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The Best Collapsible Water Container for Camping and Survival

Whether you are camping, prepping for an emergency, or just on a road trip, few supplies are more crucial than an ample supply of water. Continuously purchasing disposable water bottles is expensive, and worse, damaging to the environment.

Many people avoid storing water containers because of the amount of space they consume. To combat this problem, companies have started offering a broad range of collapsible water vessels.

Having a collapsible water container is convenient, cost-effective, and greatly reduces waste. By offering a folding design, these jugs take up minimal space until needed. However, some water containers are far superior to others.

Let’s take a look at some of the best collapsible water containers on the market, and look at the important features that the best models offer.

Last update on 2020-06-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Best Collapsible Water Container Reviews

Coghlan’s Collapsible Water Container, 5-Gallon

The Coghlan’s water container has been on the market for quite some time and is regarded as being one of the original entries to the market. With a five-gallon capacity, it will hold enough water to last for days. There is a lot to like about this container, but it also has a few issues that keep it from achieving perfection. First, the material is not ideal.

Coghlan's Collapsible Water Container, 5-Gallon, Clear

The Coghlan was made collapsable by being made from polyethylene. Thus, this is a soft-side vessel that can be made smaller as it empties. However, the flexible nature of the material makes this unit unstable in certain instances. Once the container starts being emptied, the structural integrity of the container decreases, making it more likely to fall. Further, because the entire container is flexible, they cannot be stacked.

The advantage of this design lies in its collapsed size. Once emptied and folded, this five-gallon container becomes roughly the size of a sandwich. The spout is also a positive design element. The included spout makes it easy to control the flow of water, and the constructive feels sturdy. The use of a standard thread for the spout is an appreciated touch, a replacement will be cheap and easy if ever needed.

While testing this container, some of the testers noted that the water developed a slight plastic flavor after being in the container for more than a day. Unfortunately, this is a byproduct of the polyethylene. However, this was a minor complaint, and this effect should fade over time. Overall, this is a well-made container at a reasonable price. If you can live with the lack of stability, this is a great option.

PROS

  • High-quality construction
  • Great spout
  • Folds neatly

CONS

  • Water tastes like plastic at first
  • Not stackable

LEARN MORE HERE

Coghlan’s Expandable Water Carrier, 2-Gallon

Given that Coghlan’s is one of the oldest makers of collapsible water containers, one would be forgiven for believing they had perfected the art. While many of their products are excellent, such as the 5-Gallon model above, this 2-Gallon unit is a rare misstep for the company. When empty, this container appears to be an excellent design. By molding ribs into the side of the vessel, they allowed the containers to lock together for convenient stacking.

Coghlan's Expandable Water Carrier, 2-Gallon

For anyone planning to store the units for extended periods, this is a fantastic addition. However, the excellence fades once the units are full of liquid. Rather than unfolding uniformly, the Coghlan’s 2-Gallon unit expands to its full capacity by allowing the walls of the unit to bulge outward. Thus, the stacking function that was so convenient when empty disappears once the containers are full. Further, the bulges mean that the unit does not sit flat on any surface. While many water containers can be placed on their side to serve as a spout, this one must remain upright like a milk-jug. For small children or anyone with diminished lifting capacity, it becomes a chore to have to lift the entire sixteen-pound container every time you need water.

In general, the unit feels well constructed and will likely last for years to come. Also, the spout is the same great design as used on other Coghlan’s models. Sadly, these benefits are not enough to overcome the drawbacks. With so many other great options on the market, this model is hard to recommend.

PROS

  • Stackable when empty
  • Compact
  • Strong handle

CONS

  • Unstable 
  • Can’t be stacked when full

LEARN MORE HERE

Reliance Products Nylon Collapsible Water Container

The majority of collapsible water containers are made using some form of polyethylene plastic. However, the Reliance Products container steps outside the norm using its nylon construction. Nylon has numerous advantages in this application. Nylon is a natural insulator, so this container will have a propensity to keep liquids cooler for longer on hot days. Further, nylon is significantly more resistant to UV degradation. For users who intend to store their containers inside, this may not affect their choice. However, many purchasers will likely use a collapsible container for camping or other outdoor activities, in turn exposing the container to the harsh rays of the sun. Over time, a polyethylene container will turn yellow and become brittle. Eventually, such a container may fail. Nylon is resistant to this trend, so this is an excellent option for a heavy outdoor user.

Reliance Products Nylon Collapsible Water Container

The Reliance Products container is not perfect, however. Our test model imparted a fairly strong plastic flavor onto the water, which is a common issue for nylon containers. However, long-term users have reported that this flavor diminishes greatly over time. Given the narrow testing window available, we are unable to confirm this, but the reports make sense. Another notable issue with this container is the location of the spout. Although the design of the spout itself is sufficient, the spout is mounted fairly high on the unit. Thus, accessing the final gallon of water can become a difficult task.

Aside from those minor foibles, this is a fantastic product. It is easy to clean thanks to its wide top opening, it is comfortable to carry, and it collapses neatly. For a sun-resistant water source, give the Reliance Products container strong consideration.

PROS

  • Easy to clean
  • UV Protected
  • Easy to carry

CONS

  • Not see-through
  • Slightly unstable

LEARN MORE HERE

Smart Bottle 5 Gallon

You’d be forgiven for mistaking the Smart Bottle for a piece of medical equipment. This is no coincidence. The Smart Bottle employs a unique double-bonded construction technique that has more in common with a hospital IV bag than a common water container. Setting its unique looks aside, this construction method has a lot of advantages. The BPA-free material is designed specifically for water storage, and as such imparts much less flavor to the drinking water than other comparable models. Further, the design of this container makes it clear that Smart Bottle had a rugged camper in mind.

Smart Bottle 5 Gallon/20 Liter Collapsible Water Container with a Blue Tubing Spout. The only Double Wall Flexible Container Designed with Handles top and Bottom for Easy Carry. BPA Free.

The bottle features heavy duty grommets at each corner. This allows the vessel to be hung from a tree or pole. This not only grants protection from wild animals, but it also makes it exceptionally easy to wash your hands or rinse dishes, making this an outstanding camping water jug. The spout is a superb design and again looks more like high-quality medical equipment than a basic camping tool. The valve is extremely easy to use, and there is little doubt that the mechanism will last indefinitely.

However, the location of the valve can be awkward at times. If the container is being used from its hanging position, the center-mounted spout works fantastically. Yet, attempting to use this container on a tabletop proved to be a frustrating experience. Because the valve is mounted in the middle of the side, and because the unit is fairly floppy, it often requires two people to pour a glass of water. Not an ideal design trait.

If you can overlook the awkward logistics of using this container on a flat surface, it is one of the best camping water container options around. The quality is superb, and this is among the most compact units when folded. While priced higher than the competition, this model is still a great value for the right user.

PROS

  • Hooks for hanging
  • Great spout design

CONS

  • Doesn’t work well on a table
  • More expensive than other options

LEARN MORE HERE

Reliance Products Fold a Carrier – Collapsible Water Container 5 Gallon

The fascinating thing about the foldable water container industry is that there is a surprising amount of inconsistency within a single brand. Above, we noted that although the 5-Gallon Coghlan’s model was superb, the 2-Gallon unit fell below par. Similarly, Reliance Products can manufacture a great product, as their nylon model reviewed above is a prime choice. However, their “Fold a Carrier” line is a less commendable collapsible water jug.

Reliance Products 5 Gallon Poly-Bagged Fold-A-Carrier Collapsible Water Carrier

This model is made entirely of flexible polyethylene. Although it does manage to fold relatively neatly, the lack of structure makes this unit difficult to use when full. Because of the rounded shape and lack of rigidity, this unit proved to become increasingly unstable as the liquid was emptied. When at maximum capacity, the edges of the unit bulged more than ideal. While it is unlikely the fail, it did not inspire confidence either. The handle also became an apparent weak-link in this chain. The plastic handle is riveted onto the polyethylene body and is only attached in two places. Because of the relatively high strain placed upon these joints when the unit is full, it would be unsurprising if this handle proves to be a failure point.

The design of this product is surprising given how well-received many Reliance Products units have been. Yet, this is simply not their best effort.

PROS

  • Affordable
  • Well build spout

CONS

  • Unstable
  • Can’t be stacked

LEARN MORE HERE

Best Collapsible Water Container Buyer’s Guide

What Separates the Good from the Great

Although any water container is better than none, there are still a lot of features that can make water containers for camping a pleasure to use. Here are some of the key features to look for when shopping for a collapsible water container.

Reinforced Handles

Water can become deceptively heavy. The most common size of a collapsible container is 5-gallons, meaning at full capacity a container will weigh at least 35 lbs. Thus, a container needs to have a properly designed handle.

Many water containers secure the handles at only one or two points and fail to reinforce the seams. Over time, this becomes the most common failure point for containers. For the best collapsible water containers, look for additional material and bracing surrounding the handle attachment points.

Easy to Clean

One of the largest obstacles to good-tasting and safe water is the cleanliness of the container. Many manufacturers do a surprisingly poor job designing an easy-to-clean container. Two factors make a container easy to clean: broad openings and non-porous materials.

It is shockingly common for a container to only include a small one-inch fill opening. Once the unit needs to be cleaned, any attempts to wash the container through this filler result in quick frustration. Thus, the best models have wide openings for easy access.

Further, always look for a material made from nylon of BPA-free polyethylene. These materials are more resistant to staining and less likely to absorb odors.

Low-Odor Impact

An unfortunate side effect of many plastics is that they impart an unpleasant flavor on the water within. Sadly, this can be difficult to predict. In our testing, we found that nylon containers often led to worse tasting water compared to polyethylene.

Yet, if you find yourself with a bad-tasting water jug, do not fret. Often, the flavor is worse when the container is new. Before using the container, considering filling it up and letting it sit for a few days before draining. Typically, a long rinse will remove most bad flavors.

Stackable and Stable Design

The entire purpose of a collapsible water container is to allow for convenient and compact storage. Despite this, a surprising number of manufacturers fail to design a neatly folding container. The best containers fold neatly in a pre-defined method, rather than relying on random scrunching of the material.

Another helpful feature is stackability. It is common to carry multiple water containers to accommodate longer trips or additional thirsty travelers. Thus, the ability to neatly stack containers makes transportation and organization a much easier task. However, there is always a balance between size and stability.

Many collapsible containers become unstable when full. If you intend to use your container as a convenient water-access point, make sure to find a model that provides a stable base.

Conclusion

At first glance, portable water containers are seemingly simple devices. Ultimately, it should consist of little more than a place to store water and a spout to dispense it. However, the makeup of a highly functional collapsible water container is surprisingly nuanced.

Having a convenient and reliable source of clean water can be a huge benefit in countless scenarios. For camping water storage, they can simply make your life easier.

In more dire contexts, it can be the difference between life and death. Here, the winner is the Smart Bottle 5 Gallon. Despite its odd appearance, its functional design and high quality won us over.

It is a water container that will not let you down.

Smart Bottle 5 Gallon/20 Liter Collapsible Water Container with a Blue Tubing Spout. The only Double Wall Flexible Container Designed with Handles top and Bottom for Easy Carry. BPA Free.
  • SMART BOTTLE - Outdoor. The only double wall flexible container designed for rugged, heavy use. Constructed of 2-layers of heavy duty film Cut and puncture resistance Extra wide seals insure a strong, leak proof container The only flexible containers with double wall construction Stands upright when partially full–no outer support needed Integral handles for easy carry and dispensing Grommets for securing or hanging. **FREE SHIPPING ON ORDERS OVER $45**

Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Matthew Russo
Hey, my name is Matt, an avid outdoorsman, prepper and action taker. If you have found this article informative please feel free to leave a comment below and share it with your friends and family, it would make my day!

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