Are you planning a big 4WDing trip? 4WD water storage should be one of your biggest considerations. 4WD water tanks are crucial for storing water for drinking, washing, cooking, cleaning and vehicle cooling.
There are many 4WD water storage solutions out there, but some are far better than others. Here are some camping storage ideas focused on keeping your water safe, drinkable and accessible.
Best 4WD Water Storage Options
1. Jerry Cans
Jerry cans are the classic camping storage idea and can be stored on the back of a vehicle and on the roof. They are simple and strong and easy to fill. They make for great 4WD water tanks, but can also store spare fuel for your vehicle (just make sure you don’t use the same one for both). As far as 4WD water tank ideas go, jerry cans are affordable, secure and durable. Unfortunately, they do have to be secured down every time you set off. They also have limited storage options due to their shape and getting water out can be tricky due to their weight (especially when full).
2. PVC Roof Rack Pipes
Running PVC piping across your vehicle is a simple, cheap solution for your 4WD water tank setup. However, the jury is still out on whether this is the safest way to store drinking water. If you install piping on your roof racks, the extra weight (as much as 40 kilograms) can greatly affect your centre of gravity and risk of rolling the vehicle.
For that reason we don’t recommend using this method for storing large quantities of water. At best, this is a good method for storing small amounts of water for showering, as the sun can heat up the water during the day (the perfect solar shower!).
3. Water Bladders
Flexible and hardy, this 4WD water tank option is great if you need something to fit into a particular space. The flexi tanks can be custom sized and are adaptable to all sorts of spaces. They can be fitted with water pumps or simply used with a gravity-fed nozzle. A high-quality water bladder is tough and puncture resistance. It’s also often installed inside the rear quarter panels or on the floor, leaving plenty of space for other gear.
4. Permanent 4WD Water Tanks
This 4WD water tank setup is popular with those doing a lot of travelling. Permanent 4WD water tanks come in all shapes and sizes and can fit into nearly any space. A lot of 4WDers opt to store them under their vehicles, utilising this oft-wasted space. The best ones are made from stainless steel, providing excellent durability. The downside is they’re a challenge to keep clean and are difficult to remove if no longer required. However, if managed well, they’re a fantastic way to store clean drinking water.
Plastic ones are much cheaper and do a good job. They’re made from very thick plastic, so the risk of cracking is low. You can get square, rectangular, cylindrical and custom sizes to install permanently. The best ones have been designed to suit a lot of different storage places in your vehicle. They tend to take the stress out of 4WD water storage.
4WD Water Tanks Things to Consider
1. 12V pumps or hand pumps?
Once you’ve installed your 4WD water tank, you need to think about how you’re going to get the water out. Gravity-fed water is the simplest and best option, as it’s 100-percent reliable and requires less work to set up or maintain. You can also install a simple hand pump, but that requires physical work every time you need water. Alternatively installing a 12V powered pump that does all the work can be great for a bit of extra pressure for showering.
2. How much water you need to carry
This obviously depends on where you’re going. The general rule is to take at least five litres of drinking water per person, per day. However, you also need to factor in showering or washing from a bucket. Depending on how long and how often you shower, you can easily use more water than expected. Ultimately, it’s always smart to store a bit more water than you expect you’ll use.
There are various factors that can alter how much water you’ll need. These include:
- Access to freshwater
- Amount of cooking and cleaning you’ll be doing
- Showering requirements
3. Whether you need multiple tanks
We recommend you always have at least two or three different 4WD water storage solutions in your vehicle. This can be one main water tank and then some smaller options. You just don’t want to find yourself ‘up the creek’ because your only tank gets damaged or contaminated.
Storing multiple tanks also lets you keep one specifically for clean drinking water. The other can then be filled with water from less reliable, but more accessible sources to be used for cooking, washing up and showering.
4. Where to store the tanks
You have numerous options of where to store your 4WD water tanks. However, you should consider the following points before committing to a storage location:
- Can you easily access the water?
- Is the weight low to the ground?
- Can you fill up the tank easily?
- Can you clearly see how much water is left in the tank?
- Have you got a breather setup that lets air escape when you’re filling the tank up?
5. How to keep your water clean and safe
Keeping your 4WD water tanks clean ensures your water is safe to drink. Once mould grows in your tank, it can be a pest to remove. You should do a treatment on the tank regularly (at least once a year depending on how often you use it), not only to keep it clean but to also remove the plastic taste from new or rarely-used tanks.
For cleaning, commercial products are readily available. Alternatively, a simple mix of a cup of bleach in the tank also works. Vinegar can also be used, but is less effective than simple bleach. After cleaning out with vinegar or bleach, mix up several litres of bicarb soda in water and pour that into the tank to neutralise it. Slosh it around well or leave it in the tank for several days as you drive around, then drain and rinse again several times.
For the removal of the plastic taste, the above method is a good starting point, but if the taste remains, add in some cordial. Slosh it around for a day or two, then rinse and refill several times. The sugars in the cordial seem to neutralize the plastic taste and, after several refills, it seems to disappear altogether.
We also recommend you use an in-line water filter on the hose when filling up your tank. They can be bought from most hardware and plumbing stores and will filter out 99 percent of the bad stuff. The hose you use should be food-grade (usually clear, not green).
More 4WD Storage Solutions from Expedition134
Camping water storage should be one of the first things you think about when planning your next big trip. But your camping storage boxes are just as important. Are your storage boxes strong and secure enough? Check out our Australian-made Expedition134 heavy duty storage boxes, which are weatherproof, lockable and can handle the toughest conditions.