How much water to take to the desert?

Submitted: Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 14:02
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A Guide on how much water our bodies need

Our bodies need water to function. In a dry and hot desert climate, a healthy and fit average sized human will survive just two days without water. So the question is, how much water should you be taking with you on your adventure?

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Reply By: Robin Miller - Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 14:33

Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 14:33
Views differ on this a little Rodger , and the amount also varies with the type
of adventure you are on with an average of 3lt/person/day.

We tend to go on fairly remote type trips and our total water usage over time
has averaged about 1.5lt/person / day and so we plan and carry 2lt/person/day.

All of this water is consumed in food or drink , we carry none for washing etc.

In practise one also consumes another lt/day from cans of coke , wine etc.
Robin Miller

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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 17:19

Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 17:19
Your figures Robin are pretty close to what we use plus we take enough water for an extra 7 days comfortably .... usually another 15 to 20 litres.

To many go bush and think the have to drink 5 litres + per day to stay hydrated when all they are doing is stopping every 1/2 hour for a leak and wasting the water their body doesn't need.

Easiest way is drink the same amount of liquids you do at home..... the human body has got this great water gauge called thirst.... when your thirsty drink unless doing something extreme like long hikes or marathons.

Read a survival book where they went into detail about hydration when stranded..... there view was drink little water for the first 24 hours if not doing stressful activities and after 24 hours drink normal... this gets your body into survival mode and your body will retain water.

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Reply By: The Landy - Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 15:47

Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 15:47
Putting a figure on it will always be difficult and as others may have differing requirements it might be worthwhile to consider;

How much do I usually drink each day,

Who is going, and do they have any special requirements in regards to hydration,

Do I expect more or less physical activity than normal,

How much do I need for cooking (what sort of meals will you be eating)

What is the planned time between known water supplies, and

How many extra days do I need to plan in case of being delayed between the known water supplies (I’d increase by 50%).

Water left behind will be useless to you if ‘Murphy’s Law’ takes over and things go wrong. Keep this in mind when planning water requirements, you can do without most things, but not water. Take more than you'll ever need...

Enjoy your trip....
AnswerID: 464994

Reply By: Michael ( Moss Vale NSW) - Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 18:20

Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 18:20
If we take our trailer, we take 6 square 25 litre containers of water, they fit across the rear of the trailer and help balance the trailer for ball weight. We would rather take it than not, you never know if you encounter a radiator hole you cant entirely repair or a leaking water pump. Its a few dollars in fuel , we also use it for showering and the portable toilet and the like, we usually tip most of it out when we get on the black top on the way home where it wont likely to be needed. We may also be able to help others in an emergency who haven't planned well !! Water is so important when you really need it.. and it costs little!!! Michael

Patrol 4.2TDi 2003

Retired 2016 and now Out and About!

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Reply By: RobAck - Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 18:53

Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 18:53
If you mean for personal consumption, not use, then in the last 20 years of outback travel our planning figure is 5l per person per day. That accounts for cups of tea/coffee, the two litres of water we each drink per day and a bit spare

If you mean for use then we use 10l per person per day which covers dish washing and personal hygiene

Our Uttimate's 110l tank lasts us around 14 days and we carry at least another 40L in JC. That 110l is consumed for cooking,washing up, the thermos and the breakfast cups of tea

The 40L is used for personal drinking and the inevitable hand washing

Of course it all depends on your activity levels and the temperature as well. In summer with day temperatures around 40C we tend to double our consumption figure for personal use


AnswerID: 465008

Reply By: CSeaJay - Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 19:38

Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 19:38
How much water to take on a trip?

Quite an open ended question really

As answered above, between 2litres and 5 litres per person per day, fine, but how much do you take?

Well it also depends on the trip itself! are you alone then take 2-5 l x many days
If you are in a group, then take for less days than when alone.

The CSR is very very remote but there is lots of water in the wells, the Simpson is far shorter but with no water.

no fixed answer to your question, too many variables
AnswerID: 465011

Reply By: equinox - Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 19:43

Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 19:43
The Outback Trail...

Late in the afternoon we reached the foot of the cliff and all hands lay down. The only drink we had was of the stinking water two days before. Byrne, one of the old hands, lay close to me. I told him that from now on I would not stop with the rest of the party but would go ahead on my own. He said: "Luck, I am with you."

I had taken a tin of jam before leaving: everything else had been left in the camp. As soon as it was dusk we sneaked off at a steady pace. We were used to walking. We kept going till just after daylight and then we sat down to have a spell. In the distance we could see Moondini Bluff standing out from the cliff. I opened the tin of jam which I had tied to myself with a strip of shirt. We would stick our fingers into the jam and suck them.

We decided that we would not have another spell until we reached the bluff. The day came out hot. Even at an early hour the sun seemed to be exerting all its force as we walked along, dipping fingers now and again into the jam to moisten our lips. We gave up talking to each other. Long before we got to the bluff we both sat down several times quite unconsciously and then looking up we would come to our senses and set off again. But we stuck together.

Now came the time when our clothes became to much. Off came our boots and on again we went through the sand. That became to hot and off came our shirts.

Thirst does strange things to a man's mind. I had heard many a time how a perishing man invariably pulled his clothes off and now I found out why. Wherever the clothes touch the skin it seems to burn like fire. The skin is hot and dry, lips are swollen and there is no flow of saliva. Everything before the eyes turns black and down one goes.

In the beginning the falls are only momentary and then you look up, gather your sense and off you go again. Let me impress on you the agony, if I can. The feeling is almost intolerable. ONly one who has gone through it has any idea of the agony. Many a time I have longed for a drink, but they were nought compared with this experience.

On we stumbled beneath the pitiless, scorching sun. There was not a ripple of wind. There was a pain burning inside us and we were not able to speak. Our only strength seemed to be in tearing our clothes to get some relief. But it was all useless. Our knees just doubled up and down we would go for a second, although it seemed longer, then up and on again. There was no conscious thought about our actions. Only sheer will-power drove us on, although all power over our legs had gone. One object we had in view - Madura. We stumbled on - occasionally helping each other up. We never tried to speak - we could not. So we went on, mile after mile......

Gus Luck 1888.

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In whatever comes our way.
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Follow Up By: get outmore - Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 21:38

Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 21:38
have you tken the track between yellowdine to north of rowles lagoon?

that track appears to be attributed to Gus Luk
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Follow Up By: get outmore - Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 21:42

Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 21:42
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Follow Up By: equinox - Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 21:59

Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 21:59
I haven't taken that track however Luck is obviously annoyed with the lack of recompense for putting the track in, and mentions it a few times.

Never heard of the Queen Victoria Spring route being called the Gus Luck track. I'd dispute that - for a start it wasn't a track but an explorers route, and Luck went with Carnegie, not the other way around.

Looking for adventure.
In whatever comes our way.
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Reply By: Nigel Migraine - Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 20:02

Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 20:02
"So the question is, how much water should you be taking with you on your adventure?"

Well... I've given this some considerable thought and I think you should take quite a lot.


(God Almighty; can this site get any worse!?)
AnswerID: 465020

Reply By: SDG - Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 21:40

Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 21:40
Talking to a retired SAS instructor a few years back and he told me that when they are doing their desert exercises, they are only issued with half a litre a day to survive on. This is to wash, cook, drink, etc.
After 20 odd years of doing this, he now has kidney problems.

I'm not saying this is all you need. Just relaying what can be done., but probably shouldn't.
AnswerID: 465034

Follow Up By: olcoolone - Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 18:42

Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 18:42
So his kidney problems are a directly related to his time with the SAS.
FollowupID: 739069

Follow Up By: SDG - Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 19:51

Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 19:51
Aparently it has been blamed on the long periods of time surviving on minimum water, in the course of his career.
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Reply By: Rogerbind - Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 22:33

Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 22:33
Thanks for the comments. Did a bit of digging around and found a good post about this topic. Covers walking, cycling & 4x4 too.

Find out how much water to carry
AnswerID: 465041

Follow Up By: The Landy - Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 09:45

Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 09:45
Hi Rogerbind...

I found this article, scroll down to the "Need for Water" section. Quite an interesting read...

Need for Water

Good luck...

FollowupID: 739016

Follow Up By: The Landy - Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 09:57

Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 09:57
Out of interest...

Last October I did a one day 40 kilometre walk with a pack (18/20kg) over an 11/12 hour time period. Terrain was hilly and temperatures went well above forecast. I consumed approximately 14 litres of fluid during that time and still had a net weight loss at the end of the walk, demonstrating just how much fluid can be lost through sweating...

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Follow Up By: Fatso - Saturday, Sep 17, 2011 at 08:12

Saturday, Sep 17, 2011 at 08:12
Yeh Landy.
A lot of people don't get to experience a real lot of variety in the way they treat their body.
Very few people in this country will ever go hungry or thirsty.
A lot will think they have. But not really hungry or thirsty to the point where it is critical.
I like how Len Bedell describes in one of his books how it is impossible to explain to someone reading his book, who is sitting only a few metres from an endless supply of tap water, the emotion of running out of water in the middle of an uncharted desert.
These small amounts of water some blokes pass around are OK in perfect conditions. But get working & it all changes & when it is all gone & you can't get any more you die.
That German girl that died trying to walk back to William Ck from Halligan Bay died of heat stroke within sight of a full cattle trough she had just walked past.
The young jillaroo that died of heat stroke out near Julia Creek when her car broke down was walking along a road that paralleled the river.
Heat stroke starts with dehydration.
I was on a charity bike ride last year & when the Temp got up to 45 deg everybody was dehydrated. We had plenty of water on hand, but most people couldn't or chose not to drink enough.
THe worst cases of dehydration ended up in hospital on drips.
Several others just became disoriented & they only realised that on reflection of the situation.
Only the exceptionally fit & climate conditioned did well.
FollowupID: 739236

Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 22:36

Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011 at 22:36
Depends on how much exercise you are doing and temperature
I'm just back from another week hike in the West Mac ranges carrying 20-25kg pack, covering 20-25km per day, involving a lot of hill climbing with day time maximums of 30C

We would go through 6-8L per day for everything, drinking and cooking.
No washing clothes, no hand washing (using a special antiseptic hand gel)
If you are in a vehicle and take a food scraper and paper towels, you can easily wash up in less than 2L.

So if you are sitting on your arse in an air conditioned vehicle, 3L should be adequate provided you don't waste any on washing up, clothes etc.

The problem with skimping on what you drink, is that by the time you realise you are dehydrated, it will take you hours to get properly hydrated again in all your body cells, I've experienced that a couple of times, think i would have learnt by now wouldn't you.
You should not wait until you get thirsty.
AnswerID: 465042

Reply By: Stevesub1 - Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 06:59

Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 06:59
2 of us use 15L per day for drinking, cooking and washing up.

We have a 45 litre tank on the Troopy plus carry supermarket casks of water that fold down flat when empty and are easy to store when full.

We have not and do not intend trying to reduce this but carry more water than we really need and use the cask stuff first.

None of our trips are longer than 4 or 5 days without replenishing our water so far.

AnswerID: 465051

Reply By: Fatso - Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 07:24

Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 07:24
How much water you need is like asking how long is a piece of string.
Some previous posts mention very low volumes of water but don't mention the volumes of other fluids they are consuming. They are obviously travelling through very cool periods with low levels of physical exertion with very full drinks fridges.
The hotter it gets or the more physical exertion you do the more water you are going to need.
Up here in NQ my water consumption, while out riding my push-bike, can vary from half a litre per hour in winter to over 2 litres per hour in summer. On days in the mid forties when I am drinking 2 litres an hour I still end up dehydrated.
I did a 100 k ride on Sunday on about 3 litres & never got dehydrated. Last Sunday was nice & cool. 14 degrees when we set out & 28 on the way home. I will use at least double that for the same ride come December & come home dehydrated.
Some much fitter people I ride with will drink less, but still end up dehydrated.
The figures you see people throwing around for recommended water consumption that are rated in glasses per day are a joke up this way. It is not uncommon to talk to blokes that will drink 10 litres in an 8 hour shift working hard out in the sun.
So if you are asking me how much water do you take?
I say, "as much as you can carry".
AnswerID: 465052

Follow Up By: Echucan Bob - Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 09:08

Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 09:08
'As much as you can carry' without causing mechanical or tyre problems due to overloading.
Those 10L boxes of water at $3.00 are an excellent commodity. The down side is combustible waste (CO2) but they store easily, are easy to carry/handle, and you don't have to bring home bulky empties. They are lighter than plastic or steel tanks, the water is always clean, and its easy to monitor consumption. The wine cask style nozzle is easier to use than a pump inserted into a drum, or just tipping the drum. They can be refilled. The cardboard boxes are handy for fire lighting or storing other materials.
As a rule of thumb, and allowing for emergencies, we allow 10L per person per day.
FollowupID: 739013

Follow Up By: olcoolone - Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 18:46

Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 18:46
Those 10 Lt boxes of cask water are not very good for rough remote travelling.... the seems on the inside of the box rubs against the cask causing small pin holes.

We use plastic ones and reuse them.
FollowupID: 739070

Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 19:34

Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 19:34
Interesting Olcoolone , haven't heard of that , we have only ever used the cardboard one's with brand name pureau ($6) , even the roughest path like Madigan didn't hurt them.

I think there are no-name brands out there which could have a rubbing issue.

I love the fact that you can burn the boxes and get more room in the car as you go , and the liner will even hold petrol (not-reccomended) if needed.

Like your plastic ones , they have another important feature which is that its easy to set how much you have left and take corrective action early.

Robin Miller

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Reply By: greydemon - Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 13:45

Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 13:45

This suggestion may have already been made so apologies if it is a repeat I just skimmed through the thread.

At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious .....regardless of how much you take, don't have it all in one container.

We have 120 litres in our camper trailer tank but it would only take one small leak to end up in the desert with nothing. We take an extra jerrycan if ever going anywhere even slightly remote, plus a few backup liquid supplies in handy 375ml cold aluminium containers.

AnswerID: 465076

Reply By: Patrol22 - Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 15:19

Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 at 15:19
I have a 70ltr tank in my D40 and had this full at Mt Dare. 4days in the Simpson with 2 people and drinking, cooking and washing (albeit sparingly) and we still had 40 ltrs left when we got to Birdsville
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