Guide On How Much Water Do I Need Camping & How To Pack

by Julie | Last Updated:   April 11th, 2022
Guide On How Much Water Do I Need Camping & How To Pack
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Spring is just around the corner and with the warmer weather well on its way you can start making plans for your long-awaited camping trips! There are all kinds of camping out there for you to participate in whether it’s RV camping, glamping, car camping, going to campgrounds, or backpacking into the wilderness for an even more immersive outdoor camping adventure.

No matter which you choose you’ll be planning and preparing in a similar way, and you’ll still be needing some of the same gear. And one of the most important considerations to keep in mind is water. How much water do you need to bring or should you bring, is there water around where you’ll be camping, and all the other activities that surround water usage.

Camping and water go hand in hand, and sometimes you don’t even realize how necessary and important it is in your everyday life until you’re in the wilderness. You need water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and personal hygiene. And it’s not always that easy to access when camping. Backcountry campers especially know and appreciate the importance of reliable water sources.

We’re here to help you plan and prepare for all your water needs on your camping trip, answer any questions you may have, and maybe even teach you a thing or two that you never thought of or never knew!

How To Pack Water For Camping

How you pack water for your camping trip depends on the kind of camping you’ll be doing. If you’re staying in a well-used campground with facilities and easy access to your vehicle, glamping, or car camping, you’ll have a much greater advantage.

You’ll have more space to store and keep large amounts of water without having to pack it out miles into the wilderness. Regardless, let’s go over all the ways you can pack your water up for your next camping trip:

Coolers

For the campers that will be staying in campgrounds and going on car camping trips, using a cooler is a no-brainer. You can store as many water bottles in it as possible and it will keep them cold! Coolers are great in these kinds of situations because you won’t even have to move the cooler it could stay in the car, or close by so you can easily access them. It can stay in one spot the entire trip while you go off on day trips with only what you’ll need.

Nalgene Bottles

Nalgene water bottles are phenomenal for hiking and camping trips. They are the common go-to for most avid outdoors people. Having two 32oz wide mouth Nalgene water bottles that you carry with you and constantly refill are great for ensuring you have enough water for the day. An adult on average should drink 64 ounces of water a day, so two Nalgene bottles a day will keep you hydrated. The wide mouth makes it a lot easy for you to drink from as well.

Collapsible Water Jugs

A collapsible water jug is beneficial when you are trying to save on how much gear you want to carry. They take up much less space in your pack and are flexible. However, they aren’t as durable as other options out there for carrying water. Water bladders would fit into this category as well, though water bladders are usually the size of average to large water bottles, so they are good options for day trips and day hikes.

Hard-sided Water Jugs

Hard-sided Water Jugs are far more durable, but take up a lot more space in your pack or otherwise. They can be rather heavy as well since you’ll want to be carrying at least two liters of water with you. That’s the rule of thumb most backpackers follow anyway. Typically made from plastic as well so please do remember to pack the empty jug out with you once it is empty to either reuse or recycle!

For more information on not only how and what to use to pack your water, check out the National Parks Service site and another reliable source site!

Purification and Filtration

For the most immersing feeling of being out camping, especially in the backcountry, drinking water from a wild water source is the way to go! There is nothing better than the taste of liquid gold that comes from those fast-flowing, icy-cold streams deep in the woods and mountains. Using methods of water purification and filtration is easy and saves you from having to carry heavy jugs of water with you the whole time.

There are many ways to purify water, including using purification droplets like AquaMira, water filter methods like Lifestraws, or Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration Sytems. Then there is the old-fashioned method of boiling water. Just bring the water to a boil and leave it there for one minute to purify.

How Much Water Do You Need For A Camping Trip?

We briefly mentioned this in the section above, but let’s get some more specifics so you know everything there is to know about how much water you need and how much water you’ll be consuming. Or ideally consuming rather.

On average while camping and hiking an adult should drink 64 ounces (2 liters) of water a day. If you’re camping or hiking with a group of adults, then that is 64 ounces per person per day. So, if you have two 32 ounce Nalgene bottles (or other water bottles of the same or similar size), then drinking two of them a day will cover that.

Likewise, a gallon of water will be enough for one person for two days because 64 ounces equals half a gallon. When in hot climates, or just experiencing hot weather in general you may find that you’ll consume a little more.

The water intake for children isn’t much different but it is best explained that children get 1 to 2 cups of water per hour. This is a good rule to follow when hiking and camping.

Staying hydrated is vital when you’re backpacking, camping, and hiking. So, no matter what, once you are set up at a campsite and want to go on adventures or take a day hike; it is always a great idea to carry water with you at all times!

Symptoms Of Over-hydration

On the flip side, there is such a thing as drinking too much water. These are health hazards you need to be aware of when in the backcountry or front-country. It can happen to anyone, but it is more likely to occur on camping trips because people don’t know how much water they need to drink to stay hydrated. Over-hydration can be detrimental to your health.

So, what is overhydration? It is when your body retains or takes in more water or fluid than your kidneys can remove. As a result, this dilutes vital substances that are in your blood. A good way to tell that you are properly hydrated is by taking note of the color of your urine.

Yes, I know that’s gross, but don’t act as you do it anyway all the time. Everyone does and it is a good indicator for your health. If you are dehydrated your urine will be dark in color, whereas if you are properly hydrated it should be a pale yellow. Overhydration will appear as colorless or clear urine.

Early signs of overhydration will present as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Confusion or disorientation

If left unaddressed or treated it can lead to more severe symptoms due to dangerously low sodium levels in your blood. These symptoms will present as:

  • Muscle weakness, cramps, spasms
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures
  • Coma

It’s no joke, which is why it is important to be aware and educated so that you can spot the signs in yourself or someone else in your group. Safety is the number one priority on any camping trip. You want to enjoy it, so being prepared and vigilant will ensure it will go as smoothly and enjoyably as possible.

Potential Water Sources

Some people prefer to pack bottled water to bring camping, but for a backpacking trip, it isn’t exactly ideal to be carrying gallons of water with you miles into the great outdoors. Of course, starting out with your own water from the tap in your reusable bottles (you always want more than one container), is great for your first day on your trip. But when you’ve finished the last of that you’re going to be needing a different water supply.

If you’re an avid backcountry camper then you’ll know the importance of mapping your backpacking route so that it ensures you’ll have water sources. So, having a route that follows or intersects streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes is vital. These water sources will enable you to have enough water throughout the duration of your camping trip.

New backcountry campers may be questioning whether these sources are truly drinkable water and I can ensure you they are….as long as you’re filtering water and/or purifying it! There is nothing comparable to the taste of water from a cold, fast-flowing stream. It’s like liquid gold that cools, refreshes, and revitalizes your spirit and body in a way no other water has!

To prep these wild sources for your water consumption you can use purification methods like iodine tablets (though these really are not the best option, they ruin the taste, and really consuming too much iodine isn’t good for you either), but my personal favorite is AquaMira which are just purifying droplets.

It is VERY important to follow all of the instructions to a “T” otherwise the water in your bottle won’t be purified properly! It is super easy to use and doesn’t take long at all, you can easily purify your water bottles and hydration pack. Also, it is one of the more affordable options.

Then there are the water filter methods like using Lifestraw which allows you to drink directly from the source using the straw, Sawyer Squeeze water filtration system which you can use to squeeze the filtered water into your reusable bottles or even your hydration backpack, Kataydn which is a pump filtration system you can also use to fill your bottles.

Some of the filtration systems tend to be a bit pricey so do your research, and if you’re just going to be day camping or weekend camping once or twice a year then you may not find it necessary to spend a lot of money on something you won’t use that often.

For more info on water purification and filtering check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cooking And Cleaning Water For Camping

Now, this is something that every camper, even car campers need to be prepared for. Not only do you need drinking water, you need extra water for cooking, making hot drinks, and washing camping cookware. These are things that are a part of any typical camping trip. So, in cases of car camping, and staying at campgrounds, having extra water for yourself or your entire group is important to complete these mundane activities.

At least one gallon extra could make a huge difference in making sure you have enough water for this.

If you don’t want to lug extra water on your car camping trip or carry it with you to your camping spot at the campground, and there is a different water supply around then you can do what the backpackers do. Which is to just use the lake, river, pond, stream, or brook water.

This isn’t an issue because when you’re cooking you’ll usually be cooking up camping meals that are high in calories so a lot of noodles, couscous, and rice kind of meals. These require usually a pot of water which you don’t have to purify or use water filters on because you’ll have to boil water anyway.

The key is that before you begin cooking, to ensure the water is purified, you must bring it to a boil and then let it simmer at a boil for one minute. Once that minute is up then you can proceed to cook up your breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

You repeat this process at the end of your meal when you are ready to wash the dishes. You can finish cleaning up and putting away the food while waiting for your cleaning water to boil. You can pour small amounts of the boiled water onto each of your dishes (very convenient if you have bowls which you can then soak your camping utensils in them at the same time) and some soap to sanitize. Rough sponges are great for scraping off the food remnants, then rinse again until clean.

Also, follow the same boiling process for making hot drinks. It’s always nice to mix it up so you don’t drink water all the time!

Check out this video to see how one avid camper teaches you to conveniently wash your dishes:

Water Needed For Personal Hygiene While Camping

The final thing that you’ll need more water for, other than to stay hydrated, is your personal hygiene like washing hands and taking showers, or just freshening up. You know those typical day-to-day things you do to normally keep yourself clean. You can get creative with how you go about this, especially on a backpacking trip.

Some campgrounds offer showers, but in cases that yours doesn’t, you can makeshift your own. Utilizing a large water jug with a spout that you can open and close is a good way to wash your hands. Just use some soap then open the spout and rinse off. You can use gallons of water that you brought with you if you have an extra one or two set aside purely for hygiene and washing dishes use. Or you can utilize any available water source to fill up your jugs.

Another way to use your water resources for washing your hands and taking a shower is by using a dromedary bag or large water bladder. Many of these are built with a spout you can flip open or closed. You can hang them from a branch so the water will flow out for you to take a shower in.

It isn’t anything to write home about with the pitiful stream and sometimes freezing cold water, but it is enough water to get you all soaped and cleaned up! Believe me, I know from experience that it’s an effective way of washing up before climbing in your sleeping bag at night.

If you value your privacy while taking a shower outdoors, then consider getting a pop up shower tent.

Key Insights & Takeaway

Water is essential for every camping trip, but being sure you’ve effectively packed enough or have ways of purifying and filtering local water sources is key. Never forget all the reasons you need water, to drink, clean, and for your hygiene. There is no set amount for how much water you need, just a rough estimate of what a healthy adult should generally consume and then taking that into consideration per person per day when packing.

Also, being aware of the health risks of drinking too much water and too little water is important too. Overhydration can be serious and is something to keep in mind when you’re kicking back bottles of water all day long. Remember your urine is an important indicator of how hydrated you are!

Stay safe and enjoy the great outdoors!

Frequently Asked Questions

How much water do you need for 3 days camping?

If you’re camping by yourself then the math is simple for per person per day. 64 ounces (roughly 2 liters or a half a gallon) is the amount an average adult should drink a day while out camping and hiking. So, two 32 ounce Nalgene bottles a day should be your goal to drink. So, add that amount together for three days. It will total to approximately 6 liters of water which is 192 ounces, or 1.5 gallons. That’s just drinking water. You’ll need likely a gallon extra or more for washing up and cooking.

The math will get a little more complicated when having to pack for multiple people, but the same principle applies. The number will just be significantly larger for the number of people and the number of days you’ll be out there.

This is why camping around water sources can be extremely convenient because you can utilize them and that means you don’t have to carry as much water with you in your pack.

How do you carry water when camping?

Fortunately, they are several different options that you have when it comes to carrying water on your camping trip. Of course, the kind of camping you’re doing may offer you easier solutions. If weight is not a concern for you and you’re staying in one place, perhaps not even that far from your vehicle then carrying your water and other such items in a cooler is the best way to do it.

You can fit bottled water, gallons of water, and even larger jugs of water into a cooler which makes it very convenient because you’ll have all that you’ll need right there and with you at the campsite the whole time. It is even better if you have other people with you that can help carry it, or if you have a cooler with wheels that you can pull along with you.

When you don’t have that option then you can use hard-sided water jugs or collapsible water jugs which you can fit into your pack. Collapsible jugs take up less space but lose on some durability while the hard-sided jugs have excellent durability but take up a lot of space.

The final option to carry water is to bring water filters or purification tablets or droplets so that you can utilize any water source you come upon without having to constantly lug around huge jugs of water. The only downside to this is you need to make sure your desired route and campsites have access to water close by, otherwise, you’ll be in trouble.

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I was fishing before I could walk and it's been a family tradition for centuries. Fishing is my life, or at least as long as I can remember. In the Lake Champlain International Fathers Day Fishing Derby, not only have I won first place twice but also third place! Also, in addition to majoring in Wilderness Recreation Leadership, I also happen to be a licensed camping, hiking, and hunting guide for NY.