Space for drinks is at a premium on most boats. Here's how to make the most of the space you do have.

Space-Saving Drinks

When we first began cruising in Mexico, we were somewhat surprised at the volume of soft drinks we used.  Then we spent our first summer in the Sea of Cortez (read: hot) and learned what a LOT of drinks really was!

Canned and bottled drinks can take up a lot of space, as well as literally weigh the boat down.  And you have to get them to the boat from the store — a rather involved chore in some places.

Here are 5 ways to cut down on the number of cans and bottles of drinks that you have onboard:

  • Refillable water bottle.  Instead of using lots of little bottles of water, get a couple of refillable water bottles — I like the Nalgene All Terrain Bottle with the flip top to keep the drinking spout clean.  I had two of these that I’d refill from the bottle of plain water that I kept in the back of the refrigerator.
  • Iced tea.  Iced tea is easy to make and I always kept a half gallon bottle (an old juice bottle) in the refrigerator. I’d make a concentrate in a smaller bottle and also keep it in the refrigerator, and then when the big bottle was empty I could quickly make up another bottle.  I used tea bags but you can also get powdered mixes.  Read more about making iced tea.
  • Gatorade.  Gatorade is really popular in hot climates.  In the Sea of Cortez, many cruisers reported cramps and other heat-related problems until they began drinking a glass or two of Gatorade (or our substitute, next) each day.  Gatorade powder could take some searching to find, but did the job just as well as pre-made.
  • “Tang-o-rade.” While Gatorade powder could be hard to find, we could always find Tang in packets that made one quart, as well as “rehydration drink” at pharmacies, also in packets that were to be mixed with one quart/liter of water.  The rehydration drink is marketed for kids with diarrhea, similar to Pedialyte, and can be taken on its own for more serious cases of dehydration.  For an everyday drink, we preferred to mix it with the Tang.  I’d take one packet of Tang and one of the rehydration drink in complementary flavors and combine them with a half gallon of water in a bottle.  If you can’t find the packets, you can make your own rehydration mix, although it won’t be flavored.
  • Powdered drink mixes.  Depending on where you are, you can often find powdered lemonade, limeade, iced tea mixes, Crystal Light, Kool-Aid and other mixes.

I kept four half-gallon bottles in the refrigerator, in addition to the two refillable water bottles:  one bottle of iced tea, one of Gatorade or Tang-o-rade and two bottles of water — one that was cold and “in use” and one in the back that was in the process of chilling down.  Whenever I’d empty one of the drink botttles, I’d make more using the cold water so that it was ready to drink immediately, then refill the water bottle and rotate it to the back to chill down.

Admittedly, if you are carrying drinks to supplement your water supply, the ideas here won’t really help.  But if you have a watermaker or large tanks and can spare the water, making drinks from your tank water can really help save space . . . and keep the waterline where it should be.

The other possible objection to making your own drinks is that your tank water tastes funny.  A big help for this — which will make all your cooking taste better — is a water filter for your drinking/cooking water.  A previous owner of our boat had installed a Seagull water filter on a dedicated tap in the galley sink, and it produced the best-tasting water I’ve ever drunk.  However, they are expensive, both to purchase initially and for the filters (which we found had to be changed about once a year with full-time cruising).  I’ve also researched some less expensive water filtration options.


By making our own drinks from water, we went from using over case of soft drinks a week to less than a case a month (and most of those were given to guests).  While space- and weight-saving aboard was our original reason for the switch, we discovered a number of other benefits:

  • We kept better hydrated, since we hadn’t wanted to drink too many soft drinks a day, but hadn’t previously thought of drinking much else.
  • Since we liked unsweetened iced tea, we didn’t mindlessly drink nearly so many calories.
  • We didn’t have to deal with transporting nearly so many cans and bottles aboard — from the store to the dinghy, in the dinghy to the boat, lifting them out of the dinghy to the deck (always fun if there was a swell), taking them down below, washing the cans off to avoid bugs, and then putting everything away.  It’s a lot easier to carry some tea bags and Gatorade powder!
  • We had a lot less trash to deal with on the boat, which is far more friendly to the environment as well.
  • We saved a bundle of money!  Since we already had a good watermaker, enough solar power to make sufficient water, and a good water filtration system, making our own drinks was cheaper for us.  However, I doubt that the savings in drink costs alone would justify adding any of those — although there are plenty of other reasons to do so.
  • Self-sufficiency . . . although this could probably be argued either way.  We weren’t dependent on being able to buy drinks ashore, freeing us to explore out of the way spots.  However, had we developed a serious leak in our water tank (and a shortcoming of our boat was that it had only a single large tank), we didn’t carry a lot of other drinks.

Do you have any other favorite drinks to recommend to others?  Anybody find a good powdered morning juice (I wish I could find V-8 in a powder)?

Space for drinks is at a premium on most boats.  Here's how to make the most of the space you do have.

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  • Kathe Donnan
    Posted at 25 March 2011 Reply

    We’ve just purchased a “SodaStream” for our 55ft Lodestar, Tribasa Cross. You will have to have CO2 cartridges and the syrup but they are small. I’ve only tried a couple of the flavors but, so far, they have been satisfactory in quality and taste. I figure it will take less space, decrease the amount of trash and the effort hauling sodas. Now if we could just find one for beer……

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 25 March 2011 Reply

      We had a friend ashore in Baja who recently told me about her SodaStream and I wondered how it would do on a boat. Thanks for sharing!

      Several merchants sell the SodaStream through Amazon and also sell the CO2 and syrup if you can’t find one locally or just want to see what one is.

      As for beer, I’ve always been intrigued by the ads I’ve seen for Mr. Beer and wondered how home-brewing would work on a boat.

  • Louise
    Posted at 28 March 2011 Reply

    We reuse 16- and 20-ounce water bottles for several weeks, until they start to get funky. It seems that we end up with a new bottle or two in that time frame anyway. My husband doesn’t like plain water, so we buy the small packets of Crystal Lite mixes that work in the 16-ounce bottles. He can add the packet to a reused bottle and not worry about the mix staining it or being hard to clean out, since it will be replaced within a couple weeks. While not quite as green as the Nalgene bottles, it gives us a little more flexibility. We live in our RV full-time and are looking to move to a trawler in the next couple of years.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 28 March 2011 Reply

      I know of several people who do similar things. My biggest problem in re-using an old water bottle with a mix is that I needed a wider mouth on the bottle so that I didn’t spill the mix . . . particularly if the boat moved!

      Lots of similarities between “cruising” in an RV and in a boat — you’ll be well prepared. I in particular thought that Dave’s and my years of extended tent camping trips helped prepare us for life aboard — and the galley was a dream compared to what I had available on our camping trips!

  • Sue Norris
    Posted at 14 January 2014 Reply

    We loved our Soda stream while cruising in Australian waters but in South East Asia you cannot get gas or syrups.

  • John Ahern
    Posted at 20 January 2014 Reply

    I know you have a Sea-Gull filtration system, but if you were going to install a new system tomorrow, what would you look at

    • Jan Irons
      Posted at 21 January 2014 Reply

      Hi John! I know Carolyn will have a reply when she returns from the Virgin Islands, but we have a SeaGull filtration system aboard sv Winterlude. If we were going to install a new system tomorrow, it would be a SeaGull. We love it and our water tastes better than the filtered water where we live the other six months when we’re not cruising. In fact, I’ve threatened to put a SeaGull filter at the house too.

    • John Ahern
      Posted at 21 January 2014 Reply

      Thank you Jan. Very helpful as I am in the market to install a system this summer

  • Martin
    Posted at 20 January 2014 Reply

    We love the Soda Stream and supplies are small enough and affordable to take a years supply without to many problems.

  • Neil M
    Posted at 05 May 2015 Reply

    This isn’t V-8 powder, but it makes OK tomato juice – I’ll bet you could spice it up and get close!


  • Emily Davidson
    Posted at 26 June 2015 Reply

    An interesting and useful article. Ideas I hadn’t even thought of. Thank you.

  • Lori Steinbrunner
    Posted at 26 June 2015 Reply

    Since upgrading our boat’s water filtration system, we’ve also been making our own beverages. We also just picked up a soda stream, mostly for fizzy water and tonic as we’re not big soda drinkers. My greatest find though has been a Gatorade-alternative in tablet form with lots of flavor a and way less sugar. Nuun tabs aren’t widely available in stores yet, but are available on line.

  • Tara Donley
    Posted at 26 June 2015 Reply

    I like the little squeeze bottles of Ice tea, koolaid, crystal light, etc – they take up next to no space, you just squeeze a bit in your water bottle, add water and shake – don’t have that powdery taste – I think there is also a gatorade or some such drink type

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