About Desert Water Bags

by Richard Corrigan
Sand dunes in the desert.

Sand dunes in the desert.

Desert water bags were once a common sight on the highways of the American Southwest. Designed to keep water cool under hot conditions, desert water bags were available at service stations and general stores, where they could be filled with water and hung on the outside of the vehicle to keep cool. Desert water bags fell out of favor in the 1950s, but they are still made in limited quantities, and vintage desert water bags are valued by some as antiques.

How It Works

Desert water bags were traditionally made from a porous material like canvas, flax or linen. The bags were tightly woven to keep water in, but porous enough to allow a small amount to seep through the bag. A motorist could hang the bag on the outside of his vehicle or sling it across the hood during a drive, and the forward motion would evaporate the water that had seeped through the bag, cooling the water inside. Most bags included a sturdy handle for hanging outside the vehicle, an opening at the tip for filling the bag and the brand name printed on the side. Some also had a spout toward the bottom for easy emptying.

Common Uses

Desert water bags were initially intended to keep water cool for human consumption, and were used by farmers, miners, construction crews and other workers, along with ordinary travelers. They also became useful for motorists on long drives as a source of water for their car radiators. Overheating was a common problem in early automobiles, and desert water bags proved an effective solution. They became less common with car engine improvements and the advent of the cooler in the 1950s. Desert water bags have also been adapted for military use in desert climates.

About the Author

Richard Corrigan has been a full-time professional writer since 2010. His areas of expertise include travel, sports and recreation, gardening, landscaping and the outdoors. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from SUNY Geneseo in 2009.

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