The Best Rain Barrel for Prepping and Emergencies

Water is one of the key elements of prepping and survival. Without it, we don’t last very long. Unfortunately, most people don’t consider water storage until it’s too late and water is running out. Water is heavy, bulky in storage, and hard to compress so renewable options for water storage are preferred. Rain barrels are one of the cheapest methods to gather and store water.

People have been collecting water in barrels for over 2000 years. In Thailand, they started collecting water in large clay containers to have water during the lengthy dry season. Since then, a lot of advancements have been made. Now there are plenty of brands and models to choose from. Some are innovative and some are just decorative for gardens. This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best rain barrels, tested them, and the results are in: the overall best, an interesting portable option, and an upgrade option. If you need a rain barrel that won’t let you down in an emergency, one of our suggestions will help you keep water on tap.


Contents (Jump to a Section)


RTS Rain Barrel 50 Gallons for Prepping Survival and Emergency Water Storage

The Best Rain Barrel

RTS Rain Barrel

Inexpensive, Easily Installed, and 50 Gallons

Extremely easy to set up and install, this rain barrel will drastically improve your water storage without breaking your budget.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

The RTS rain barrel is our top pick simply because it is the largest and least expensive rain barrel at the best price. It is made out of durable UV-resistant BPA-free polyethylene (plastic). It has a brass spigot, an aluminum hose barb, and an aluminum-screened top so it’s not scrimping on quality for the connectors. You can easily link these together to double or triple your capacity, and they have a flat back so you can position them against a wall for better stability and a slimmer profile.

This barrel meets plenty of HOA standards and looks nice when it is set up, making it ideal for urban and suburban homes. In rural areas, you may be better served to find a 275-gallon IBC tote locally for free, but this RTS rain barrel is a clear choice otherwise.


Grow1 Portable Rain Barrel 132 Gallons for Prepping Survival and Emergency Water Storage

Portable Rain Barrel

Grow1 Collapsible Rain Barrel

Lightweight, Portable, and 132 Gallons

On-demand portable water collection has never been easier than setting up this durable portable rain barrel.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Grow1 has developed a collapsible water tank that blows all of the other options out of the water. Most of the portable options we researched and reviewed performed horribly when it came time to actually store water. Portable rain barrels seem like a great idea for emergencies- being able to set up a sustainable water source anywhere is a very powerful resource. But the shoddy execution by the competitors left Grow1 as the only portable option worth considering.

The Grow1 collapsible rain barrel actually comes in a variety of sizes too, so you can get the exact capacity you are looking for:

These Grow1 portable rain barrels are the most versatile option on the market and are an excellent resource to add to your in-place survival kit.


Graf Mondo Rain Barrel 137 Gallons for Prepping and Emergencies

Upgrade Rain Barrel

Graf Mondo Rain Barrel

Enormous, Strong, and 137 Gallons

This barrel approaches tank and cistern-level capacity with extreme durability.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

If you are serious about your water storage, you may want to go for a serious rain barrel. This Graf barrel is their entry model for water storage and they only get bigger and better from here. Models above this in their lineup are designed to be water storage tanks and cisterns and are even designed to be buried if needed.

The Graf Mondo rain barrel has a huge 137-gallon capacity and can be linked for even more storage. It has steel reinforced sides, making it one of the most durable rain barrels on the market. The 32″ x 48″ rectangular shape maximizes space for storage, so you can get the most water storage in spaces with limited room.


Everything We Recommend

RTS Rain Barrel 50 Gallons for Prepping Survival and Emergency Water Storage

RTS Rain Barrel

Extremely easy to set up and install, this rain barrel will drastically improve your water storage without breaking your budget.

Where to Buy

$96* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

Grow1 Portable Rain Barrel 132 Gallons for Prepping Survival and Emergency Water Storage

Grow1 Collapsible Rain Barrel

On-demand portable water collection has never been easier than setting up this durable portable rain barrel.

Where to Buy

$137* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

Graf Mondo Rain Barrel 137 Gallons

Graf Mondo Rain Barrel

This barrel approaches tank and cistern-level capacity with extreme durability.

Where to Buy

$230* at RainHarvest

$280* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing


The Rain Barrels We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to the several rain barrel brands and types that we tested: FCMP, MiRainBarrel, Grow1, Graf, RTS, Rain Wizard, Vingli, Fiskars, and more.

There are a lot of brands that make rain barrels but only a few of them are designed to last. Many are designed to look nice in a garden, prioritizing appearance over function and durability.

We also steered clear of well systems, tanks, cisterns, and other pump systems due to the cost and complexity of installation. One of these solutions would be preferred for an off-grid setup but we set out to compare rain barrels in this review. Rain barrels are usually easy to set up and integrate into a roof collection when you have gutters, so these are what we targeted for urban and suburban preppers.


What to Look For

  1. Value
  2. Durability
  3. Material
  4. Capacity
  5. Versatility

The best rain barrels have several important features to look for:

When you get the right blend of these, you can find an unmatched rain barrel that will help you keep plenty of spare water on tap as you navigate through any emergency. Below, we break down what each of these features means for a truly great rain barrel:

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you can spend on a rain barrel shouldn’t blow out your budget. There are plenty of water storage solutions, and it is a good idea to diversify between them.

If you are at the point where you are looking to store water in higher capacities than rain barrels and indoor storage containers offer, you may be better served with a well or cistern tank.

On the flip side, you don’t want to go too cheap- we found a few options that collapsed in on their own weight when they got past 1/2 a barrel full. Not a good look, even if you only plan to use it occasionally during emergencies.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, especially something like a rain barrel. It’s better to diversify your preparedness gear and make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios. There is a sweet spot where you get high value out of the best features with not-to-high of a price, which is where our top pick sits.

Durability

Rain barrels are usually very durable and meant to handle the outdoor elements without issues. Almost everything we researched and tested was made out of UV-resistant materials, reducing their deterioration from sun exposure over time.

A few of the collapsible rain barrels had some durability concerns- the plastic supports holding up the PVC liner would buckle in on themselves under the weight of the liner filling with water. There was only one portable option that showed good durability.

Material

Most of the rain barrels we compared are made of high-density BPA-free polyethylene, making them very UV-resistant and durable outside. There were also some terra cotta rain barrels available (mostly decorative, for gardens) and several PVC fabric collapsible options.

Capacity

A rain barrel’s capacity directly affects its functionality. Rain barrels come in a wide range of capacities, so it’s a good idea to get a handle on how much a rain barrel could potentially help you out in an emergency. Check out the table below to see the various capacities from our roundup, and then see how much that could help out your family with our water storage calculator:

Rain BarrelMaterialCapacity (gallons)Weight (pounds)
Graf MondoBPA-free Polyethylene13734
RTSBPA-free Polyethylene5022
Grow1Heavy Duty BPA-free PVC fabric13211
FCMP Outdoor RC45BPA-free Polyethylene4517
Lostronaught CollapsibleHeavy Duty BPA-free PVC fabric537
Fiskars SalsaBPA-free Polyethylene5821
mirain BarrelBPA-free Polyethylene5817
Good Ideas Rain WizardBPA-free Polyethylene5022
Graf HerkulesGlass Reinforced Polypropylene430130

Versatility

Extra features and considerations on rain barrels can improve their versatility. The Graf barrels have internal steel supports, which improve their strength and durability. Some of the other options, like the RTS, have brass spigots which are more durable as well.

The collapsible rain barrels seem like an extremely versatile option, but the execution and quality of the barrels leave plenty of room for improvement. There was only one exception to portable rain barrels with bad reviews and performance, and that is the Grow1 barrel as our portable pick. It was the only portable rain barrel that could support its own weight of water storage, surprisingly.

This one is particularly versatile because of its portability. While you cannot transport it full of water, you can set it up and attach it to any gutter system to get a sustainable water storage solution pretty much anywhere.


How to Use a Rain Barrel

Rain barrels require some setup, maintenance, and attention to get your sustainable water storage going. The main areas to consider for implementing your rain barrel can be split up into:

  1. Collection
  2. Storage
  3. Distribution

Collecting Water for your Rain Barrel

One of the most popular methods is to gather water for your rain barrel using your existing roof and gutter system. This may require slight modifications or partial removal of one of your downspouts.

A downspout diverter is one of the easiest ways to install a rain barrel:

Oatey Residential Downspout Diverter for Rain Barrel Installation

Oatey Downspout Diverter

An easy-to-use diverter installs easily for all 2″ x 3″ residential downspouts. You cut the spout in one spot with a hacksaw or reciprocating saw, and the two-piece diverter easily slides into place. It comes with a four-foot length of tubing to reach your rain barrel, so you have plenty of room to position the barrel and make sure it is level. It also comes with a stopper, so you can easily disconnect it if needed.

It’s a solid diverter for those just getting started, but there are of course better options with more versatility if you are willing to spend more.

Where to Buy

$20* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

Depending on whether your rain barrel is a sealed top with an opening adapter or an open mesh screen, you will also want to make sure that overflowing out the top of the rain barrel will not be a problem for your foundation. You may not always be around to plug the diverter. An open-top rain barrel can accumulate more debris, especially if the screen is not very fine. An open-top rain barrel will also allow you to use a rain chain to fill your barrels as an option.

Storing Water in your Rain Barrel

When you pick a spot for your rain barrel, you will want to make sure it has flat and stable support to prevent it from tipping or collapsing. Water weighs a lot (8.34 lbs/gal), so you want to be sure that the surface you put install your barrel on is tamped down, solid, or weight-bearing.

It’s also a good idea to store your rain barrel in an elevated location, where gravity can assist with emptying the barrel from the spigot. You can find rain barrel stands readily available, but cinder blocks, pavers, and homemade stands are just as effective and possibly more versatile.

You will want to regularly agitate the water stored and not allow the water to stagnate so that it does not become a breeding ground for mosquitos, algae, etc. The easiest way is to ‘agitate’ is to simply cycle the water out often.

Distributing Water from your Rain Barrel

Any rain barrel getting its water from a runoff source (like a roof and gutter system) is not going to store readily drinkable water. You will need to heavily filter and treat the water before you use it as potable water. Roof runoff can be high in contaminants depending on your roof type.

Water will not ‘spray’ out of a rain barrel- they have significantly less pressure than your tap. Elevating the rain barrel helps build pressure, but you won’t be able to hook a hose up to it and spray your garden without a pump or additional container. You can use drip systems with rain barrels or use them to fill containers.

Transfer your water to another container to filter and boil/treat the water. Our top pick is 50 gallons, so 5 teaspoons of bleach will do the trick if you are treating the full amount the barrel will hold.


Are Rain Barrels Illegal?

Just a quick disclaimer that TruePrepper never shares legal advice, and you should investigate local regulations on your own or seek legal counsel concerning any rules or laws.

Collecting rainwater is not illegal under federal law, so all of the jurisdiction falls under state and local laws and regulations.

States are a different story, but most of them do not restrict rainwater collection and a good portion encourage it. Rhode Island, Virginia, and Florida may even offer you tax credits or incentives. Here is a simple map we made to detail state positions on rainwater collection, and whether you need to dig more before you install your rain barrels:

Rain Barrel Legal State Map

Who Needs a Rain Barrel?

Everyone needs water and should consider what they would do if the tap runs dry in an emergency. Rain barrels are a great way to store water for emergency drinking water and/or small gardens. They may not be a perfect solution, but they are one of the cheapest sustainable options you can find.

Rain barrels are suggested as part of a water solution for this kit:

Collapsible rain barrels could theoretically be considered for portable survival kits, but even their collapsed profile and low weight are a little much for us to seriously recommend.

No matter what threats come your way, a rain barrel is nice to have around so you can have a replenishable source of spare water.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best rain barrel is useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical military and prepping experience:

Bocking, S. (2006). Protecting the rain barrel: Discourses and the roles of science in a suburban environmental controversy. Environmental Politics. Volume 14, Issue 5. Pages 611-628. (Source).

Rahman, S., Khan, M., Akib, S., Din, N., Biswas, S. & Shirazi, S. (2014). Sustainability of Rainwater Harvesting System in terms of Water Quality. Scientific World Journal. (Source).

Widjojo, R. & Raharjo, I. (2018). Rain Barrel Project: Rainwater Harvesting for Sustainable Water Supply in Urban Households. 3rd International Conference of Integrated Intellectual Community (ICONIC) 2018. (Source).


The Final Word

Rain barrels have been around for a while and now come in several varieties. They are still one of the best methods to quickly and easily get sustainable water collection. We found the most reliable, durable, and versatile rain barrels on the market.

To go along with a rain barrel, you’ll need other water storage solutions. We suggest looking into:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found that the RTS Rain Barrel is the best option given the value, durability, materials, capacity, and versatility. If you take our suggestion and grab one of our rain barrel picks- make sure you get used to it by learning how to use and maintain it. You don’t want to wait until you need it in an emergency before you figure it out since rain barrels need to be kept clean and cycle the water frequently if you plan to use the water for emergency use.

It’s always a good idea to get used to your gear and resources before emergencies.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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The Best Rain Barrel for Prepping Survival and Emergencies

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer by day, but a prepper 24/7. I am an Air Force veteran that developed emergency and disaster plans as an emergency manager and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters worldwide. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

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