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Camping, Hiking, Travel

While the water flowing in the streams and rivers of the backcountry may look pure, it can still be contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other contaminants.

When planning on camping or hiking, it is important to remember your water needs. There are many approaches you can take to providing yourself and others in your group with safe water for both drinking and sanitation.

Before your next camping or hiking trip, check out the links below.

Photo of a hiker walking through a stream in the backcountry, with mountains in the background

Safe Camping and Hiking


For information on safe camping, visit:
Camping Health and Safety Tips and Packing Checklist (CDC)

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Safe Drinking Water

Eating contaminated food and drinking contaminated water can increase the risk of developing certain infectious diseases caused by germs such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, and norovirus, among others.

For information on safe drinking water, visit:
A Guide to Drinking Water Treatment and Sanitation for Backcountry and Travel Use (CDC)
A Guide to Water Filters (CDC)
Water Disinfection for Travelers (CDC)
Water Treatment Methods (CDC)
Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water (CDC)
For information on bottled water, visit:
Bottled Water (CDC)
Bottled Water Regulation and the FDA (FDA)

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Safe Recreational Water

Swimming in contaminated water can increase the risk of developing certain infectious diseases. When you are swimming in untreated or poorly treated water, you risk coming in contact with germs that may make you sick.

For information on safe recreational water, visit:
Healthy Swimming Information for Travelers (CDC)
Water Disinfection for Travelers (CDC)
RWIs: Recreational Water Illnesses (CDC)

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Sanitation

In addition to using safe drinking and recreational water, it is important to also protect yourself and others from waterborne illness by paying attention to good sanitation practices:

  • Disposing of human waste appropriately. When possible, use permanent sanitation facilities (toilets and latrines). If these facilities are not available, dispose of human waste by burying it at least 8 inches deep and at least 200 feet from natural waters.
  • Practicing good personal hygiene. If possible, wash hands with soap and clean, running water before handling food or eating, and after using the toilet.
For information on Sanitation when traveling or while in the backcountry, visit:
Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives (CDC)
Leave No Trace Principles (Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics)
Backcountry Operations (National Park Service Public Health Program)

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Diseases

CDC’s "Diseases Related to Travel" will provide information for travelers about specific diseases that can affect them while traveling. Note: For travel recommendations for specific regions, visit Destinations.

For specific information on certain diseases, visit:
Travelers’ Health: Diseases (CDC)
Cryptosporidiosis (CDC)
Traveler’s Health: Cryptosporidiosis (CDC)
Traveler’s Diarrhea (CDC)
FAQs on Traveler’s Diarrhea (CDC)

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Illness and Injury

While traveling abroad, it is important to know what steps should be taken in the event of illness and/or injury. For more information, visit CDC’s Illness and Injury Abroad webpage. For specific information on drowning, visit CDC’s Water-Related Injuries Factsheet.

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