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6:30 p.m. on April 16, 2010 (EDT)
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I'll be going on my first group backpacking trip in 2 weeks and the question of water has come up. Let me preface this by saying I have been on a couple solo weekend adventures. I am an avid car camper and would consider myself advanced in car camping knowledge (but no expert). The group I'm going with have made this trip before and are trying to make it an annual event. They are also car campers, but it seems to me their idea of backpacking is to take what they use car camping and strap it to their backs.

The trip will consist of a hike in on Friday evening and a hike out on Sunday morning. So during our pre-trip discussion the subject of water has come up. I explained that for a short weekend trip like this I would be comfortable carrying about 4-5 liters. Someone else in the group thinks we should plan on taking 12 liters each! He stated that last year they each took a gallon and barely had enough to "drink, bath and clean the dishes."

So how much water is the right amount? My thinking is that we are only a few miles from fresh water so if we take 4 liters each and we run out, we go refill. I use baby wipes for clean up at the end of the day. Most of my cooking doesn't require a lot of dish cleaning and what does need cleaned up can be wiped off and cleaned better when I get home.

Your guidance is needed and appreciated.

7:19 p.m. on April 16, 2010 (EDT)
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Welcome DA,

Where are you guys going?

I take it there is no water (streams, rivers, etc) closer than the "few miles" you mentioned?

I hike in the southeast and we do not have the problem of ever being far away from water, so I can't advise on proper amounts to take, we have members here on Trailspace who can though. I would guess that 3 liters per day / per person would be plenty based on what you describe at that time of year. Let's see what the others say though.

In my experience weekend trips do not require bathing, but I'm not against it either. Like you said, just washing up is enough, no need to use up water you've carried in.

It is also fairly easy to get around "doing the dishes" by using foods that are 'just add water' such as prepared dehydrated meals, combined with ready to eat snacks like trail bars, trail mix, jerky, nuts, raisins, etc.

Many people only heat water to rehydrate meals as I mentioned above, this does not require you to wash any pots or pans. As far as what you eat out of, you can line a bowl with plastic wrap or a zip lock and simply throw that in your trash bag and pack it out. No washing needed.

As far as convincing them not to carry the same gear they take car camping, sometimes people have to figure that out on their own.

I hope you have a safe and fun trip!

8:33 p.m. on April 16, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks for the quick response and the welcome. We are going to Indian Cave SP in SE Nebraska. Not exactly 'backcounty' but secluded none the less. The hills are right along the Missouri river, but there are no creeks or streams to speak of in the park. If we run out of water we could get it from the river, but it will be just as far to hike to the well and get water from it.

Thanks again.

9:16 p.m. on April 16, 2010 (EDT)
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Bathing??? On a weekend backpacking trip trip??? Well, if ya can't stand a little sweat, use the large size baby wipes. Oh, wait, this is Nebraska in late April. I'm not sure 12 liters per person is enough for a single shower ;D.

Trout is right - it depends on what you consider "camping". You really do not need more than 4 or 5 liters for a weekend if you really are backpacking and not just hauling the car camping kit to the campsite. You learn pretty soon to lighten your load and give up a little of the niceties of home.

10:23 a.m. on April 17, 2010 (EDT)
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We were taught in Boy Scouts to carry one gallon per day on a dry camp. I've gotten by on less by using paper plates, etc, to eat off of, and limiting personal hygiene to a moist towel to remove grit and soil (hate how both feel, and how they taint the sleeping bag). But if the weather is going to be warm, take the gallons and don’t risk running out.

7:50 p.m. on April 17, 2010 (EDT)
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I would say how much water you bring depends a lot on how much water you drink. I usually drink close to 3 litres of water per day when I'm out hiking. Sometimes more, depending on weather conditions and exertion level. Another litre is usually enough for food prep and washing if I use it sparingly. I usually don't bathe during short hiking trips like what you're describing, although I do wash my hands frequently. That instant hand sanitizer stuff also works well.

I agree with the others about the convience of "just add water" foods being good for conserving water and limiting clean up needs. I'm sure you know that this will of course mean you will have more trash to pack out. I personally would rather pack out extra trash than pack in extra water. The weight difference is huge.

10:18 p.m. on April 17, 2010 (EDT)
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Whenever there is a disagreement on a weekend trip.. the best thing to do is let it ride and learn from the experience (unless one side poses serious danger).

Carry how much you want, let them carry as much as they want. Live the two days... hike to get water if needed... and discuss the results at the end of the trip. Everyone will be wiser.

Too many variables (climate, size of individuals, etc) to give a "true" answer on this one.

10:56 a.m. on April 19, 2010 (EDT)
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when is your trip to indian cave? we will be there with the scouts this coming weekend. we will be trailer camping this weekend, with some hiking to go with it. fortunately with indian cave there are so many campsites scattered you may be able to get water easier than you think.

11:40 a.m. on April 19, 2010 (EDT)
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Bathing??? On a weekend backpacking trip trip???

My thoughts exactly. These guys need a reality check.

6:21 p.m. on April 19, 2010 (EDT)
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We will be there April 30 - may 2.

June 20, 2018
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