Small boats can be tricky places to store the quantities of water some cruises require. Our family of four consumes at least 3 gallons per day, more in hot weather. Carrying a week’s worth of water in rigid containers would leave precious little room for our bodies and gear in our 18′ sail-and-oar pram. What’s more, hard-sided bottles make poor use of the irregular spaces where water is often best kept in small boats. Rigid containers would be difficult to secure and impossible to fit into the small, curved, awkward spaces available low in our boat where we prefer to keep such dense supplies.

James Kealey

The Collapsible Water Bag can be laid down flat, stood upright and, if not filled to the maximum, be stowed in awkward places, conforming to the shape of the space.

Enter the soft-sided 2.6-gallon Collapsible Water Bags from WaterStorageCube. Remarkably inexpensive, they hold water securely and conform to the shape of wherever they’re stowed. They have a comfortable handle, stand upright, pour well, seal effectively, and hold about the right weight of water for adults to carry. When empty, they fold down to nearly nothing. They are BPA-free, and 1.3-gallon sizes are also available.

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Once emptied, the bags can be folded up and put away. Unlike a more conventional water bottle, the bags take up very little space when not being used.

The four bags I’ve been using have stood up very well to a season of use. They have been mildly abused, mostly at the hands of my six-year-old son, who cannot be convinced to stop lying on them. They have been dropped, frozen, lightly trodden upon, and packed into small spaces, and still hold water.

The claims of durability from the manufacturer are not particularly quantitative: “can withstand heavy pressure & falls.” To simulate what seemed to me a realistic worst-case scenario, I held a full bag at my side as it would normally be carried and dropped it repeatedly on concrete. After seven drops, it broke in the center of its largest panel (not a seam). I’m satisfied that this is durable enough for my purposes, particularly as we carry several bags and more water than we expect to use and so have safety in redundancy.

James Kealey

Thanks to the bag’s more adaptable shape, it can be used not only to carry water but also as an ice block for cold storage in a cooler.

When frozen, the water bags make excellent ice blocks for cold storage (remember to fill them only partially so that the expanding ice will not rupture the plastic). A little creativity in fill levels or their placement in your freezer should result in a block custom-fit to your intended use. Don’t use the bags for hot water storage, as the manufacturer only rates them to 140°F.

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The pleated base of the collapsible bag allows them to stand upright and, being narrower than most water jugs, they are unobtrusive, here standing alongside the centerboard trunk on an 18′ sail-and-oar dory.

I try to minimize my environmental impact, don’t love buying plastics, and felt some guilt around purchasing and using these water bags, which are made of LDPE (low-density polyethylene), which is collected for recycling in bins found at grocery stores in some communities (not mine, unfortunately). The thin-walled semi-rigid gallon water jugs that I previously used are made of HDPE (high-density polyethylene), which is accepted in curbside recycling; these gallon jugs typically last about a year before cracking and leaking. The water bags weigh 98 grams to the gallon jugs’ 64 grams and they store 2.6 times as much water, meaning that they are using substantially less plastic per gallon. My bet is that they will also last longer than the harder plastic used in the jugs.

The bags are a safe and inexpensive way to store plenty of water in a boat’s awkward spaces, and I’m happy to have them aboard.

James Kealey lives and teaches in Richmond, California. When he’s not chasing his two young sons, he can usually be found banging away on some project in his garage workshop or sail-camping on a mountain lake.

The Premium Collapsible Water Bags from WaterStorageCube are available from its Amazon Store. A set of four 2.6-gallon bags sells for $16.96.

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