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Carrying water in your 4WD

Camper Trailer water storage

Storing water in Jerry Cans can be useful at times

Being able to carry sufficient water when you are travelling is imperative. Water is not only used for drinking, but for washing, cooking and also in the engines cooling system. It is always better to have more water on board than not enough! A number of issues arise when considering water storage for your four wheel drive, and I want to run through them below.

Making maximum use of available space

Everyone knows that you only have a certain amount of space available inside your four wheel drive, so it is important to pack carefully. Water can be stored safely outside of the vehicle, and this leaves room for gear that needs to stay dry and easily quickly accessible. The first thing to consider is the options available for your water storage:

Jerry Cans

A lot of people opt to use several jerry cans, or portable water storage containers. These are great because they can be moved around, packed in various places and they ensure that your water is not in one tank. However, they have a number of disadvantages:

-          They have to be secured every time you travel, which is time consuming and can be difficult

-          You are limited in where you can store them; you can’t just sit them under the vehicle and leave!

-          Getting water out of the jerry cans requires moving them into a position where they are accessible, and then either installing a tap or pouring them (which is difficult given their weight).

I have seen Jerry Cans bolted inside a vehicle and plumbed together, with a pump that goes to the back of the vehicle. They are great if you have a permanent set up, but to me having to move them around all the time is just too much of a pain.

PVC Water tank on roof racks

A simple PVC Water Tank on roof racks

PVC water storage

No doubt you would have seen lengths of PVC running on one side of roof racks (or perhaps several sides?). Making your own PVC water storage is extremely simple, and costs very little. The main concern with this though is the quality of drinking water. There is a lot of controversy over whether it is safe enough to drink. My advice is to use it for washing and showers, and save other water in proper storage containers for drinking.

It pays to consider the extra weight up high as well. If you have 30kg of water on top of your vehicle that will make a big difference to the angles you can drive on, and the likelihood of your vehicle tipping over. I have seen a number of these PVC pipes mounted under the vehicle, in almost any place that you can fit them. This is perfect as it is cheap, low to the ground and allows you to spread the locations of your water storage.

Water Bladders

Water bladders are becoming more and more popular, because they are cheap to purchase and will mould into any left over space you have. A lot of people install these inside the rear quarter panels, or even leave them on the floor. A good quality water bladder is very puncture resistant and enables you to carry a substantial amount of water with ease.

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Permanently mounted water tanks

Where can you keep a permanent water tank?

Permanent 4WD Water Tanks

Nothing beats having a permanent tank setup. These days, there are hundreds of different shapes and sizes to suit your vehicle. If you are looking to fit a tank (or several), have a look at the different poly and stainless steel options. Poly is much cheaper and will do the job well, however is not as strong if they are likely to get hit from underneath. Another great option is bladder water tanks. These are literally a plastic bladder that is flexible enough to be molded into different locations.

If you own a Ute, you may have seen the toolboxes that you can purchase that sit under the tray, but either side of rear wheels (where the mud guards bolt onto). You can get water tanks that will sit in the same place, and they are extremely easy to fit. The poly tanks range from cubes through to cylinders, rectangles and slim line tanks (that are approximately 5cm x 100cm x 80cm).

Where you put these tanks is entirely up to your imagination. Again, keeping them low is extremely important, but there are a number of places that these can be fitted. Some of the more common places include:

-          Under the vehicle (in almost any place you can fit it so long as it doesn’t get knocked or rubbed)

-          Inside the rear quarter panels

-          In front of the rear drawers

-          Under the flooring

-          Inside the rear bumper

-          In between a ute tray and the chassis

-          In between the canopy of a ute and the body

-          Behind the rear seats

-          On the floor of the second row of seats (you can get shaped poly tanks which make the floor flat)

-          In between the bull bar and radiator

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Have a think about

-          What size holes are the inlet/outlet and what fittings do I require?

-          How am I going to fill the water tanks up?

-          How am I going to get water out of the tank?

-          How do I tell what level the water is sitting at?

12V pumps vs hand pumps

If you do end up with a permanent water storage system, it’s important that you have a way of getting the water out. A lot of people just purchase hand pumps, as they are simple and as it requires effort to get the water out your water will go further! However, the luxury of having a little switch that you flick to get water out is unbeatable, and these can be purchased online for under $150.Make sure that your water tank has a breather, to allow air to enter in as the water is pumped out.

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Water for cooking

Don't forget the water for cooking

How much water do I need to carry?

The general recommendation is that you carry at least 5 litres of water per person per day, plus what is required for cooking. On top of this, you should have an emergency supply. Of course, where you are going and what you are doing primarily determines the amount of water you need; use common sense and take more than less!

What is the reason for having multiple water tanks?

They say that you should never put all of your eggs in one basket, and this is extremely important when it comes to water storage. If you do get a hole in your main tank, what are you going to do? If you lose the water, there is a good chance that lives could be at risk. As a result, it is recommended that you have several locations for water storage. That way, if one does fail you still have a backup! This isn’t to say that you can’t have one main tank, and a smaller reserve tank, or at least bottles of water stowed away.

Having water that is easy to access is vital

Water that is hard to get to is frustrating

Keeping your water clean and safe to drink

The most important part of water storage is making sure that it is clean and safe to drink. If you let mould grow in your water tank you can have a hard time getting it out. I have been told that keeping the water tanks full is the best way of avoiding this. You can buy products specifically designed for cleaning your water tanks, and it is a good idea to do this every so often. Don’t risk drinking bad water; it could ruin your trip. When you fill the water tanks up, make sure you use food grade hose (usually clear) as this keeps your water tasteless. If you use normal garden hose expect it to have a 'plasticy' taste to it!

4WD Water storage ideas

If you jump on Google, have a look around at the different water storage ideas for the model vehicle that you own. If you can’t find anything, look for a different model. You can always use the ideas by modifying them a little. It is incredible to look at some of the ideas people have had in regards to water storage.

Take the time to come up with a way of storing water that is safe, easily accessible and durable and you will be glad for many years to come! If you have any recommendations, leave a comment below.

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