Various water containers I have in rotation.

When I first started painting in nature I spent time researching how to carry water in the field — it’s kind of essential for watercolors. I eventually came up with a few ways that work great and I’m sharing them here. So let’s talk water!

Pack It Out

Before we dive into the watercolor containers, I just had to add a note about packing out dirty paint water. Watercolor paints contain heavy metals such as cobalt, cerulean, cadmium, nickel, etc and can be toxic to the environment, so it’s best to leave no trace and pack it out.

Plus, who wants to see phthalo blue snow? Not me!

Juice Shot Bottles for Day Hikes

I love using juice shot bottles for day hikes. Tip: Look for juice bottles with wider openings so it’s easy to get your brush in/out.

Juice shot bottles make great water containers for day hikes. I found the one on the left at Zest Juice Co while visiting my sister in Columbus, OH and I think of her every time I use it.

See my sketch kit in this post for my current setup. I like to hold the juice shot bottle in my left hand (I’m right handed) so I don’t knock it over when I’m swishing my brush around.

If I know I’m going to be painting something that requires clean water I’ll bring two juice shot bottles — one for rinsing my brush and the other to keep pristine.

Peanut Butter Jars for Backpacking + Car Camping

Peanut butter (or better yet, almond butter!) jars are great when for car camping!

A peanut butter jar from 2018 that’s still going strong!

Here’s a handy tip I discovered by accident — the metal lids on regular size Mason jars fit inside peanut butter lids and make it leak-proof.

For backpacking, I bring a juice shot bottle and then when the water gets too dirty I dump it in a peanut butter jar to pack out.

Talenti jars also make great water containers — plus you get to eat the sorbetto!

Other Ideas

Some artists I know pour water into a mint tin or collapsible silicone cup, then pour dirty water into another container to pack out. These don’t work for my style of painting as I like to really swish my brush around.

Plus I like having a dedicated water jar for painting — I usually guzzle all the drinking water — which leads me to…

Water for Me

I also thought I’d share the water bottles I use for drinking:

I’ve really come to love these Topo Chico water bottles as they hold 1.5 L and fit in the side pouches of my pack. I usually take two of them for long hikes or hikes in the desert. I cringe when I see people lugging around heavy metal water bottles!

When backpacking, I take these plus one or two Evernew 2 L bladders depending on the temperature and how long I’ll be out. I use the Evernew bladders for cooking and the bottles for drinking — the bottles are so much easier to access and I don’t have to worry about knocking them over (or spilling that precious liquid gold all down my shirt lol!). I even bring a little funnel for transferring the water out of the bladder to the bottle. The places where I like to backpack in Big Bend NP all require a water carry and/or a cache — there are no reliable water sources to filter. Someday I want to backpack where I can filter all my water…

Hope this helps someone out there! Do you have a nifty water container idea? Hit me in the comments, I’d love to hear.

Categories: Gear


Bob Cochran · February 12, 2022 at 7:44 pm

Hi Lisa! Thank you so much for posting this. I live in Maryland. I’m a beginning artist. I recently bought an Art Toolkit and I was wondering how to carry water for painting. Thank you for mentioning that Mason jar lids make can be used to make a jar leak proof. Does the temperature of the water matter for painting? Also does sunlight make your water containers so hot that they are uncomfortable to hold?

    Lisa Spangler · March 8, 2022 at 6:49 pm

    As to the temperature of the water — I haven’t had problems with it being too hot, only too cold! People recommend putting gin or vodka in your water to keep it from freezing but I’ve only painted where it got below freezing a few times! Hope to try that more!

    I haven’t had water containers get too hot to hold, although I don’t recommend the black Art Toolkit palettes — they get pretty hot!

Mary Hazlett · October 31, 2022 at 10:37 pm

Have you seen the “Memo Bottles”? They are flat bottles which can help with packing, and the sizing is A5, A6, etc. The small ones can fit into a pocket/small purse for people who might not be using a backpack.

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