you are outdoors. Water can boost your metabolism, which means you will be burning calories. As a result, your body is going to produce more sweat which will require rehydration.

If you pack a case of individual plastic bottles for your trip, this can be a good visual for how much water you will need. If you have the 16 oz. bottles, you would need to drink four to consume roughly two liters of water.  If you are taking that route for packing your water, you will need about four bottles per person, per day.

For children that number can differ.  It is suggested that children drink 1-2 liters of water daily, depending on the amount of activity they do.  You should also take into account what type of weather and temperature the area is where you will be camping. Bring extra water, as children tend to take a few drinks of a bottle, set it down and forget it. Make sure to monitor their water consumption during your trip.

Children can be picky when it comes to drinking water, and there are a few tricks to help. Infusing water with fruit can be a tasty and healthy alternative. Also, adding Gatorade or other sports drink powder can help to get the needed fluids into the children. The added nutrients will also be a benefit as well if they are active on the camping trip.

If you enjoy taking your dog with you it is important that your furry friend stays hydrated as well. Since they will likely be partaking in the same activities as you, they will need to rehydrate as well. A good rule of thumb is to have about 0.03 liters of water per pound of your dog’s body weight.

Make sure that water is readily available for everyone to have access to. It can be as simple as having a jug with a spigot and some cup hand for whenever someone wants a drink. You can also have cases of water sitting out or in a ready cooler. As with many things, sometimes out of sight means out of mind. When it comes to water, that is something no one wants to have happen.

Transporting Water

When packing, it is advisable to pack several large jugs of water. These jugs can then be used to fill reusable water bottles. Some of these bottles not only will keep your water cooler for longer, but will reduce the amount of plastic waste you use. Some, such as Platypus, also make collapsible bottles which makes packing much easier.  Nalgene also provides a wide variety of BPA-free water bottles that can hold a high volume of water. Make sure to refill your water jugs at regular intervals.

What Activities Will You be Doing?

Another factor to consider when camping and figuring how much water you will need is what activities you will be doing. Some things to consider include:

  • Will you be doing a lot of hiking? It is suggested to consume one liter of water for every two hours of hiking one does. More if the weather is hot.
  • Are you going to be doing a lot of intense activity, or mostly sedentary? Sitting around a campsite enjoying nature is going to cause less water loss than if you are more active. Even swimming, where some water will be absorbed by the pores, will still cause water loss due to the exertion of the activity.
  • Will you be in the sun a lot? The sun will cause you to perspire more, which means more water loss. If you can, try to stay in the shade as much as possible or take breaks.
  • Will you be doing cooking that will require water? Most camping food is hot dogs or sandwiches that don’t require water. However, if you are making stews or dehydrated meals water is going to be needed.   Cooking will also require washing dishes, which will also require water. Also, if you are eating food that does not have a lot of water, you will need to consume water to make up for it.
  • Will you be walking to your campsite or driving to it? How much leg work will you be putting into unloading your supplies.
  • Are you going to be backpacking through the backcountry? Backpacking will require more water than car camping, as you will be using much more energy.  Where car camping does not require carrying as much equipment, backpacking will require you to carry much of your equipment. Also, backcountry may limit sources of freshwater.

Hiking is one of the more typical activities people do when they are camping. Keep in mind the roughness of the trail and approximately how long it will take you to reach your destination. Make sure you take enough water took keep hydrated both leaving and returning. Whether it is only a couple hours or a full day hike hydration is key.

Check the Season and the Weather

Hotter weather means more sweat. More sweat means water loss, which means you will need to consume more water. If you and your group are going to be active during your trip, then more water is going to need to be packed.

Cooler weather ad cooler times of the year will require less water. It is still a good rule of thumb to use the 8X8 method, regardless of the weather. Remember, it is better to be over-prepared than underprepared. 

The time of year is an important factor to take into account as well. Spring and fall are typically going to be cooler times of the year, as opposed to camping in the middle of summer.  You should also take into account where you are camping. June in south Texas will be much different than June in Minnesota.   

Also, make sure you dress for the weather. You are going to want to keep yourself as comfortable as possible to avoid overheating. Dress warmly for cooler weather, and light for warmer weather. This will reduce water loss as you are camping.

What Are Your Sources of Water?

It is important that you not only have a source of water, but that that water is clean. Drinking water that is contaminated can harbor all kinds of bacteria or parasites that can make you ill. Always look for water sources with moving water, as this gives microbes less chance to settle in one place a reproduce. Avoid stagnant water sources that seem dirty.

Many people choose to car camp, and find campgrounds to visit. Many of these campgrounds have running water both for drinking, as well as cooking and cleaning. This is an important factor to consider. 

 A campground with clean running water can supplement the water supply that you take with you. It can also provide a place for you to load up water bottles and water jugs before heading out to explore.

If there is a stream nearby, that can also be a source of freshwater. It is important to check any natural water source before drinking from it. Having a water filter or water purification tablets will aide in ensuring that the water you and your group are drinking is safe for human consumption. These items can be found easily on retailers such as Amazon. The Platypus Gravity Works is one of the best water filters on the market for its value.  

If you do not have a water filter or purification tablets, boiling water will do the trick. Boiling water will kill the bacteria that may be in the water, making it safe to drink. You can bring the water to a boil either using a campfire, or a camp stove if you have one. 

Luckily many of our national parks have facilities with running water and plentiful natural water sources. Even so, it is advisable to research the area you are camping in, so that you are prepared.  You don’t want to go hiking to an area you expect to have a running stream only to find empty brushland. This is especially important if you are backpacking through backcountry areas.

Using a Tarp to Collect Rainwater

There are a few things every camper should have with them in case of an emergency. A first aid kit is a must. When it comes to water, having water filters and purification tablets are also a must. It is a good idea to invest in a small tarp as well. If you find yourself in a situation without a ready water supply, a tarp can come in very handy. 

You can use the tarp as a rain collector by attaching it between two trees or other elevated points. Allowing the tarp to have a dip will collect rainwater which you can then purify to drink. The tarp will also collect any moisture from the air from the night before.

This method can be great in an emergency, but with plenty of preparedness, you shouldn’t have to worry. As with any other emergency supply, it is better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

Camping though the country is a great experience. Exploring nature and being away from the business of life is good for people in many ways. However, it is important to stay safe and maintain your physical well-being. Staying hydrated with enough water will ensure a good experience for both you and those you are camping with.

Sam Brooks

Sam Brooks

Hi, my name is Sam Brooks and I'm a huge hiking, fishing and camping enthusiast. I bring my dog Max as often as I can because he also loves the great outdoors. Although I consider myself a private person, I really want to share my passion and knowledge with the readers here at outdoorcommand.com