Water is one of the most important elements of camp. Besides keeping us hydrated, it's probably our main cooking medium, used for such things as boiling pasta, re-hydrating freeze dried items, and making coffee. And it offers a bit of refreshing hygiene, especially on those extended trips. A good supply, in a reliable container, should be an ongoing camp priority.
There are many types of storage jugs on the market. Consumers can also convert food containers into handy water vessels. Beyond the typical personal water bottle size, water containers usually come in one-, two-, three-, and five-gallon volumes. At about eight pounds per gallon, those pounds quickly add up, as vessels become larger. If you've ever tried to hold a three-gallon container under a spigot, you know how awkward they can become. Consider several smaller containers instead of one larger one.
Wine Bladder Can Contain Water
Some containers are collapsible when not in use. A makeshift water container is the foil-like bladder used in wine boxes. The pinch valve is incredibly tight and leak proof. Also, they can be used as an air bladder pillow, emergency flotation support, and even a seat cushion.
Consider both the size of the opening of the container for filling and for pouring. Some come with a twist on/off spigot head. Sometimes it's easier to put the jug on the ground to fill it -- in which case consider a funnel and hose unit to direct water from the pump to the jug.
Another handy addition to a water container is a good handle. In the case of the wine bladder, find a cheap canvas or heavy cotton "shopping bag"-type sack and use it as a bladder carrier.
Gather Rainwater, If Needed
Should you find yourself running low on water and there is no safe supply, rig your tent and/or dining cloth so rainwater or even dew runs off its upper surface and into a container. To make sure the water flows downward in the direction you need, especially along the side of a dining tarp, tie a rock on a string and tie the other end to a grommet along the seam at the outside center of the tarp. The rock weights down the tarp forming a shallow valley-like depression. When the rock is lowered into your container and the string is made taunt, water will follow the crease in the tarp down along the string and into your container.
You can also form a shallow framework out of firewood -- or dig a depression in the ground -- and line it with plastic. Voila! You've created a miniature sink or basin where water can collect.
All these methods enable you to collect safe, drinkable water. I'll touch on making water drawn from ponds and streams safe to drink in another column.
Tom Watson is an award-winning writer who lived in Alaska for 16 years, 12 of which were on Kodiak Island. He is a frequent contributor to "Camping Life," "Canoe & Kayak" magazines, author of three books:" Sixty Hikes within Sixty Miles of Minneapolis," "Best Tent Camping-Minnesota," both by Menasha Ridge Press, and "How to Think Like a Survivor," by Creative Publishing International. He's also an avid kayaker, camper, naturalist, writer, and photographer residing in western Minnesota. He will write a weekly column on camping tips for sportsmansguide.com.