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Are Emergency Water Packets a Waste of Money? (a Review)

I was rummaging through the depths of my emergency supplies last week when I happened upon several emergency water packets that I totally forgot I had. Originally, I had them in our bug out bags but years ago I must have decided to do something else because these particular packets have manufacture dates of April, 2007 and expiration dates of March 2012 and I clean out my bug out bags at least yearly.

Anyway, since they’re only slightly “expired” and I probably wasn’t going to use them for any real purpose anyway, I figured I would test them out a bit. As you can see, this review isn’t starting well and I can honestly say that they’re not something I would suggest you pack in your bags as there are better options.

For starters, they’re only a bit more than four ounces of water per packet, which is slightly more than 1/2 of a cup of water. Depending on who you ask, your physical exertion level, body size, climate, food intake, and so on, the average amount of fluids most adults need is something over 70 ounces per day or more. That’s fluid, not just water. Regardless, if we assume you’ll need at minimum of 70 ounces of water per day then you would need over 16 packets of water per day (or 48 over 72 hours)… are you seeing a problem here?

As you can see it’s darn hard to pack enough water on your back to last you for days on end, let alone if you’re packing for kids too (like I am) and you’re not going to be doing it with packets of water, bottles of water, or even a hydration pack. That said, including some water is useful but you have to be judicious because it really adds weight.

What if you’re still interested in buying some emergency water packets?

Well, I tried a packet of water and, though the instructions say to discard it after the expiration date, the water tasted just fine. I was actually surprised at how difficult the packet was to open; I almost broke out the scissors but I managed to tear it open. I can actually see this being rather frustrating if you’re cold, tired, or have an injury. Here’s a case where the simple twist off cap wins!

I then tried to poke a hole in a full packet with a fork (I figured a knife was not fair to the packet) and found that to be slightly difficult until I put some effort into it. I then grabbed another packet and tried to squeeze it to pop open but, for the life of me, I couldn’t get it to burst! Considering packet integrity was a primary reason for not relying on these emergency water packets, maybe they’re not horrible. Last, since I couldn’t think of anything else to do to a packet I choose to light one on fire to see how easy it burned (why not?) and found that to easily take several seconds to begin smoldering. Of course, it’s a packet full of water so it’s likely self-extinguishing. ;)

Ultimately, I still wouldn’t recommend them as something to rely on. Water is water, whether it’s purified, has an expiration date on it, or the packaging says it’s for emergency use. A few bottles of water would suffice just as well.

6 comments to Are Emergency Water Packets a Waste of Money? (a Review)

  • T.R.

    I see your points about them . Thats another reason to pack a small plastic funnel . If you carry hard containers and bladder combinations , every drop may count , but if you have a water purifier filter , and tablets and are not in the middle of the desert …… should be able to find water along the way . Another thing I always thought about was puncturing . Glad to see a review of these . My packed water containers are US Army 2 quart collapsables , a swiss army 5 gallon bladder ( to fill up later ) and a couple of US 1 quarts with the cup . I dont have any bottles , just got used to the military stuff .

  • David

    Have you considered dehydrated emergency water supplies, (just add water to re-hydrate)?

    • I assume you mean freeze dried foods? Perhaps these water packets could be used for that but most meals I’ve found use a cup or two (2-4 packets) of water.

  • Junipers

    Helpful article. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read reviews from people who bought water packets and were upset about the expiration date. Hopefully this will relieve the minds of many who may have tossed them out thinking the water had gone bad. It’s still a great idea to put a few of those in your BOB! Thanks for being brave enough to be a test subject for us. LOL!

  • Cheryl

    While I agree that water bottles might hold more, be easier to open, etc…I like the fact that the water packets aren’t easily broken open. Living in the northeast, I don’t want to worry about water bottles freezing and bursting in my car. A small plastic box in my trunk holds a dozen water packets. Another plus, they easily double as an ice pack for injuries or to use in your lunch box. It can keep your food cold until lunch time and be your drink too!