Camping & Survival

How Much Water and Food Do You Actually Need?

Not save to drink. Have an alternative source.

Besides clean air, water is the most important thing that you need to live. Typically, you can only live for four days without water. Disaster experts recommend that you store one gallon of water per day per person. This provides enough for only the most basic needs of washing and drinking.


The quickest and easiest way is to buy pre-packaged drinking water. Cases of bottled water come fairly cheap from the grocery store or the warehouse store. One case of bottled water equals just over three gallons. Pre-packaged bottled drinking water will last a year before you need to rotate it. Store water in a cool, dry place, like the pantry or a closet, and away from direct sunlight.

Further, you can take into account how much water storage capacity you currently have on hand. Include your bathtubs, sinks, hot water heaters, laundry machine, even the tank above your commode can serve as an emergency water supply. Add in any improvised water storage containers that are able to contain safe drinking water. When an emergency is imminent, you will often have a few minutes to fill up improvised water storage units such as the bathtubs, sinks, and clothes washing machine. To improve water cleanliness, bladders such as the Water Bob or the AquaPodKit can be placed in your bathtub. Smaller containers are more convenient than a large barrel or water bladder and have a carry handle that makes them easy to transport. Pre-fill these water bladders and store them in your freezer so that the next time a disaster strikes you will have plenty of water.

However, you can recover the water held in your plumbing lines by opening the faucet with the highest elevation (usually a shower on the second floor) and then collecting the water by turning on the spigot or faucet at the lowest elevation and collecting that water in a clean storage container. Make sure you have sufficient containers, as the average household plumbing can contain as much as 10 gallons of water, and possibly more in larger homes.

If you have access to water, there is still the possibility of contamination. Water from streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds should always be treated as if it is contaminated. Always boil potentially contaminated water, or use water treatment tablets. Small amounts of bleach can also be used in an emergency. To treat water with bleach, use 5.25% – 6% plain bleach. Mix 1/8 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water, stir in the bleach and let the water stand for 30 minutes. You may also consider investing in a water purification system. Katadyn manufactures a number of water purification and desalinization products that can be used to produce enough water for an individual or, with their more expensive products, enough for an entire household in an emergency.

Most people don’t realize how much water storage they actually have on hand. Even the most spartan economy apartment has 10 gallons or more of water storage just in the plumbing fixtures such as sinks and toilets. Add in a little bit of planning by keeping some additional water storage systems on hand in case of emergency and you should be able to store plenty of water to weather the storm.

In a SHTF scenario, drinking water is one of the simplest things you can do to keep a clear head. Make sure you have an abundant supply of drinking water in your survival kit, as well as a way to clean existing water sources, should you run out. Always hydrate before, during, and after times of high energy and stress.

Disaster scenarios
So many bad things can happen. Be ready.


How much food is enough? The Canned Food Alliance says that the minimum amount of food you need is two cans of food per person, per day for 12 days. For a family of four that is 96 cans. Dr. Judy Harrison and Dr. Elizabeth L. Andress, in “Preparing an Emergency Food Supply: Long Term Food Storage” write that we need to eat at least one balanced meal a day. By simply having a well-stocked pantry you can easily stock up enough food to last a month or so. Always remember to rotate food in and out of your pantry, eating the oldest food while placing newly purchased food in the back to be consumed later. Canned foods are inexpensive, easy to store, and can last three to five years. It is not necessary to go out to the grocery store and drop a hundred bucks right this very second on every canned food item you can find. Instead, every time you go to the grocery store, instead of the one can on your shopping list, get two.

The family that preps together, stays together.
The family that preps together, stays together.

Dried foods have an even longer shelf life. 50 pounds of rice stored in a Mylar bag sealed in a five-gallon bucket can last 20 years or more. MREs (Meals-Ready-To-Eat) are another choice. Chemical heaters for the MREs are available that only require water to activate. Instead of spending time and money on your food storage, you could purchase a grab and go food kit already packed up in a bucket. It will feed four adults for one week. Each food packet contains four servings, so you are set for your family or your bug-out group. These 72-hour grab and go food kits have a 25-year shelf life, so there is no need to rotate your rations out. Plus, it is easy to store and does not take up a lot of precious pantry space.

How much food and water do you have stored up? Let us know in the comments section below.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (5)

  1. These tips are lip service. I expected better from CTD. A gallon of water a day is for drinking only, no washing.

    If you want to use water in your toilet tank you need to purify it because there might be rust or chemicals in it. That also assumes you dont put one of those cleaning tabs in the tank.

    If you are serious about surviving shtf, you need some high quality water filtration and purification system. I dont have a recommendation yet; I, m still trying to find one that meets my budget.

    This article is written for prepper virgins imho.

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