The 10 Best Collapsible Buckets

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This wiki has been updated 29 times since it was first published in October of 2015. Whenever you need to save space and weight, whether hiking, camping, or on trips to the beach or park, one of these collapsible buckets should do the trick. They fit into just about any carrier, from a rucksack to a beach tote, and provide a handy, lightweight receptacle for water, sand, ice, tools, and more. They're especially great for washing dishes and clothing while in the wilderness. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Seattle Sports Outfitter Class

2. Vamako Wash Basin

3. Camco Rectangular

Editor's Notes

April 30, 2021:

These collapsible buckets, also known as portable or foldable buckets, are innovatively designed to be highly versatile and immanently packable. The design of these buckets falls into two main categories, ones with rigid bases and flexible sides, and ones made from some form of material that can be packed away very compactly. They are available in a range of sizes and shapes, and in this most recent update, we ensured the ranking contains a varied selection for different users' requirements.

The popular Sea to Summit Kitchen Sink is an updated model, which now has a larger capacity and a slightly higher collar. This improved design means that it no longer needs to be filled right to the brim in order to be stable, making washing the dishes less of a messy procedure. We removed the Friendly Swede from the ranking, as it is essentially the same as the Freegrace Premium, which is made from premium 500D tarpaulin with double-stitched seams, and packs away very compactly when not in use. In its place, we included the Vamako Wash Basin, which similar to the UST FlexWare and the Sammart 10-Liter has a solid plastic base and rim with flexible silicon walls that collapse inwards and allow the bucket to be stored flat. This one folds down to a third of its original size, has a nine-liter capacity, and features a built-in drain for easily emptying the water after use.

January 23, 2020:

At this time, there are a few availability issues with the Infusion Living, so we've ultimately elected to remove it. We're concerned about the long-term durability of the handle found on the Camco 42993, so we removed it, as well. The Camco Rectangular is the better choice from this manufacturer; the webbed handle isn't prone to the same issues, and it's larger than most, so it's helpful for big cleaning tasks. As for regular, round options for camping, cleaning, and more, the Seattle Sports Outfitter Class and The Friendly Swede are still great options to consider. They're easy enough to use, not too expensive, and should last for the long haul (if you'll pardon the pun). The Freegrace Premium is a good choice, as well, although it's worth noting that it is sold both with and without a lid, so you'll want to make sure you pick the version that's right for your needs. Finally, after some consideration, we have kept the Sea to Summit Kitchen Sink. It makes a useful camp sink, but only if you can fill it all the way to the very top for stability. If you're in a situation where water will be scarce, then you might look at alternatives, especially the UST FlexWare Sink Tote.

Special Honors

Anaconda Supplying a large range of outdoor adventure and camping gear, Anaconda is enthusiastic about space-saving innovations. They have a variety of folding buckets and tubs, including dish washing tubs and drainers, ice buckets, and laundry baskets.

Life Changing Products This large, 37-liter collapsible bucket features concertina-style walls made from Polyethylene, which is tough yet light, with good resistance to impacts and abrasions. It measures 31.5 centimeters when fully extended and packs away to just over 11 centimeters, and comes with a sturdy lid.

4. Freegrace Premium

5. Packable Pails

6. UST FlexWare

7. Sea to Summit Kitchen Sink

8. Sammart 10-Liter

9. Sea to Summit Folding

10. UST FlexWare Sink Tote

The Many Uses For Collapsible Buckets

Use it to bring water back to your camp for bathing, doing laundry, or washing dishes, which saves you from having to crouch uncomfortably at water’s edge.

A collapsible bucket may look like a novelty or non-essential item at first glance, but in reality, these lightweight must-haves offer a wide range of uses that provide convenience, efficiency, and practicality. They’re better than regular buckets in many ways, too, since they’re more portable and, in many cases, lighter, which means that a foldable bucket fits in with your camping gear or small living space much more easily than does a normal bucket. You can get the most out of a collapsible bucket by using it in some of the following ways.

A collapsible bucket will help you be comfortable and could possibly save your life when you’re backpacking or camping, making it an excellent take-along even when space is at a premium. Use it to bring water back to your camp for bathing, doing laundry, or washing dishes, which saves you from having to crouch uncomfortably at water’s edge. You’ll also be able to heat the water, keeping you from a cold and unpleasant dip in the stream.

In water scarcity situations, you can use a collapsible bucket to collect water from a slowly dripping source or rain. Even if you do have plenty of water for drinking, a collapsible bucket can help you make the most of this. For example, you can put the non-filtered water in the bucket and save your bottles for clean, potable water so you don’t risk getting any nasty bacteria in the drinking water. You could also use a collapsible bucket to gently scoop water off the top of a lake or pond for filtering so that you don’t kick up silt or muck.

Of course, there’s no reason that you must only put liquid in a collapsible bucket. You could use it for berry picking, food gathering, or holding trash. Or, at the beach, a collapsible bucket functions as a sand toy, then transforms to a foot-rinsing station. Gardeners can use collapsible buckets to carry soil or plants, while party throwers might use them to hold ice and drinks.

Choosing A Collapsible Bucket

Because collapsible buckets have so many uses, they’re virtually a household staple. You’ll want to choose one that will best support the way you’ll use it the most, though. Different models have features that function better for some uses than for others.

First and foremost is size. Most of these items range from one to 2.5 gallons, which makes them easy enough to carry for most capable adults. If you plan to do a lot of washing and cleaning, however, then you might want a larger capacity — some models go up to five gallons and beyond.

Silicone is relatively sturdy yet flexible, won’t leak, and can withstand heat.

Next, you’ll want to think about the materials and the construction, which will impact how you can realistically use the collapsible bucket. Silicone is relatively sturdy yet flexible, won’t leak, and can withstand heat. Models with heavy-duty fabrics, including Cordura, offer excellent packability, but their sides may be too flexible for some tasks, such as washing dishes. Vinyl-coated nylon is another popular choice that combines sturdiness with portability.

Cleaning is also an important factor to consider. Many collapsible buckets nowadays wash up with soap and warm water, while other models are actually dishwasher-safe. Fabric models may not be able to handle harsh soap, though, so be sure to look at the washing instructions — and perhaps don’t use these models for holding fish or dirt.

Finally, don’t forget to evaluate a collapsible bucket’s handles. Fabric handles tend to be more comfortable in the hand than plastic or metal, but they may not be as durable. You’ll want to think about how long the handles are from where they meet the bucket to their peak, which is called the drop. It may be possible to carry a collapsible bucket like a shoulder bag if the drop is tall enough.

Culture And The Collapsible Bucket

A bucket isn’t necessarily only a utilitarian item for hauling water or dirt around; this humble item has actually developed several interesting cultural applications. Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? People would film themselves having a bucket of ice water dumped over their heads, then ask three others to do the same. A donation to the ALS Association was supposed to have accompanied each dousing, and sources show that people did indeed donate to help combat the disease. If you’ll perhaps take the challenge in the future, a collapsible bucket could be perfect, since these tend to be smaller and so will soak you less.

Perhaps a collapsible bucket list would be perfect for those whose list is constantly growing and shrinking in size.

Or, how about the now-ubiquitous bucket list? Most sources agree that the term comes from “kick the bucket,” a dysphemism (or negative phrase) for dying, and that it was popularized by the 2007 film The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. A bucket list contains all the things that you feel you must do before dying in order to make your life complete. Some common items for a bucket list include seeing the Taj Mahal, running a marathon, visiting wine country, raising a puppy, going skydiving, and learning to do the tango. Perhaps a collapsible bucket list would be perfect for those whose list is constantly growing and shrinking in size.

Those who live in big cities will probably be familiar with another cultural use of the bucket, bucket drumming, which is when buskers use empty plastic buckets as a percussion instrument. Many people credit Larry Wright, a street musician from NYC, as the first person to use big plastic buckets as a rhythmic instrument. Inventor or not, he has certainly gained fame from his skill; he’s been in commercials, a Mariah Carey music video, and a short film. The creative genius to come up with a way to use a collapsible bucket as a musical implement hasn’t yet come along.

And no discussion of buckets in the zeitgeist would be complete without a nod to KFC and the bucket of chicken. Created in 1957, the family-size bucket first contained chicken, gravy, and biscuits, all packaged in the now-iconic red-and-white bucket featuring Colonel Sanders’ portrait. If, however, you aren’t into fast food or disposable packaging, you could use a collapsible bucket as a reusable fried chicken carrier.

Chris Gillespie
Last updated by Chris Gillespie

Starting his career in the building industry, Chris built and managed a plumbing and heating company in northern England. After 13 years, seeking a more fulfilling lifestyle, he moved to southeast Asia, eventually settling in Vietnam, where he teaches writing and comprehension at a number of international universities. Drawing on his previous experience, and his passion for kitesurfing and windsurfing, Chris is knowledgeable in all things water related both recreationally and within the construction industry.

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