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Best Water Jerrycans for Overlanding and Camping

Whether you are overlanding, living out of a van, or simply car camping for a weekend, containers for storing water are essential for cooking and cleaning. There are so many jerrycans on the market now, including low-quality copycat brands, that it can be difficult finding a high-quality water container that’s good for rugged backcountry use.

In this guide, we’ll define the characteristics of a good water jerrycan, offer tips how to choose one, and highlight several types cans that are popular among overlanding enthusiasts. First, in case you are just looking for a quick recommendation, the Front Runner Plastic Water Jerry Can pictured below is a great option.

Our Pick
Front Runner Plastic Water Jerry Can with Tap
$66.95

Based in South Africa, Frontrunner makes a range of overlanding equipment, notably roof racks, cargo cases and water storage tanks. Their water jerrycans are made from sturdy BPA-free, food-grade polyethylene, in an opaque black plastic that discourages bacteria growth.

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09/28/2022 09:00 am GMT

Recommended Water Jerrycans

There are many options nowadays for cans that can be used to store water while overlanding and car camping. Below are some options we recommend based on experience or what we’ve heard from others. 

Wavian Water Jerrycan

Dimensions13.75 x 6.88 x 18.25 inches
Capacity5 gallons
MaterialBPA-free, food-grade polyethylene
Empty Weight3.2 pounds

The Austrian company, Wavian, makes water cans designed for use by the Australian military. Made for extended outdoor use, these can are made in the classic jerry can style from BPA-free, food-grade, and UV-stabilized polyethylene.

Wavian cans come with a plug near the bottom that can be removed so as to install a tap. This makes it easy to secure the cans while traveling (with the tap removed) but also convenient for dispensing water in camp (with the tap installed). The optional tap is sold separately.

Wavian Jerry Can holder
Water can in Wavian jerry can holder.

Other features include an opaque pigment that discourages bacterial growth, a textured surface that makes it easier to carry, and an air release that stops the water from “glugging” out.

Wavian makes several handy accessories for these cans, including a metal jerry can holder, which holds standard NATO sized water cans and fuel cans.

Scepter Water Jerrycan

Dimensions13.5 x 6.75 x 19 inches
Capacity5 gallons
MaterialBPA-free, food-grade polyethylene
Empty Weight4.5 pounds

The Canadian company, Scepter, was one of the first – if not the first – company to start making jerrycans in plastic, and the company has been making both fuel and water jerrycans for the military and outdoors enthusiasts for decades.

Scepter’s 5-gallon water jerrycan is arguably the most durable can feature in this guide, rotomolded with thick plastic walls. We own a military surplus version of the can and can attest that it holds up to abuse.

The wide mouth of the can is closed with a wide twist on cap that has a small pour spout integrated into it (which can in turn be close with a small twist cap). My only complaint is that these don’t have an easy to use tap, so you have to tip the can when you want water. For that reason, I have another jerrycan with a tap that I refill from this can, so that it’s easier to dispense. These jerrycans fit into standard NATO size mounting brackets. The cans come in green and beige.

Front Runner Water Jerrycan

Dimensions13.8 x 6.3 x 18.3 inches
Capacity5.3 gallons
MaterialBPA-free, food-grade polyethylene
Empty Weight4 pounds

Based in South Africa, Frontrunner makes a range of overlanding equipment, notably roof racks, cargo cases and water storage tanks. Their water jerrycans are made from sturdy BPA-free, food-grade polyethylene, in an opaque black plastic that discourages bacteria growth. These have some of the thickest plastic of the jerrycans featured here.

One notable design feature of these cans is that the tap at the bottom of the can is recessed so that the spout is tucked within the outer edges of the can. This allows you to put the can into a jerry holder without the spout getting in the way.

Even without a dedicated can holder, it makes the tap less likely to become damaged. Frontrunner makes single and double jerrycan holders designed to work with their proprietary rack systems.

Reliance Aqua-Tainer

Dimensions11.50 x 11.25 x 10.75 inches; 11.50 x 11.25 x 15.75 inches
Capacity4 gallons; 7 gallons
MaterialBPA-free, food-grade polyethylene
Empty Weight1.5 pounds; 2 pounds

Reliance, a manufacturer based in Canada, is another company that makes durable water containers that are popular among overlanders, RVers, and van-life enthusiasts.

While not your typical jerrycan-style containers, their 4-gallon and 7-gallon Aqua-Tainer water cans are shaped like a cube and a good size to fit in many storage areas in vehicles and expedition trailers.

The cans come with a built-in tap that tucks away inside the cap when not in use, which protects it from damage. Because they are shorter than more traditional jerrycan style water containers, they will fit into places where those other cans might be too tall.

You can probably tell from the weight, that these are made of thinner plastic than the other jerrycans reviewed here. While these are pretty sturdy, they aren’t as strong as the Wavian, Front Runner and Scepter, and other heavy-duty jerrycans. As a side note, Reliance also makes a handy portable toilet for camping.

Rotopax Water Packs

Dimensions‎13.5 x 14.9 x 3.6 inches (1 gallon); 14.5 x 13.25 x 3.5 inches (1.75 gallon); 17.75  x 13.25  x 3 inches (2 gallon)
Capacity1 gallon; 1.75 gallons; 2 gallons
MaterialBPA-free, food-grade polyethylene
Empty WeightNot provided by manufacturer

Rotopax made its name making plastic fuel cans designed for attaching to vehicles with their unique mounting system, which allows for quick removal and storage of the fuel cans. Their water packs also fit with their attachment system, which is convenient if you plan to use it for fuel and water, as you can use the same mounts for both types of cans.

The cans have a spout that is integrated into the main cap and hidden inside the can during storage. The downside to the spout is that you have to lift the can to pour out water, in contrast to cans with taps that can dispense water while sitting on a table top. If that isn’t an issue for you and the Rotopax mounting system is appealing, these might be a good choice. Their water containers come in three sizes: 1 gallon, 1.75 gallon, and 2 gallon.

Why use Jerrycans for water storage?

While larger RVs and modified vans will often have large, built-in water tanks, smaller, more portable containers known as jerrycans are more affordable and practical for most people.

Classic jerrycan strapped to the back of a Land Rover Defender.

While the term “jerrycan” has long been used to denote a specific type of water and fuel can that’s been in use since World War II, we use here to reference any sturdy, small and portable can used for storing water.

How to Choose a Water Jerrycan

There are a variety of jerrycans available on the market, and each has its own benefits and drawbacks. Metal jerrycans are more durable than plastic ones, but they are also heavier and quite a bit more expensive.

There are a few factors to consider when choosing a water jerrycan. These include the material the can is made from, its size, and whether or not it has a tap.

Food Grade Material

The most important factor in choosing a jerrycan for storing water is that the water will be safe to drink. Because you will be drinking and cooking with the water stored in your cans, they must be made of food-grade materials.

For metal can, stainless steel is ideal – but there are very few of these available on the market and they are pricey. For plastic cans, which are more common, look for cans made with BPA-free, food-grade polyethylene.

Many country require the fuel cans be produced in a different color (often red) than water cans so that they aren’t confused.

Size and Volume

It is important to choose a container that is big enough to store the amount of water you need, but not so big that it is difficult to transport or secure to your vehicle. There are a number of holders available for attaching jerrycans to vehicles, some of which are generic, designed to fit the classic NATO-size cans, and others that are custom-built for specific brands and sizes of cans. While not necessary, finding a can that will fit in a standard-sized holder can be convenient.

Durability

There are a few metal jerrycans on the market, but for a small water can (around 5 gallons) which can be carried by a single person, plastic cans offer just as much durability (perhaps more) and are much cheaper. All things being equal, a thicker plastic will be more durable than a thinner plastic, but will weigh a bit more.

Closure System

Most jerrycans on the market have wide mouths that make it easy to fill them and screw-on lids. Some will integrate a removable/stowable tap into the lid.  

Dispensing Method

Some jerrycans have a built-in tap for dispensing water, while others require you to pour water out of the container using a separate spout. Taps are convenient but can make securing a can difficult and present a potential point of failure. Our recommendation is that if you are planning to purchase more than one can, consider getting one with a tap and one without.

Price

Jerrycans range in price, so it is important to choose a model that fits your budget. Plastic cans will be less expensive than stainless steel cans, and for most people’s needs are a better option, in our opinion.

Accessories

While all you may need is a stand-alone can for storing water, purchasing a can from a manufacturer that offers accessories such as can holders and replacement spots and parts provides more flexibility and, potentially, longevity in how you use your can. 

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