Welcome to the desert. The scenery is breathtaking, the landscape is challenging and the weather is unpredictable. Hiking and trekking here is nothing like any hike you’ve ever done- and drinking water is going to be your first challenge.
Tap water in towns around the desert is almost always good for drinking, but you’re not going to find that many taps in the wilderness and along the hikes.
In general you should always carry a lot of water- for a full day hike, for example, you should have at least 4.5 liters. That, of course, covers single day hikes, but what do you do if you want to enjoy one of the many backpacking and camping trails we have here? Such trails (amazing, all of them) are well marked and easy to get to, but you will not arrive at a source of drinking water during the entire hike.
Most campgrounds along these trails are simple primitive campgrounds- a designated area where you are allowed to camp and light a fire, but they have no facilities whatsoever- including water.
The most common solutions are water caching and water deliveries.
Water deliveries are the best and safest solution for hikers in the desert. A jeep driver arrives at the campground and hands you water bottles or a tank of drinking water.
You can also arrange for food items to be delivered in the same way (food should never be cached because even when it is extremely well packed it still draws animals and occasionally theft).The driver will collect your garbage and can also pull a hiker out if they are unable to continue the trek for some reason. In an area with little cellphone reception the driver can also act as your emergency contact, and will notify the authorities if you fail to arrive at the meeting point- while you might be unable to call for help with no cellphone reception.
The only problem with water deliveries in the past was the price. A single delivery will cost several hundred shekels. This might be OK for larger groups but is pretty pricey for single hikers, especially if they are planning a multiple day trek or the entire length of the INT in the Negev.
This problem has been solved with WaterDrop– the cost sharing system for logistical services along hikes in the Negev. WaterDrop collects delivery requests from multiple hikers and bunches them together in one delivery. All you have to do is enter the date and place you need water delivered and WaterDrop will find other hikers to share the costs with. You get the best price and a reliable delivery of water, food, firewood or even a pickup from the middle of the wilderness.
Caching is commonly used by people hiking along the Israel National Trail because they require a solution for water for several campgrounds over a relatively short period of time. A 4X4 driver will go to all of the INT campgrounds in the desert and leave water in these sites. The water is hidden or even buried but is otherwise unprotected and unattended. Some hikers borrow a 4X4 vehicle from a friend or use their own vehicle, but most pay a professional jeep company to arrange the caching.
There is always a risk involved in caching water- since there is no one looking after the water and it is left unattended for several days, and some campgrounds do have a reputation for having caches stolen or broken into.
WaterDrop will also help you arrange water caching, if necessary, for trek along the INT or for any other trek in the Negev. Deliveries are always better, but if there are not enough hikers sharing the cost on a specific date or at a specific location, caching can be a good way to reduce the cost- at the price of a risk. In many cases the ideal solution for through-hikers along the INT has been a combination of deliveries and caches- all at a reduced price, thanks to WaterDrop.
Few local hikers, who are well acquainted with the area, rely on natural sources of water for drinking.
These include small springs and natural waterholes. There is a serious risk involved here- such sources are very unreliable, and you really need to know the weather patterns and keep track of rainfall to be able to estimate if a source will have enough water or not.
Even if you’re relying on information from other hikers who passed through your planned filling spot just a few days prior, there is always a danger of someone swimming, washing or otherwise polluting the water. Immediately after the rain there is less risk involved, but in the months that follow you are not only putting yourself at risk- you are also putting more pressure on the desert Eco system where animals and plants rely on the water.