A full-page on a bucket? Am I crazy? What possible reason would possess you to carry the extra weight of a bucket when every ounce counts? Well stick with me for a bit, and I’ll give you some of the reasons I always carry a bucket while backpacking. Allow me to introduce you to the “Wonder Bucket”.
It comes from different companies in varying colors, weights, and sizes. Seattle Sports makes one that weighs less than 4 ounces and holds three gallons!
It’s made of reinforced vinyl, has a handle, and folds down to less than an inch thick. Some of the models are able to stand up without additional support. The handle allows you to carry water around and hook the bucket on a branch or around a picnic-table seat.
I’ve seen them for sale at REI stores and in the L.L. Bean catalog, as well as different sporting goods stores. They cost anywhere from six to seventeen dollars and they vary in quality and thickness. Below are some uses for the bucket.
Top Uses for a Collapsible Camping/Backpacking Bucket
I use the bucket to dip water from the source, avoiding the bottom to prevent disturbing the silt, and take it back to camp or a comfortable rock for filtering.
There are several reasons to filter from the bucket. First I avoid kicking up silt, allowing me to filter clear water and extending the life of the water filter. Also, if the water is already full of sediment, I can allow it to settle and filter from the cleaner surface. (Read Ken Walters’ tip on speeding up the settling of sediment.) I can also get into a comfortable position for filtering; something not always possible at the creek or pool’s edge.
“To settle the sediment out of water within minutes instead of hours, put a “pinch” of alum in a full bucket of water and stir vigorously for two to three minutes. Then let settle. Alum is used for pickling and is found in the spice section of your grocery store.” – Ken Walters
Read our full guide on water purification for more.
Many times in the southwest, you’ll find a seep with only a slight dripping of water. On the Nankoweap Trail several years ago, I was able to set my bucket under the drip overnight, and in the morning I had nearly two gallons of water—effortlessly!
The bucket has come in very handy for me since I spend so much time outside. I like to clean up, and it helps keep my sleeping bag fresher for much longer before cleaning. In a campground with other people around, I can even take wash water into my tent and bathe in private. Be careful not to tip it over! Be on the safe side and move your sleeping bag and gear away to prevent getting them wet!
See more about bathing on our backcountry ettiquette guide.
After bathing, I often soak my feet in the water. This feels marvelous after a hard day’s hike!
On my extended trips, I don’t take clean clothes for the entire time; rather, I wear one set and bring an extra set. This way I can wear one and wash one. This in itself is worth the weight of carrying the bucket. Clothes add up. I also like to wear a clean pair of socks each day. I find I don’t get blisters if I take good care of my feet, wear proper boots, and put on a fresh pair of socks each day. Washing them allows me to wear clean socks every day.
I wash my dishes by pouring water from the bucket into the dishes, scrub them, and then rinse them with more water. I do not wash dishes directly in the bucket. I use a Seattle Sports Bucket—lightweight at 5.6 ounces, free-standing, and holds 3 gallons! The Seattle Sports is more likely to topple than is the REI bucket due to its light weight. But with it being nearly half the weight, I am willing to work with it.
See more kitchen gear here.
This was the clincher for me. During one trip in the desert, I had started out with a gallon and a half of water and headed to one of my regular water stops.
When I got there the area was bone dry, and it was several miles to the next water!
There was an old windmill in the area with a concrete tank underneath it. I looked into the tank and saw water about six feet down. The problem was the tank was much too narrow for me to fit even my shoulders in, which made it impossible to reach the water below.
I pulled out my bucket, tied some line to the handle, and lowered the bucket into the water. When I raised the bucket, I had plenty of water. I haven’t gone anywhere without it since!
See more on our Backcountry 911 guide.
Updated August 31, 2023 with clarification on the headlines, added in Ken Walters’ quote, and reviewed for overall quality. Coming up next: we are in the process of testing these products again and providing more photos and videos.
- MULTIPLE USES - Use Around Camp for Washing Dishes, Hauling Water, or Washing Clothes
- LIGHTWEIGHT - Collapsible and Packable Design Allows You to Easily Take It Along for Any Outdoor Adventure
- MATERIAL - Vinyl with RF Welded Seam and Webbing Carrying Handle
- SPECS - WEIGHT: 5.6oz, CAPACITY: 12L, EXPANDED DIMS: 10.5" x 9.5"
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- Made of reinforced heavy duty vinyl
- Electronically welded seams, reinforced bottom
- Sturdy carry handle
- Folds compactly for easy storage and portability
- Capacity: 2-1/2 -Gallon
- Camping Bucket Collapsible Water Storage Container 20 L (5 Gallon) Portable Folding Foot Bath Tub Wash Basin for Traveling Hiking Fishing Boating...
- Material: Waterproof 500D NET clamping fabric. Lining fabric: PVC
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- Great for Camping, Picnic, Hiking, Boating or other outdoor activities
Last update on 2023-12-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API