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