How much water do I need?”
More importantly how are you going to carry it?
Some bikes come with only one water bottle cage, others have two to three cages built into their bike frames, sure you could use those clip on or screw on types, but usually they can only fit 750 ml bottles, which when multiple by how many bottles you have would still not be enough to cross the outback with. Plus the ‘add on’ types take up valuable real estate on your handlebars, or saddle area, I have even seen them attached to your forks which rule out using panniers or you could have your water stored in their panniers, then you have to really focus on what you can/should take with you. But sometimes, even three water bottles isn’t nearly enough to keep you hydrated (and alive) when cycling through especially hot and desolate stretches of road.
LongHaulTouring has an article worth reading.
In all cases of any one planning to cross the Nullarbor or even anywhere in the outback of OZ, you need to be carrying way more than what your bike water bottles can hold. Calculating out how much water you should be carrying and where you can refill is the tricky part.
As with everything in bicycle touring, there are many players involved in coming up with a ball park figure of how much water you’ll need per day/kilometre. Some considerations such as:
- The weather, how hot and how windy?
- The planned ground you intend covering (level (easy) vs. hills (harder))
- How you are feeling that day and the day before.
- The road conditions (sealed roads vs. dirt/gravel (which usually come with their friend Mr Corrugations).
- The possibility of obtaining drinkable water along your way.
- How far can you go with what you have and still have some in reserve.
This is where planning your days before leaving home and understanding how to read a map is so important. You cannot plan on being in the right place at the right time on the odd chance that a Grey Nomad might top off your supplies. Some Roadhouses along the Nullarbor do not offer up water to cyclists, but point them towards their refrigerators so that said cyclist can buy a few bottles which works out more expensive than a litre of petrol, while I’m not totally against free enterprise in this case and that the Roadhouse do have to ship in their drinking water, I’m just surprised how ill prepared cyclists who know they can get water anywhere in towns and cities not realising how limited it can be in the outback.
Some water points along your way may need filtering and treating before being usable. No good stocking up on water in your containers to find out down the road that you should have filtered, boiled, sterilised it before filling up.
So, any pointers then?
- You need to be drinking a lot when you cycle on a normal day, on a hot or/and headwind day your consumption of water will go up.
- Remember Slip, Slop, Slap. Wear sunscreen, a covering for your helmet (you are wearing a helmet right?) and sunnies to protect yourself from sun damage and drink more water especially hot and windy days. Maybe add zinc cream to your kit.
- Do a pre-trip ride before you leave on your tour, check how much water you drink during the day or each hour or every 10 kilometres, this will help you calculate your usages for when its important.
- Remember each litre of water you add to your bike / rack / panniers / back is an extra kilogram of weight. Is your gear suited to carrying this extra weight?
- You can plan to start your day early before it heats up too much, siesta during the hot part of the morning and afternoon and continue on in the later afternoon / early evening.
- Finally, have a plan for carrying more water on your bicycle if you need to.
While weather, terrain, and road conditions are important points to ponder, you can usually guestimate how much water you need to carry by figuring out the distance between your current location and the next town or roadhouse or rest stop which might have water tanks (don’t rely on these to be full or drinkable all the time).
- Civilisation is about 30 to 60 minutes and you can fry an egg on the road, you’ll probably be just fine with the water you’re carrying.
- Maybe you got 60 to 90 minutes to go, however, it’s hot and it’s uphill, or it’s hot out and windy (not a tail wind though) or maybe all three, you should consider topping up if you can.
- Here is a brochure distributed by the Royal Flying Doctor Service dehydration flyer, some good info on here especially the colour chart at the end.
So what type of water containers are out there that may be suitable for my bike tour?
Well here’s what I have found during my search of the above question:
8 litre collapsible water container:
W x H – 150 mm x 220 mm
8 litres of water equals 8 kilograms
Flexible and durable water bottle. Folds flat when empty and stand stable when full.
Resistant to extreme temperature:-20C to +80C
Sterilise water, boil soup, melt snow, Deep freeze. Handle and tap on top.
Compact design and PVC construction.
Reliance Folda Water carrier:
9.5 litre collapsible comes with tap and handle
MSR Dromedary water bags:
Cordura-1000 nylon TPU Heavy-Duty: Abrasion-resistant Cordura®, laminated with food-grade polyurethane, can handle everything from freezing to boiling. Versatile: 3-in-1 cap lets you fill, drink, and pour with ease. Easy to Fill: Low profile, ergonomic handle and wide-mouth opening for no-hassle filling. No-Hassle Attachment: Perimeter webbing allows for convenient pack attachment and hanging. Safe Drinking: BPA-free.
10 litre 284 gm 600 x 340 mm
6 litre 247 gm 280 x 560 mm
4 litre 196 gm 480 x 250 mm
2 Litre 179 gm 420 x 200 mm
MSR Dromlite bags:
This ultralight version of MSR’s Dromedary® Bags weighs less, but still features a tough 200-denier Cordura® exterior for reliable, back country water storage and delivery. Inside is the same BPA-Free, food-grade polyurethane laminate that can handle freezing and accessories like the Shower or Hydration Kits increase your options on any journey. Same size as the Black MSR water bags. There is no 10 Litre size in these bags.
Camelbak type of water carriers:
Anywhere from 1 litre to 3 litre sizes.
5L Collapsible Water Container:
Ideal for camping, festivals, travelling, sailing, walking etc.
Features strong non-toxic polyethylene walls and screw cap with open/close valve & Handle.
- Flat Pack for easy storage
- Holds up to 5 Litres
- Open/close valve
NB: All the above water containers are collapsible, so when empty they do not take up much space unlike any empty bottles.
Anyhow, the next drink is on me.