How Much Water Should I Bring Camping?

Fragment of a camping chair with a bottle of water and a bouquet. A protective mask hangs on it to protect against the virus. Stands on the grass of a summer meadow.

Camping has been a necessity for the human race for ages and has become more of a recreational activity in recent centuries. Since we now have so much more of what humans need to survive and even more than what we actually need, we often overlook just how much of a certain life necessity we need to have with us when participating in activities that remove us from the protection of warm homes and adequate amounts of food and water. Speaking of that last necessity, this article seeks to explain just how much of that special liquid necessary for all life is needed to be brought by any camper as they embark on their adventures into the wilderness for however many days and nights.

For camping, women need at least 5.4 liters of water and men at least 7.4 liters of water per day. It is recommended that campers bring at least two times the daily water needed with them while camping since the activity of camping requires much more physical activity than a regular day would.

I have been on several camping trips growing up in the state of Wyoming. Although I am not the camper that I used to be, I can share from experience what I know about proper hydration during camping and even provide evidence through research that defends my claims.

Typical Hydration for the Human Being

Woman drinking pure water into her body. Illustration about healthy lifestyle.

Most of the human body is made of that good old dihydrogen monoxide (H2O). Really, all of life is made up of mostly water. Heck, most of planet Earth is covered in the stuff! It is difficult to overstate just how essential this liquid is for all living things.

For the average, healthy human being, the body needs to ingest water on a daily basis so it can remove bodily wastes such as urine and feces, keep the body temperature at a stable constant, keep joints lubricated and cushioned, and protect sensitive tissues in the body. Water is so prominent in most things in this world that it makes up most of the things that we eat, as well — given that the food is not overly processed and comes from more natural places, of course.

As I mentioned earlier, the human male requires approximately four liters (or about seventeen cups) of water every day while the human female only needs about three liters (or about thirteen cups) every day. The difference in dosage when it comes to gender is likely equated to the average body mass of both sexes.

Of course, not all people are the same size no matter if they are male or female. This calls for a judgment on your part. Nobody can tell you if you are putting enough fluids in your body except for you. For all I know you could require more or less of the amounts listed above. If you want to know if you are properly hydrating yourself, just take note of the color of your urine. If it is a clear or light yellow color, then you are good.

Activities that Require More Hydration Than Usual

A backpacker enjoying panorama views of the mountain ranges on day 2 of the Routeburn Track, South Island.

Now, while you are camping, there is most likely a lot of physical activity that goes into making the trip work. I mean, you need to travel to a campsite, carry all of your bags to a camping spot, set up a tent, and do a number of other things that you will see fit for making your trip enjoyable.

This amount of movement and stress on the human body will likely mean that it will require a bit more water than the recommended daily requirement suggested by the United States National Academies. This is why it is always a good idea to have on hand double the amount of the required dosage for each day — that is, if you plan to remain stationary throughout your trip. Be sure to check and see if there is a sort of water pump there, too.

Speaking from experience, I have gone on several annual camping trips growing up that lasted four days and three nights. Each trip had me and the rest of our group traversing mountains and valleys as we followed the winding trails. As I hiked, it was apparent that I was exerting a lot of energy into carrying my own body weight along with my hiking pack over miles and miles of mostly dry terrain.

However, I found myself not requiring as much water as I thought I might as I hiked. Of course, the color of my urine might have communicated otherwise, but I did not feel as thirsty as I thought I would. Do be sure to bring a good water bottle and a form of water purification with you if you take these kinds of trips. We will talk more about this later on.

What Certain Temperatures do to the Human Body

As I am sure that you are well aware, as the human body heats up due to external forces, the skin begins to sweat. This combined with a great amount of movement will also cause the breathing rate of any person to increase, rising to an exhaustive pant. Both of these bodily functions cause water to leave the body and need replacing.

Depending on where you go and what time of year you choose to make the trip, there is the likelihood of requiring more water than usual to make up for the moisture lost in the body. Failing to hydrate the body with adequate amounts of that essential fluid can result in dehydration, which can be draining to the mind and body. In some severe cases, it can be fatal.

Alternatives to Carrying Large Amounts of Water Everywhere

male mountain climber in a blue down jacket filtering drinking water from a river in a high mountain valley in the Andes in Peru

During the hiking trips where we were expected to carry as little as we could so as not to add unnecessary strain on our bodies, we were told to bring our own form of water purification. This could come in the form of a portable water filter, a light that kills bacteria, or just a way to heat up the water for cleansing.

Since we were constantly on the move, I do not remember ever resolving to that last method and I do not recommend relying solely on that method when camping either. If you are in need of a good water filter that you can take on your trip, then I would recommend either looking online for a filter of considerable quality or visiting an outdoor sports retailer and finding one of the best portable filters they have.

Advice From a Pro

For this particular topic, I was able to get back in contact with an old friend who was also the leader and main organizer of the annual hiking trip I mentioned earlier. I knew that he had much more experience in the realm of backpacking, hiking, and camping in general. The guy just loves nature, it would seem.

Knowing all of this, I asked him about how he goes about ensuring sufficient hydration during his trips and what others ought to do if they want to have the same assurance during their own excursions. Trust me — this man is a pro when it comes to the outdoors and making the times spent in them enjoyable and fulfilling. To answer the question that you searched to find this article, he told me the following through text:

“Let me answer from the point of view of a backpacking trip vs a camping trip. There are many variables to consider such as ambient temperature and the relative difficulty of the route but a general guideline is 1 liter for every 2 hours of hiking. Water management for a backpacking trip should include knowing where reliable water sources are located so you can decide how much water to carry. For example, if there is water every two hours, you can drink up at the water source and not carry any water to the next source. If the next source is more than 2 hours, carry water proportional to the distance/time to the next source.”

So, from what the master has told me, you first need to establish whether you will only be camping in one solitary area or if you will also be carrying your supplies with you on your back from one camping spot to another. The backpacking option will prove to be a bit more arduous than simply staying in one area for one night or longer.

Hiking will prove itself taxing on the body, which is why he suggests carrying at least one liter of water with you for every two hours spent hiking. The container you carry can be refilled every time you come upon a stream, river, lake, spring, pond, or really any body of water. Though, it might prove more preferable to find a moving source of water rather than a stagnant one because those tend to be cleaner.

Ideally, you will also want a container that is light yet sturdy enough to hold your desired amount of liquid. I usually carried a few pouch-like containers because they were very lightweight and because they did not take up as much space when they contained less water than their maximum capacity would allow. I believe that the brand was called Platypus. You can likely find some for a good price at your local retailer or online.

I would recommend using these kind of containers to carry water or something similar. Of course, unless you want a bulky, possibly heavier water bottle made from hardened plastic or metal. Seriously, be sure to pack smart when going on these kinds of trips. You will thank yourself in the long run.

Other Ways of How to Prevent Dehydration

No soft drink sign isolated on white background vector illustration.

If you are looking for other ways to ensure that your body receives enough hydration without needing to carry too much water, then there are a few things you should remember when you think about where exactly all of the water you normally intake comes from. For instance, most foods that are healthy and stemming from natural places tend to be made up of mostly water.

All fruits and vegetables are almost entirely made up of water. So, while you plan for the meals and snacks that you will consume on your trip, be sure to pack plenty of foods rich in nutrients and not too high in sugars. The right amount of fat in your foods can help with energy, but sugar will definitely make you more thirsty than you need to be.

On that last note, you should avoid taking energy drinks, sports drinks, or any fountain drinks with you on your trip. These beverages can have incredible amounts of sugar in them and only bring on further thirst. If you want the taste of something else in your mouth besides trail mix and filtered water, you can always pack a few packets of lemonade powder or another option that essentially turns your water into juice. Bringing a few of these with me on each backpacking trip always helped change things up and give me energy. You can find these at basically any market that sells food or even at gas stations.

Is it Possible to Drink too Much Water?

It is possible, but I do not see how anyone can manage to drink dangerous amounts of water unless they really try to. I remember being in high school and hearing about this contest that happened where a few contestants wanted to see who could drink the most water. The event did not end well because the student who won the contest drank so much water that apparently the balance of electrolytes in the body of that student became so out of balance that the student needed to be taken to the emergency room.

Again, this will not happen to you unless you really try to drink more than you can handle. Do not get any ideas if you come across any body of water on your trip. It can be dangerous.

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