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If you’re planning on doing some dry camping, preparedness is key to ensure you have enough water for drinking, bathing, and washing your dishes. Bringing our own water to a campsite, however, doesn’t need to be a struggle, so long as you have a good car camping water storage system.
To get you started, we’ve put together your ultimate guide to the best camping water jugs, complete with reviews of our five favorite models. Plus, we’ve created a guide to finding the right camping water reservoir for your needs.
Best Water Container For Camping Reviews
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If you spend enough time at dry campgrounds, you’ll probably see some fellow campers with the Reliance Products Aqua-Tainer. Indeed, this portable water container for camping is one of the most popular models around because it is made from a durable hard-sided BPA-free polyethylene plastic.
Thanks to its durable shell, the Aqua-Tainer is strong enough to hold up even through frequent use. Plus, even though it has 7 gallons (26.5L) of water carrying capacity, it has a unique space-saving shape so that’s easier to stack up in your car.
Additionally, unlike many other water containers, the Aqua-Tainer has a spigot for easier water dispensing. When not in use, the spigot can also be hidden away to prevent any accidental damage in transport.
- Made from a durable BPA-free plastic
- Stowable spigot for easier water dispensing and damage protection
- Space-saving design can be stacked up inside a car trunk
- Some problems with leakage around the spigot – can be solved by adding a small rubber O-ring
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The Scepter Military Grade Water Jug is a solid choice for campers that prioritize durability over everything in their water storage container. It is made with military spec food grade LDPE and HDPE plastic that is BPA free and does not add taste or odors to the water.
This heavy-duty container can hold up to 5 gallons (19L) of water and is burly enough to last throughout years of very frequent use. Additionally, this water jerry can has a molded plastic handle which allows for easier transport to and from your car.
One of the best features of this water jug is its multi-function cap. With the Scepter Military Grade Water Jug, you can refill the container using the large opening on the main cap. Or, you can more easily pour the water through the smaller spout when trying to fill up your water bottles at camp.
- Military-grade plastic is some of the most durable on the market
- LDPE and HDPE plastic container doesn’t add taste or odors to the water
- Multi-function cap for easier refilling and pouring
- Molded handle makes transporting to and from the car easier
- One of the most expensive water cans available
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For campers who want the flexibility of a collapsible water jug with the same amount of durability as a jerry can, the WaterStorage Collapsible Container is a solid option. This foldable water container can carry 5.3 gallons (20L) of water and is made from food-grade BPA-free LDPE plastic, which allows it to be both durable and collapsible.
Further, it has a one-piece design with no seams, which are often the source of leaks in other containers. This container from WaterStorageCube also has an integrated handle for transportation to and from your car.
For filling up the container, this water storage cube has a single opening that’s large enough to capture water from a hose or from a tap. It also has an easy on/off spigot that allows for flow control to make it easier to fill up your water bottles while in camp. Finally, the cube shelf-collapses as you empty it, so you don’t have to worry about folding it up for storage at the end of your trip.
- Single piece design has no seams that can leak
- Made from flexible LDPE plastic that self-collapses for storage
- Integrated handle for transport
- On-off spigot for easier water bottle filling
- Some concerns with the durability of the spigot
- Flow of water slows down quite a bit as you empty the container
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The Reliance Products Fold a Carrier is the collapsible version of the company’s Aqua-tainer. The Fold a Carrier is made from a BPA-free food-grade polyethylene plastic that collapses down to a small packed size when not in use. This makes it a convenient option for transporting in the back of a vehicle where space is limited.
The carrier itself is very lightweight, tipping the scales at just 10.4 oz (294g). However, despite its light weight and foldable design, the flexible plastic on the Fold a Carrier won’t freeze, making it suitable for use in cold weather.
It can hold up to five gallons of water, which is sufficient for an overnight camping trip at a dry campsite or for everyday use around the campground. Additionally, the Fold a Carrier has a leak-proof spigot that can be quickly turned on or off for filling up water bottles or washing your hands.
- Very portable when empty
- On/off spigot design for easier water bottle filling
- Won’t freeze in the cold
- Rolls around a bit on the ground when full
- Can cause a plastic-like taste and smell for the first few uses
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The MSR Dromedary is a versatile choice for outdoor recreationalists that need a flexible water container for car camping and backpacking trips. It is a stalwart of many backpacking gear lists because it is made from a very tough 1,000D fabric that’s durable enough to withstand sharp rocks, even when completely full of water.
Plus, the “Drom,” as it’s known, has a BPA-free food-grade lining that can withstand freezing conditions and regular use. Moreover, even though it’s made from robust materials, the 2.6 gallon (10L) Drom packs down to a small size and weighs 10oz (280g).
Where this container really shines, though, is in its functionality in the outdoors. It is built with an assortment of different hanging straps that can be used to suspend the Drom from a tree for a solar-heated shower. Additionally, the container has a multi-functional cap with three different spout options for pouring water, filling it up, and washing your hands.
- Highly durable materials that are still flexible and collapsible
- Multi-functional cap with three spout options
- Can easily be hung from a tree to create a solar shower
- Packs down to a small size for car camping or backpacking
- Fairly expensive
- Only holds 2.6 gallons (10L)
Buyer’s Guide To The Best Water Containers
A water carrier for camping might seem like a simple piece of gear, but there’s actually quite a lot that goes into crafting the perfect water container. Up next, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to find the best camping water jug for your outdoor adventures.
How Much Water Do I Need For Camping?
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves here, let’s talk a bit about how much water you actually need for camping. The US National Park Service recommends that campers drink at least 1/2 gallon (2 liters) of water every day. However, this amount can increase substantially, to about 1 gallon (3.9 liters) of water in a hot climate.
In addition to the 1/2 gallon (2 liters) people need for drinking each day, campers also need to factor in how much water they’ll need for cooking, cleaning dishes, and washing their hands. With this in mind, we’d recommend at least 3 gallons (11 liters) of water per person per day of camping – if you’re good at rationing your water.
To be on the safe side, 3.5 gallons (13 liters) per person per day is likely sufficient for regular weather conditions, but upwards of 4 gallons/person/day (15 liters) might be necessary for very hot climates.
Here’s a simple formula you can use to determine how much water you need:
Water (in gallons) = 3.5 x # People x # Days
If you’re traveling somewhere particularly hot, consider bumping 3.5 up to 4 or even 4.5 to account for this extra water usage.
This may sound like a lot, but if you consider how much water we often use at home, 3.5 gallons (11 liters) for a single day of camping is nothing. In fact, the USGS estimates that we use between 80-100 gallons (302-378 liters) of water a day at home, the majority of which goes to flushing our toilets. That figure makes 3.5 gallons (11 liters) seem like a drop in the ocean.
Water Usage Calculator
Doing Maths hurts your brain? Use our quick calculator to estimate how much water you need!
How To Choose A Camping Water Container
Now that you know how much water you need for camping, let’s talk a bit about what you need to think about when buying a water container:
Collapsible vs. Hard-Sided
The biggest decision you’ll have to make when buying a water container is whether or not you want a collapsible or a hard-sided model.
Traditionally, the biggest advantage of a hard-sided container is its durability. Contemporary thinking tells us that a burly piece of hard plastic is going to hold up to more use than even the most robust flexible plastic material. In many ways, this is true, but there are certainly some durable collapsible water containers out there that could give hard-sided jugs a run for their money.
However, the primary benefit of collapsible containers is that they are easier to store and transport. Since you can pack them down when they’re not filled with water, they’re easier to fit in the back of your car or in your backpack when heading to your campsite.
That being said, there is a time and a place for both collapsible and hard-sided containers. The trick is figuring out which one is best for your needs.
Personal Water Needs & Capacity
We’ve already discussed how much water you’ll need when camping, but this information will directly impact the size of the container that you’ll want to buy.
But, should you buy just one container that can fit all the water you need for a weekend of camping?
Not at all.
In fact, such a container would likely be so heavy and large that it’d be difficult to transport to your campsite.
Instead, it’s usually best to get multiple containers, rather than one big one, that can store all the water you need for your trip. Containers that are between 1.3 and 2.6 gallons (5-10 liters) are usually the most manageable for storage and transport outside.
Vehicle/Backpack Carrying Capacity
It’s also important to consider precisely how much water you can actually fit in your car or backpack. This is particularly true if you’re planning on getting hard-sided containers as you’ll need to fit all these cans in your trunk while driving to camp.
If you have a very small vehicle, though, you’ll need to factor in how much space you realistically have before committing to a water container.
Spigot vs. Cap
Modern water containers will come with either a spigot or a cap. Caps tend to be more durable, particularly for long-term use, but they are harder to use when pouring water into smaller bottles or for handwashing. Spigots, on the other hand, are more convenient but are also more likely to break.
Key Considerations For Camping Water Jugs
Here are some of the most important features to consider when buying a camping water jug:
- Container Shape/Portability. The shape of the container might not seem too important but it will directly impact how easy it is to fit in your truck. Thinner, more rectangular jerry can-style containers tend to be easier to pack and stack in a car. Additionally, collapsible containers will be your most portable option for either car camping or backpacking.
- Durability/Structural Quality. No one wants to buy a water container only to have it leak after a few uses. Hard-sided containers made from thick military spec plastic will be the most durable, but extra-thick collapsible models are a close second.
- Price. Price is always a factor when buying gear, but in the world of water containers, there’s quite a range of different price points to choose from. Collapsible containers tend to be the most affordable options while super durable hard-sided models are often quite pricey.
Here are our answers to some of your most commonly asked questions about camping water containers:
Should I bring a camping water container if there is drinking water at a campsite?
You certainly should. Even if your campground has drinking water, a water container allows you to more easily store water at your campsite. This cuts down on the number of trips you need to take to get to the water spigot and reduces your need for disposable water bottles, which aren’t as good for the environment.
How do you clean camping water containers?
The CDC recommends washing out all water storage containers with a bleach solution and then letting them air dry completely. A solution of 1 tsp (4.9mL) bleach to 1 quart (about 1L) of water is sufficient for sanitizing most camping water containers.
If we had to choose just one of the 5 great water containers that we reviewed for our next car camping trip, we’d have to go with the Scepter Military Grade Water Jug for its highly durable construction, ease of use, and large water carrying capacity. Even though it’s quite expensive, it is very portable and is built to last a lifetime.
However, we’d also like to give an honorable mention to the MSR Dromedary for anyone that’s looking for a water container that can handle both backpacking and car camping trips. The Drom is one of the most durable foldable water containers on the market and can pack down to an impressively small size for use while backpacking.
Ultimately, what’s important is that you find the right water container for your unique camping style. Thankfully, at this point, you have all the knowledge you need to select the perfect water jug for your outdoor adventures. Happy trails!
A professional mountain guide and experienced outdoor educator, Gaby enjoys traveling and exploring the world’s most remote locales. As a writer and editor, Gaby has written for a variety of climbing and travel blogs, news sites, and climbing magazines. When she’s not writing, Gaby loves a strong double shot of espresso and hanging out with penguins in Antarctica.You can check out more of Gaby’s work on her website: www.gabypilson.com