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Water – How Much Do I Need while Overlanding?

Water – How Much Do I Need while Overlanding?

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Don’t Take Chances With Water

Of all your supplies and kit, this is the one thing that will most quickly present a clear and present danger to your life if you do not get it right.

Overland Bound does not like to be dramatic about overlanding and the risks and challenges you will face because that makes it seem inaccessible and it’s not. We do however insist we present the information to overland safely, and that you are prepared for what you are doing. This is first on the list in terms of preparation.

It seems like a basic question, but there are a few things to consider when planning. Consider these guidelines and you will have the right amount of water on your journey, and that’s one less thing to worry about. Here are some things to consider. You can skip right to the end for a good rule of thumb!

Conditions

I came up with a general rule of thumb while traveling through Baja and I figure that is a pretty good way to go. The environment is arid, with very little water supply. That means it’s a good estimate pretty much anywhere you travel. You need to bring all of your water with you, and the environment is trying to suck it out of your body. Also, depending on your rate of travel and your chosen route, overlanding can be exerting. Sure if you cruise the paved routes, you’re not going to break a sweat, but if your environment and route is off-road high pace travel through the sand, you’ll be tired. Will your route have water along the way? If so, you can carry less! We take less water when we travel through the Sierras, especially to places where we know there is a good water supply.

Weight

The weight of water is a serious consideration. A gallon weighs about eight (8) lbs. That adds up quickly if you are traveling for days or weeks. Multiply that by the number of people you have and your vehicle will be put to the task! That’s another reason planning water consumption is important. If you don’t have to carry it, don’t, but you have to be sure. You can carry less if you can process and filter water where you go. Which brings us to…

Filter

We use a MSR HyperFlow Microfilter for our traveling needs. It’s super small (7 x 3.5in), super light (7.4oz), and it pumps three liters per minute. It cleans protozoa, bacteria, particles, is field cleanable. If space is not a concern for you, there are larger units that are a bit easier to handle, and don’t require you to lower the mesh filter into the water source.

Purification

This is a huge topic and we’ll only touch on it lightly here. There are references below for more detail. Water can be contaminated a number of different ways. Is it biological or chemical? If it is chemically toxic water, just don’t drink it. filtration, and chemical treatment will not purify chemically toxic water.

For biologically contaminated water, there are two ways to treat it, boiling and chemical treatment.

Boiling

Boiling is the most effective way of killing all microorganisms. According to the Wilderness Medical Society, water temperatures above 160 F (70 C) kill all pathogens within 30 minutes and above 185 F (85 C) within a few minutes. So in the time it takes for the water to reach the boiling point (212 F or 100 C) from 160 F (70 C), all pathogens will be killed, even at high altitude. At higher altitude, you want to boil water longer since water boils at a lower temperature.

Chemical

There are two types of chemical treatment, iodine and chlorine.  Some people are allergic to iodine, especially those who are allergic to shellfish. You have to know if you or anyone in your party is allergic to iodine if you use that method! There are a number of products on the market and for both methods, those products will tell you how much you need. Follow the instructions. For chlorine, the colder the water, the less effective the treatment. After treatment, let the water sit for 30 minutes to allow purification to occur. For iodine, add 5 drops per quart for clear water, 10 drops for cloudy water. Again, follow the instructions and refer to our references below for more detail.

Iodine treatment is included in the Overland Bound Survival Kit manufactured by Fieldcraft.

So How Much Water Do I Need?

Here is the rule of thumb: You need two gallons per person per day. This water is for all needs including dishes and sponge baths (no 5 minute showers). That very complicated formula is as follows:

Camel Back Hydration Calculator

(number of people) x 2 x (number of days) = total water needed

Corrie and I require 20 gallons of water for a five day trip. This may seem like a lot, but remember, it is a conservative estimate and you don’t want to run out of water. This tested rule of thumb was verified by our friends of Live Work Wander during their recent trip through Baja. If you want to try a fun calculator, Camel Back provides a hydration calculator on their website!

Please don’t take risks when it comes to water. You can go many days without food, but without water, you’re in trouble fast, and that just takes the fun right out of overlanding!

Product mentioned in this article:

 

Michael

Backwoods country bumpkin. Overland enthusiast and lover of the great outdoors.

Comment(4)

  1. Good article! You mention that you and Corrie need 20 gallons for a 5 day trip. When you look at the weight of that, it's a no brainer! For water weight and weight of containers, call it 180 – 190 pounds, or about the equivalent of carrying an extra person. That in the overall scheme isn't really that much weight to add and well within most rigs capabilities.

    Sent from my iPad using Overland Bound Talk

  2. Good article! You mention that you and Corrie need 20 gallons for a 5 day trip. When you look at the weight of that, it's a no brainer! For water weight and weight of containers, call it 180 – 190 pounds, or about the equivalent of carrying an extra person. That in the overall scheme isn't really that much weight to add and well within most rigs capabilities.

    Sent from my iPad using Overland Bound Talk

    Water = 8.4# per gallon

    Gas = 6.2# per gallon

    Case of MRE's = 22# per case

    .223 ammo = 27# per 1k rounds/case

    Propane = 4.2#/gal*

    *This means a "full" propane tank should weigh about 37 pounds. (20# tank)

    So when you go stacking stuff on a roof rack – or even in the bed/back of a rig – there are some real considerations to changing your center of gravity and balance/tip points.  This Overlanding – self- sustained long term travel – can get heavy quick especially if you are traveling where you will need to resupply your own fuel/water. RTT and lots of other stuff have weight consequences not to mention hi-lift jacks and ice chests when full, etc…..

    Something to consider!! Wheel safe & happy!!!

  3. The minimum for drinking water is 1 gallon per person per day, more if you plan to do hiking or other strenuous activities, more again if you are not acclimatized to high altitude (something people forget).  Cooking, hygiene, dishes, etc all must be budgeted on top of drinking water.

    Carried water can be reduced if you bring water filters/treatment and have access to natural water sources, unfortunately I rarely can count on that in the desert.  Cooler ice melt can also be factored in and used for cleaning or even drinking in a pinch (sorry all you guys with fancy fridges).

  4. The minimum for drinking water is 1 gallon per person per day, more if you plan to do hiking or other strenuous activities, more again if you are not acclimatized to high altitude (something people forget).  Cooking, hygiene, dishes, etc all must be budgeted on top of drinking water.

    Carried water can be reduced if you bring water filters/treatment and have access to natural water sources, unfortunately I rarely can count on that in the desert.  Cooler ice melt can also be factored in and used for cleaning or even drinking in a pinch (sorry all you guys with fancy fridges).

    All very good points and on the note of resources to recycle – that's a good point for a solar panel and/or solar inverter/generator — no need for additional combustable fuel and a resource that doesn't need to be replenished — that is, of course, if you are in an area with sufficient solar to charge your generator (which takes surprisingly little).

    I am getting fond of this little guy……

    Stay safe!!

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