4WD Self Sufficiency Part 1 – Water


Water seems so simple – liquid, see-through, thirst-quenching! But when travelling remotely in your vehicle – water is the most important thing of all.

Four-wheel-drive (4WD) self-sufficiency is:

  • Carrying all your water
  • Transporting all your food
  • Taking all your fuel
  • Having a reliable communication link and
  • Able to get your vehicle out if it gets stuck (recovery gear)

While the ranking of food, fuel, communication and recovery gear could be argued, water is definitely the most important factor to consider when travelling to a remote area because you can’t live without it for more than about 3 days.


Water cans on the swing out of the 4WD. Reserves for emergency situations. 

How much water do you need?

To be absolutely safe in a remote area you should have 200% more water than you need for survival, which is 2-3L drinking water per person per day.

If you have calculated your requirements at the common 5L pp/per day (or 10L in desert areas), which accounts for everything (drinking plus washing up, brushing teeth etc.), then you should end up with an amount of water that includes the contingency (doubled) drinking water for survival.

For example:

3 people spending 5 days in the Kimberly region of Western Australia

  • Total water requirements:

3 people x 5 days x 5L/ day = 75 L

  • Survival water requirements:

3 people x 5 days x 2L/ day = 30L

200% of the amount required for survival = 60L, so 75L should cover this group.

If you want to be truly self-sufficient, you do have to carry a fair amount of water if you’re spending time in a remote area. Thankfully, there are a few options when it comes to storing water in your 4wd:

  • A water tank – constructed from stainless-steel or hard plastic and fitted under the vehicle, in the cargo area, or in an unused space can store a large amount of water (often 150L plus). Make sure the tank is easy to fill, and also to get water from.
  • Jerry cans – plastic ones specifically for water come in a variety of sizes, usually 10 or 20 litres. Keep in mind that a 20L jerry full of water is quite heavy and can be difficult to wrangle around the campsite.
  • 10L water cubes – The square boxed water from the supermarket. You do have to treat these gently, and they can also be hard to get the last few drops of water out of.
  • Small plastic bottles – the ones you buy in packs of 24 at the supermarket. These are good because they split your water storage into multiple containers.

Multiple water carrying vessels

Left to Right: 10L Alpine Jug, 2L Water Bladder, 10L Water Cube, 750ml Bottle, 10L and 20L Jerry Cans.

Carry your water in multiple containers

A good rule of thumb is to always have your water supply in multiple containers so if one becomes contaminated or damaged then you don’t lose the whole lot, which could quickly become life-threatening.

Water is heavy, so try and position your water containers nice and low inside the vehicle, between the front and back axles if possible. Carrying water on roof-racks raises the vehicles centre of gravity making it unstable, and who wants their water sitting in the sun all day anyway?

Don’t forget to consider the presence of water-borne illnesses, read our article “10 Facts You Should Know About Safe Hydration” for tips on keeping your water safe to drink.

How do you carry water when travelling in your vehicle? Do you have any nifty tips for storing or saving water? Please leave a comment in the section below!

About the writer...

Joined back in January, 2014

Similar posts...