Do I need to bring my own water?

Your on a river with lots of water? Surely you don’t need to bring your own water?

Actually, yes. Although this may be obvious to people who are experienced desert canyon river runners, you should probably plan to bring all required water that you will need for the entire trip.

Desert rivers run through the desert. Deserts are sandy. Thus, the water is sandy. Even if you could drink it straight without concern for microbial contaminants, you probably would not want to do so.

Filtering it isn’t a great option. Unless you have a lot of time to let suspended particles settle out, your filter will get clogged quickly. And while you can use things like Steripens to quickly sterilize small batches of water, you will still be stuck with the suspended particles. Moreover, Steripens can be less efficient in water with lots of debris in it.

Instead we recommend bringing enough water for your entire trip. Depending on the time of year and how active you will be, this could be up to a gallon of water per person per day — or more!

Rafters can easily meet water requirements with 5 gallon water jugs. But hauling water presents obvious challenges for people in small craft. We recommend dromedary bags. These small reinforced bags are available in sizes up to 6 or 10L! Because they are reinforced fabric, they tend to fit well in awkward spaces like the hatches of sea kayaks and self-support kayaks and the bottom of canoes.

You should also minimally have a backup solution for treating water should the need arise. This would reasonably include a collapsible bucket for settling water, iodine tablets for treating water in the backcountry, and something like a Steripen for treating relatively clean water from seeps.