Sunday, February 23, 2014


BLOG 64.Water Containers For The Long Haul
Cliff Jacobson

I never thought much about long-haul water containers until I started canoeing U.S. rivers.  On my Canadian trips, a liter poly bottle and a folding bucket were enough.  Except on rivers like the Bloodvein (Manitoba) where Giardia is a concern, I never carried a filter or purifier.  Instead, I was careful get my drinking water from clear water sources where contamination was unlikely.

My attitude changed when friends and I began to canoe American rivers.  Here, the choice was to carry our water or purify it.  On desert rivers like the Green, Little Missouri and Rio Grande, we settled the sediment with alum (see Blog #9/Western Water or the 25th Anniversary Ed. of my book, “Camping’s Top Secrets) then purified the effluent.  This procedure worked marvelously.
A tablespoon of alum in two gallons of water settles silty water quickly.  Green River,  Utah
But contaminated and brackish water defies treatment.  Here, you must haul your drinking water—and in the Everglades, you may have to defend it from thirsty raccoons and voracious rats which will bite through plastic containers.  I’m constantly on the prowl for better water jugs.  Here are my requirements:

·      The container must be positively leak-proof.
·      The cap must have a leash to prevent loss.
·      It must fit seamlessly into my Bell Yellowstone solo canoe.  Some otherwise great containers won’t!
·      The handle must be secure and unbreakable.
·      Water is precious—small amounts must pour easily without spilling.
·      The jug must have a wide, quick-fill cap.

Nalgene bottles are absolutely water-tight, no and's or if's!
For personal use, I’m won over to Nalgene bottles, which come in a variety of sizes and shapes.  I discovered these tough-as-nails poly bottles when I taught high school biology in the mid-1960’s.  Most of the chemicals we used in class came packaged in Nalgene bottles.  The bottles never leaked no matter how rough they were handled.  When the chemicals were gone, I washed out the bottles and  used them on my canoe trips. I still have some 1960’s originals. When Nalge learned that their bottles were popular with outdoors people they responded with new designs and colors. Today, Nalgene bottles have lots of competition but in my opinion they are still the best. 

MSR Dromedary Bag
These beautifully made black fabric bags come in a variety of sizes.  They are lightweight, watertight and tough.  There’s a wide-mouth, quick-fill cap and a small, canteen-style mouthpiece.  A heavy-duty nylon ribbon that runs through grommets along the perimeter provides a handle and options for hanging.  These bags sit low in the canoe and take up little space.  Unlike high, cubical style containers, water doesn’t slosh around as you paddle. This is the bag of choice if you paddle a solo canoe or kayak where space is tight.  If you’re going where sharp-toothed critters will attack soft-sided water bags, you’d best secure them inside stainless steel Outsak bags ( or Kevlar Ursa sacks (
Left: Stainless-steel Outsak bag; right: Kevlar Ursa sack
The NRS 5 gallon jugs appear identical to the combat proven water jugs used by the government and military.  At a bit over 5 pounds empty, these babies are heavy, but unless you purposefully hammer a nail through the side, you’ll never puncture them. And sharp-toothed varmints can’t bite through the thick plastic.  There’s a wide fill and small pour cap The caps are leashed and absolutely secure.  At around 50 dollars apiece, they aren’t cheap, but you’ll be thrilled with the quality and ease-of-use.  Two of these containers will fit in my Bell Yellowstone solo canoe.
Left: NRS 5 gallon (U.S. Govt. spec.) water jug; right: Reliance 2.5 gallon
Two 5 gallon NRS jugs. Bell Yellowstone Solo Canoe

Cliff Jacobson

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