Expert Review: NRS Scepter 20L Water Container

This review is my honest opinion of the water container, which I purchased with my own money in August of 2020.

A water jug in the back of a truck.

All photos courtesy of Hunter Reed

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About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the water container, which I purchased with my own money in August of 2020.

My take

The NRS Scepter 20L water container is a durable, sturdy water container to bring along on any car-camping trip. After having had many water containers break or leave my water tasting like plastic, the Scepter has held up really well and kept my water tasting normal every time I have used it.

A woman pouring water in a bottle from a water jug.

About the water container I own

  • Model: NRS Scepter 20L Water Container
  • Size: 20L

About me

  • Experience: 25+ years of camping

Test conditions

  • When I bought it: August 2020
  • Days tested: 500+
  • Where I’ve used it: All over Utah, Colorado, Idaho, and Oregon
  • Seasons I’ve used it in: Fall, summer, winter, spring
  • Used for: Water

How it performs

Durability
5/5
Ease of Use
5/5
Versatility
3/5
Weight
2/5

What I was looking for

I was about to head out to live out of my truck for a few months and I needed something that could reliably hold my water and prevent it from tasting like plastic. I had used a few cheap, thin water containers in the past to bring water on outings like this, but they always broke or tasted terrible. I wanted something sturdy—since I was planning on being away from civilization for a little while—and therefore I couldn’t afford to have a water container that might break.

Why I chose this gear

I chose this particular product because it is built for raft trips. I expected it could take a bit more of a beating than the classic, thin water containers marketed for camping. It had a handle that seemed easy to strap into the bed of my truck, was easy to fill and pour from, and the plastic walls were thick. I considered one other type of water container that had a removable spout that needed to be stored inside when it was sealed, and then could screw on to the outside when pouring. Though this was a nice idea, I didn’t want more pieces than I needed. I also hadn’t heard of the brand of the container, whereas I knew NRS specialized in quality raft gear.

The NRS Water container.

What I love about it

  • Durability: Before buying this, I had used several other water containers such as the GSI Outdoors water cube and the SOL packable 20L water cube. Though they were cheaper—only around $10–15 each—they broke easily. One split in the middle as I was filling up my water while camping, and another had issues with the spout. I was ready to find something that wouldn’t break and was more reliable, and the Scepter 20L is just that.
  • Stability: This product is really stable and never tips over—even when I am on bumpy dirt roads. It has a handle on the top that is easy to bungee down. It is heavy enough on its own that it can stand without tipping over from high winds.
  • Leakage: I have never had an issue with the Scepter 20L leaking. It has a large screw-on lid for filling or cleaning, a screw opening for filling, and a small opening to use when pouring to let air in. When all of these are screwed on securely, it does not leak—even if it is tipped over for an extended period of time.
  • Packability: Its tall, long shape slides into the bed of my truck easily. The design of the pouring hole being on top guarantees it’s also easy to use when it is packed into the truck.
  • Ease of use: Because there are no extra parts to screw on, it’s straightforward to use. The main opening is large enough that when the product needs to be cleaned, it is easy to do so with a sponge. This is a huge upgrade from the smaller containers I had been using (which were nearly impossible to clean given their tiny openings).
  • Car Camping: This container holds enough water that I do not need to fill it up for several days—even if I am cooking, cleaning, and washing my face a few times a day. A lot of plastic containers like this one will make the water they are storing start to smell or taste like plastic after a few days; this one does not have that issue. As someone who already struggles to drink enough water on a daily basis, I find that if it tastes like plastic, I have an even harder time drinking enough. The Scepter keeps my water tasting fresh for several days at a time.
  • Versatility: I have used this container for car camping mainly, but I have also taken it on a few raft trips, which it has handled well. In the more temperate months, I also keep it filled in my car almost all the time. I always bring a fresh water bottle with me if I am hiking for the day, but a few times it has been a lifesaver to have a ton of water back at the car if I end up running out. I even have a friend who has used his Scepter on two separate occasions to put out fires.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Backpacking: The NRS Scepter 20L is too large of an option for backpacking. For backpacking it is best to bring a large, plastic water bottle such as a Nalgene, and a water filtration device: my favorite of which is the Grayl Ultralight Water Purification bottle.
  • Temperature Retention: Though the plastic walls on the Scepter are thick, they are not insulated. I have noticed that it keeps water cooler in the summer than other containers I have used (such as the GSI Outdoors Water Cube), and in the winter I haven’t experienced many issues with freezing, but the container does not retain temperature very well.

Favorite moment with this gear

In 2020 I decided I was going to live out of my truck for a few months and drive around to visit some friends I hadn’t seen in awhile. I headed out into the backcountry for a few days at a time and never ran out of water. I was able to relax, enjoy the scenery, cook three meals a day, clean my pots and pans, and stay hydrated without the worry of running out of water. Then whenever I meandered back into the world and passed through a town, I would fill it up again and repeat the process. I saw some awesome places over those few months, and it is a great feeling to have your gear really dialed in!

Value for the money vs. other options

Before the Scepter, I had spent around $50 on terrible, cheap water containers that made my drinking water taste bad, broke, and ended up in the landfill. A few times it happened while I was camping in the backcountry, which required a special trip into town the next day to purchase gallon water jugs. Factor in the gas used on these unnecessary water runs and the cost of buying bottled water, and the $70 I paid for the NRS Scepter seems like a great deal to me. It does seem like a lot at the time to spend on a water container. But I have had it for a few years and have gotten so much use out of it.

Final verdict

The NRS Scepter 20L water container is a durable, reliable container for storing drinking and kitchen water on camping or rafting trips. It is easy to clean, doesn’t leak, and doesn’t make my water taste bad. I think everyone who camps out of their car should purchase one.

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Written By
Growing up in Utah makes it hard to not fall in love with camping and hiking! Lucky for me my parents got me out at a young age and I've been enjoying trails and campsites all across the west since I was little girl! There's just something special about making some dinner over a fire and going to sl...

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