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How much water you should carry for camping?

While camping in the wilderness, water is one of the basic essentials for your survival. You don’t want to run out of water or die of thirst in the middle of nowhere. While planning our camping trip, this question always comes into our minds – how much water is enough water?

This water is not merely for drinking only. You also need water to prepare your meal, washing the dishes and clothes, and personal hygiene. Imagine, in the middle of camping you have used all your water and there is no freshwater source nearby. Your only choices are: find a water source or turn back and go home.

So, how much water you should carry for camping? For camping in the wilderness without a water source, you will need 1 gallon of water per person per day for drinking and an additional 1 gallon for other uses like cooking, washing, and personal hygiene.

How is water used while camping?

You will be surprised to see how much water we use daily in our normal routines. During camping when we have a limited supply of water, it becomes a challenging task to better manage the available water resource. That means we have to see where the water is used and if we can cut down on some areas if possible.

Pro Tip: While in the wilderness, if you see a freshwater source, drink to your fullest even if you are not thirsty, and also refill your water storage.

In my experience, water is not the main problem. The main problem is how you manage that water while camping. Don’t use water excessively only on washing or cooking. As our sources are limited, we have to be extra careful.

Below are the most common uses of stored water while camping.

Water UsageAmountTip
For drinking64 ounces per dayDon’t keep all your water in one place.
Refill your storage from fresh source.
For cooking64 ounces per dayTry to pack food that need less amount of water to cook.
For washing & cleaning72 ounces. 8 ounces for brushing,
64 ounces for personal hygiene
Substitute face wipes or baby wipes where possible.

Some people also carry their pets with them while camping. You can gauge how much water your dog needs by their weight, activity level, and the temperature outside. Keep extra water and use a collapsible water bowl to keep your pet hydrated.

Keep in mind the climate and conditions of your camping site as well. If you are planning to watch a sunset beside a pond and it includes no physical activity then you don’t need to worry about your water problem. With little or no physical or strenuous activity, less water will be consumed. But if you are planning camping in the wilderness or dessert with a lot of physical activities then one must be careful with the water resources.

How to save water while camping?

When I usually go camping, I try to preserve as much water as I can. This might look easy but it requires a lot of management. While in the wilderness, the water resources are limited and you don’t want to spend your camping time in search of water. Below are a few tricks and tips to preserve water while camping. These tips will help you stretch your water supply a bit further.

  • Pre-cook your food at home before you leave so you can minimize cooking water.
  • Use hand sanitizers instead of water for your hands (unless you have physical dirt on your hands)
  • Use baby wipes or facial wipes for your personal hygiene.
  • Pace yourself before any strenuous activity to control sweating.
  • Use dry shampoos for your hair wash.
  • Reuse cooking water to soak dirty pans.
  • Use biodegradable soap for washing.
  • If you find any safe or freshwater source drink up to your fill so you can save your carrying water for later

How to purify & reuse water during camping?

If you run out of water during camping and returning to the base is not an option, your next best chance is to search for a source of freshwater nearby. You can search for a pond or river nearby. But drinking directly from these sources can put your health at risk. The water source can be contaminated with many dangerous chemicals, bacteria, viruses, and decayed remains of dead animals. Drinking water without purification can be harmful to your health.

How much water you should carry for camping

Knowing how to purify water can save you!

Few methods and techniques are very helpful in these circumstances. By using these methods, you can easily purify and use these water resources. These are very simple and easy to implement.


It is the most effective and old method to purify water. Collect the water in a bowl and boil it on your propane tank stove or atop your campfire for at least 1 minute. The heat will kill all bacteria and pathogens.

If the water is cloudy, let it settle and filter through a clean cloth.


Distillation is the process of vaporizing unclean water and condensing the vapors in a separate container to get clean water. This will result in the purest form of water (it will not even have the natural salts, hence will taste weird too but it’s clean). The distillation process also removes bacteria and most germs if done properly.

Although there are many setups that you can use to distill unclean water, the one I am going to tell is the simplest and doesn’t require any special equipment. It might not be very effective compared to the distillation setup in your 10th-grade chemistry class it works.

To distill water this way, you will need one large pot with a lid and a smaller container/pot that fits and can float inside the large container.

  1. Collect unclean water in the large pot and put it on the stove or campfire.
  2. Take the small pot and put it inside the larger pot so that it floats on the surface of the water (or not depending on its weight and how much water is in the large pot.
  3. Take the large pot lid and place it on top of the large pot INVERTED. This is necessary to collect the vapors and condense them back to the water.
  4. Now when you heat the water, the water in the large pot will vaporize and when the vapors hit the inverted lid, they will condense on the surface and drip down into the smaller pot that is floating below.
  5. To assist the condensation, you can place something cold on the outer surface of the lid like cold mud (but make sure you don’t contaminate the clean water or even pour some of the unclean water on it.

Purification Tablets

This method is the easiest of all. Add few tablets in unclean water and wait for 3-4 hours. The tablets mostly used are iodine and chlorine dioxide-based.

My go-to tablets are the Potable Aqua (Amazon Link) which are cheap, easy to use and they don’t leave any taste after you use them.

Water Filters

Water filters are of different types. It is the best way to cut down on water weight. It enables you to drink from any source (stream, pond, etc.) instead of carrying all of your water.

You can find a lot of water filters online as well as at hardware stores near you. They all work on the same principal – pass water through a few layers of natural or artificial porous material to filter out dirt and large bacteria.

My favorite filter is this one available on Amazon or Walmart easily. It’s cheap, easy to use, and does what it is designed for. When combined with the gravity bag (you can buy the filter with or without the gravity bag) it becomes very handy. You can leave the filter connected to the filled gravity bag and get a lot of filtered water overnight.

Even if you don’t have a filter, you can make one using two standard softdrink bottles. Just cut one bottle at the bottom, fill it with some clean sand + gravels. Pour water at the top cut section and you will get clean filtered water from the neck. Its not very effective or fast compared to commercial ones but hey, we are trying not to die of thrust here so anything works.

Best ways to carry water for camping

Carrying all your water on your back is not a good idea. It will be difficult to access water from time to time and you will not be able to drink plenty of it. You have to choose something that can supply a source of water throughout, not adding much weight to carry for you. Hard bottles, collapsible bottles, hydration bladders, and soda bottles all can carry water but the question is, which one is the best way to carry water?

Water Bottles

Water bottles are easy to carry, cheap, and often disposable. Traditional hard bottles are cheap and easily available and quite handy but take unnecessary space when empty. Make sure the bottle you chose is BPA-free. I would recommend getting one from Nalgene. They are inexpensive, BPA free and quite famous among outdoorsy people.

In comparison, flexible rubber bottles can be rolled and collapsed to carry easily without taking up much of your packing space. Again, get a BPA-free one. I would recommend HydraPak Stash in this category.

Hydration Bladders or Packs

Hydration packs are specially designed water containers that you can carry inside your backpack or even wear as a backpack. They can carry a lot of water with ease and come with a sipping pipe that you can use to sip while going on your trail.

My go to hydration pack is Aquamira pressurized pack [Amazon Link].

Wha to do if you run out of water?

Even if take great care of your water supply during camping, you might still run out of it every now and then. Managed campsites have regular supply of water so if you are near such a site, its not really a problem. But if you are in the wilderness away from civilisation, you will have to do some serious water hunting.

Most natural habitats have a water supply in some form. You will find a river, creek, pond, or even a waterfall nearby. The best way to find such a spot is to follow vegetation and wildlife.

Pro Tip: Before you leave for the wilderness, make sure you familiarize yourself with the surroundings and find suitable spots for camping and make sure you mark water bodies near you as well in case of emergencies.


To summaries, the discussion, always carry enough water with you whenever you go for offsite camping and make sure you manage your water for the time you are away from a water source.

For drinking, you need at least 1 gallon per person per day. The climate, temperature, and activities play an important role in camping.

Explore the camping spot before going if there is any water source there to be on the safer side. Camping is all fun and adventure unless you have your resources with you. Having extra water on your side is better than no water in the middle of the wilderness.

Happy camping.

Recommended Camping Gears: I have compiled a list of my favourite camping gear in one place. The selection is based on my own personal experience using them for many years camping as well as feedback from fellow campers. Check them out on my Recommended Camping Gears page