How to ensure safe drinking water while camping in remote areas of Dartmoor?

Camping in the wild is an exciting adventure, and Dartmoor National Park is one of those great destinations for outdoor enthusiasts. However, one of the challenges you will face on this trip is securing safe drinking water. As you plan your journey, equip your tents, and gear up for a night under the stars, you need to consider this essential resource. In this article, you will learn how to ensure your water is safe to drink, and the best local areas to set up camp that have access to clean water on your Dartmoor adventure.

Understanding The Importance of Clean Water

Before venturing into the wild, it is crucial to comprehend why clean water is critical while camping. When you are in the wilderness, there are potential health hazards associated with contaminated water. Drinking untreated water can lead to various illnesses, such as diarrhea, hepatitis A, or cholera.

You have to understand that Dartmoor, while being a beautiful landscape, is a moorland area. The land is typically wet, boggy, and can contain peat, which could affect the water quality. Hence, it is crucial to treat the water before consuming it.

When camping in Dartmoor, the goal is to enjoy the trip, not to suffer from avoidable ailments. That is why you need to prioritise the quality of your drinking water.

Locating Your Water Source

In Dartmoor, there are numerous water sources that you can tap into. Streams, rivers, and lakes dot the national park, providing you with ample opportunities to find fresh water. But not all sources are equal.

When you are setting up your tent, consider the proximity to a water source. However, avoid camping directly beside a river or stream, as these areas are prone to flash floods.

Furthermore, high-altitude water sources are typically cleaner than those in low lying areas. This is because they are less likely to have been contaminated by human or animal activity. Remember, even the clearest stream can contain microscopic organisms that can make you sick. Therefore, don't let the appearance of water fool you into thinking it is safe to drink.

Treating Your Water

After locating your water source, the next step is to treat it. There are several methods you can employ to ensure your water is safe for consumption.

One of the most straightforward ways is to boil your water. Boiling is a great method as it kills most pathogens found in water. You should let the water boil for at least one minute. If you are camping in areas above 2,000 meters, you should extend this time to three minutes due to the lower boiling point at higher altitudes.

Another method is to use water purification tablets or drops. They are lightweight, easy to carry, and quite effective at killing bacteria and viruses. However, they don't remove sediments or particles in the water, so it's best to strain your water before using these tablets.

Filtration devices are also a useful tool to carry. They can remove most bacteria and protozoa from the water, making it safe to drink. Some filters also have an activated charcoal layer that can remove some chemicals and improve the taste.

Storing Your Water Safely

Once your water is treated, the next challenge is storing it safely. The last thing you want is to contaminate your clean water with dirty hands or utensils.

Always use a clean container for storing water. You can further protect your water by adding a few drops of unscented bleach per gallon, which will prevent bacteria from growing.

Also, don't forget to wash your hands before handling the water, especially if you've just returned from a trip to the bathroom or have been handling raw food.

Being Mindful of the Environment

Finally, while your main concern is securing safe drinking water, it is also important to be mindful of the environment. Dartmoor National Park is a treasure that needs to be preserved for future generations.

Try to minimize your impact on the environment as much as possible. Avoid washing dishes or clothes in streams or rivers. Use environmentally-friendly soaps if you must clean something. And most importantly, pack out what you pack in.

Camping in the wild areas of Dartmoor can be a unique adventure. But remember, ensuring access to safe drinking water is of the utmost importance. With the right knowledge and gear, you can enjoy your trip while staying healthy and hydrated.

A Guide to Legal Camping Spots in Dartmoor

Among the countless things that make wild camping in Dartmoor National Park unique is that camping is legal in many parts of the park. However, this doesn't mean you can pitch your sleeping bag anywhere you please. Dartmoor National Park Authority has demarcated specific areas where you are permitted to wild camp. Camping allowed areas are generally at least 100m from the road and away from archaeological sites.

For those who intend to leave no trace, it's important that you stick to the identified areas. This way, the park maintains its natural beauty and integrity. Remember, open fires are not encouraged and in some areas, they are prohibited. Instead, use a camping stove for cooking.

It would be best to choose a spot nearer to a water source. However, these areas are usually quite popular, so if you prefer a more secluded spot, you may need to haul your water from the source to your campsite.

Northern Dartmoor is considered one of the best places to wild camp. With its expansive land and fewer visitors, you can enjoy the serene beauty of the park in peace. Southern Dartmoor, on the other hand, offers the dramatic landscape of open moorland and deep river valleys, making it a favourable choice among many campers.

Water Purification Options and Choosing the Right One

Once you have your water source, the next step is to purify the water. There are several methods available and choosing the right one often depends on your personal preference, weight constraints and how much time you're willing to devote to the process.

Boiling is the most foolproof method. However, it requires a heat source and plenty of fuel, which can be a burden on longer trips. It also does not remove debris from the water.

Water purification tablets or drops, on the other hand, are lightweight and easy to use. However, some people find the taste offputting and, like boiling, they don't remove particulates.

Water filters are another excellent option. They can remove most bacteria and protozoa, making the water safe to drink. Some filters also have an activated charcoal layer that can remove some chemicals and improve the taste. However, filters can be bulky and expensive, and they require regular maintenance.

A lightweight and efficient method for backpackers and lightweight campers is the use of UV light pens. These devices use ultraviolet light to kill bacteria, viruses, and other microbes. They are effective, compact, and easy to use. The only downside is their reliance on batteries.

In the end, it's often best to have a combination of methods at your disposal. This way, if one method fails, you have a backup.


While wild camping in Dartmoor National may seem like a daunting task initially, it becomes manageable once you understand the basics of finding and treating your water. Keep in mind that while you're enjoying your camping trip in the South West, you are a custodian of this beautiful natural habitat. Always aim to leave no trace behind, respect the wildlife, and camp responsibly.

By following these guidelines, not only do you ensure your health and safety but also the preservation of Dartmoor for future generations. So pack your bag, wear your boots, and get ready for an exciting adventure in one of the best wild camping destinations in the world!

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