Bug Out Bag Water Storage Methods
Water weighs 8.35 pounds per gallon (or 1 kilogram per liter for the rest of the world). Anyone familiar with backpacking can tell you that this is not very forgiving when you need to carry water on the go.
Bug out bag water is not just a weight concern, but also a packing problem. A gallon of water takes up 231 cubic inches- which is a huge displacement compared to your survival gear!
Below, we will take a look at the best ways to include water in your bug out bag, and techniques to stay hydrated when you are on the move.
Contents (Jump to a Section)
Storing Water in Your Bug Out Bag
Water is not the best way to utilize your limited bug out bag space (or weight). If you throw a couple of gallons in your backpack you’re going to severely slow yourself down.
Still, water is a requirement for survival and you need to have solutions with you even on the go. There are several options when it comes to keeping water on the go. One crossover from Everyday Carry (EDC) is the personal water bottle.
Stainless Water Bottles
There are many types of water bottles that you can include in your bug out bag. Collapsible and stainless are at the top of the list.
Stainless bottles may have more weight and take up more space when empty, but they give you the option to purify your water by boiling it. If you don’t have another method of purification or need a backup method, stainless bottles are the way to go.
Mainly, you want to steer away from the insulated Yeti and Stanley models since you will be wanting to use the bottle for boiling. There are plenty of models that offer these from reputable brands like Hydroflask and Kleen Kanteen just to name a few.
Collapsible Water Bottles
Collapsible bottles are great because they can greatly reduce the space required to store the empty container. The main standout for collapsible bottles is the Nomader Collapsible Water Bottle.
It only weighs 7 ounces and the bottom part of the bottle rolls up to make it extremely compact when empty. This bottle, paired with a water collection and treatment solution can work surprisingly well for bug out bags while keeping the weight and volume down. Normally collapsible containers have issues over time from where they expand and collapse, but these bottles are lifetime guaranteed and the one I got back in 2017 is still just as good as ever.
Water is sold everywhere. Bottled water comes in various sizes and is a huge commodity when it comes to disasters. Companies like Budweiser even stop beer production to create canned water for communities impacted by disasters. A few bottles of water may not go far, but it is better than nothing. One of the most efficient ways to carry water is in pouches- but they do not offer a reusable container for refilling.
To avoid having to fill any container prior to bugging out, most people keep some version of pre-packaged water in their go bags:
- Bottled Water
- Canned Water
- Water Pouches
I keep water pouches in my bug out bag as a no-maintenance way to sustain my family during the initial stages of an emergency. We’ve done a review roundup on them relatively recently: Best Emergency Water Pouches and Bagged Water
They aren’t as rigid and pack much more densely than cans or bottles, making them ideal for mobile kits. Most of them can sustain a wide range of temperatures and you won’t have to worry about leaching or odd tastes.
Water bladders (like a CamelBak) can be a sleek solution that integrates with your bug out bag itself. It automatically positions the water in a great spot to carry weight- high on your back and gives you a handy straw right there in reach on your shoulder.
The drawbacks are what keep me from including this in my own bug out bag: purifying water and cleaning the bladder. I’d prefer to have my water container easy to rinse out, clean, and dry.
Don’t get me wrong- I loved my CamelBak on hot field days in the military, but maintenance is pretty rough and not something I want to contend with in a survival situation. The last thing you want is an overly complicated solution that can grow mold if you don’t keep it clean.
Purifying and Filtering on the Go
Besides boiling water in a stainless bottle, you can also prepare by having water filters or purification tabs in your bug out bag. These options give you a way to have clean water without worrying about heat or fire.
Filters are extremely lightweight these days, and there are a few designed specifically for bug out bags or backpacks. Our testing in our water filter review roundup found the best filtering option for bug out bags to be the Sawyer Mini:
Purification tablets usually have some compound of iodine as an active ingredient. There are several different brands and types, so the one that packs the tightest is the one we suggest for bug out bags (and EDC): Aquatabs. Again, this is from one of our recent testing reviews on water purification tablets.
How Much Water Should I Carry?
Like most things, the answer varies. The rule of thumb for a bug out bag is to have 72 hours (3 days) worth of survival and emergency gear and rations. Combining that with the napkin math that people need about a gallon of water per day… and you get 3 gallons of water.
3 gallons of water is 25 pounds.
As you can see, it adds significant weight- and that’s not factoring in the volume of it and the weight of the container. It also doesn’t factor in how water sloshing can affect your walking gait. This is why I personally only have 1 gallon in my bug out bag, in bagged water.
I have plenty of water stored in my home survival kit, car survival kit, a stainless bottle as part of my EDC loadout, and purification tablets in all of my kits.
Feel free to do your own math, but if you carry 3 gallons or more you may want to consider carts, bikes, and other solutions for bugging out. We make the math easy with our water storage calculator:
Plan to Find Water
Because of how heavy and unwieldy water storage can be on-the-move, it is best to incorporate stopping by water sources in your bug out plan. Using free maps as you create your basic emergency plan, you should be able to identify water sources to replenish along the way.
If you have time before you bug out, hydrating before you go is always a good idea. Starting your journey well-hydrated will help you not dip into your supplies immediately and give you a time cushion before you need to seek out more water.
The Final Word
In your bug out bag, water or ways to purify it are a necessity. Water is a basic human need, and so it has to be planned for when you are creating and maintaining your bug out bag. If you are packing water and not just containers and filters- you need to be aware of the impact the space and weight will both have.
Here are more guides our subscribers have found helpful:
- Kids’ Bug Out Bag | Gear List with Pro Tips
- The Best Emergency Food Bars for Prepping and Survival
- Bug Out Bag (BOB) Guide, Gear, and Checklist
Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.
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5 thoughts on “Bug Out Bag Water Storage Methods”
For filtration on the go you should also consider the Berkey Sport bottles. It’s a plastic bottle the size of a sports water bottle but it has a small sized Black Berkey element in it for filtration, so you can fill up at any water source and be drinking safe water on the go. I have these in each of my GHBs and at my office desk – my desk Berkey Sport bottle is useful when the town decides to flush the hydrants and crud appears in the tap water (about twice a year around here.)
I’ve heard good things about Berkey but never tried a filtering sport bottle. I’ve seen that Lifestraw makes a sport bottle too-
but it looks to be about the same specs at a higher cost. Those ‘town flushes’ are a great time to try out filtration equipment.
Both brands will filter out bacteria and protozoa, but the Berkey Black filters can remove viruses too, which is why I went with them for both home (Big Berkey) and on the go with Berkey Sport bottles.
LifeStraw and Lifestraw Go don’t filter out viruses, you need to move up to the Lifestraw Mission or Lifestraw Family to get that level of safety.
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