Water storage and purification

There’s a saying in the overland world: “Fuel is distance; water is time”, and, with a top speed of about 50mph, we certainly weren’t planning on moving quickly. We found it hard to work out how much water 4 people would go through in hot conditions whilst camping on the road, but actually, we didn’t ever come close to running out. Topping up wasn’t a problem – we just filled up every time we stayed in a hostel or guesthouse. We didn’t always carry a ‘full’ supply of water – as the weight would have an impact on fuel economy, performance (haha), and given us crap weight distribution.
We debated for hours on what would be the best way to carry 100L + of water. I don’t think what we did would work for everyone, but if I explain our thought process, it might help someone design their own system to suit their vehicle.

All in all we had:

1 x 40L main tank

3 x 20L NATO style black water jerrycans

1 x 17.5L Lifesaver water purification jerrycan

Total water capacity: 117.5L
We had a nice big space in the front sitting where the middle seat would be. We decided to site our main tank there, with a tap and a jerry can on top as our main daily water point. We chose here for 3 reasons: 

It would be accessible from the cab or the back (through the hatch); it would help with weight distribution being situated low down and in the middle; and wouldn’t soak anything important when we spilt water everywhere either through a leak; when topping up; or just in daily use.

We found a water tank on http://www.caktanks.co.uk that fitted into the gap; bolted down some cupboard door handles to act as loops, and strapped it down tight! They had also customised it to our spec by putting in a filler hole, breather hole and one where we would attach a pump.

Here we integrated in our purification system too. We used a hand pump (also bought online) to draw water from the main tank through a carbon filter (removes some dissolved impurities which helps with taste and colour). We could then either pump into a kettle/pan/solar shower for cooking or washing, or pump straight into our Lifesaver jerrycan for further purification for drinking water. 

Our Livesaver jerrycan was a last minute purchase inspired by a late night TED talk viewing! It is secured by luggage straps screwed into the bulkhead. Yes, we probably should have bolted it but we weren’t sure it would work so we went for something temporary at first (and then typically just kept it!). The Lifesaver jerrycan filters out everything else that you don’t want in your water, and you get clean drinking water. Bingo πŸ™‚

We also had 3 x 20L black NATO style water jerrycans, stashed at various points around the Beaut. We normally kept at least one full on the front of the vehicle, but having 3 gave us the confidence that we could be on the move for a long time and not run out. We liked the versatility of them. They were cheap, reasonably robust (in comparison to the bladder style containers), easy to fill up, and we used them to fill our main tank when we didn’t have access to a long enough hose.

1) The CAK tank didn’t come with a cap for any of the holes, so we had to ‘make’ some using gaffer tape, a camera shutter cap and an old bike inner tube as a rubber washer. 

2) Both the hand pump and the black jerrycans leaked, although new washers mostly sorted them out.

3) The Lifesaver jerrycan. I feel bad putting it in the ‘problems’ list, as it’s not really fair, and it worked, but it wasn’t perfect. It was expensive; it leaks a bit; the flow of water is slow, and Lifesaver themselves went into administration over false advertising of one of their products. Having said all that, we had no stomach problems from drinking bad water on the whole trip, so it must have worked, and it is still pretty much top of our list of things to take overlanding. 

4) Everything froze in Mongolia. But then again, it was -37. There wasn’t much we could do. 

In conclusion – our system wasn’t perfect, but it worked for us!