How much water to bring camping?

One of the biggest questions we hear from people when they go camping is about water. When most of us are home, we can simply turn the tap and the water is ready to drink. When you go camping, you need to think about bringing water along with you. That raises the obvious question: how much water to bring camping?

Well, we’re here to answer that question and other questions you might now have thought of, but should think about, for water while you are camping.

Why do people not like bringing water while camping?

If you are tempted to bring water from home, then you are absolutely right! You should bring some water from home.

But, if you read camping forums, you’ll see that many people absolutely hate the idea of bringing water from home!

So, which one is it? And why do people hate bringing water?

Well, the short answer is water can become extremely heavy. Water gallon jugs from the grocery store can weigh more than 8 pounds. 

The average person, on an average day, needs a minimum of half a gallon of water a day. That’s about 4 pounds a day then of water.

That math can add up really quickly. If you have a family of four, then you will need 2 gallons of water a day or 16 pounds worth of water. If you are going camping for a 3-day long weekend, that’s now 48 pounds of just water to bring!

However, you’ll probably need even more water

The 0.5 gallons per day of water is the estimated amount of water you need to drink on an average day. When you’re camping, you most likely will be even more active than normal due to activities like hiking, swimming, and more. For that reason, you’ll need to be on the safe side and assume you’ll need more water.

Then, you most likely need even more water!

But, don’t forget that most people also go camping during the summer months. After all, it’s not a ton of fun sleeping in a tent once it gets below 30 degrees. However, that hot temperature will make your body consume water more quickly and increase your need to drink water even more!

On top of the more active days and the hotter temperature, you’ll also run into the fact you’ll probably need some water for daily use around the campsite. Common things that you can use more water for are:

  • Brushing your teeth, which will take a few ounces of water per brush
  • Camp showers, if you believe in showering while you camp
  • Cooking, as some recipes or pre-heated meals may require some water

So, how much water do I need for each person?

The average person needs 0.5 gallons on an average day, but as we’ve discussed, there are multiple good reasons for why you’ll end up going through even more water than normal when you are camping.

Hydration is also extremely important, so it’s much better to be conservative here rather than aggressive!

For that reason, we recommend you budget one gallon of water per person, per day.

How much water should I bring?

Now that we have a goal amount of one gallon of water, per person, per day, it’s time to figure out how much of that amount you should try bring from home.

Remember, your challenge is going to be weight. Assume each gallon is 8 pounds. For a family of four over a long weekend, that is 8 pounds X 4 people X  3 days = 96 pounds of water!!

Or, way too much to carry.

Here are a few questions to help you answer how much water to bring:

Will you be able to drive directly to the camp location?

If you are, then you are going car camping! You can load up your car with all of your necessities, which should also include water.

Our recommendation: bring 100% of the recommended amount of water with you

Do you have an RV?

If you have an RV, then you probably have a water hook up with it. In that case, you probably won’t need much water.

Our recommendation: you only will need an “emergency” supply of water.  However, since you probably have the space for it, there is no harm in bringing 100% of the necessary

Are you staying at a state-approved campground?

If you are, then the odds are strong that the location will have a running water source that can be accessed by all campers, at all times. However, before going out there, you should do some research to confirm. Most campgrounds have websites that will tell you whether or not they have running water there.

Our recommendation: bring enough water for each person for 24 hours, or one gallon. Since this is an overly conservative estimate, that one gallon should give you the ability to last more than 24 hours if needed.

Are you backpacking/canoeing/kayaking, or doing something similar that doesn’t involve staying at a campground?

In this case, you probably won’t have access to fresh, running water and won’t have the ability to bring all of that added weight with you. That being said, it’s important to bring as much water as you can to be as safe as possible

Our recommendation: bring enough water to cover 50% of your camping trip. That way, you have a nice buffer of water in case you cannot find or purify water, but you also aren’t bogged down by excess weight.

What if I need more water while camping?

At some point, we should write an entire article on how to collect and purify water while you are out camping. It’s actually more difficult than you might expect!

If you run out of water, and you don’t have a purifier, LifeStraw, or Iodine tablets, then you need to clean it yourself. Optimally, you’ll include one of those water cleaning products in your camping list!

The first step is to find running water, like a stream or river. Lake water doesn’t move, which is problematic. Running water is typically much cleaner since it can’t sit and “stew” with bacteria.

Once you’ve found running water, the next step is to purify it. Here, you should look to do the old trick of boiling water.

Overall, bring the right amount of water for your situation, but err on the side of more rather than less

It’s difficult to bring water camping due to the weight. However, it’s important to prioritize hydration, especially since you’ll be even more thirsty when camping. That’s why we recommend you plan on a gallon of water per person, per day. However, that has the downside of being 8 whole pounds.

For that reason, we proposed a couple of scenarios above that should help you figure out how much water you should bring with you on a daily basis.

We’ll see you at the campsite!