Water bottles mounted to your bike frame are fine for shorter journeys but you need to carry far more water than your bottles will hold when wild camping or crossing isolated landscapes.
That’s where the Camelbak Unbottle 70 ($45 from REI) comes in handy. It holds 2 litres of water and weighs about 340 grams.
We actually didn’t start our trip with these bags but picked two Unbottle 70s up after a similar product we had from Platypus started to leak. Like the Platypus bags, the Camelbak water holder is made from reinforced plastic but also comes with a protective cloth pouch around the water bag. That cloth pouch makes all the difference for durability.
We found 2 of these water carriers, plus our 5 normal frame-mounted bottles, gave us enough water-carrying capacity (8-10 litres) to wild camp comfortably and cook our evening meal.
Features We Like: There’s a large mouth to pour or filter water into and a drinking tube with a secure valve to stop water leaking out when you’re not using it. We also like the clips on the side of the bag, which help us secure to the bike.
What We Don’t Like: Generally we’re very happy with the Camelbaks but their extra strong clips can sometimes be hard to snap and unsnap, especially when your hands are cold. There was also a plastic taste to the water when they were new. We soaked them with a sugar-water mixture to take this away.
Other options: Ortlieb also make water carriers, that look like exceptional value. We don’t have any first hand experience with Ortlieb’s water carriers but they start at £13.50 on Wiggle – less than half the price of the Camelbak Unbottle 70. When you also consider that they weigh just 75 grams and come with Ortlieb’s great reputation, these bags deserve serious consideration.
The Ortlieb bags come big enough to hold 10 litres, easily enough for two people to cook and clean with for one night of wild camping. This amount of water is great if you plan to take an al fresco shower in your campsite but the downside is figuring out a way to mount the bag on your bike. Because the water is in a single bag, its weight can’t be shared between riders or distributed evenly across one bike.
You could also buy water in plastic bottles from a supermarket and then reuse the bottles as needed until they wear out or your trip ends. This has a few advantages. There’s a very low cost to you and the bottles can be found anywhere. But we don’t like this option because plastic water bottles are not environmentally friendly, can break if they fall off the bike and are sometimes awkward to strap on your panniers securely.
Readers recommend: MSR Dromedary 10L bag, weighs 284 grams $44.95 at REI
7th November 2009 at 12:47 am #
We used MSR water bladders. We started out with two, but sent one home as we didn’t need it – Scott uses a camelback bladder for his on-bike water, so that was always a backup if the MSR bladder wasn’t enough. The MSR was very durable, but it too had a taste. Their website said they didn’t guarantee anything regarding taste. We found that rinsing with baking soda and water before storing help to remove the bad taste.
3rd February 2010 at 3:10 am #
I also found a water bag to be invaluable on my trips. I used a 10-liter MSR Dromedary Bag, and never had any trouble with it. I particularly liked the grommets around the edge with the heavy-duty cord laced through it. Using these, I could hang the bag from anything and in many different ways. I attached a long tube to one of the spouts (it came with two), and this made it even more convenient. I could direct the water more easily for washing dishes and that sort of thing. I could also hang the bag in a tree and use the hose as a shower.
5th May 2010 at 9:11 am #
The Ortlieb waterbags also come in 2, 4 and 10 Litre versions. I have two of the 4L versions, and have found them excellent so far for touring with my trike-they are just the right size to put down the bottom of my panniers (Ortlieb Plus roll-top rears). They are very durable-much more so than platypus bladders (I’ve been through many of those). The filler neck is easy to fill (has two nested caps, so you can easily pour out water without it gushing if you want to), and you may be able to screw your water filter on directly if you want to.
I’m taking these lovelys on my next big trip to Sweden, and hoping to mount an Unbottle 3L under the seat of my trike.
29th October 2010 at 1:24 pm #
I have a CarryLock water bag. It weighs 82 grams. It opens completly at the top for filling and has a tap for pouring. It’s been indestructable, so far, and is easy to clean and sterilise. It isnt a drinking bottle, but it is watertight and a bloody good piece of kit for carrying extra water. Take a peek at http://www.carrylock.co.uk
5th February 2012 at 3:52 am #
A cheap water bladder option is to keep old bladders from cask wine (or water) rinse them out, and dry them. They can keep for at least a couple of months if you rinse them out regularly. I’ve not ever had a problem with them leaking either. Plus, the first few times you use them you get a hint of wine taste still, quite a nice kick.
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I’ve heard of people using these as pillows too… but we could never get over the wine smell.
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