Dry Camping – A few simple tips

In previous articles, I mentioned how dry camping might be an option in some situations. An option that can work well.

What is dry camping?

Dry camping is simply camping where there is no immediate water source. Take all the water you need for dinner, water for at night, breakfast for morning and then enough to take you to the next water source.

Kenosha Mountains

How much water to take when dry camping?

As a rule of thumb, a liter per five miles hiked between water sources works well.  Three liters for dinner, drinking at night, breakfast in the morning and getting to a nearby water source works well. Take more water if the next water source is further away.  The converse is, of course, true: Takes less water if the next water source is not far from your camp the following day.

Another tip is to cook dinner at the water source, move on and then make camp.  Less water needed to be carried that way.

And if you do some or even all of your meals cold, the need for water is lessened.  During the Fall and solo, I’ll often do a cold breakfast in the morning so I can just “get up and go.”  My need for water is even less that way.

The water is a touch silty…

How to carry water for dry camping?

Carrying multiple water bottles or Platy-type containers is not really practical.

For more extensive water carries, I find my trusty Nalgene Cantene works well.  I’ve been using one for years and combined with my two 1 liter water containers; I have a light, flexible and efficient water carrying system.

The Nalgene sticking out somewhere in Montana

Why dry camp?

Why would a person want to dry camp? Seems odd at first for many individuals to not camp near water.

But there are some advantages:

  • More flexibility. You are not tied to a set point. Enjoy the scenic view. Get closer to the where you want to be the following day. Or perhaps the distance between water sources is a bit too far for camping?
  • Critter concerns lessenedCritters are like us. They enjoy being near water. It is the rare animal encounter that happens at a dry camp.
  • Fewer people.  Most people are not comfortable camping away from water. On the popular lettered routes or well-known backpacking destinations, dry camping is one way to avoid the crowds.
Dry camp in the LaGaritas

Dry camping is something every outdoor person should try at some point. By being comfortable with dry camping, your outdoor skill set is expanded. And an expanded outdoor skill set means more methods for enjoying the outdoors becomes available.

Give dry camping a whirl.

You just may like it.

UPDATE on my hydration system…


Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ken Steinhoff
Ken Steinhoff
7 years ago

Thanks. Dry camping is an important skill.

Under “Less Critters,” I’d add, “Less bugs.” Plus, knowing you can camp almost anywhere, anytime can reduce anxiety and free you up.

Totally agree about eating away from where you camp.

7 years ago

Those fantastic ridgetop sunset and sunrise (and moonrise, when applicable) views (assuming, of course, no danger from lightning storms during the night) are well worth the extra water weight!

Tom Bierman
Tom Bierman
7 years ago

I learned the lesson of not bringing enough water to the Lost Creek back in June. Ugh.

Colorado Jones
3 years ago

Just wondering about that Nalgene Cantene hanging off the back of your pack in the picture above. That looks awfully unstable. How far do you normally travel with water in that position? And how do you secure the Cantene to the outside of your pack so that it’s not swinging around? Following your rules of thumb, I did an early season shakedown trip to White Ranch Open Space Park this past weekend, and used an old 100oz plastic juice container to lug an extra 3L of water to our dry camp location (Sourdough Springs). I placed it INSIDE my pack,… Read more »

Colorado Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Mags

Thanks, Paul! As always, very helpful!


[…] From now on, I see this simple sub-$2 bottle as my water container of choice for extended water carries and dry camping, […]