Review: How to carry water in the desert

Carlo didn’t need more water carrying capacity on this trip, be he knew he would

Recently a question popped up in our local Facebook bikepacking group:

#gearnerdery advice needed. Looking for fork mount cages to fit large Nalgenes (48 oz) to up my water carry game. Have three bolt pattern for mounting. Not wanting to break the bank but willing to part with some coin for a durable solution that will hold on tight to the bottles.

Carlo Luri from BurritoPackingNV, Facebook

In most cases I shy away from these group polls but I thought Carlo had a great query with specific parameters, and the question was put to a group of desert rats with well thought out opinions. The question created 22 comments of which 100% were useful, and it inspired this post, How to carry water in the desert.

A summer trip through the Ione Valley, 10L on the bike

Until very recently I started all my water carries with a 2-3L bladder in my frame bag. I ride small bikes with small front triangles so a large bladder would take-up near 100% of useful space in a frame bag. Then I would carry 1 or 1.5L Nalgene bottles, 1 or 1.5L disposable water bottles, or ~1L cycling water bottles to make sure I had enough water. Some frame bags can hold multiple water bladders. But on my last few trips I ditched the bladders and relied on bottles and planned resupply.

Frame bag with 3L, fork mount Mojave Cages 3L, down tube 1L

So what were the results to Carlo’s query? The Mojave Cage from Velo Orange and the Outpost Cargo Cage from Blackburn were the most popular. Then the Salsa Anything Cage and Widefoot CargoMount were included. The Topeak VersaCage, King Cage Manything Cage coupled with Nuclear Sunrise Wing Tank, and Cleaveland Mountaineering Everything Bags were mentioned. At least 7 options are tested a true carrying 100’s of liters over 1000’s of miles. It seemed too that Voile Straps were used with each option.

Doug Artman has a very well packed and thought out system on his bikes and has modified cages to carry cages!
Nick Jensen utilizes the Mojave Cages with Nalgene 1.5L water bottles
Mitch Ison carries water bottles from Sportsman’s Warehouse in Blackburn Outpost cages with Voile straps. Very smart!

Topeak Modula Java, Modula Cage XL, VO Retro Cage have made my lists of cages tried for standard water bottles, small thermoses and grocery store water bottles. The Topeak options seem ideal for paved touring and commuting but not durable enough for off-road touring. I currently use VO Retro Cages with the Zefal Magnum water bottle or the Soma Further water bottle. I also use Lezyne machined aluminum cages with standard Camelbak Podium water bottles and Soma Further bottles with a strap back-up to stabilize the heavier load over chunky terrain. If you don’t have triple mount water bottle cage mounts in choice locations on your frame and fork consider the Fuselage accessory bag from Nuclear Sunrise Stichworks. It is full sized to carry the 1.5L Nalgene bottles and available in the widest color range.

Shay Daylami has a wide variety of water carry solutions including cages adapted to the rear rack

What did Carlo land on? The Topeak Versa Cage from the Carson City Bike Shop definitely upped Carlo’s water carry game. Locally sourced information, locally sourced solutions! Nice job everyone!

Carlo now has a great setup to carry him far into the Nevada outback

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