Carrying Water on Bicycle Tours – A Bicycle Equipment Note


Touring in Australia and in particular in states such as Western Australia requires one to seriously consider access to water.  For example on the ride from Esperance to Perth, there was no water on the section from Norseman through to Hyden. As we camped out for two nights, water had to be carried for three days riding and two nights, so around 15 litres of water.  This raises the question of carrying water on bicycle tours.

Carrying Water on Bicycle Tours - Cool Drink Bottles

Carrying Water on Bicycle Tours


While there are a number of options, my preference for carrying water on bicycle tours are water bladders and/or 1.5 litre cool drink bottles.  It really comes down to the likely temperatures and distance between re-supply points.

Carrying Water on Bicycle Tours – Cool Drink Bottles

Carrying Water on Bicycle Tours - Cool Drink Bottles

Carrying Water on Bicycle Tours - Cool Drink Bottles

Until recently as I was using a BOB Ibex trailer my preference was to use 1.5 litre cool drinks (PET bottles). I like PET bottles because they are:

  • Cheap to obtain – just drink the contents;
  • Pretty much indestructible;
  • Only holding 1.5 litres and hence they reduce the risk of loosing a lot of water should something happen;
  • Being 1.5 litres it makes it easy to distribute the water load over the bike in smaller units;
  • Easy to handle and work with;
  • Empty containers can be crushed down and recycled when finished with.

One possible disadvantage with the 1.5 litre cool drink bottles is that they are too big for standard bidon cages. I overcame this issue on the BOB Ibex trailer with the fitting of a couple of BBB Fuel Tank XLs.  The BBB Fuel Tank are designed to take up to 1.5 litre bottles.  I have used a Topeak Modula XL bidon cage which I fitted to the seat tube on my Surly Long Haul Trucker but it was not robust, failing early into the Esperance to Perth tour. The BBB Fuel Tank XL appears to be a more robust design so hopefully it will cope with off-road touring.

Two additional things to keep in mind with these larger bidon cages is whether you have the space for them in your triangle.  I have a 58 cm Surly Long Haul Trucker and could only fit one BBB Fuel Tank XL.  The other point is that the BBB Fuel Tank XL will not hold smaller bidon, e.g., 750 ml so if you like to drink and ride this may be an issue.

Carrying Water on Bicycle Tours – Water Storage Bags

Carrying Water on Bicycle Tours - MSR Dromedary

Carrying Water on Bicycle Tours - MSR Dromedary


The second option is water storage bags such as the MSR Dromedary Bags which are a heavy duty abrasion resistance style of water storage bag.  They come in a range of sizes and are collapsible when not in use. The one aspect I like about the bags is that they come with webbing which allows for tying down on the bike and hanging at the campsite.  On the downside they are a more expensive option, are hard to handle around camp and if you damage or loose a bag you can loose a lot of water.

Another option is the Ortlieb Water Bag. The water bag is a lighter alternative to the MSR Dromedary Bags but does have less tie down options.

Carrying Water on Bicycle Tours – Wine bladders

Carrying Water on Bicycle Tours - Wine Bladders

Carrying Water on Bicycle Tours - Wine Bladders

Wine bladders are another low cost, recyclable option. All you need to do is drink the cask’s contents and then spend a heck of lot of effort cleaning out the cask to get rid of the wine taste.  One advantage with wine casks is that they are light weight, but on the down side there is no tie down options and again campsite handling can be a bit of pain.  I have seen them used quite a bit on bushwalking trips so they are a popular option. I just couldn’t get over the watered down wine taste.

That said you maybe to source clean new wine bladders on eBay or the like.

Do you have other suggestions or tips on carrying water on tours? Please share them below via the comments fields.


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