How Much Water Do I Need To Bring While Camping?

Ensuring you have all of the necessary supplies when you go camping is very important. There is so much to remember to bring when camping, from food to medical supplies, clothing, cooking utensils and, of course, water.

You should have 1-2 gallons of water per day per person for every day of camping. A person will drink about half a gallon of water a day but more water is necessary for eating, washing, and hygiene such as washing dishes, washing hands, brushing teeth, etc.   

Two of the things I never want to be without, whether I am camping or just at home, are food and water. Water is such an important element for our bodies and being dehydrated while trying to enjoy a camping trip just isn’t any fun at all! This is especially true when the weather is hot and humid. Let’s take a closer look at just how much water you should bring with you when car camping.

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Image by Maaark from Pixabay

What’s the Ideal Amount of Water per Person to Bring Camping?

Under normal circumstances, it is recommended that if you are twelve years or older, you should drink approximately two liters of water per day. SOURCE.  If you are younger than twelve, you can probably get away with drinking one and a half liters per day.

Now, that is under normal circumstances. Let’s look at why you might want even more water per person while camping.

  1. If you are out in the heat getting exercise, you will need even more water. Staying hydrated is a necessity, not an option. Be safe.
  2. Most likely, you will want to brush your teeth while camping. You should always have water to rinse out your mouth and rinse off your tooth brush.
  3. If you are using dishes, you will need to wash them in-between meals. You could opt for paper plates and burn them in the fire when done, if that works for you.
  4. Cleaning off cuts and scrapes when they happen could require some water.
  5. Washing hands is a must when car camping. You could stock up on wet wipes or just use good old biodegradable soap and water.
  6. If you have a portable shower, you might want to bring extra water for that as well. If you can jump in a lake or use the campgrounds facilities to shower, that will free up space in your car as water for showering will take up quite a bit of room.
  7. Making a hot drink or adding water to soups or other meals for cooking is likely when car camping. Let’s face it, having something hot to drink when you first wake to nature makes the experience that much better!
    1. You might need water if you are going to make soup or want to boil something that will require clean water, if it will be touching/cooking with your food.

After all that being said, what’s the necessary amount of water to bring? Based on the list I have just given you, let’s calculate the water needs of one person per day.

  1. Drinking water = 2 liters.
  2. Extra drinking water because of heat and exercise = 16 ounces.
  3. For brushing teeth, let’s say 8 ounces per day.
  4. If you are washing dishes with the tub method (see my post on different dish washing techniques for more details), then washing dishes will require 1 gallon per day. You need washing and rinsing water.
  5. Cleaning off scrapes and wiping faces and hands – 8 ounces per day (if you’re careful).
  6. Washing hands will require 16 ounces per day.
  7. Making hot drinks and cooking. Let’s assume you are just drinking hot chocolate and making one can of soup per day. Approximately 24 ounces needed for this.

Based on all of the numbers above, I would recommend you bring approximately 2 US gallons of water per person per day of camping.

If you want to take a shower, then you will have to add another gallon on top of that, bringing the per-day water needs to 3 gallons. If you have other requirements, then go ahead and calculate those in as well. Just remember that;

  1. There are 33.8 ounces in 1 Liter.
  2. There are 3.78 liters in 1 US gallon.

You can bring a single gallon per person per day if you are wiping your dishes (and yourself) clean. Dishwashing and showering take a lot of water.

How Much Water is Too Much Water to Bring Camping?

When car camping, there is limited space in your vehicle so adding large containers of water could be an issue if you don’t plan and pack accordingly. Depending on how many people you have in your vehicle, you might be able to fill a whole seat up with water containers.

If the space inside the vehicle is an issue, then how about on the roof? If you don’t have a roof rack and storage container, maybe it is time to invest in one. Some storage containers for cars are large enough to accommodate many gallons of water, therefore freeing up space inside your car.    

After figuring out how much water you require based on my suggestions above, I would say anything more than that is too much. Unless it is just a bit more for drinking, then that would be acceptable.

Why do I Need to Bring so Much Water Camping?

As previously discussed, you will need to bring water to drink as well as enough for cleaning, showering and cooking. Suffice it to say, this is why you need to bring so much water.

Now, if you are car camping at a location that you know without a doubt will have unlimited clean water, then you really don’t have to bring very much water at all.

Chances are, you will at least have to purchase jugs of water at or near the camping site. Which, I suppose, is not a bad idea. However, you still need to know approximately how much water is needed for the days you are camping. 

Image by Leslie Anneliese from Pixabay

For an example, on one trip, me and my friends went camping in the desert (we were going to do some canyoneering the next day), and there were zero amenities, so we stopped by Walmart that was around 40 miles from our destination and bought gigantic tubs of water that we could use for the entire group. We used this for drinking, washing, cleaning, hygiene, etc. It worked out well! We didn’t have to carry those huge tubs of water for entire road trip, only for a couple campsites.

How Much Water do I Need to Bring For Day Hikes?

If you plan on going on a day-hike while you are car camping, do you need to bring water with you?

Absolutely! Being caught out away from civilization without water is extremely dangerous. Being out in the wild hiking requires great effort. Decide how much water you will need to take before setting out. It is also very important to add extra water in case you end up taking much longer than originally expected.

Sometimes when out on the trail, you might end up going in the wrong direction. You could also find a different route you want to take while part way through. If you didn’t take extra water, you might miss out on some very interesting exploration opportunities.

How Much Water do I Need to Bring Backpacking?

Long story short, if your backpacking trek is going to be an ‘out and back’ trip all done within 6 hours, I would bring at least 3 liters per person. If it’s hot outside, then you need to bring 1 liter per person per hour. It’s extra weight and can be inconvenient, but due to the reasons above, you always want to have plenty of water rather than not enough to last the journey.

If you are planning on a multi-day backpacking trip, you will not be able to carry enough water to make it through your journey. You need to start thinking about a way to clean your water.

Do I Need a Water Purifier?

Even if you’re not in the wilderness and you’re just car camping, having a water purifier is a great idea! Being able to have the assurance that you are not going to get caught in a situation where you only have unclean water to drink is worth the extra effort to bring a water purifier.

If you are backpacking to a destination or for multiple days, then a way to purify your water is a must.

There are many options on the market from portable water purifiers to micro-filters and even water bottle purifiers. You should easily be able to find one to suit your needs.

If there is any possibility at all that you will have access to water other than what you bring, then go ahead and bring along a purifier.

If you are not sure about bringing a purifier, how about trying water purifier tablets? Yes, it’s a thing. If you are ever in a situation where you need to make water suitable for drinking, you use the tablets to clean the water. Don’t believe me? Check this out on Amazon.  Potable Aqua water tablets.


In conclusion, it is very important to ensure that you have enough water to drink and for other uses when car camping. Planning your next car camping trip should include a calculation of how much water is necessary for each person per day of your trip. Knowing beforehand if your destination has clean water is vital to your health, comfort and overall enjoyment.

If you are not sure whether or not the water at your destination is drinkable, then bring a water purifier or some water purifying tablets with you as well.


Peter is a software developer who loves to take every opportunity to go outside that he can get. Peter grew up going on long backpacking excursions with his family every Summer and now enjoys staying at the beautiful Texas State Parks and swimming in the amazing Texas Rivers.

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