Carrying your own water supply is essential for wild camping, and very handy for everyone else. So, we’ve been looking for the best water containers.
Our wishlist? BPA-free, won’t leak, split or spill; easy to fill, and preferably with a tap. Disposables are out because there’s way too much plastic rubbish already.
Here are our finds, in order of preference – favourites first. From foldable water containers to buckets with taps.
In a four- or 10-litre option, this is a perfectly flat water container with a one-hand operated tap. The inside bladders are mylar (the stuff they make wine bladders out of) and the outside is rip-top nylon, so should be durable and shouldn’t taint your water.
Although we weren’t keen at first that it didn’t stand up, it’s turned out to be the one we use most. The 10-litre version hangs nicely on the side of our van or in a tree and the tap is easy to use with one hand while you hold a water bottle or kettle with the other. 10 litres is also a decent quantity for a two-day trip.
The only downside is that the fabric can get wet when you fill it. Dries quickly, though. Costs between £17 and £40. Great for minimal packing and for avoiding any chance of plastic-y water.
Though the stainless steel Sansone container below was our favourite for its looks, we’ve used this one far more. It’s the one we use all the time for refilling drinking bottles and it’s proved very handy on the campsite and wild camping.
Its downside is that it’s a bit small at four litres, but just take two. We like it for its foldability and the fact it also stands up. BPA- and phthalate-free, wide top for easy filling (you can get ice into it too). It uses a material that inhibits bacteria build-up. Just make sure you pull the clip across the top to seal it! Around £20.
While they don’t look as if they’d be OK for drinking water, David at Colapz tells us they’re absolutely food-safe, UV and frost resistant and BPA-free. They fold virtually flat (with a nifty stretch cord to keep them closed, have a lid and a tap that can be replaced with a cover for easier storage. Around £25. They hold eight litres.
A thing of beauty…despite its being useless for backpackers and very expensive. La Sansone make stainless steel containers for water, honey and olive oil. No plastic, no nasty tastes, and what a gorgeous object. No wonder it’s called The Jewel.
The five-litre is probably the optimum for campervanners because it’s liftable (10 litres would be better for longer trips but a bit hefty for some people to carry). Simple screw-in lid with a release valve, a positive tap and shiny gorgeousness. Price…from round £50.
Clever water storage that comes in two-, four- and six-litre options. The wide-mouth, press-close opening is easy to fill and clean. It’s BPA-free and even has a technology to stop the tank getting mouldy or contaminated by bacteria.
It stands more or less stable on rough surfaces and has a comfortable handle. A pouring spout rather than a tap, but nice to pour and water comes out quickly, which can be an advantage (use as a watering can at home!). Costs between £23 and £40. We use ours all the time on sites, but store it away empty for travel because the press seal on the top isn’t absolutely trustworthy.
There are a few of these and most seem to be BPA-free. You may want to sterilise the inside now and again, though, as the plastic can be hard to clean out thoroughly. Not great for carrying around on a campsite because they don’t have handles.
The Balvi water dispenser holds 5.5 litres and gets a good rating. To get a decent flow from the tap, you need to allow a little air inside through the bung. Around £20.
Brita make the Optimax and the Flow (5litres-plus) with filter cartridges. Around £30.
As simple and sturdy as it gets, but bulky. These come in a wide range of sizes and with taps in various positions. Very practical. Whether they’re BPA-free is questionable in some cases.
The Ridgemonkey jerry can (recommended to us by an experienced van camper) is a little rough around the edges, but it’s made of HDPE and comes in three sizes. If you want to know a little about which plastics are deemed safe, check out this article. The Ridgemonkeys cost between £12 and £18.
VERY robust and very packable, though needs to be laid flat, these are water bags with a screw-off cap and a nozzle. The Dromedary comes in four- and 10-litre versions and the lighter Dromlite as two-, four- or six-litre versions. There are some concerns about the taste of water in the Dromlite and the watertightness of the main cap, but you can’t get better for resilience or carryability. From around £25, depending on size. Drop it out of a plane and it survives, apparently.
Ortlieb make good drybags, so they’ve turned that idea inside-out to make bags that keep the water on the inside. They come in four- and 10-litre sizes and have handles for carrying or hanging. No tap, though. Instead there’s a nozzle system that can be adapted for a drinking pipe or for pouring. Around £20. A 10l water sack (£25) is their other option, though very heavy, of course, with that amount of water inside.
People seem like this camping water storage kegt but, as with many folding plastic options, they easily puncture or develop leaks where the folds weaken the plastic. Two sizes from £8.
Comes with a tap, but is basically a roll-up bag, so super-small when not in use. Won’t stand up and the top isn’t all that secure. Still, it’s only £5.
From as little as £1, these are the most basic option for camping water. Simply a bag with a handle and tap. Made of polyethylene (PE), they tend to come as five- or 10-litre options. You’ll need to hold them while filling as they don’t stand up very well. Won’t last, so you’ll end up adding more plastic to the waste mountain.
We’re not all that keen on this type (which is a more basic form of the Kampa Keg). Again, the folds are a weak area. We also wonder whether they are actually BPA-free…who would know! Guaranteed not to last, so more plastic waste. Cheap, but buy something that will last instead.
One to avoid. These tend to make water taste unpleasant no matter how well you rinse them out. Mountain Warehouse make one and the one shown here is Yellowstone. Made of PVC.
And to avoid plastic altogether for your water storage?
A stainless steel jerry can seems an option, but we haven’t been able to find any food-grade models. So…back to the top of the page for our favourite, or have a look at these (impractical?) options.