Carrying and Storing Water, Gas & Fuel for 4WD Touring

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Australia has some of the best 4WD touring options in the world, and if you have the right gear and knowledge you can head to some of the most beautiful and remote gems it has to offer.

However, there are a few things that you absolutely must have when touring this country – plenty of water, gas and fuel. But, just as importantly, you must be able to safely and securely store them on your 4WD in a way that is conducive for driving over rough tracks.

LPG-bottle-on-the-roof-of-a-4wd

Our 80 series with an LPG bottle on the roof.

In this post, we are looking at how you carry and store water, LPG and fuel (petrol or diesel, whichever your 4WD takes!) in and on your vehicle, and at home.

Sadly, there have been some terrible accidents and deaths from fuel, in particular, that hasn’t been stored or carried correctly, and we’d like everyone to take the right precautions.

Camper tralier setup at night in a remote location

Some remote locations need a lot of fuel like Steep Point.

Take enough for your trip

The first, and most obvious point is that fuel, water and LPG are somewhat critical to your survival. If you run out of any of them, it’s going to put you at risk, with water being by far the most important. It’s critical that you know how much you are going to use, what backup plans you have and that you are prepared should things go wrong.

Stove sitting on camping table

Single burner stove that uses disposable gas cartridges work well.

With LPG, if you run out you can still light a fire if you have to, or eat food that doesn’t need cooking. We usually take a small single burner and a couple of spare butane cartridges, which last enough to get you back to safety.

In regards to fuel for your 4WD, you should have a history of what it uses under different conditions, bearing in mind that soft sand will use the most fuel and towing can make a huge difference. Take enough fuel for where you are going, with a bit in reserve.

4wd driving along soft beach sand

Soft beach sand will make you use a lot more fuel.

Water is something you won’t survive for long without, so take enough to drink, wash your dishes with and have a bath as required.

Each trip is different, and there are lots of variables for how much water you should take, but factor the temperature in, access to other water sources (swimming in a river for example) who you are travelling with and what you’d do if it all went pear-shaped. Things like water purification tablets or a LifeStraw are a fantastic emergency measure.

Beyond this, if it really goes wrong, you should have a way of communicating; an EPIRB, satellite phone or mobile phone reception suffices if you aren’t travelling out of services.

Man drinking water from bottle while hiking in the Kimberley

Hiking in the Kimberley? Make sure you take adequate water.

Weights

All of these weigh a lot, and that means you have to be careful where they are kept. LPG is probably your least concern in terms of weight as the quantities that you’d carry under normal circumstances are almost insignificant. Water, petrol and diesel though are a different story, with many travellers taking several hundred kilograms of them!

Water weighs 1kg per litre. Petrol weighs 0.75kg per litre, and Diesel weighs 0.832kg per litre. Ideally, you want to keep the weight down as low as possible in a 4WD. Some people carry fuel and water on the roof racks of their 4WD, and often you don’t have a choice, but lots of weight up high on a 4WD is not a good idea.

Fuel-and-water-on-the-roof-racks

Fuel and water on the roof racks.

Fumes, explosions and general safety

Petrol and LPG can be very dangerous. Diesel tends to be quite stable and safe, and water is essentially 100% safe. The worst-case with water is you end up with wet carpets inside your 4WD, and a lack of water if it breaks.

LPG and petrol both have a pretty obvious smell, and can be very dangerous to inhale. Diesel is much less likely to explode, and the fumes are significantly nicer than petrol.

Of course, it’s important when refilling to ensure that there is no spillage, as if you have petrol or diesel on the side of your jerry cans, you will smell it for a long time!

4KG LPG bottle holder on 4wd

4KG LPG bottle in a dedicated holder on the roof racks.

Storage redundancy

One of the things that a lot of people don’t put too much thought into is that the containers that you carry your petrol, diesel and water in can, and do fail from time to time.

Whether that’s your long-range tank, a jerry can or a flexible bladder, it is possible for leaks to develop, and that can put you in a pretty bad place.

With water especially, it pays to have a couple of different storage locations, so if one does let go, it’s not your only supply!

Double-jerry-can-and-tyre-holder

Double jerry can and tyre holder with taps on our old Hilux.

Carrying LPG, fuel and water in your 4WD

LPG

LPG should be kept on your roof rack if possible, or on your trailer, but small canisters are okay inside the vehicle as long as they are removed from the burner, kept secure, upright, with their safety caps on and away from high temperatures.

Our best LPG storage option was a quick-release holder for a 4kg bottle that we bolted onto the roof racks. If it leaks, everyone is safe, and it’s easy to undo and set up at each camp. A lot of people use a milk crate on the roof racks with the bottle tied down nice and securely too.

If you are going to carry LPG inside your vehicle, take a minute to read the rules within your state. Most suggest anything under 9kg is okay if you take the relevant precautions, but it’s a risk I think people should avoid unless there is no other way.

Gas-bottles-in-milk-crates

Gas bottles secured in milk crates on the roof.

Water

Water is the easiest of them all to store, but it’s also probably the most important. Having it easy to get to will make your touring much more enjoyable. If you can fit a water tank to your 4WD inside the rear, or underneath, you will be onto the best solution.

This can either be gravity fed, or you can install a small pump. Jerry cans and smaller containers inside your vehicle are fine, providing they are well secured and can’t move around or be punctured.

Jerry-cans-for-water

There’s nothing wrong with using jerry cans for water.

You can absolutely carry water in jerry cans on the roof, but don’t overload it as it’s possible over time in the sun you will end up with mould growing (especially in clear containers).

Another popular option for carrying water is on a rear bar – on one of the swing away arms. Some people carry fuel here, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend LPG or petrol as in the event of an accident, things could go bad real fast.

Water-pump-on-tank

Our 12V water pump that takes from a 50L underbody water tank.

Petrol and Diesel

Petrol and diesel are best stored in the factory fuel tanks or long-range tanks under your 4WD. If this isn’t possible, then jerry cans are a good option (with them in a trailer being the most preferred option). There is a limit of 250L of petrol when travelling, so even if you have the capacity and space you can’t take significant amounts.

Petrol shouldn’t be kept inside your vehicle due to the fumes. Diesel is also recommended to be kept outside your vehicle, but many people do safely carry it inside with the right precautions.

Camper-trailer-jerry-cans-and-gas-bottles

Our old camper trailer had 3 jerry can holders and 2 LPG bottles.

Again, you can store both petrol and diesel on the roof racks, but having 5 jerry cans full of fuel or water is going to make your 4WD handle very poorly, and will possibly be illegal. Bladders are an option that some people do use very successfully too, but you need to be very careful with them!

If you have a trailer that you take with you, then there are more options for fuel storage. We carry diesel/petrol and LPG in dedicated holders for our camper trailer or have them inside the boat, tied down properly.

If you have a ute, the canopy is a much better place to keep petrol or diesel if you need to, but LPG should still be in a vented area where possible.

Man holding fish next to boat

We need to take a lot of fuel for our boat.

Storing LPG, fuel and water at home

With LPG, petrol and diesel, storage at home is simple. Keep them in a well-ventilated location that doesn’t get too hot, doesn’t receive excessive sunlight (gentle sun through a garage window for a few hours a day is fine) and make sure the breathers are open for the jerry cans. Petrol, in particular, expands significantly as it heats up, and if you don’t have the breathers open to allow this to happen you risk doing damage to your jerry cans and having a big spill.

If you keep them in a shed or garage where you work, know that this can put you in a very dangerous situation. Before doing any hot work (grinding, cutting, welding, smoking, etc.) you should take a minute to look around and remove anything that has the potential to harm you. Anything flammable should be taken away, and this includes jerry cans and LPG bottles.

The easiest way to store your water containers at home is empty and dry. Tip the water out, allow them to dry out for a few days and then put the lid back on, but not tight. If you keep water, you should keep it out of sunlight, and in containers that are full. It won’t ever go off this way, but sunlight and air gaps encourage the growth of nasties.

A line of 4wds driving with lots of fuel up to Steep Point

Taking lots of fuel to Steep Point.

Don’t take shortcuts

It’s an amazing privilege to load your 4WD up and explore the many adventures Australia has to offer. Take the time to store your fuel and water safely, and you’ll add many incredible memories to the list.

Don’t take shortcuts especially with LPG and petrol, or the results can be tragic.

See you out there!

 

What’s the best storage solution you’ve found for touring?

About the writer...

Aaron Schubert

If it involves four-wheel driving, Aaron loves it. When he isn’t writing for his blog, 4WDing Australia or the Snowys Blog, you’ll find him camping and driving around Western Australia.

Joined back in July, 2016

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