Negev water options, pros+consI hiked the INT January-March 2016, in three parts (TLV-Arad, Eilat-Arad, Dan-TLV) due to weather. I wrote a blog, and you can find it at thehypeisrael.wordpress.com.
As part of getting financial assistance from my school to do the trip, I wrote a summary of water options for the Negev. Please note that prices aren't exact, and the caching services I used may or may not still be available. Happy hiking!
One of the many interesting aspects of this trail is the total lack of water purification that most hikers do. For the purposes of water, there are two sections of the trail; the Negev Desert, and the rest of the trail. For the non-desert portion, there are ample towns, cities, and kibbutzes to refill water. And in the desert, there is no water to even purify, so hikers must carry or cache to survive. When I say cache water, I mean having it stored in advance (usually in the ground) at certain checkpoints, such as campgrounds. The desert portion is about 3 weeks of hiking, and somewhere between 200 and 250 miles.
There are four main ways to do this. 1)cache water yourself, 2)pay one of several local jeep drivers to cache for you, 3)pay for water deliveries, and 4)donít cache. Some people use one method for parts of the trip, and another for others, but Iíll give the rundown of using one method for the entire desert, as I did (#2).
1)cache water yourself
This is, according to many I talked to, the most common method for Israelis. They have the knowledge, cars, and time to stash the water in advance of their desert hike. However, I did the trail in a season that was almost all foreigners, so I met almost nobody who did this. However, basically what it involves is having, borrowing, or renting a car and spending a day going around to campsites and burying water (and food if you so desire). The pros of this include knowing exactly where you are stashing your water, and having total control over the amount of water, food, and other supplies you are stashing. The cons include difficulty, especially for foreigners, as it can be hard to find these campsites.
2) pay for caching
Iíll divide this into two sections. The first is to pay one of several Israelis who maintain water stashes and receive information on how to find the water. The second is to go on a one day caching trip with them.
2a) This is the method I used. I used two different providers, as they both handled different sections of the desert. The total cost of this was about $300 for the entirety of the desert, and I always had plenty of water. At most cache sites, I was entitled to 6 liters of water, and some I had 8. One of the providers gave me directions on the phone, while another required that I meet him in advance, so I had to get off the trail for a couple days and bus to his town. He drew schematic diagrams of where to find the water, with symbols of trails, trees, rocks, etc. He also sent pictures of the areas so I knew where to look. Overall, it was very easy to find the water stashes. The pros of this include ease, and not having to stash anything yourself. The cons are the cost, and the requirement to meet with the provider before. However, almost all foreigners I met used the same driver, and we were all satisfied with his services.
2b) Another similar method is to use the jeep drivers, but actually go on the caching trips with them in advance of your hike.. Basically, you spend a day driving around the desert with them, and they take you to each site to store things. In this case, you bring all the food and water. The best price I found for this was $650, which was a flat fee. So, if I had been able to split this with several other hikers, it would have been a better deal. The pros include complete flexibility on the amount of water/food to store, and the ability to be a part of the caching trip, so I imagine finding the stores would be even easier. The cons include cost, unless of course you find several people, and again, time spent visiting the driver and spending a day with them driving.
Another option is to have jeep drivers deliver water and food for you at specific times/places. This is a method I never met anyone using, likely due to the high cost. The prices varied, but were often over $100 per location. The pros include total flexibility of what to have delivered, and no need to find anything buried, as the drivers meet you at a predetermined place and time. The cons include the very high price, as well as the hassle of organizing the times and places to have a drop off.
4) no caching
The final method is to not have any caching at all. There were only a few hikers I met who used this method. It requires very careful planning, and carrying a lot more water than I did. I met one young German couple who used this method for a very interesting reason. As with all hikers I met, I asked them how they were handling water, and why they chose that plan. It turned out they were fiercely religious, and they told me that Jesus had told them to go without caching. They had been surviving with a combination of 1) carrying extra water after going through towns 2) hiking very little every day and 3) finding water at campsites (I have a hunch they found caches and stole them). The pros of this include the complete absence of money needed. The cons include having to carry a lot more water, and having a very strict itinerary/ need to plan mileages very exactly.