Matt Johnson

How Much Water to Bring Camping?

Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthornePublished: Oct 30, 2022Updated: Dec 13, 2023

A crucial part of any camping trip is planning and preparing what you need to bring. Of course, you need the essentials—things you need to live and survive on top of everything else you need to camp comfortably such as a sleeping bag and sleeping pad. This includes ensuring you bring enough water camping for you and your group, which can be tricky to estimate.

While there are numerous factors to consider when trying to determine how much to bring, a good rule of thumb is to pack one gallon per person per day for drinking on a typical camping trip.

Whether you bring that with you in water bottles or get it at the campground, that’s a different story.

Some estimates have water consumption as low as 2 quarts (64 ounces or half a gallon) per person per day, but that is on the very low end and doesn’t account for any additional water needs such as temperature and activities.

For some camping adventures you may need to drink water more frequently to stay healthy.

If you are planning on spending days adventuring in the great outdoors, it’s best to err on the side of caution and bring more water than you think you’ll need.

With that, let’s determine how much water you’ll need for your next camping trip, whether you’re car camping, roughing it in a tent or just going on a day hike. We’ll even throw in some tips and a video on how to purify your own water.

Full hookups and water on site.

Campgrounds May have Water Spigot
Campgrounds typically have city water. This makes it convenient to have water at your campsite.

First, if you are staying at a campground with full hookups, you will have drinkable water available and don’t need to worry about bringing as much or have to conserve water. However, it is still a good idea to bring a small amount of water with you, just in case the spigot is turned off, or there is a problem with the water supply.

Personally, we prefer to bring our own bottled water to drink and cook with, even when there is water available on site. This is because we need to become more familiar with the taste or quality of the water, and we would rather err on the side of caution. We will, however, use the campground’s water for showers, cleaning, and washing dishes.

However, not every campground has water hookups, and you may need to haul your water in. Let’s explore how much water you should bring in this case.

Primitive camping with no hookups.

Taking Water Jugs in Back of SUV
5 gallon jugs are ideal for taking plenty of water with you. They fit nicely in the back of your SUV or car for those car camping trips.

You might be adventurous and like to get away from it all by primitive camping. This means you will have to haul in all of your own water, which can be a challenge. The first thing you need to do is figure out how much water you will realistically need.

Remember, you can only fit so much in your car during your car camping trip.

Drinking water only.

A good rule of thumb is to bring one gallon of water per person daily. This will ensure that everyone has enough to drink and stay hydrated while camping.

If you are planning on doing strenuous activities or it will be sweltering, then you should increase this amount. For example, if it is going to be very hot, you should bring 1.5 gallons of water per person daily.

This will help you avoid heat injuries such as muscle cramps. Once you start to feel thirsty you’re already heading towards a heat injury so you need water!

If you are only going to be camping for a short period or there is a nearby water source you can refill, you can get away with bringing less water.

Cooking, washing dishes, and showering.

The 1 gallon per day is for drinking only, but what if you want to wash dishes or take a shower? Then you will need to bring extra water on your camping trip for that.

In this case, a good rule of thumb is to bring at least 2-3 gallons of water per person per day for cooking needs, cleaning, and bathing.

This might seem like a lot, but remember, you will be using this water for multiple purposes, not just drinking.

Of course, if you are only cooking simple meals that don’t require a lot of water or don’t plan on showering, or you’re using disposable plates, you can get away with bringing less water.

We like to think about our entire trip, how many people are going, and what our needs will be before deciding how much water to bring.

Purifying your own water.

Only for the most rugged campers; If you are planning on getting your water from a natural source like a river, you will need to purify it with a water filter or something similar before drinking. This requires extra equipment and time, but it can be done if you are prepared.

There are multiple ways to make lake, pond, or river water potable before ingesting it.

Iodine to purify the water.

First, you can have iodine tablets or a small bottle of iodine tincture on hand. This will kill bacteria, viruses, and protozoans in the water, making it safe to drink. You will need to follow the directions on how much iodine to use per quart or liter of water.

Your water will taste like iodine, which is not desirable, but it will be safe to drink.

Here’s a quick video that shows you how to purify your water with iodine to make it safe for consumption.

Water filters for long-term camping trips.

You might want to invest in a portable water filter or purifier for longer-term camping trips.

These water filters can range from small personal portable water purifiers to larger ones that can simultaneously purify several gallons of water.

Solar stills can produce water.

There are also solar stills that you can set up, extracting the water from plants and making it safe to drink. However, this prolonged method might only be practical for some people.

Those going on a backpacking trip and even car campers might want to go another route as they’ll need more water than a still can produce.

Purify water by boiling it.

Lastly, you can always boil water to kill any pathogens. This is a slow process and you need a camping stove or a fire pit, but highly effective when you’re in a bind.

Whenever possible, we like to find a campground with water hookups. This way, we don’t have to worry about purifying our own water and don’t have to bring much water when we go camping. Although we always bring a water jug.

However, it is always good to know how to do it in case of an emergency. You never know what will happen on a camping adventure.

Water is essential, so have access to plenty of it!

While camping can be a fun and adventurous way to escape it all, but it is essential to remember that you need access to plenty of water outdoors.

Even if you’re camping in the winter and the temperature is a little cooler, you need plenty of water.

Whether you are primitive camping and have to haul your water in or using natural sources, or are staying at a campground with water source hookups, knowing how much water to bring is essential for an enjoyable and safe trip.

You should have a better idea of how much water you will need while camping, depending on the activities and conditions you plan on doing.

Remember to always pack more than enough drinking water while camping, just in case.


Matt Johnson

Senior Content Writer

Matt is an experienced camper and glamping enthusiast with a Master's degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University. Authoring posts for GlamperGear, he shares his wealth of knowledge on picturesque campsites, luxurious accommodations, and the best gear for outdoor adventures. His passion for nature and knack for comfort in the wilderness make him an expert guide for your next camping endeavor.

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