What Are the Best Ways to Carry Fuel on an Overland Journey?

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Few things are as rewarding as overlanding, getting deep into the backcountry, and discovering new landscapes for days and weeks on end. Unfortunately, getting way out there means carrying enough fuel to get from point A to point B (and back) safely. Knowing how much fuel to bring with you and how to store it is something every overlander — regardless of experience — needs to consider.

That’s where a gas can (i.e. jerry can) comes into play. But knowing which gas can is best for overlanding isn’t always intuitive — not all jerry cans are equal.

Over the last decade, through trial, error, and actually running out of fuel, I’ve found the best gas can for overlanding. But before I get into that, let me give a bit of background.

When I was building out my dream rig a decade ago — a 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser — one of the challenges I needed to address was storage of extra fuel for long overland trips. Having extra fuel on board (preferably mounted externally) is an important consideration for safety and peace of mind on trips, especially those that are off pavement in the backcountry.


My extra fuel and water is mounted externally on my bumper swing out. Photo: Anthony Sicola

My extra fuel and water is mounted externally on my bumper swing out. Photo: Anthony Sicola

While gas stations are ubiquitous in the U.S. or Canada, finding a gas station when you need one in Mexico and Central America can be quite a challenge. In those situations, it is imperative to have an adequate supply of fuel to help you reach your next destination (or fill up point). I’ve traveled extensively through Mexico and I’ve used my extra fuel many times to make it to the next town.


READ MORE: HOW MUCH WATER DO YOU NEED FOR OVERLANDING?


Knowing how much fuel to bring with you and how to store it effectively isn’t always a simple equation. Fuel weight, mounting issues, and knowing the right gas can to purchase for are important considerations — especially for those that are new to the overland style of travel. The safe bet is to carry at least 5.0 U.S. gallons of extra fuel with you on your adventures.

A U.S. gallon of gasoline weighs approximately 6.3 pounds and most external cans are about 20 liters, or 5.0 gallons each. So five gallons of fuel is about 31.5 pounds plus the weight of the gas can itself. This calculation is important because you need to know if your swing out on your vehicle bumper or your roof rack can safely hold the extra weight.

Let’s take a look at some fuel storage/ gas can options that you should consider for your travels:


Photo: Wavian

Photo: Wavian

Wavian Steel Gas Can with Spout: MSRP: $79.99

Built to tough NATO/ military specifications, this workhorse of a gas can is made from 0.9mm cold-rolled steel and painted in an epoxy polyester powder coat for color durability. The Wavian Gas Can has a leak-proof bayonet closure and a locking pin in the cap to stop spills on corrugated roads. 

I’ve been using this specific gas can for over five years. It is rugged, durable, and it hasn’t failed me yet.


FuelPaX by RotoPaX 4.5 Gallon Fuel Container: MSRP $94.99

RotoPAX packs are individually pressure tested and manufactured 100% in the USA, ensuring a quality, leak-free product. Measuring 27-1/2″ x 14″ x 4-1/2″ these gas cans can mount to any flat surface using RotoPAX’s proprietary mounts (sold separately.)


Photo: RotoPAX

Photo: RotoPAX



Photo: Rugged Ridge

Photo: Rugged Ridge

Rugged Ridge 20 Liter Metal Jerry Can: MSRP: $54.99

If you’re looking for a safe and reliable means of carrying fuel reserves with you on those extended trips, Rugged Ridge Jerry Cans are a great solution no matter what you drive. Features stamped steel construction with a sturdy 3-bar handle, 20-liter capacity (5.28-gallons), a green gloss finish and also includes hinged fuel cap with safety latch and locking pin.


Please note that I do not recommend the thin-walled plastic gas cans that you can find in many gas stations. They are not ruggedized enough to handle the extreme conditions that we as overland travelers put our equipment through. You’re inviting leaks and a world of trouble if you keep your fuel in one of these cans. Don’t do it! Cheaper is not always better in this situation.


READ MORE: WHICH JEEP IS BEST FOR OVERLANDING?


Having a rugged gas can isn’t the end. Pure gasoline begins to degrade and lose its combustibility as a result of oxidation and evaporation in three to six months, if stored in a sealed metal or plastic container. You can store gasoline a bit longer with a gasoline additive like Sta-Bil Fuel Stabilizer, which when added to gas into your gas can will stabilize your fuel and keep it fresh for up to two years. I highly recommend purchasing (and using) an additive. 

It takes one time running out of gas for someone to realize the importance of carrying and storing extra fuel on board their vehicles. It is doubly important for those that venture further off the tarmac and spend lots of time in the backcountry.



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AUTHOR: ANTHONY SICOLA

Anthony is the Director of Sales for Overland Expo and travels extensively with his wife Astrid and his dog Sir Digby in his 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser nicknamed Hank the Tank. Follow his adventures on Instagram @overlandnomads

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Photo by Brett Willhelm

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