Best emergency water storage containers for your home

One of the easiest, yet most important things you must do to prepare is store at least two weeks of water in your home. The majority of Americans have less than 12 hours worth of water in their home, yet humans die after just three days without it. We spent 34 hours researching and testing all of the popular small containers to find the best one for emergency water storage. We recommend the Reliance Rhino 5.5 gallon Water Container and Scepter 5 gal Military Water Can.

Last Updated: October 29, 2017
We updated the pricing and which stores we link to. Recent inventory backlogs have created wild price fluctuations. Particularly on Amazon, where shady sellers will double the price.
  • : A few people responded to this post with questions like "why can't I just fill the bathtub and buy bottled water?" So we've added some more detail to that section.

Related reviews: Best portable water filters, portable water purifiers, and home water filters

Top Pick
Reliance Rhino 5.5 Gal Water Container
Best container for most people:

Reliance Rhino 5.5 Gal Water Container

Toughest container in the middle tier price class. Somewhat stackable for short term storage. Comes with everything you need. Survived our drop and crush tests.

If you want to buy just one type of container to hold your most critical emergency water needs, the 5.5 gallon Reliance Rhino is a great deal. Typically found around $20, it’s reasonably priced and just a few dollars above the more common Aqua-Tainer (our budget pick). That extra money buys a tougher and thicker container that will survive things like earthquakes and accidental drops much better than its cheaper siblings.

The Rhino was one of the easiest to carry among all the containers we tested. It pours well and has a better screw cap for the airflow vent, rather than the cheap push-pin style plugs found on many other similarly-priced containers.

The Rhino also has a sorta-stackable feature built into the side walls — you wouldn’t want to store them stacked for the long term, and we found one of the side walls will bow out a little over time, but it’s a handy feature for short term use (like moving them in your car). Note that it’s not unusual for any of the products in this $10-25 price tier to leak a little around the cap if you hold the container upside down or on its side. You’ll need to upgrade if you want better manufacturing quality…

Scepter 5 Gal Military Water Can
Best overall can:

Scepter 5 Gal Military Water Can

The best overall water can we've ever tested. Built tough. Military tested features. Very large fill hole, secondary spout hole, screw top airflow vent. Nice spigot accessories.

Our upgrade pick is the Scepter 5 gallon Military Water Can. They are the toughest container over five gallons we tested. The MWCs have military tested and practical features like a giant 4” filling hole, a locking ring to prevent accidental loosening, a smaller 1” pour spout with no moving or reversible parts, and molded stability feet.

At around $50 (after shipping) they are twice as expensive as the Reliance Rhino and three times as expensive as the budget Reliance Aqua-Tainer pick — but we think it’s a very worthy upgrade that will serve you well in a crisis and last for 20 years, saving you money in the long run. We are now personally using these Scepter WMCs in our preps.

Cheapest way to store enough water:

Reliance Aqua-Tainer 7 Gal

Good value in a cheaper package. Stores more water than normal for its price class, but may be too heavy for some. Comes with everything you need. Not as durable and may crack, but does have five year warranty.

Our budget pick is the 7 gallon Reliance Aqua-Tainer. It’s a popular option found in many stores for around $15. The cheaper cost means less durable plastic that is prone to denting and cracking, but dollar-for-dollar we were impressed with how well Reliance made this affordable option.

If you’re on a tight budget, buying two of these per person is the cheapest way to get your two weeks of water supply covered. Their cube shape stores well and sits nicely on a tabletop edge with an included and reversible bottom side water spigot. It didn’t pass our drop and crush tests, but should survive gentle in-home use.

If you are space constrained:

WaterBrick 3.5 Gal

Ultra-stackable up to five levels high. Mediocre caps and spigots, but the best way to store water in tight spaces. Very durable, you can even use them as tables or defensive walls. Expensive.

Our space-saver pick is the WaterBrick. If your primary goal is to fit the most water in the smallest space possible, these ultra-stackable and durable water containers are your best bet. They are expensive — a set of four, or 14 gallons, will cost you around two times as much as alternatives, including the additional water spigot and cap you must buy. If you’re buying for two people, the 8 Pack might be a better deal. We found them a little disappointing in terms of storing and using water, but they easily passed our durability tests and can fit in random pockets of space around your home.

Common sense prepping, straight to your inbox.

Get our free newsletter for great new articles and giveaways. 1-2 emails a month. 0% spam.

Best overall bang for your buck: mix multiple containers

Because you need at least 15 gallons per person and most households will need 30-45 gallons total, you’ll need to buy multiple 5-7 gallon containers.

Our recommendation for best overall container will work great if you simply buy multiple of that product. That was part of our criteria for picking the best container — it had to be good enough if it’s the only type you buy.

But some containers had features that worked well in specific situations or were great budget options that didn’t work well in every situation.

For example, the popular Reliance Aqua-Tainers are reasonably priced at $15 and do a decent job. They were not good enough to be our main pick, mostly because they’re made of thinner plastic that dings and cracks more easily than the main choices. So they might work fine if they are stationary in your home and won’t take much abuse. Plus they have an advantage over the jerry cans because they sit nicely on the edge of a countertop with a spigot on the bottom.

Our ideal mix for a home of two people:

Best budget mix for a home of two people:

If you’re on a budget, try to at least buy one or two of the much more durable Military or Rhino cans. Don’t just buy five of the cheapest product. It’s not worth saving $40 to find out your emergency water has leaked out or is tainted when you need it most. The cheaper options will likely need to be replaced every few years due to cracking, so you’ll end up spending more money in the long run anyway.

Why you should trust us

We spent over 34 hours researching and reviewing this topic, in addition to over ten years of experience with many of these products in both survival and camping use. We reviewed over 20 products and personally bought and tested over 10 containers. The main author has personally researched, bought, installed, and maintained off-the-grid water systems with cisterns up to 2,500 gallons a piece. We use these recommendations in our own homes and because water is so important, we are trusting our family’s lives with these products.

Store a minimum of 15 gallons per person

Must buy:

Best portable survival water filters
Best Survival Water Filters for Emergencies

Cover all your bases by adding these small and cheap water filters. See our top pick at only $25! Read more

The Prepared’s minimum recommendation is two weeks of supplies in your home. The rule of thumb is one gallon of water per person per day. So you need a minimum of about 15 gallons per person.

The old advice of 72 hours worth of supplies has been replaced by the two week recommendation because in real disasters, emergency responders have taken up to 8-9 days to respond to everyone.

You don’t need to look far to see evidence of why this is so important. It might be a situation like Flint, Michigan where people were without clean utility water for multiple months. Or after a disaster like Hurricane Katrina, where FEMA struggled for a full week to get drinkable water to everyone who needed it.

For example, after the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles that caused ~$25 billion in damage, 50,000 homes were cut off from water for at least five days. Some estimate that 12,000 homes still didn’t have water almost two weeks later.

Water must be ready to use at all times

Water is so important, you want to cover the minimum two weeks supply without any unnecessary work or risk. Proper emergency water is just there and ready — always.

No searching for water, no filtering, no boiling, no filling the bathtub, no running to the store to buy cartons of bottled water, no depending on the 30 gallons in the water heater. Any extra stuff you have like water filters in your bug out bags, on-site wells, the bathtub, or your long term water purifiers are just bonus backups.

Avoid shortcuts like bottled water, milk jugs, and office jugs

There’s a few areas in prepping where it’s fine to use DIY home remedies and/or rotating stock in order to save some money. Water is not one of them.

Never use a container that held something other than food. If you try and recycle things like milk or juice cartons, even though it’s possible to properly clean out any existing bacteria, you don’t want to run the risk just to save a few dollars in the short term. Besides, even if you were able to totally sanitize something like a milk jug, they are often biodegradable and designed to break down quickly.

Two liter soda bottles are a little better than milk or juice cartons (partly because the acid in soda killed any milk-style cultures), but they still fall short because of being transparent and not very durable. If you must use something off the shelf, try Arizona Green Tea jugs. They are sturdy and semi-opaque.

Many people think about a rotating system, where they buy a carton of bottled water, drink it for daily use, and just keep replenishing the stock so that they always have two weeks worth on hand. Most survival experts and teachers agree that while this sounds nice in theory, real life gets in the way and you could easily get caught off guard without enough water.

Problems with normal bottled water:

  • Essentially a single-use item. You might need to use these water containers for longer than two weeks.
  • Easy to crush / crack / break.
  • Not space efficient. It’s a lot more cumbersome to store 15 gallons of bottled water than 15 gallons in the proper containers reviewed here.
  • Hard to move in bulk. If you needed to suddenly moved 10 gallons to a different location, or take them down to a river to refill, it’s easier to grab and carry two large containers than a bunch of small bottles.
  • It’s more expensive in the long run. Tap water is free.
  • Why waste all that plastic?
  • Shorter shelf life. They have shorter expiration dates and typically don’t have the good chemical treatments that tap water does.

Office jugs (the big upside down ones) have similar problems. They are mostly transparent, hard to handle, and not designed for long term storage or emergencies. What if you don’t have the base part? How do you reseal the jug?

Quick tips on water storage

  • With the right container, water source, and storage, water can safely last 3-5 years — but we recommend rotating it every 2-3 years.
  • Not all plastics are safe for storing water. Look for the number inside the recycle symbol. Plastics 2, 4, and 5 are generally OK for water storage. 1, 3, 6, and 7 are not.
  • Plastic #2, also known as HDPE, is generally considered the best.
  • Plastic can absorb chemicals, so try not to store water containers on cement garage floors or other places where it will contact bad stuff.
  • Light, heat, and bacteria are the enemies of clean water storage.
  • Don’t recycle daily things like soda bottles or milk jugs. If you must, be sure they are properly cleaned beforehand.
  • When water freezes, it expands 10%. If you must store water in a place it might freeze, only fill your containers up ~85%.

How to clean a water container:

  1. Fill it with warm water and a little dish soap. Close cap. Shake. Drain and rinse. This gets the obvious debris out of the can.
  2. Fill it with a quart (about 15 seconds of normal faucet flow) and a teaspoon of unscented household chlorine bleach. Close cap.
  3. Wait 30 seconds. Shake well. Wait 30 seconds again.
  4. Drain and rinse.
  5. Air dry (or fill right away with clean water).

You don’t need to chemically treat water before or after storing

Unless you fear your local utility water has been having Flint-style issues, every modernized water grid treats their water. When it comes out of your tap it already has some chemicals, like chlorine, in small amounts approved by the FDA.

Assuming your container is properly cleaned and stored, you can just fill it with tap water and it will be safe for at least a year.

If you want to err on the side of caution, you can add a little bit of water preserver. We might do a full chemical lab test on water preservers in the future, but for now you can pick up the popular Water Preserver product or just use five drops (1/8th of a teaspoon) of unscented basic household bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) per gallon.

If your water comes from a well or other untested and untreated source, then we do recommend adding the chemical preserver.

Be careful about putting contaminants into the water. Wash your hands before touching the equipment. Wash the lids, caps, spouts, and inside of the container with soap or chlorine.

How we picked

We started by researching as many legitimate product reviews, forum conversations, and guides on water storage as we could find. Combined with personal experience, we defined the most important qualities and what we were and were not looking for.

We searched Amazon, Walmart, REI, Cabelas, and the major prepper ecommerce stores and forums for any relevant products. After reviewing over 20 options online, we picked 10 to test in person:

Pricing, availability, and brands

We noticed inconsistent pricing and availability in the water container category. Manufacturers tell us that large orders from the military and rescue efforts after the 2017 hurricanes and wildfires have created a backlog.

Many of these manufacturers don’t sell directly on major stores like Amazon because the civilian market is not their core focus. So they rely on distributors that can set their own pricing based on demand and supply. We’ve seen that create weird price fluctuations when inventory gets low. For example, the Scepter Military Water Can has been seen on Amazon for as much as twice the MSRP.

When we link you to a store to buy a product, know that we’ve chosen that store because we found them to be the most fair and consistent. In some cases that’s Amazon, and in other cases it can be military sales websites.

There are popular outdoor, camping, or emergency preparedness brands that simply put their sticker on a can and charge you more. Like this Ozark Trail branded container that is just a Reliance Desert Patrol can – you can even see the Reliance name in the product photo.

If you do some quick poking around on Amazon, it seems like Reliance owns the category with their popular Aqua-Tainer and Jumbo-Tainer. Keep in mind that just because something shows up on the first page of Amazon and has ~4.5 star ratings, that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice.

We made an effort to find other brands like Coleman and Igloo, but they were often too hard to find or had incomplete product info.

Other tanks are made for restaurant or industrial use, and may be fine products, but tended to be harder to buy via very old websites with high markups and expensive shipping.

Capacity vs. weight vs. risk: use containers under seven gallons

It’d be nice if you could just buy one 15 or 30 gallon container and be done with it. But for the purposes of short term water needs we only considered containers that held 10 gallons or less. Most containers in this class are either 5, 6, 7, or 10 gallons.

We did this primarily because you might need to move the containers in these short term situations. Maybe you bring it up from your flooded basement, lift it from the ground to a countertop, or carry it to your car to bug out.

A gallon of water weighs over eight pounds. So even a small five gallon container is going to weigh over 40 pounds when full.

A common mistake is looking at a water container and underestimating how heavy it will be. We have found in practice that even seven gallon containers are getting very heavy (~56 pounds) for most people to comfortably move with one hand.

But we did pick a 7 and 10 gallon container to test in person, just to double check the weight issue with a wide range of people.

This also helps reduce the single point of failure risk. If you have three containers of five or six gallons each, and keep one in your pantry, one in your closet, and the other in your garage, it’s more likely that at least one of them would survive something like an earthquake or tornado. Again, when it comes to short term water, we are always overly cautious.

We love larger, longer term water storage containers and will do a full review on them in the future. There are lots of great options, especially in the 55 gallon barrel class. But they serve a very different purpose, and you’re never going to move a 450 pound tank of water.

There were some tempting options, like the 15 gallon water barrel from Emergency Essentials. But 15 gallons would be 125 pounds, so we did not include it in our testing.

Toughness and durability

To make it easy and practical to keep water stored and ready to go for a long time, you shouldn’t have to worry about cheap containers that will crack, dent, leak, or fall apart in something like an earthquake or flood. They also need to be durable enough to handle normal camping-style wear and tear.

Cheap water containers will crack after light use
via Amazon review from user grn4jd

We automatically excluded flimsy or collapsable containers. They might be nice for camping, but they are not durable enough for this need. It’s the same reason you should never use milk jugs, since they are designed to break down over time.

The most common issue referenced in Amazon reviews was leaks and cracks. Unfortunately, almost every popular water container in the $10-$50 range has reviews that mention these problems. But we didn’t automatically disqualify them, especially since the next options are more expensive at around $70-130 per container.

Based on past experience, we tried to avoid containers that used the push-plug style cap on the airflow hole. They just don’t hold up as well to frequent use, can be broken off and lost, and are prone to leaks. But for the sake of completeness, we tested some of the most popular containers with this plug.

Ease of storage

Seven gallons, or a week’s worth of water for one person, takes up about a cubic foot. Even if you don’t have a lot of extra storage space in your home, two cubic feet of space for two weeks of water is a reasonable amount to set aside for such an important thing. Two cubic feet is just a few inches larger than an airplane carry-on.

Avoid exotic water storage for survival needs
We disqualified tanks like these cone-bottom stands from Plastic Mart.

There are a wide range of container types. They were usually either tall and skinny ‘jerry’ cans, cubes, or tall circular tubes.

Some were designed specifically for storing in the bed of a truck or other special situations. We disqualified anything that had such an odd shape they would be difficult or inefficient to store in a normal home – like the cone-bottom tanks that make removing water easy but are impractical for home survival needs.

We love the idea of stackable containers — they (should) add some extra durability and are very space efficient, especially by requiring less floor space through expanding vertically.

Unfortunately, there weren’t that many options for containers that were designed to stack or fit snugly together. The ones that were stackable tended to be much more expensive just for that feature.

In the end, we thought of stackability as a nice to have but not a need to have. Partly because there weren’t any stackable containers that we loved, and partly because the value of stacking got impractical after going two layers high.

Ease of use

You’ll do three main things with a water container: fill it, move it, and remove the water.

Some containers have odd caps that require a special ‘bung’ wrench to open. Others require that you buy extra pieces or special spigots for filling and removing water.

We didn’t automatically disqualify a product for requiring you to buy or use an extra piece, but we did exclude containers that had confusing, proprietary, or easily breakable required pieces.

The best products were simple and could be used without these special tools, so that if you needed to in a crisis you could just unscrew the cap with your hand and get quick access to the water. We often use the “ten year old child” test — if a normal ten year old can’t do it without any help, then it’s no good.


Plastic is great, but there are some important considerations:

  • Plastic is harder to sanitize than other options.
  • There are many different types of plastic. Some are good for water storage while others are definitely not. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what a product is made of.
  • Plastic can crack easier than other materials.
  • Plastic can absorb bad stuff and leach into the stored liquid.

Many plastics can absorb chemicals and even scents from whatever they touch. For example, if a plastic jug is sitting on a cement basement floor and a bottle of cleaning chemicals spills nearby, those chemicals can be absorbed into the plastic water container.

It works the other way, too. Plastics can leach chemicals out into whatever they’re holding. That’s why people avoid #7 plastics with the BPA chemical, because the BPA can leach out from the plastic into your drinking water.

Food grade plastic for emergency water storage
The type of plastic is the number inside the recycle symbol

There is some debate about how realistic this concern is or in what conditions plastic will or won’t absorb bad stuff. Because it was enough of a debate, we erred on the side of caution.

We disqualified any product that wasn’t guaranteed BPA-free or made of food grade materials.

The safest plastic containers to hold water are polyethylene-based plastics, or plastics #1, #2, and #4. All food-grade plastics are made of High-density polyethylene (HDPE) #2. But be careful, because something made out of HDPE #2 might not necessarily be food grade.

There are advantages to materials like glass and stainless steel. For example, glass is easier to decontaminate than plastic. But we think glass containers are too impractical for this situation because they are more likely to break, are much heavier, let more light through, and can be more expensive.

Shelf-life, safety, and container colors

Tap water will be safe in almost any common container after 2-3 months in a dark cool place. But we also care about the shelf-life of the water because it’s impractical to replace your stored water every three to six months. Our goal is to easily keep water safe for at least 12 months and ideally 2-3 years.

Even beyond the normal plastic leaching concerns, the materials and transparency of a container can affect the water inside.

Technically, water never “goes bad.” Water might get stale due to lack of oxygen, but that’s quickly fixed by shaking and swishing it around.

What’s not OK is bacteria growth or contamination. Heat, light, and bacteria are the three enemies of water storage, which is why most serious water storage options use UV-resistant materials and are typically darker solid colors, like the solid blue plastics used in popular 55 gallon water drums.

That’s the same reason why most beer bottles are dark. Light can ruin the taste and shorten the expiration. Fun fact: this is why Corona has trained people through marketing to add a lime to their beer — it’s actually to cover up the bad taste from the clear bottle.

The universal color for potable water is a fresh blue color. Some of the products available use that color for easy identification. All else being equal, we prefer containers in that color, but being blue was not a very important criteria. However, it is important that your potable water containers are clearly labeled so you don’t cross contaminate.

How we tested

Other than just testing the obvious stuff like simple leaks and product quality, we did more rigorous tests to see how well the containers held up to abuse and simulated emergencies in addition to how easy they were to store and use.

Filling and draining

Unfortunately, there is a wide variance in how well different containers do their most important job of receiving and dispensing water. Some had very odd caps, some had caps that could only be sealed once and then had to be replaced, and others have spigots that would clog or fail.

We had a 10 year old, a 17 year old, and two adults try to twist on and off any needed caps and accessories, then do the normal filling and draining cycle, all without any instructions.

Some of the containers had existing product reviews that complained about not draining all of the water without some gymnastics. So we tested how well they drain water in their natural resting position and how easy it was to use one hand to maneuver the container and/or spigot while using the other hand to hold a cup for filling.

Because you don’t want to waste water in an emergency, we tested how easy it was to control how quickly water poured out. This also usually affected how nice the pour was — did it spread or spray, split into two streams, dance around, etc. We tried to find three controllable speeds for each container: a small trickle to fill a shot glass without spilling, an average flow to fill a Nalgene style water bottle, and the maximum flow possible to fill a cooking pot.


Even though each container isn’t that large, because it’s important that you keep this water in a climate controlled, accessible, and secure area — rather than in the backyard shed that will be frozen for months at a time — we tried to simulate how easy it was to store them in logical places around a house and apartment.

In three different homes, we asked people who weren’t experienced survival planners to store containers wherever they thought it made sense. We observed how logical or frustrating it was and whether a container fit nicely in common areas like a pantry, closet, etc.

Carrying a full container by hand

Since every gallon of water weighs eight pounds and it’s very possible you might need to move the containers during an emergency, we tested how easy it is to carry the fully filled containers with one hand.

We used three different people for these tests: a strong adult man, an adult woman with average fitness, and a teenage boy with average fitness for his age group.

How easy is it to carry an emergency water container

Each person carried each container up a flight of stairs, down a flight of stairs, 100 feet across flat ground, and then loaded it into the trunk of a car. Or they carried it in that order as far as they could. For example, most people couldn’t carry the 7 gallon container through the finish, and no one could complete the 10 gallon one (which did not have a carry handle). There was a rest period between each carry.

Leak tests

After filling and sealing the containers, we laid them flat in a way that put a reasonable amount of internal water pressure against the seals. They sat for three days and we measured any leaks. We then suspended them upside down or in such a way that the most internal water weight possible was directly pushing against any possible holes to the outside.

Leak test for emergency water containers

We also wanted to see how well they prevented outside debris and liquids from getting inside. We did this by submerging a container in a full bathtub for 10 minutes while looking for any bubbles. We also added a dark brown gardening chemical to the bathtub water so we could see any coloring or foul taste in the potable water.

We then cleaned the outside and checked the internal water for any signs of coloring against a control sample.

Crush tests

Some of the commonly bought containers on Amazon are surprisingly flimsy. Even some of the ones we purchased for our field test (after weeding out the obviously bad ones during research) already had dents and dings in their plastic walls from shipping.

We did two different crush tests. The first was realistic, where we assumed you might stack two full containers of water on top of each other. For example, a jerry can can be laid flat on its broad side with another full jerry can layered on top. They’re usually not designed to do this, but it could feasibly happen. Whatever can was put on top had five gallons of water, or ~40 pounds.

Durability of prepper water containers

We then did a more extreme crush test where an adult woman weighing 150 pounds stood on top of the strongest and weakest part of a container. We looked for any leaks, cracks, or signs of warping and distress in the plastic.

Crush test for survival water storage

Drop tests

Carrying heavy water jugs around can be tough, even if they have a handle. So we dropped full containers from multiple heights onto concrete.

The first test was a simple “tip over” test. We tried to knock the container over from a normal standing position onto a hard floor.

The second test was a realistic “drop it while carrying” test. For each container, we carried it the way you normally would. For most containers that means carrying it in one hand down by the side of a thigh. While walking normally, we lost our grip and dropped the container onto concrete. We did this three times per container.

For a more extreme drop test, we pushed the container from a standard kitchen countertop height of three feet. We did this three times per container.

Our choice: Reliance Rhino 5.5 Gallon Container

Top Pick
Reliance Rhino 5.5 Gal Water Container
Best container for most people:

Reliance Rhino 5.5 Gal Water Container

Toughest container in the middle tier price class. Somewhat stackable for short term storage. Comes with everything you need. Survived our drop and crush tests.

Our pick for the best emergency water container for most people is the Reliance Rhino 5.5 gallon can.

We found some price inconsistency with this product, with list prices ranging from $20 to $35 and an average around $25. That makes it a few dollars more expensive than its Reliance siblings or the Scepter budget can. This difference makes sense given it’s built to be the toughest of the group with more, stronger plastic in the construction. If you are only able to find it for more than $30, we’d suggest waiting or buying the upgrade USGI Military Can or the Scepter 5 Gallon.

The Rhino is well named — it’s easily the most durable container we tested under $30. It was the third most durable of any portable container we tested, losing to only the more expensive USGI military cans and WaterBricks.

In our crush tests, the Rhino had no noticeable warping, cracks, or plastic distress. Although at one point we accidentally placed 150 pounds solely onto a two inch weak spot in the side wall, and it did create a dip that stayed in the plastic for about an hour afterwards.

The Rhino handled all of our drop tests very well. In fact, because of its skinny and tall stature that carries well against your thigh, it landed upright every single time we dropped it while walking.

It’s the only tall and narrow jerry-can-style container that is designed to be (sorta) stackable. One of the large side walls has a female pattern while the opposite wall has a male pattern. The solid and strong strut that runs diagonally across the wall will hold multiple containers together if they are stacked vertically (with each can laying on its side) or if the cans are standing upright but pushed closely against each other.

Reliance Rhino survival water container

Although not marketed as a stackable container and not as stackable in practice as our space saver pick, we were impressed by how well the Rhino stacked. However, we were disappointed that the side walls with the stacking features arrived a little bowed out, which made for a less than ideal fit when stacked.

The Rhinos were not designed to be stored this way, and we wouldn’t recommend it. But if you needed to put them in a car or something similar for a short duration, this design gives you a few great positioning options that no other sub-$30 container could.

We did find that when laying on its side and stacked, with all the cans full of water, there was enough internal pressure against the seals where it caused a small drip leak out of both the main cap and airflow vent. It was about a drop every 1-2 minutes. All cans of this style showed this kind of drip leak when under a heavy load. Since you wouldn’t store them this way for the long term and the drip was mild, we thought it was OK considering the price and other factors.

It uses the common reversible water cap and spout, and everything was included in the purchase. The short spout rests inside the can while closed, which you then remove, flip around, and tighten down with the neck ring. This is not our favorite method because each time you touch the spout and then put it back inside the water, you increase your chance of contamination. But only the more expensive USGI and WaterBrick options avoided this problem, and the Rhino spout was much more sanitary than the Scepter 5 Gallon spout.

We also found it a little difficult to twist the caps down hard enough to prevent any leaks when laid on its side or suspended upside down, but it was doable.

Aquatainer vs Rhino water storage
The Rhino is much easier to carry than the bulky Aqua-Tainer

Because of its relatively smaller 5.5 gallon capacity and tall, narrow frame with topside carrying handle, the majority of our reviewers found the Rhino to be the easiest to carry out of all the containers tested (except for the lightweight 3.5 gallon WaterBrick). It fits naturally against your thigh while carrying, compared to bulkier containers like the 7 gallon Aqua-Tainer cube.

Our main criticism of the Rhino is the airflow vent. It uses a twist style cap, which is greatly preferred over the push pin style plugs, but it had an unusually cheap and frustrating plastic connection piece that keeps the cap from being lost.

Reliance Rhino - survival water storage

While great in theory, this cheap connection piece was poorly designed and frequently gets twisted up against the main body when you open the air valve. We didn’t worry too much, because even if this retainer piece broke (or you intentionally broke it), the threaded cap isn’t likely to be lost.

Upgrade: Scepter USGI 5 Gallon Military Water Can

Scepter 5 Gal Military Water Can
Best overall can:

Scepter 5 Gal Military Water Can

The best overall water can we've ever tested. Built tough. Military tested features. Very large fill hole, secondary spout hole, screw top airflow vent. Nice spigot accessories.
USGI Military Water Can Extra Spigot Hose
Great add-on:

USGI Military Water Can Extra Spigot Hose

Excellent accessory for the USGI military cans. Buy one and keep it in a bag nearby. Attaches to the normal spout, gives a nice spigot pour through flexible hose.

These US Government Issue military-spec water containers are actively used by the US and Canadian militaries. You can tell this container was designed based on years of practical military field use. It carries well, has molded feet for stability, and is more stout than the tall and skinny Reliance cans.

Two companies manufacture this container: Scepter and LCI. Scepter is made in Canada and is considered the higher quality / original maker of this can. The LCI cans are often sold under their in-house Skilcraft brand, which are made in America via a program that employs disabled and blind people. Although the differences seem small, we believe the Scepter cans are higher quality and worth the roughly $5-10 extra compared to LCI. However, if you’re looking for the cheapest military style can possible, you can buy directly from LCI (plus $10 shipping).

The Military Water Can is extremely tough and should easily last you 10-20 years. Mil-spec standards require a minimum wall thickness of 0.1 inches or 2.5 mm, and you can feel it when handling this can. You don’t want to drop it off a two story building, and the caps are a relatively weaker plastic, but we would trust it in the field over any other jerry can style option.

The main 4” hole is massive, which is great for filling and rapid draining (like if you needed to quickly put out a fire). The cap is easy to put on and tighten down by hand, although you can buy a bung wrench for that extra torque. There is a built in ‘child lock’ feature on the main cap, with a plastic tab that has to be manually lifted over a bump in order to unscrew the cap. It was easy to miss the first time you pick it up, but even the 10 year old child we tested it with figured it out in about a minute.

USGI MWC water canister pour

Unlike the cheaper jerry cans, there are two separate caps: the main one covering the large fill hole, and a second, smaller 1” twist cap on top of the main cap that you can open just for pouring. There is no extra spout that you have to reverse and add. We like that because it means there are no parts you touch with your hand or expose to the outside that then sit inside the water.

The .5” airflow vent is also a small twist cap built into the larger main cap. Unfortunately, the first unit we received had a small leak in the airflow cap. We could tell it was a manufacturing issue from when the plastic was injection molded. But after a quick return and replacement, things were fine.

USGI MWC water canister leakThis wasn’t a major issue for us because every single water container on the market has reports of leaks and cracks, so it’s simply a game of chance. Always check your containers after buying.

USGI MWC water canister spigot hose

We bought an extra $28 accessory that screws onto this smaller drain spout. It’s a flexible tube about one foot long with a nice spigot at the end. Although the can works fine without it, we loved this accessory and highly recommend it. Just keep it in a dry ziploc bag in the same place you store the container.


The USGI can passed all of our crush, drop, and submerge tests with no issues. Although, whenever we dropped this canister in our “dropping it while walking” test, it never landed upright. This is because the carry handle is off center, so it carries a little tilted front-to-back.

Our largest complaint is that the indexing on the main screw cap can be frustrating. So when you tighten it down by hand, the spout doesn’t line up exactly where you’d expect it to. We didn’t find it made a difference in pouring, but it seems like a silly oversight by the manufacturer.

Budget: Reliance Aqua-Tainer 7 Gallon Container

Cheapest way to store enough water:

Reliance Aqua-Tainer 7 Gal

Good value in a cheaper package. Stores more water than normal for its price class, but may be too heavy for some. Comes with everything you need. Not as durable and may crack, but does have five year warranty.

The Reliance 7 gallon Aqua-Tainers are very popular because they’re cheap and found in lots of stores like Walmart. Although you clearly get what you pay for, Reliance did a good job building an affordable option that is surprisingly nice for its price class.

The plastic and construction quality is better at $15 than some of the options we tested at $25. But we definitely noticed some warping and inconsistencies in the walls. Particularly when full, you can see a kind of bloated bladder effect that pushes out against the sides.

The Aqua-Tainer looks very different than other options. It’s basically a stout cube with a handle and spigot on top that you can tip on its side so the spout is at the relative bottom of the tank, hanging over something like a table top. That makes it a stable option you can leave as-is and use over a few days with a simple turn of the spigot.

The design lends itself to getting banged up more easily than other types of containers. We created some big dents in the corners during normal day to day use simply from walking around corners, etc.

Reliance Aquatainer review

There are a lot of reports in Amazon reviews of leaks and cracks. On the one hand, we find this to be the case with almost any container (even our durable upgrade pick had a small leak in the first unit we bought). But the cheaper Acqua-Tainer is much more likely to need to be replaced in the future compared to the Rhino.

The seven gallon capacity might seem like a bonus over the other 5-6 gallon options, but in practice, most of our reviewers noted that they wished it was a smaller six gallons. That extra 8-10 pounds of weight and extra storage space needed for the extra gallon made a meaningful difference in terms of ease of carrying and use. It also contributes to the larger side walls that can bend or break.

It comes with a reversible spigot. When stored, the spigot is screwed to the inside of the cap, sitting in the water. You remove the cap, unscrew the spigot, flip it to the other side, and rescrew. We like that Reliance made a screw cap style cover for the airflow vent.

For the price, we thought the caps and pieces were well built and we saw no leaks around the connection points. However, where were reports on Amazon of the white plastic spigot and cap cracking over time.

You put your hands all over the spigot while twisting it on or off, which then sits back into the water when stored. Another possible contamination issue is that when the spigot is stored inside the cap, the internal tube of the spigot is exposed to the outside world. Dirt and bacteria could get inside the tube, which would then flow out of the spigot when you use it.

Not a huge deal, especially considering that the best role for this container is for non-critical water use in situations where it won’t be moving around much — for example, you open it up once, lay it on a table, then keep the spigot on the outside as you use the water in your home over a few days.

Best space saver: WaterBrick stackable containers

If you are space constrained:

WaterBrick 3.5 Gal

Ultra-stackable up to five levels high. Mediocre caps and spigots, but the best way to store water in tight spaces. Very durable, you can even use them as tables or defensive walls. Expensive.

If space efficiency is your top concern, consider the WaterBrick. They aren’t cheap — we paid around $65 for a set of two with one water spigot. You can get sets of 4 or 8 with one spigot for $110 and $185, respectively. Each set of four bricks is 14 total gallons, a two week supply for one person.

WaterBricks are specifically designed to be stacked. They are small at 3.5 gallons each and start off as a “do it all” container — the company advertises storing things like dog food and beans in addition to water.

The default cap used on each container is a simple flat cap without any water specific features. The mouth is nice and wide, but it isn’t practical to use for water unless you buy the extra water spigot cap. Sometimes a store will bundle the sets of 2, 4, or 8 bricks with one water spigot cap, but not one for each container.

As a result, you end up playing musical chairs with some of the pieces. If you have a stack of four WaterBricks filled with water and you want to use one, you have to attach the carry handle, remove the container from the stack, stand it on its vertical end, remove the carry handle, remove the storage cap, and install the water cap.

WaterBrick container review
Can’t use the handle and water cap at same time

You cannot use the carry handle and the water spigot at the same time. The handles are nice and hold the container in an easy vertical position when carrying. But because they’re designed to be removable, they will pop off when you don’t want them to, which caused a number of frustrating moments during testing.

The spigot itself is mediocre. The container does not have a separate airflow vent to help with pouring, so the spigot is designed to let out water and let in air at the same time. This creates an odd chugging noise and water flow.

The spigot sits halfway up the container when in use. This means that once the water level is below 50% you have to tilt the brick with one hand while operating the spigot or holding a cup with the other. There are no built in handles or practical places to hold on to, so this can get a little awkward.

When looking at the water cap and spigot, we were concerned about some of the seals. Particularly the seal between the plastic cap and the spigot housing that seats through the middle of the cap. The assembly of pairing the cap and spigot together is not nearly as nice as similar options on the much cheaper $15 Reliance Aqua-Tainer.

We didn’t see any unreasonable leaking when we tested storing the water brick on its flat side, full of water, with the water cap on and spigot closed. However, storing it this way long term could still cause issues. Because the cap is on a vertical side wall, it’s the only container under seven gallons that we tested that had the weight of the internal water pressing against the seals during normal storage.

It’s reasonable to think the soft rubber gaskets used would degrade over time from constant water pressure and contact. There are Amazon reviews that mention this issue.

These all feel like silly design oversights by the company. If they made a better quality water cap and spigot, these problems could be avoided.

The container itself is very sturdy — probably the most solid-feeling container under seven gallons we have tested. At 3.5 gallons a piece, that means the walls have less surface area, which means less warping. Because they are designed to be stackable, the plastic is very thick and there are specially designed support struts throughout the container. We put 150 pounds on top of the container and it had no noticeable effect.

The WaterBrick shines when used as designed: to stack multiple containers in the most space efficient way. It is inch-for-inch the best way to squeeze 15 gallons of water into the smallest space possible.

They stack better than any other stackable options we’ve seen. When stacked, they are very sturdy and we’d feel comfortable stacking them three or four levels high. You can interlock them in alternating directions for added stability, and you can even use them for building makeshift structures or a defensive wall that slows down bullets.

It’s unfortunate the WaterBrick fell short on the more important qualities like ease of use and spigot quality, because if it was just a little bit better it might have been our top choice.

If you’re living in a home with very little spare space, it might be worth the extra money to get the WaterBricks. You can fit each one into smaller spaces than any other container or stack them together to store your 15 gallons per person in the most space efficient way possible. Just be sure to buy some extra water caps and keep them in a sealed ziploc bag nearby.


Scepter 5 Gallon Water Container. $19. We actually really liked this container — it almost won the overall pick and budget category. There were just a few flaws that kept it from being our top choice. But if you can’t find the Aqua-Tainer or you’re particularly worried about its size and durability, this container is a great backup budget choice.

Scepter has a good reputation for quality water cans. They are one of a few manufacturers that make our recommended upgrade pick, the USGI military style jerry cans. This five gallon can is their more affordable option. At around $20, it’s meant to compete with the Reliance products.

Although it’s a jerry can, it has a wider base and tapers off towards the top, which gives it a nice little boost of stability compared to straight and narrow cans like the Reliance Rhino. It was the sturdiest option we found in the $20 class. The airflow valve cover was very nice. The main spout cover had serrated teeth that helped with tightening down or opening the cap with your bare hands.

The pour was the nicest out of any container we tested, in any price range, except for the extra add-on accessory spigot for the USGI can. The great pour is due to a unique dual pipe design in the unusually long spout. But the spout was also flimsy, and even in our testing the edges of the plastic started to fray.

The spout is also flexible, with accordion folds in the middle. While nice for flexibility, we dislike it for long term storage because all of those nooks and corners are hard to clean and can harbor bacteria. We also prefer a shorter spout, because with these reversible designs, every time you remove, use, and return the spout, you run the risk of touching it with your hands or other contaminants, which then get dipped back into the water.

When filling the container, the neck hole was the narrowest out of any we tested, which was a slight annoyance.

Saratoga Farms Stackables. $100 for the four-pack of 5 gallon cans. We were really disappointed in the Saratoga Farms 5 gallon stackables. The plastic is cheap and was already warped and dented just from shipping. We get the impression the product designers had long term storage in mind, but it didn’t come together well at all. For example, the airflow vent arrived without a hole in the vent — you had to puncture the hole yourself. This theoretically helps cut down on contamination and leak risk, but could be impractical in an emergency.

The caps are poorly designed, with a saw-tooth ratchet that locks in once you tighten the cap for the first time. But once you open the cap, it breaks away the ratchet ring and can’t be used again (like a new soda bottle cap). Their core feature, the ability to be stacked, was almost laughable — we would never feel comfortable stacking them even two levels high. The interlocking design was not nearly robust enough, and it only prevented the container from shifting along one axis. If you pushed along the other direction, it would slip right off!

Reliance Desert Patrol water container review
Upper left corner crumpled when dropped

Reliance Desert Patrol 6 Gallon. $21. The Desert Patrol is a popular water container and one we’ve personally and successfully used for camping and offroading. But we disqualified it for survival needs almost immediately. It has a standard single-handle jerry can design with reversible water cap and spout design. But when compared to its brother the Rhino, the plastic feels thin, it warped easily, and it doesn’t stack well. It totally failed our drop tests, with the back wall crumbling in on itself.  It uses the traditional push-pin style plug for the airflow hole, which is basically an automatic disqualifier because it’s too flimsy and can easily leak water or let contamination inside.

Reliance Water-Pak 5 Gallon. $21. We chose not to include the Water-Pak in our field testing because of reports about a cheap and difficult carrying handle, which you can clearly tell from the pictures is less robust than its siblings. But with how disappointing some of the other products in our field test were, and the unique tall cube form factor, we might choose to test the Water-Pak in the future.

Reliance Aqua-Pak 5 Gallon. $18. Although an interesting cheap option from Reliance that seems more durable than the Aqua-Tainer and is marketed as stackable, it was automatically disqualified because of the push-pin style airflow plug and reports of cracking when stacked. We might test the Aqua-Pak in the future.

Reliance Jumbo-Tainer 7 Gallon. $23. The Jumbo-Tainer is a better container than its brother, the Desert Patrol. But it was quickly disqualified because of the push-pin plug for the airflow vent. We like the dual handles and reversible spigot (similar to its other brother, the Aqua-Tainer). It’s more rigid than the Desert Patrol, but not as stackable as the Rhino.

Igloo Cargo II / Rubbermaid 6 Gallon Water Containers. $17. We wouldn’t have chosen to include the Igloo in our field tests, but we had access to one anyway. Igloo has not done a good job defining their product offerings and there are a lot of confusing SKUs listed on Amazon and Walmart for these lines. Note that it appears the old Rubbermaid designs were absorbed into the Igloo line. We tested the Rubbermaid six gallon container in person and thought it had some nice features, like a sturdy design, dual handles, and molded stability feet. But the new Igloo’s have a push-pin style airflow plug, which is a disqualifier.

Ace Roto-Mold 10 Gallon Water Storage Tank. $150 after shipping. We were skeptical ahead of time about a 10 gallon tank, but wanted to include it for proper testing against the more popular short term options. It’s tall and cylindrical with a giant twist cap on top and an industrial ball valve on the bottom. This container, and other ones like it, would be solid contenders if they were smaller or somehow more mobile. Wherever you fill it with water is where it’s going to stay, unless you use multiple people or a wheeled cart. The lack of mobility means that spigot at the bottom will be difficult to use unless the tank is elevated. The top cap is too large for residential use, which increases chance of contamination, and the overall price was too expensive at $150. So it was disqualified for this recommendation.

Midwest Can Company 6 Gal. $15. Disqualified during research. Inconsistent messaging from the manufacturer about the plastics used. Knowledgeable Amazon reviews say the can is marked as flammable plastic #7 and likely contains BPA.

Wedco Briggs & Stratton 5 Gallon Water Can. $15. Disqualified during research. Poor quality spout and a push cap style airflow vent cover. A wide base makes this can stable and the dual handles are nice, but results in being very space inefficient compared to similar products.

Hudson Exchange 5 Gallon Plastic Hedpack. $17. Disqualified during research. Too many reports of durability problems. The plastic is good grade but too transparent and likely intended for shorter term storage, like restaurant or transportation use.

Tolco Heavy-Duty HDPE 5 Gallon Plastic Dispenser Carboy. $35. Disqualified during research. Too transparent, too many reports of leaks, and too expensive for what you get.

Coleman 5 Gallon Water Carrier. $14. Disqualified during research because we couldn’t find consistent inventory stock in major stores like Amazon and Walmart.

AquaPodKit 65 Gallon Bathtub Emergency Water Storage. $20. We like this kind of bag that fills up inside your bathtub in an emergency. But it’s a nice-to-have bonus and not an appropriate contender for your main two week water supply.


    • Nick Heyman

      Super informative. I’ve always wondered if those stacking cubes were worth it. Ordered 10 of the LCIs. Thanks for the review.

      2 |
      • John RameyStaff Nick Heyman

        Thanks Nick! We really *wanted* the stacking cubes to be worth it. The blue 5 gallon stackables you see on many prepper sites were really disappointing. The WaterBricks were close but still had some frustrations. Too bad 🙁 Enjoy the military cans!

        2 |
    • Dave Briegel

      When you say that certain containers should last 10 to 20 years are you talking 10 to 20 years of use or just 10 to 20 years from date of purchase even if they haven’t been used… reason I ask is I have some older reliance containers that I bought they were stored but never had any water in them

      2 |
      • John RameyStaff Dave Briegel

        A good can will last for 10-20 years of reasonable use!

        Your old containers should be fine. Fill them up, dry off the outside, shake it around, lay it down, etc and see what happens. Be sure to properly disinfect the inside before storing potable water for the long term.

        There are of course chances of it failing along the way, including as soon as you receive it. Every single product has customer reviews of leaks. Some obviously more than others – e.g. the Reliance Aqua-Tainer is not as durable and will crack/leak often.

        It’s less about “does it have water in it or not”, since water won’t really degrade the container. It’s more about how hard the container is being used. If you’re taking it camping, it gets bumped around, etc then it will shorten the life faster than sitting on a basement shelf.

        1 |
    • Greg Hall

      I use the 3 gallon versions of the Reliance Desert Patrol due to the weight. I fixed the vent problem with gas cap vents from Amazon here:…
      My review and installation tips is dated July 24, 2017.
      They work well for transfering water from the spring to the house, 12 gallons at a time.

      1 |
      • John RameyStaff Greg Hall

        Thanks for the info and pics, Greg! We do like the 3 gallon versions of many of the popular big brothers. There’s even a 3 gallon of the excellent Scepter military water can. Great for transport, lifting above your head to a shelf, etc.

        1 |
    • Jay Morgan

      When portable water (Tap water) in a storage container goes bad, what does goes bad mean. I understand algae, what else should you be looking for. In a pinch, water is water unless you have an acceptance criteria? I have never found a good acceptance criteria for stored water?

      1 |
      • John RameyStaff Jay Morgan

        Great questions. Yeah, the primary concern with stored water is organic growth of bacteria, algae, spores, etc. Secondary concerns would be rodent feces and unintended chemicals.

        I don’t know how best to quantify what the threshold is between safe and unsafe stored water — such as a spore parts per million measurement.

        I’d guess the line is different for each person, like how some get sick drinking water in Mexico while others don’t. Plus it’s unrealistic that water will be pristine.

        I default to sense tests. If you can see, smell, or taste anything weird, don’t drink it unless you have to (and use basic survival filtering/testing techniques if you do). We developed those senses over 250,000 years for reasons like this.

        Will try to do more research on that question when we update this guide.

        1 |
      • Jay Morgan Jay Morgan

        Totally agree with using God given senses, but if you are thirsty logic might get compromised? This is one reason I like to use Chlorine on questionable water. Put in what is thought to be a appropriate amount shake and leave set. In 30 min to over night pop the cap and if you don’t smell chlorine (the swimming pool smell) do it again. If it smells strong chlorine pour it back and forth between two clean containers until it vapors off. No scientific testing technique just poke your nose into it. Carefully of course.

        2 |
      • John RameyStaff Jay Morgan

        Yep, good method. Unfortunately logic does get compromised in an emergency, since people have little-to-no practice in thinking during a crisis, but that’s why we prepare!

        1 |
    • Michael Simon

      Hey, I discovered this site a few weeks ago and have been looking through it. I saw that you aren’t fans of bottled water, but it seemed like a strong choice to me, and I wanted to run my ideas out there and see if they’re very off base.

      1.) Stores well: 24 packs of half liter bottles are easy to stack and transport.
      2.) Different failure mode than large containers: if you’re in an earthquake or tornado zone, a single violent even could pierce one of your 5 gallon containers and compromise all of its contents in one go. Such an even is very unlikely to destroy a bunch of plastic bottles, even if it breaks a few (a mix between different storage types, as you suggest, seems strongest here).
      3.) Easy to pass on to neighbors in need: If you have extra water based on the level of emergency, or if you’re simply willing to give up some previous stash in the interest of your fellow man, to preserve peace, or to trade for something else, bottled water is easily transferable without the receiver needing his own receptacle and doesn’t scream “this guys has lots more in his basement”.

      1 |
      • John RameyStaff Michael Simon

        Thanks for wanting to talk about it! In short, we’d rather someone have bottled water than nothing. But when we shake it all out, if you only had one water storage method for your most important short-term needs, we’d rather it be in these kinds of containers.

        An ideal answer is a mix of both. I think of the containers as the 80% core and bottled water as 20% bonus.

        1) I disagree they are better to store than 5-7 gal cans. Smaller bottles are less space efficient. Bottled water is stackable when in their original box/crate form (much less so when you start using some), and although it’s close between the two, a good container is more “stackable”, especially in different orientations. Bottles break/crush easily. And I don’t think there’s a comparison in terms of transport, as our recommended cans are much easier to move gallons of water compared to bottles.

        2) Perfect example of why a mix is good. One point of failure vs. multiple smaller compartments. However, each bottled water is less durable than the top containers. We beat the containers up pretty good, and the best ones held together well.

        3) True, but you can also fill up water bottles from your main container to have on you while you’re moving about during the day, to hang off to someone else, etc.

        Then there’s the other factors, like refills. It’s much easier to carry one 5 gal to a river etc for a fill up than a bunch of little bottles.

        2 |
      • Yeah, the mix definitely seems ideal.

        1 |
    • Joshua Terry

      Let’s say you had water stored for 5 years and it did “go bad”. What does that mean? In an emergency situation you wouldn’t throw it out would you? Can’t you just filter it, boil it, etc and be back to good? And if this is the case should it matter much if your water goes “bad” since it’s “fixable”?

      1 |
      • John RameyStaff Joshua Terry

        Great questions Joshua. Going bad can mean a range of things: bad tastes (like a stale taste), leaching chemicals into the water (like from an improper container), and bacteria/protozoa growth.

        Stale tastes clearly don’t matter much. Chemicals do, but not much you can do to remove soluble chemicals from water.

        The most likely issue is the organic growth. And yes, you can filter and boil those out. See our latest:…

        If you’ve got your bases covered with a good filter etc, yeah you’ll probably be fine with stored water that’s a little bad.

        We just really hammer home wanting to have that first week or two’s worth of water in your home as ready to go as possible, without needing any other treatment, because that short term water is one of the most vitally important things.

        1 |
    • Cordero_Negro

      How bad is it for a water container to be semi-translucent? We have a couple containers that aren’t completely see through, but they’re not completely opaque either. After reading this article I plan to replace them eventually, but I’m wondering how much I should prioritize that replacement.

      1 |
      • John RameyStaff Cordero_Negro

        Although it’s hard to say without seeing, in general, if light can get in then bacteria can grow. If you want to get a little more life out of them before switching: rotate more frequently, put some bleach drops in (see above), and store in a dark place.

        1 |
    • Jonnie Pekelny

      Thanks for these suggestions. I have three very basic questions. 1) How are you supposed to fill the 5 gallon containers? I bought a rhino to try it out, but it doesn’t fit either in my kitchen sink or under the faucet in my bathtub? 2) How are you supposed to keep the water cap, rim, pouring spout, and ultimately the inside of the container clean in cases of an emergency? Because first of all, to have access to water to clean these items, you have to open the container that stores the water — possibly with dirty hands! And second, in my experience, hygiene becomes much more difficult when you’re working with stored water with no access to sink or shower. and 3) How much water should we allot for cooking food that comes from those food buckets you recommend, or other meals where you have to add water? I’m imagining that would add to the 1 gallon per person per day allotment?

      1 |
      • John RameyStaff Jonnie Pekelny

        What do you think of the Rhino so far?

        To fill, you could use a smaller jug as a go-between, a hose/tube, a funnel, go to an outdoor faucet…

        If you camp or do something similar outdoors, try using your jug while being careful about contamination during use. For example, the flat disc part of the cap is meant to be used as a cover on the spout when in “pour mode” (see pics in article).

        Most of the cross-contamination answers are common sense stuff, and it’s not hard in practice. e.g. Don’t handle raw eggs and then grab the water spout which will then later be flipped inside the container during storage.

        Hygiene is definitely tougher in the field. Which is why a good kit also has wet wipes and some concentrated camp soap.

        The 1 gallon per person per day minimum benchmark is all-inclusive, so it’s meant to include hygiene and cooking, not just drinking. But it’s a minimal level, and would not be enough to cover “normal” levels of cooking. It’s enough to survive on with relative comfort.

        For example, a Mountain House pack uses ~2 cups of water. If you had two per day that’s 25% of your 1 gallon per day. But if you boiled a big pot of mac and cheese, washed the dishes, etc etc, your water use will go up.

        1 |
    • Bill Gabriel

      One note about the Rhino cans – I just changed the water out after one year of storage. I have 3 of the Rhinos, and all three have bulged out quite a bit on the side that has the indentations for stacking (not so much on the side that has the interlocking projections). If laid on the side all three started leaking significantly, so much that you wouldn’t want to store them horizontally for more than a minute or so. Additionally, the bulging prevents them from being stacked at this point – they are simply too deformed to fit together anymore. I didn’t leave them empty long enough to see if they would return to the original shape eventually. No issues with the water inside when I changed it – they seem fine as long as they are always held vertically.

      1 |
      • John RameyStaff Bill Gabriel

        Thanks for sharing the data point, Bill. Did you store them horizontally? In what kind of temperature range? Wondering if wide temp swings caused plastic stress.

        We’ve also seen the bulging on the male side. Female side seems fine. Haven’t had any leaks though — where are yours leaking from? Reliance would probably replace if you contact them. (Perhaps don’t mention you store water year-round, as any manufacturer in that market will claim it’s an unintended use.)

        Unfortunately it’s part of the deal in these $15-20 cans, and is one of the main reasons to upgrade to the Scepter USGI cans (thicker sidewalls).

        1 |
      • Bill Gabriel Bill Gabriel

        They were stored vertically in my basement – so a constant temperature year round. They didn’t leak stored like that. I only noticed it when I brought them upstairs to change the water out, one fell over and lost about a tablespoon out of the main opening in less than a minute. So i put the other two on their sides as well to see what they would do, and both of them also leaked copiously from the main opening. They didn’t do that when they were new. I’m still using them, but I take more care now to ensure they always stay upright.

        1 |
      • Bill Gabriel Bill Gabriel

        2 year update – they haven’t gotten any worse. They all leak if you put them on the side, so…don’t do that? Seems ok stored upright – the water tasted fine.

        2 |
    • Jonnie Pekelny

      I just discovered that two of my four Rhino cans leak a lot if I tip them over opening side down, as if I were about to pour water, but with the cap closed. The drip rate for one of them is about 3 drops per second. The other one might be even worse, though I’m not sure. I’m dismayed to find this after I’ve filled them with water. I store them vertically, so no water actually pours out while they’re sitting there, but I imagine it can cause contamination, plus it’s obvious I can’t transport them like this. I don’t know if my other two Rhino cans leak as I haven’t tried them out yet. Did I just get a dud lot or am I doing something wrong?

      1 |
      • John RameyStaff Jonnie Pekelny

        It’s possible you got a dud (the flow sounds heavier than normal) and should ask for a replacement, but it’s also part of the deal with a $20 or cheaper product. They aren’t designed to be stored with water against the seals due to the price point — that’s a perfect example of the justification to upgrade to the military cans.

        1 |
      • Jonnie Pekelny Jonnie Pekelny

        Would the leakage also mean that the water is potentially getting contaminated as it sits in the containers?

        1 |
      • John RameyStaff Jonnie Pekelny

        Technically, if air is moving, then contamination can get inside. But in practice I think most people would say you’re just fine, especially with proper storage and rotation every year or two. Plus you have your filters, purifiers, etc. if needed.

        1 |
    • scootle

      I know this article is a year or two old, but it might be worth noting/updating pricing info updated for items linked in the article. It turns out the Scepter cans from Bottom Line are priced at around $28 each, but they also charge exactly that much for shipping (it seems they charge a 100% shipping charge on all items), making them almost $60 each! That changes the cost basis considerably.

      I’ll give the Skilcraft/LCI branded ones a try since they are around $33/ea shipped directly via Amazon, assuming the sellers are legitimate (which is another issue with these items… knowing the pedigree of the seller). Caveat emptor.

      1 |
      • John RameyStaff scootle

        Thanks, we’ll take a look at pricing. FWIW I found there to be a meaningful difference in quality between the LCI and Scepter cans.

        1 |
      • Kevin scootle

        Any idea why the ratings on the site you linked for the Scepter cans are so low? I was thinking of taking the plunge based on your review, but the ratings are terrible.

        1 |
    • Brutus Antifederlest

      If you have the room and do not need to transport look for surplus drums or totes.

      Leaks? Seal the threads with the same stuff you use to put metal water pipe together.

      Chlorine is almost a must have. Defiantly if you are treating surface water or nave the potential to get surface water into you drinking water.

      That said, if you go swimming you end up “drinking’ the water through your eyes and ears and it is hard not to swallow some. So, if you swim often, and the water has not changed, you should be ok. If you do not swim so as to get your body used to it best be careful. A friend from India says he has to condition himself to the local water when he goes home or he gets sick.

      Cl is preety cheap too. One gallon has the potential of treating over 3000 gallons of clear water. For storage you want about 5 to 10 PPM and around 2 for drinking. Slight odor, but your smeller may vary. Residual Cl means there are not pathogens in the water.

      One bottle of wine will treat 2 additional bottles of water. Looking for 3% alcohol content to kill the bugs. So mix beer 50 / 50 and sipp’n lik’er based on proof. Mix before you drink it!

      For 5.25% bleach, sodium hypochlorite use 2 to 3 drops per quart of clear water and let it sit for 2 to 4 hours depending on temperature. Adjust for the 8% strength or age of the bleach.

      Use the smell check as the bleach will break down into NaCl and water over time.
      Figure 20% a year.

      It treating a tank:
      One ounce is 590 drops
      One CC is a ml is 20 Drops so a syringe is a good measuring device.
      One oz is 29.6 ml

      Solid pool Cl stores a lot more Cl for the space but you need to be careful with the dose of have a test kit.
      Calcium hypochlorite works too. Figure the dosage as I do not have it.

      With clear water, in a clear container, and strong sun light, you will have potable water in one to two days depending on temperature, location and time of year.

      If you are storing water you need to know how to get more.
      You need some plastic sheeting to make a solar still then you can make water from the ground or recycle your water.

      If you have plenty of wood for a fire then look at a still made like a moonshine still.
      Use a 5 to 55 gallon metal container and some copper or even a garden hose to condense the steam to liquid.

      Two of the clear 5 gallon bubbler bottles will make a fine solar still. Examples on the net.

      If you have a well and the power is out. Pull the pump and get water with a weighted piece of PVC pipe lowered to the water level. Well depth is generally posted on the well.

      If the water table is shallow and above bed rock it is not hard to safely dig your own. I like to sink sections of 24 or 30 inch concrete pipe as I go as I really do not want a cave in and you need a liner any way! 30 inch is easier to work in but more dirt to remove.

      Easy to go deeper if the water table drops, just add a section and start digging!
      Biggest hazard is keeping the air moving but 4 inch drain hose and a small blower works fine.

      Point is – be ready before you need water.

      1 |
    • Jonnie Pekelny

      Hey, guys. A somewhat related question for you. I’m in Northern California, where, you might have heard, our gas and electric company, PG&E, has intentionally cut off power to a large portion of the state in anticipation of wildfire risk (high winds.) It’s kind of crazy around here. They are implementing blackouts in various neighborhood in a chaotic hodge-podge. No one knows if their power will be cut off at some point and if it’s cut off how long it will stay off. (NOT elegant implementation).

      Meanwhile, with very short notice to prepare, folks are stocking up on basic survival stuff. One of the things I keep reading is that people are buying up bottled water. But I can’t figure out why they’re doing it. PG&E doesn’t control the water supply; we all still have water. We even all still have gas — it’s only the electricity that’s been cut off. Why are people buying water? What am I missing here?

      1 |
      • John RameyStaff Jonnie Pekelny

        FYI here’s a collection of resources to track the CA power issues:…

        The simple answer: People buy water as a panic reaction in these situations. Logic and knowledge don’t factor in in a lot of cases. But there are people who can’t access water without electricity, perhaps due to treatment systems, pumps, etc.

        Some people simply might not understand that water supply is unlikely to be affected, or they may just be erring on the side of caution (which isn’t horrible, especially with water), or they may just be silly and panicked and grabbing what they’ve been trained to (“emergency = buy water, milk, and bread.”)

        1 |
      • Jonnie Pekelny Jonnie Pekelny

        Thanks very much for the collection of resources! You guys are on top of things. I noticed on the PG&E page that their emergency centers are also handing out water…(?)

        2 |
      • John RameyStaff Jonnie Pekelny

        Yes, we’ve read/heard the same.

        2 |
      • Jonnie Pekelny Jonnie Pekelny

        I think I found the answer. Apparently not a bogus suggestion:…

        2 |
      • John RameyStaff Jonnie Pekelny

        Yeah, good find. There are situations where someone’s well can’t run without electricity, etc.

        2 |
    • Jonnie Pekelny

      I would like to store some of my water containers in my soft storey, above-ground basement, just to “diversify” in case the walk-in closet where I have the rest of my water becomes inaccessible. I’ve been reading that we shouldn’t store plastic water containers on concrete because the stuff in the concrete will leach into the water. Is this true? Are there measures that can be taken? Are there other materials that shouldn’t be used? I actually don’t even have concrete in my basement — I have square, flat bricks on top of an unfinished floor. There’s also the question of rodents, which I try hard to keep out of my basement, but sometimes they get in anyway. I’ve heard that rats actually seek out plastic containers to sharpen their teeth on (ick!)

      2 |
      • John RameyStaff Jonnie Pekelny

        Great question. Not sure if you saw the parts in the article about this. Yes, plastic water containers kept on garage/basement floors can leach. But it’s a relatively minor concern, and becomes a more meaningful risk in areas where the flooring gets very hot (eg. cement in the sun) and/or has chemicals around (eg. cleaners / motor oil on a dirty garage floor).

        Assuming you have proper plastic containers, many people just get a simple sheet of plywood or non-porous material and use that as the foundation for their water storage. Helps with stability and errs on the side of caution for leaching.

        2 |
    • Lloyd Graves

      What are your feelings about drum containers? Uline has 5, 15, 30, and 55 gal containers. The 15 or gallon costs $40-45, and then you could get a siphon drum pump for another $15. Not portable, but if used with a couple of jerry cans, it seems like a good budget option for a home owner.

      Is there a reason the prepared did not include this option? Thanks.

      2 |
      • John RameyStaff Lloyd Graves

        This review was focused on portable water containers, which we think are the right “first” thing a typical person should do to get their home ready. ie. It’s easier to get to that important threshold of two weeks of self-reliance + it’s a great idea to have containers you can move around, easily refill, etc.

        But once that box is checked, yeah, storing larger quantities is a next step. We just haven’t done a separate article for those larger containers yet, but expect to in 2020.

        eg. I’m personally picking up one of these soon:

        3 |
      • allan man Lloyd Graves

        I’ve seen those big containers, used, on my local classifieds.  How do you feel using them for water storage after they have been used for some other food product?

        2 |
      • John RameyStaff Lloyd Graves

        We see a lot of people who buy these kinds of containers used from someone local via Craigslist etc. People will often say “oh, I got these super cheap from some local farmer guy, but he promises it only ever stored water!” (or whatever).

        But water is so important + it’s hard to trust random people selling used industrial/farm equipment = I would rather pay more to know something is clean and proper.

        If budget doesn’t allow for a new buy, then just be as sure as you can be about what the container used to hold so you can make a risk-reward decision. Do you trust the sellers’s answers, does the inside look clean, smell bad, etc.

        2 |
    • Richard Holloway

      Maybe you can clarify the detail about the blind and disabled workers for me. Are you mentioning that as a point of interest, or are you suggesting that the product is inferior to the Canadian-made counterpart BECAUSE it is made by blind / disabled workers?

      How and why is the US-Made product inferior?

      2 |
      • John RameyStaff Richard Holloway

        As a point of interest. I wish more companies found ways to have disabled workforces. We have no knowledge of / wouldn’t assume quality problems are due to the nature of the workers — even if it was, that’d be management’s fault, not the workers.

        So I don’t know why their products were inferior, but I recall in testing feeling it was pretty clear when looking at things like seams, seals/gaskets, plastic quality, and overall build quality.

        3 |
    • ProtectiveDad

      Do you need to clean out new containers?  I just bought some of the Rhino cans that were recommended, are they okay to just fill up or is there prep work first to be done?

      2 |
      • John RameyStaff ProtectiveDad

        Given how important this water is, I’d err on the side of caution and at least do a cursory rinse before storing water in it for the long term, even if just to get any dust etc out. I typically fill it with ~20% water, add a little bleach or soap, close cap, shake a lot, rinse thoroughly/repeatedly.

        2 |
    • Friend of the Pod

      Just an FYI for anyone interested in the WaterBrick: you can buy a 10-pack ($180) and a spout ($16.49) direct from the manufacturer for less than an 8-pack and a spout on Amazon, and shipping is free.

      2 |
    • Lori Jenkins Schmidt

      I am a foster mom and am overwhelmed at the thought of buying enough containers to safely store water for our large family.  It would be $342 in containers for my current family but realistically we should plan for 2 more kids ($456) just in case.

      3 |
    • Kate

      So, for clarification, if storing water in a garage, off the concrete floor (bottom shelf or two), in a non heated/cooled garage, how often should the water be changed out? Will the container life be compromised not being in a fully climate controlled space? I’m sure this isn’t the most ideal spot but no basement and currently no extra closet space.

      2 |
      • John RameyStaff Kate

        Assuming the water came from a treated source (eg. city water, which has some chemicals in it), you should be good for 1-2 years. Probably longer, but safe to rotate annually.

        I don’t have any intel that the container integrity itself would be harmed in a non-climate-controlled space, provided you’re not on some extreme end of the spectrum (northern territories in Canada or on the equator)

        2 |
    • skipdup

      I ordered 6 scepter cans based on this article (THANK YOU!!!  This site is the best!).

      I’m in the process of cleaning and disinfecting them now.  As a thought exercise, I started wondering…  I have city water with a whole house charcoal filter and water softener.  So, I have three options for filling the containers…  (1) straight city water out of a hose spicket, (2) filtered and softened out of sink, or (3) bottled spring water (from Ozarka/Nestle, if that matters).  At the risk of geeking out too far on this, 🙂  and assuming cost is irrelevant, what might be the better source?  And would any of these do better with a few drops of bleach added after filling them up?

      Thanks again!!

      2 |
      • John RameyStaff skipdup

        Thanks for saying so! I love the Scepter cans. Assuming your city water is considered dependable, I would think your best bet is to just use that, since it already has preservatives in it. If you run it through your charcoal etc, you may lesson some of those chems (which is usually for taste), making it less ‘treated.’ And you wouldn’t need to add bleach (but you can). There’s no value in using bottled spring water.

        3 |
    • Maggie Allison

      I bought 3 Reliance Rhinos, and they leaked when I laid them horizontally. They also leaked when I filled them above the airflow valve.

      2 |
      • ProtectiveDad Maggie Allison

        I believe the review said that they were not meant to be stored on their side, maybe temporarily but not all the time.  I did not fill mine above the valve and have had zero issues with the six cans that I have.  For the price its a great water can for sure.

        3 |
      • The review says they leaked when stacked on each other. Mine leaked any time on their side which kind of makes them almost useless  for transport in my car if I needed to do that. I won’t  be buying anymore of them. They are fine sitting in my closet not going anywhere, but I  want something  more  versatile.

        2 |
    • Kylie

      Love this! Personally purchased a couple of 5 gallon Scepters and Rhino Paks for my home.

      However, now that they finally came. I am not sure what next to do. I couldn’t find any resources on your site for the next step of (I assume) cleaning the containers and the best ways to fill them. What do you suggest? Do I just take it to a filtered water stall at my local grocery store?

      Open to any suggestions, as I am a beginner prepper.

      3 |
      • ProtectiveDad Kylie

        Hey man good question. I think you might have missed this in the water article. I pasted it below. This is how I filled mine at home using tap water.


        How to clean a water container:
        Fill it with warm water and a little dish soap. Close cap. Shake. Drain and rinse. This gets the obvious debris out of the can.
        Fill it with a quart (about 15 seconds of normal faucet flow) and a teaspoon of unscented household chlorine bleach. Close cap.
        Wait 30 seconds. Shake well. Wait 30 seconds again.
        Drain and rinse.
        Air dry (or fill right away with clean water

        2 |
      • Kylie Kylie

        Thanks, ProtectiveDad! I don’t know how I missed this!

        Can I just fill it with tap water (supposedly our Utah water is clean)? Or should I take it to a like Sparklets refillable spot?

        2 |
      • ProtectiveDad Kylie

        I’m in Tennessee.  I filled mine using our bathtub faucet since it was winter outside and my hose was frozen.  Tap water should be fine since it is treated too.  Just make sure they are clean and don’t use too much bleach a little goes a long way.

        3 |
    • Max McCann

      Thanks so much for these helpful reviews. The article refers to five drops of bleach as being equal to 1/8 teaspoon, but other sources, including Google’s conversion table, refer to 1/8 teaspoon as being more than 12 drops. Can you clarify the amount of bleach that you recommend per gallon? Thanks again; I love this site!

      2 |
    • Jonnie Pekelny

      We are always told by emergency services that our water heater is a good source of emergency water. But I just watched a video that claimed that, if water heaters aren’t flushed regularly, they build up all kinds of sediment and corrosion and the water that comes out of them is really gross. It certainly didn’t look in the video like something you want to drink even in an emergency, unless there really are no other options. (Although I don’t quite understand why it comes out clean out of your faucet.) Do you guys have any resources in the water preparedness department, on making sure the water heater water is usable in an emergency?

      2 |
      • In normal use the hot water that comes out of the tank is drawn from the top of the tank, which is why all that sediment can gather at the bottom, and the water you get at the tap looks “clean”. You wouldn’t want to drink the sediment, but you can easily filter it out with a filter like the HydroBlu or Sawyer Squeeze, or whatever. In theory we’re all supposed to flush our hot water tanks about once a year to remove the sediment, for the reason that the sediment buildup at the bottom decreases the heater’s efficiency over time.

        2 |
    • Alicia

      I’m trying to be diversified in my water storage.  The 5-gallon and 7-gallon are just too big for me to wrestle around and also to bring in the house to set on a bathroom sink, etc.  when we need to rely on them.  I researched the Waterbrick and the Aquabrick.  This YouTube video was very informative:    I’m planning to get the Aquabricks if they ever come back in stock to store with my 55gal drums.

      2 |
      • Alicia Alicia

        They were in stock and arrived very quickly.  Each holds 3 gallons and have two handles which do make it easier for me to manipulate the 26.4lbs after they are filled and also to pass between people.

        2 |
    • Alice

      Thank you for this informative article. I was price checking scepter cans $65-$42 per can. But also price checked lci cans $24. 4 lci cans to my door $102 with free shipping.  Have to thought about doing an artical comparing scepter to lci?

      2 |