How much drinking water should I pack?

Would like to get opinions about how much drinking water one should bring on a three day, two night canoe and camping trip. Assume 2 adults and summer heat. Any other thoughts about how one should pack large amounts of water would also be appreciated.

Water sources?

– Last Updated: Aug-28-09 8:34 AM EST –

Are you paddling on water that can be filtered or treated? That would be my choice if possible. Otherwise I think you'll need a couple gallons per person per day (so maybe 15 gallons) for typical cooking and drinking needs.

How to pack and minimums

– Last Updated: Aug-28-09 10:38 AM EST –

1 liter per person per day just to drink, minimum. More if special medical needs or conditions like heat.
Easiest to pack in one or two liter soft bottles, from Platypus or whoever, that can be spread around to help with ballast and will crush to no weight when empty.

I usually figure my use at a gallon a day. I filter if on fresh water. I wash with the water I’m paddling on. If it is fresh water, I’ll cook with it, too, as long as it is going to boil. If your on salt water, you can cook noodles but you have to cut it with half fresh water or it is just too salty.

To a degree, it is personal. How much water do you drink? How much will you need for cooking? Bring steak and potatoes, you don’t need any. Bring rice or noodles, or dehydrated foods, you need water.

I carry water in gallon bottles. The dromedary bags are very convenient way to carry water and real nice for kayaks where gallon bottles make an odd size to pack in a hatch. If you go the bottle route, make sure to get something with a screw-on lid. Many of the gallon bottles of water sold at grocery stores have press on lids, almost guaranteed to get knocked off at least once per trip.


Summer heat??
Typical PNet question and people jump in right away to give answers but nobody has sufficient information.

Summer heat. Great question buddy - summer heat in Casco Bay Maine or the Colorado River in Arizona?

It does make a difference.

more than you think you need
My patrol got lost in the desert one day (stupid Lt) so of all of us who carried one quart each, I was the only one who carried a couple gallons… I could have sold that water before we got back.

On the water in the desert… we sweat more than we think.

So I take a gallon a person per day plus my water filter.

overnight i double that.

Yes, i am paranoid but better than suffering as evena couple percent water loss creates medical problems that range from altered perceptions to hallucinations to heat-stroke.

I can’t . . .
. . . imagine carryin’ water when you are paddlin’ in it.

For a solo trip of that length on a
desert canyon river, I bought several gallons worth of water in plastic bottles, and carried it in a mesh bag. When I emptied a bottle, I would recap it and put it back in the bag, which served as flotation on this class 1-2 river. Wish I could remember the exact amount I carried, but I will say I carried too much. Better too much than too little, as the river and stream water was full of salt and could not be filtered.

S. Florida in the winter…
I don’t camp in the summer. I carry 4 liters per person per day cause I like my coffee, clean up is done in saltwater. I buy the water in liter bottles so I can stuff them around the kayak for balance. Usually have enough to spare in case the return trip is delayed.

Louisiana Swamp heat
I’m talking about Louisiana Summer Swamp heat!

personal differences too
Personally, If I go out for 4 hours in 60 degree weather around here, I’ll carry 3 liters and drink at least 2 of them. Maybe I’m a mouth-breather. :slight_smile:

One liter per day wouldn’t even come close for my metabolic needs.

2L per day of drinking water is an absolute minimum, it’s not enough but you can survive a few days on that little. You’re better off bringing 3 to 4 liters a day for drinking. You’ll feel better and have more energy, sleep better, cuts will heal better, you’re less likely to get sick and you’re pee won’t be yellow.

I go through at least a gallon a day for drinking and cooking. I carry my water in gallon containers with screw on caps and handles or I use 2L soda bottles wrapped in duct tape. When I’m wrapping the bottles with the tape I incorporate a string loop so I can easily grab or hang the bottles.

If you are carrying several gallons of water for a multiday trip it may be a good idea to keep water in several containers. I’ve heard stories of people carrying a single five gallon container, having it spring a leak and the folks found an empty container on the first morning of a 3 day trip in the everglades.

I have one squarish gallon water bottle that I like because it doesn’t roll around in the canoe as much as the round ones. for reference water weighs about 8.4 lbs per gallon.

I was too low

– Last Updated: Aug-29-09 9:01 AM EST –

I retract - my 1 liter per person for drinking is way low for where you are talking about. I was thinking cooler climes and a decent load of stuff like fruit. You got a better number from above.

I also was maybe unclear - I counting the water you would add to make coffee or other such fluids, or soup, as outside and on top of straight drinking water. But some of these things have a diarrhetic (sp?) effect so may not be a great substitute for water/water.

When it comes to water,
I would much rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

I figure at a gallon/day.

Dehydration sux.


Will you be carrying an ice chest?

– Last Updated: Aug-28-09 4:29 PM EST –

If you are planning to bring an ice chest, get a 1 gal water cube or rectangular water bottles that fit in your ice chest and freeze water in these to take as at least a portion of the ice for chilling the ice chest. With ice in containers like that it serves as a back-up drinking water supply in case you are running low on water by the third day.

For general drinking water I use 2.5 gal water cubes. I got these at REI. They are similar to the 5 gal containers available at Walmart and Academy Sports, but much easier to handle than trying to lift a 5 gal container out of a canoe. As others have pointed out, splitting the supply among several containers is a good idea both for distributing the load in the boat and so that you don't lose the whole supply if one container goes. The plastic cubes can develop leaks after some use. Pack the heavy stuff like water as close to the center of your boat as possible. For a 3 day, 2 night trip, just for myself I'd probably be carrying 2 of the 2.5 gal cubes and probably about another gallon in bottles or platypus, so about 6 gal/person. (This is assuming I have had plenty to drink at the put-in before leaving my car and have more water in the car to drink at the end of the trip.) Others get by with less, but it's better to have too much water than to be experiencing dehydration.

Do you have a cooler full of beer? I do more often than not.

Without beer about a gallon a day. We usually pack a 2 gallon container from the grocer and bring along the filter.


hot weather, slight exertion
I went through 6+ qts of water in 8 hours, in NC. In cooler weather I went through 6 qts in 12 hours in NY… Now this was paddling constantly with no lollygagging and only a little sprint at the beginning. When I got off the water I was still hydrating with with coffee, tea, beer etc.

My rule of thumb is 1 liter an hour if the temp is in the 80+ degree range. I may not use it all but heck I have boat so weight is not a serious issue.

1 L = Not even close .

– Last Updated: Aug-29-09 1:01 PM EST –

In summer heat you need to make sure you have at least 4 Liters per person available to drink ,when involved in active hiking or paddling.

My experience is hiking in southwest, Utah, Colorado, grand canyon, arizona, paddling on the california coast and Baja Coast.

Good idea to hydrate well before you start and make sure at least once an hour you drink some water.

Gallon per person per day (nm)