Carrying water on a bicycle tour

Ian on his fully loaded Surly Long Haul Trucker. Dutch Lucy is in the background on her Flevobike!

Ian testing out his loaded Surly Long Haul Trucker.

How do you carry LOTS of water on a bicycle? I’m talking 10 or 20 litres or even more. In seven weeks we will be heading off for a four day cycle touring trip over the Easter weekend, leaving from and returning to Townsville. The end of March is typically a beautiful time in north Queensland, but it can still be hot enough to require lots of water when you are cycling long distances during the heat of the day. Combine the heat with a lack of water points (unlike our Tasmanian trip where we had multiple opportunities to refill every day) and you need to seriously consider your water carrying options.

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The most amount of water we have ever carried is a total of about thirteen litres, on our tandem bike. This  included seven water bottles and a 5-litre plastic water container strapped on the back.

We have two bottle cages that can carry 1.5 or 1.25 litre PET bottles, easy to get from petrol stations, supermarkets and general stores when you need to buy new ones. We just refill the ones we have and use them until they die.

Our 750ml bottles fit into into bottle cages that sit behind the saddles. They are typically used for triathlon type events, but we find them very useful for expanding our water storage capacity! Even with rear panniers and a trunk bag on top of the rear rack, the bottles are easily accessible while we are riding.

One 1.5 litre bottle in each big cage on the front and rear of the tandem. Both seat posts have a double bottle cage behind them and there is one more on the frame, just above the pump.

We want to take more water on this next trip and have had to consider our options.

Some bicycle tourers use a trailer…

Peter and Wendy chose to use a trailer from '2wheelsrtw'

Peter and Wendy from ‘2wheelsrtw’ chose to use a trailer to help carry their water.

…others strap on very large water containers…

Epicurean Cyclist tried a bunch of water bottles and other water storage ideas. This big bottle did not last the distance!

Epicurean Cyclist tried a bunch of water bottles and other water storage ideas. This big bottle did not last the distance!

…and there are water bladders!

For our Easter trip we are going to increase our water storage and test out the Ortlieb 4 litre water bags. Our plan is to fit one 4 litre bag in each of the front panniers. Along with our current water bottles, we will have about 19 litres, which will (hopefully) be enough for the two of us in between water stops!

Luke from Wild Confluence Films uses water bladders strapped to his front forks...obviously well-used!

Luke from Wild Confluence Films uses water bladders strapped to his front forks…they are obviously well-used!

We know there are heaps of ideas out there, tried and tested methods of carrying lots of water on a bike. How do you carry lots of water? Leave a comment (even better, include a photo) and let us know!

Les emailed us the photo and comment below from his family’s trip to Cambodia. You can read more about the trip on their blog ‘8 pedals, 4 bikes, 1 year, 1 world’.

…This shot was taken in Cambodia. It was HOT. Really HOT. We had four in the tour and each person took extra water. I normally had an extra 1.5 l on each front pannier as well.


EDIT: I have discovered that due to our current blog settings, you can’t actually upload a photo with your comment, but if you email to us, we will (try) and put it in somewhere for you!

7 responses to “Carrying water on a bicycle tour

    • That is a great idea westonfront and there are a couple of creeks and rivers around. We have a water filter to try and take advantage of this, but depending on the season and amount of rain we have had, there is no guarantee there will be water in them! North Queensland is supposed to have a wet season during our summer months (December to February), but the big rains have been sadly lacking this year.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. How much water does someone need for a day, drinking and cooking? Just a general answer would be good enough. I’m planning a bicycle tour, my first, and there will be two to three days between water stops. Thank you for any and all help.


    • Hi Douglas, the amount of water you need really depends on the temperature, the distance you are travelling each day, how fast you are travelling. We find that about 6 litres a day per person does the job.


      • Just want to say thank you for your reply, that’s all I wanted, something I can work with. Thank you!


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