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Tips for safe water collection

Sometimes a water source is right next to the track or campsite, but other times access can be more involved. If going more than a short distance to get water, always take another person and leave details of the intended route with the rest of the group.

Although it’s not necessary to carry an entire overnight pack when looking for water, consider taking a few essential items as a fallback in case of unexpected delay:

  • Map and compass
  • Torch if it’s late in the day
  • Warm layer or blizzard jacket
  • First aid kit
  • PLB in remote areas
  • Snacks

On multiday trips, it can be useful to carry an additional small, lightweight daypack for these such occasions. Alternatively, leave overnight gear at a base camp and only carry essential gear items in the overnight pack: using a proper pack with good straps is best when collecting and moving large volumes of water (e.g. more than 5L to take back to base camp).

Rules when for looking for water:

  • Don’t split up: it can be tempting to split up and search a wider area. Don’t, always stay within earshot.
  • Navigation: if exploring off the track down a gully for a water source, have someone in the group that has sufficient off-track navigation experience to ensure that they can return safely to camp.
  • Be realistic: set a reasonable timeframe to search for water before heading back to camp to reassess. If the group does not find a water source, reconsider where to camp or when to walk out.
  • Watch for sunset: keep a watch on the sun and if it’s starting to get dark before there are clear signs of water, stop and reassess the situation. It may be better to head back to camp, conserve water supplies and walk out at first light the next day.
  • If necessary, treat water before drinking.