Dry Camps

1:04 p.m. on January 14, 2017 (EST)
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I don't know why I did this, but while spending an evening reading back through my trail journals/notes from the last few years I totaled up the number of times I dry camped vs camped near a water source.  Turns out, as I expected, I spend roughly 2 out of every 3 nights dry camping, and many of those are stealth camps.  My common routine is bringing a large Platy bag and filling it and both water bottles then camel humping up a mountain or to some other destination and camping with a view.  That is usually enough water to take me through dinner, breakfast, and walking till the next source.  Several reasons off the top of my head why I prefer dry camps:

  • Better views
  • Less damp (avoids that mist settling into valleys in the morning)
  • More remote (see a lot of campsites and fire rings along streams)

Just interested, if you had to guess, how often do others do the same and is it for similar reasons?

3:20 a.m. on January 15, 2017 (EST)
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I desert hike in winter, and do lots of dry camps out of necessity; but I'll also dry camp for the reasons you state, Phil, albeit I try to choose venues where I can tank up on water en route, so I don't have to mule it the entire walk.

Ed

6:03 a.m. on January 15, 2017 (EST)
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I do the same Ed...ideally tanking up and then walking for an hour or so. Only in drought will I haul a lot of water all day.

7:03 a.m. on January 15, 2017 (EST)
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Used to do some trips short trips in S California that were completely dry and I don't miss carrying all that weight just for an overnighter.

Most of the places I go now up here in New England are much wetter. I've really cut back on how much water I carry on trail because of that access. Generally I camp near water or am only carrying it a short distance before making camp, but the mountain sunset/sunrise camps are worth effort to take water up there if needed.

I rigged up a gravity system out of a couple of Platy bags and a Sawyer last year. With that I can tank up a 3L bag of clean water and a 3L bag of dirty water if I want to go nuts. Never have had to do that, but I like having the capacity if the need comes up.

9:13 a.m. on January 15, 2017 (EST)
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Being near water for camp is not on my priority list. I'm interested in overall route, daily mileage, views, and avoiding the need to detour just for views. Sometimes that means I end up near water, sometimes not. Just have to be cognizant of water sources to know when to tank up.

Perfect example is a few years ago in Yosemite I went over Cloud's Rest and the next day did Half Dome. Camped at a water source the night before CR and tanked up that morning. Rather than descend from CR all the way down to the JMT for no-view camping with water and then ascending to HD the next day, which is what the vast majority of people do for ascending CR and HD on back-to-back days, I crossed the saddle between them, no water there at all, bagged the Quarter Domes, and camped at the base of the HD subdome with amazing views. It was my preferred choice to carry 2 days' worth of water than to descend and re-ascend an extra couple of thousand feet through dense forest and have a viewless camp.

This also is yet another advantage of going ultralight -- if you keep your base weight way down then you have more carry capacity for extra water if/when needed, helps keep your options open.

9:36 a.m. on January 15, 2017 (EST)
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I have done my fair share of dry camps, but I much prefer any given camp site be at least within a 1/2 mile or so of a water source. If I know I am going to be dry camping then I am very cautious with my water usage. I tend to use a decent amount of water every day.

I have my dog with me the vast majority of the time, and that adds significantly to water consumption as do hot beverages (coffee in the mornings, and tea at night)

On any given camp stop I can pretty much bank on using about 5L unless I ration significantly. But even with rationing I am still looking at about 3.5L. I almost always have the ability to carry 5L of filtered water, and 2L of dirty water.

I don't mind dry camping as long as I plan for it, but still like to have a water source within a relatively close distance so that a short jaunt can  be made for a refill if need be.

My biggest unknown with my water is the dog. Sometimes she will drink ALOT, and othertimes not much at all. So I never know if I will need a half liter or 2L. So I have gotten in the habit of always having a minimum of 5L when I stop to make camp.

 

 

11:03 a.m. on January 15, 2017 (EST)
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I take about 3 liters when its a dry camp...I dont need much to get by..I have one particular area I tankup and move on...

12:24 p.m. on January 15, 2017 (EST)
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Good thoughts. The West is dry and there is no reason to limit yourself from all of that great country because of a lack of water. It helps to escape the other people.

True desert hiking is problematic, because you have to haul all of your water for the whole trip.

9:55 a.m. on January 17, 2017 (EST)
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yeah I'm the same Phil and agree with JR, not the biggest concern usually.

 

Some exceptions are hot weather hiking....I'm a sweaty dude and it's really nice to have enough water to at least rinse off with

10:08 a.m. on January 17, 2017 (EST)
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One dry camp is no big deal. The trouble starts when tomorrow is dry and so is the next day.

1:09 p.m. on January 17, 2017 (EST)
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I'm on the other side.  My wife likes to rinse off each afternoon, I like to fish, so we almost always camp near a river/Creek or lake.  Desert camping is obviously the exception ...

2:36 p.m. on January 17, 2017 (EST)
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ppine said:

One dry camp is no big deal. The trouble starts when tomorrow is dry and so is the next day.

 Couldn't agree more.

4:37 p.m. on January 17, 2017 (EST)
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I made a poor decision the other day and did not "camel up" when I should have and climbed up Cold Mountain in Shining Rock NC for the nights camp with only 1 liter. All springs were dry and I was too tired to backtrack over "the Narrows" or descend 800 feet to a creek so I ate a dry dinner, sipped instead of chugged and waited until I found water to have breakfast the next day. It happens....

Also wanted to say for those of us in the Southern Appalachians, dry times are a rarity. This last year was a historic drought. We usually have no issues finding water. You can almost randomly descend any drainage and find at least a trickle if you go down far enough.  

6:22 p.m. on January 17, 2017 (EST)
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Agreed...I haven't seen a drought like this in the southeast for at least 20 years. We cycle through droughts every 5 years or so but not usually this deep. Extreme weather is becoming the norm though so we may see this more frequently.

Randomly decending any drainage and finding a srep or spring is often reliable...it's the decent down the drainage that can be tough. Those greenbriers and other nasties love to hang around water in thick groups! Wilderness gang turf I guess.

9:53 p.m. on January 17, 2017 (EST)
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TheRambler said:

ppine said:

One dry camp is no big deal. The trouble starts when tomorrow is dry and so is the next day.

 Couldn't agree more.

 Three days is my max.

Ed

10:52 a.m. on January 19, 2017 (EST)
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I remember a winter backpacking trip in Big Bend NP that I have mentioned before.  I went with 3 geologists and we had 7 1/2 minute quads. We went overland from spring to spring, like threading pearls on a string.  All the springs on the map had water. If one was dry, the plan was to backtrack to the last known water.  It was true backcountry with no trails at all.  It was a great trip.

February 20, 2019
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