7 Great Uses for a Backpacking Bucket

A backpacking bucket can be an extremely versatile addition to your water system in an outdoor survival scenario. Many people might think that a collapsible bucket is an extra nicety and not worth the weight, but for a few ounces folded up to the size of a deck of playing cards you add a lot of capabilities that you just can’t get with water bottles.

7 Uses for a Backpacking Bucket

1. Save your Bottles

Your Bug Out Bag may only have a few water bottles. If you use your water bottle before and after filtering, obviously some of the non-filtered water will be in your bottle. It might only take a drop of water with bacteria to make you sick. Why take the risk? Save your bottles for drinking water only.  (Carry Collapsible Water Bottles for backup or a Nalgene water bottle)

2. Filter Water

Instead of sticking your water filter straight into a lake, pond, or puddle just use your collapsible backpacking bucket to dip water off the top without stirring up mud or silt. You can let the water settle back at camp and run only the cleanest water possible through your filter to save wear. (Further protect your filtration system with coffee filters)

3. Collect Water

Stick it under the edge of a tent, tarp, or any other water runoff and collect water over time. Obviously this is going to be much easier with the wide mouth of the bucket than a small water bottle, and it won’t tie up one of your clean water bottles.

4. Bathe

The same principle as filtering your water, how clean will you really feel bathing out of a pond or puddle? Fill up your collapsible bucket, let the water settle, and bathe at camp. Maybe even dump in some hot water to the mix and make your clean up even more enjoyable. This would be great for winter.

5. Laundry

Fill your backpacking bucket with clean water from your source and add soap. In a pond or stream if you use soap it is going to wash away pretty quickly, but not in your bucket. Again, adding hot water only makes things better.

6. Dishes

Doing dishes in your camp out of a bucket is going to be a lot nicer than having to bend over a stream or pond the whole time. Once again: hot water possibilities.

7. Fire Extinguisher

Having some extra water around in case your fire gets out of hand is always a good idea. You can’t just go wasting important drinking water on burning brush.

Pros and Cons of Collapsible Buckets


  • Lightweight
  • Super compact
  • Easy to carry
  • They have a variety of uses
  • Affordable


  • Since they are usually made out of fabrics they are susceptible to punctures


Can you put boiling water in a collapsible bucket?

A collapsible bucket should have no problem holding warm or hot water, but boiling water should be avoided.

Will a collapsible bucket stand upright on its own when it is full of water?

This may depend on the design of your particular bucket, but most collapsible buckets come with a carrying handle that can be used for hanging or helping it to stand upright.

Get Heavy Duty

Some collapsible buckets have plastic rings around the top and bottom, they are usually cheaper but will not collapse as small because the rim isn’t supposed to bend. Spend a few extra bucks and get a sturdy one (think heavy duty dry bag) that doesn’t require rings and will fold up small.

Written by Joel Jefferson

Joel is one of the original founders of SurvivalCache.com. After college, he joined the USMC where he served as an (0302) Marine Infantry Officer. Joel is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains. Joel’s hobby is researching survival gear & weapons as well as prepping. Read his full interview here. Read more of Joel's articles.

17 thoughts on “7 Great Uses for a Backpacking Bucket”

  1. I'd like it better if you mention that washing with soap in a water source damages that source even if the soap you use says it is biodegradable. Adding phosphates and other compounds changes the makeup and affects other lifeforms dependent on that water. If you use the backpacking bucket and soap, please disperse your wash water away from the pond, stream, lake or other source (see leave no trace principles). This keeps soap out of a precious resource.

  2. I took my bucket and reinforced the handle by stitching some 550 cord on the handle and reinforced the area where the handle meets the bucket by sewing it by hand. If you go back packing and have seen the stream 50′ down but can’t safely reach it attach some 550 cord or other rope and lower it down (the purpose of the reinforcing) so now you have water and no one had to risk injury.

    Love this site, not used to others who think or prep like I do outside of the military.

    • You can also use a wet bag for this. Kind of the opposite of the intended use, but the effect is the same and you get the added prepper benefit of it serving even more purposes. Just dry it out when done and it can go back to being a dry bag.

  3. Concerned that some recommendations are outdated. SIGG was touted as being great a couple years ago, but since then the interior of ours began flaking off, compromising the integrity of the bottle. Websites dedicated to promoting clean water storage to consumers no longer feel comfortable listing SIGG as a good option, given that the flaking metal leaches chemicals into the water.

    Our water bottles did not go through heavy use. We followed all the cleaning directions carefully, and they were used to drink water at home and at the gym. I don't think they would have lasted nearly as long in an actual harsh environment. We will be replacing ours with Klean Kanteens. Obviously, some people still may have success with SIGG, but I would be weary of depending on them in a situation wherein you couldn't replace them readily.

  4. For drinking water I have military surplus 1 qt canteens (2 stainless and 2 plastic). Yet I can see the use of a camp bucket for carrying water to be used for cleaning or to catch rain water or even condensation for filtering into fresh drinking water or to harvest water from ponds, streams, etc. for filtering. However you will still need at the minimum a stainless military or civilian canteen cup to boil water.

  5. Something nobody seems to put on any prep or bug out list is …. KEYS! If you're bugging out, more than likely you have someplace you're going or securing where you are leaving. In my daily life I walk around with 5 sets of keys that are cumbersome, noisy and weighty. Everyone has their own prep plan, much of this may be in a locked down state until actually needed….and you will need specific keys for your access. So take the time to get a specific set of keys made just for your bug-out bag.

  6. I believe that carrying/using a 5-6 gallon hard plastic bucket is a better idea than a collapsible bucket because it can do the same tasks as listed above and more. Some examples are 1) airtight, waterproof, rodent-proof container for food, water or almost anything that needs protection. 2) Easily sealed and hoisted up into a tree (bad bear). 3) Carrying firewood and/or building materials to camp easier. 4) A small but airtight and sturdy cache for food, gear, firearms and ammo. 5) Floatation devise. I'm sure there are even more uses! P.S. one will fit in the main compartment/pocket of the large ALICE pack and when full of stuff takes up about the same amount of space in a backpack or it can be carried by hand!

  7. The wise company square bucket that holds their meals is a good bucket.
    using a gravity system and a ceramic filter you need 2 buckets as it is passive over having to watch to keep from overflow.

    I like square for beter use of space round is so wasteful,.
    another plus is as a dry storage and a seat as well as a flotation device for your gear I do like dry sacks
    and Pelican boxes even if you have buckets electronic equipment and anything that cannot be wet for a total loss to moisture needs to be compartmentalized, most packaging will not last or prevent humid conditions.


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