Staying hydrated while hiking

Staying hydrated while camping

Bringing enough water and staying properly hydrated is one of the most crucial parts of having a good experience while outdoors but the good news is that with a small amount of planning water storage can also be one of the simplest parts of any camping trip. Between water purification filters, personal canteens, and water coolers there are a few options to make sure we always have enough water while outdoors.

Personal Water

Disposable Water Bottles

A quick and dirty solution to water is to just buy a large pack of bottled water. This is always a tempting choice if you haven’t planned ahead. While this option seems convenient, it can start to become very expensive if you need to bring any significant amount of water anywhere and creates a lot of trash that you will also need to pack out.

Reusable water bottles

There are quite a few options for carrying your own personal supply of water. Anything from the very popular Nalgene wide mouth water bottles to the wide variety of stainless steel options. The only downside to these is having to carry them around.

Hydration Pack

If you want to keep your hands-free but still keep your water within arm’s reach then a hydration backpack is a perfect choice. Great for hikers and anyone who doesn’t want to stop and fumble around for a drink. These come in all shapes and carry different amounts of water.

How much water do you need to bring camping?

You will also need to bring enough water to refill your personal water container, for any cooking, and for washing up. According to the National Outdoor Leadership School, you should drink “1/2 liter for every hour of moderately strenuous activity.”  While good advice for hiking or desert camping, for the average trip, an easy rule of thumb is to bring 1 gallon per person per day. A 5-gallon water cooler should be more than enough for two people for a weekend trip.

Milk Jugs

An extremely cheap way to store and transport water is by recycling empty milk jugs. This can be a good way to carry enough water for a day trip or for an overnight stay but anything over a couple of gallons quickly becomes cumbersome and you might want to consider larger water storage options.

Recycle empty milk jugs for cheap water storage.
Empty Milk Jugs in 1027”, by Collin Anderson, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Collapsible water container

A collapsible storage container is a good way to store a lot of water and when not in use can be stored away without taking up too much space on your camping shelf. These typically store around 1 to 3 gallons of water each.


Water cooler

When you need 5 or more gallons of water bringing along a rigid water cooler is your best bet. These are easy to fill up and quick to dispense water.


Onsite water purification

Packing in your own water can take up a lot of space and can also be one of the heavier things you bring along. When weight is a concern you can always try to collect water from natural sources such as springs, rivers, or lakes. While this water may look clean you should always purify it before consuming to avoid getting sick from bacteria or viruses.


One of the safest and simplest ways to purify your water is to boil it. According to the World Health Organization, boiling water at a temperature of 158°F (70°C) for less than 1 minute will kill 99.999% of bacteria, protozoa, and viruses in under a minute. This does require that you pack a stove and extra fuel. The only downsides to this method are the time it takes waiting for the water to heat and to cool before consuming.

Boiling water over a campfire

Chemical Tablets

If you don’t mind the taste chemical tablets can offer an extremely lightweight solution to purifying water. Because of this, even if it isn’t your go-to solution for water purification it is still a good idea to store a few of these tablets in your emergency first-aid kit. Back in the day, the most common chemical purification method was in the form of iodine tablets but these would discolor the water and leave a bad taste. In recent years the more effective chlorine dioxide has become the most popular chemical method to clean water while only mildly altering the taste of the water. Another major downside to this method is it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours depending on the bacteria or parasites you are trying to kill.


Portable water filters are an all-around great way to get clean water in the wilderness. These can clean water faster than using the tablet or boiling method and a good option for groups of adventurers. There is some maintenance with a filtration system and you may have to buy extra filters once your original filter clogs with contaminants.

Checkout out our full Camping Gear Checklist for more in-depth reviews and how-to’s