After having air to breathe, clean water is your most essential resource. If you’ve taken any steps towards being prepped at home, you’re likely to have some emergency water stashed away plus some means of purifying water.
So why would you need to buy water in pouches containing just a few mouthfuls?
Bagged water plays a niche role in your prepping plan, but one that shouldn’t be overlooked. In this article, we explain why and when you might need it and review the best water pouches on the market.
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What’s the Deal with Emergency Drinking Water Pouches?
Buying tiny pouches of water might seem an absurd concept to you. (Or, if you’re more cynical, a money-grabbing opportunity for businesses!) Why would you invest in these when you can buy bottled water for a fraction of the cost?
Well, bagged water differs from bottled water in a couple of important ways:
- The pouches are designed to withstand harsh conditions including temperature fluctuations. Cheap plastic water bottles are not. If you treat them roughly, over time, air leaks may develop and the water inside could become contaminated. See how long does bottled water last?
- Bagged water pouches are extremely robust, meaning they’re less likely to leak.
- If a pouch does leak, you’re not going to lose too much water. If you’re relying on one water bottle and it develops a leak, then you’re in trouble.
- The serving sizes are deliberately small, making the pouches lightweight and easy to carry.
Pouches also have some downsides. They’re single-use, so you can’t refill and seal them as you would a water bottle. They’re also a very expensive way to buy water. Which is why they fill a very specific role in your emergency supplies.
Think of bagged water as the liquid equivalent of ration bars – you don’t ever want to use it but if you end up in a situation where you have to drink it, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars you were prepared.
Why Are Bagged Water Rations So Small?
Most emergency water pouches contain around 4 oz of water. To put it into context, that’s about a third of a Starbucks Tall Americano.
In day-to-day life, it’s recommended you drink about half a gallon (2 liters) of water a day, which would equate to 16 pouches of water.
But bagged water isn’t designed to meet normal drinking requirements. The pouches are designed to give you enough water to stay alive for a few days in a last-resort emergency situation.
Manufacturers recommended you allow 2 pouches per person per day and don’t drink anything for the first 24 hours unless you’re sick. If you’re in a hot place or exercising, you’ll need more than this to survive.
This level of rationing is only for short-term extreme situations. If you’re only drinking 8 oz water a day, you will soon experience symptoms of dehydration which will affect your ability to think coherently and carry out basic tasks.
As the pouches are individual servings, you’ll be less tempted to drink more than your ration than if you were drinking from a bottle (and make no mistake – you will be thirsty and it will be tempting to drink more than your allowance). Their small size also makes them much easier to squeeze into your Bug out Bag or car’s glove compartment.
When to Use Drinking Water Pouches
Bagged water isn’t designed to completely replace your daily water needs for drinking, cooking and washing.
In our Prepping 101 guide, we recommend storing a minimum of 1 gallon of water per person per day if you’re used to conserving water. Buying enough bagged water for all your needs will cost you a fortune and you’ll end up with a mound of waste packaging.
So when would you use them?
When rationed water could mean the difference between comfort and discomfort, or, in more extreme circumstances, between life and death. Situations such as:
- Your car breaking down in the desert
- Being stuck in your vehicle for an extended period
- If you have no other safe water source or purification device with you
- Being caught in a lockdown at home or work
- Hiking in hot temperatures and being out for longer than you anticipated (e.g. due to a member of your party getting injured)
- Being trapped on a life raft or boat
- Having to travel quickly, with no time to source water.
Where to Store Emergency Bagged Water
You might keep a supply of bagged water at home (in addition to your emergency water supply), at your workplace and give some to your kids to take to school. Here’s where else you could stash some pouches:
In Your Bug Out Bag
Bagged water shouldn’t replace whatever water purification solution you carry in your Bug Out Bag or 72-hour kit, but it does give you an initial supply of clean water so you don’t have to worry about stopping to collect and purify water if you have to evacuate an area fast.
You might want to stash a couple of pouches at the bottom of your pack in addition to bottled water. It’s easy to forget or drop things in emergency situations and this will mean you always have water even if your bottle is damaged or lost.
In Your Car
Bagged water is a great option to keep in your vehicle both for everyday emergencies and disasters. The packaging is more resilient to temperature fluctuations than regular bottled water, making it a safer option for storing long-term in vehicles (including boats).
Tips for Using Bagged Water
Here are a couple of things you might not have thought about:
- Although the pouches are designed to be torn open though as the packaging is so tough, it’s actually quite hard to tear a corner off. An easier option, that carries less risk of spillage, is to use a small pair of scissors to snip off one corner.
- Most bagged water has a 5-year shelf-life so you’ll want to rotate them out occasionally. If you don’t want to drink your old pouches, they have a multitude of other uses:
- Freezer packs to keep picnic food cool or to reduce swelling of minor injuries
- Non-potable water, e.g. to heat MREs if you’re camping
- Keep one in your first aid kit to rinse foreign objects from your eye or irrigate wounds
- Washing your hands or face when camping to conserve drinking water
- Don’t just keep them for disaster day. As we’ve outlined above, bagged water could save you from many everyday emergencies, particularly if you live in a dry, hot climate.
Best Bagged Water for Preppers
There really isn’t much to choose between different brands of bagged water. They all have a similar shelf-life and at the end of the day, water is water!
That said, we’d advise going with one of the following reputable companies so you can be assured of the quality of the packaging.
Across all these brands, a few buyers reported issues with pouches having leaked during delivery, but this didn’t seem to be a widespread issue with any one company.
SOS Emergency Drinking Water
This pack of 62 pouches would last a month at minimum ration levels or two weeks if you were consuming a more realistic 4 pouches per day.
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According to the technical details, they’re “certified frustration-free”. I’m not quite sure what the test is for this, but they are a little easier to open than some of the other brands. They’re also the cheapest bagged water pouches we reviewed, so for this reason, SOS is at the top of our list.
Datrex Emergency Water Pouch
Available in pack sizes from 12 pouches up to 128 pouches, the pouches have an official 5-year shelf life and are approved as an emergency water supply by the US and Canadian coastguards, EC and NZ.
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While the directions on the packet suggest a minimum of two pouches per day, Datrex recommends consuming four pouches (total of 17 oz) per day with meals.
Mainstay Emergency Drinking Water
Mainstay’s 30-day ration consists of 60 standard-sized pouches. The serrated top makes them slightly easier to open than the Datrex pouches but they’re a bit more expensive.
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They can withstand temperatures from -40°F to 210°F and have the same list of official approval ratings as the other brands.
Mayday Emergency Drinking Water
Mayday recommends drinking 3-4 water pouches a day in an emergency (their pouches are the same 4 oz size as everyone else’s). Based on this serving, the 100-pouch pack would last you 3-4 weeks.
Produced in California, the bags are US Coastguard approved and can withstand hot and freezing temperatures.
How Much Water Do You Really Need in an Emergency?
If you haven’t sorted your emergency water supply yet, this article on how to store emergency water goes through the basics and we also have an emergency water calculator to help you decide how much to stockpile.