Last Updated on April 23, 2022

Flax desert water bags are an important memorabilia of old American life. Back in the ’50s, while travelling across the US deserts, you would hang one of these vintage bags filled with water, slightly soaked on the outside, and let the wind blow on it so that it keeps the water cool enough for drinking or preventing your car from overheating. Even though they are not common anymore, they are still a popular vintage item loved by collectionists.

How do they work?

The water cooling mechanism of desert travel bags is actually rather simple: the bags are made of flax, linen or a similar fiber which both traps the water inside while letting very small amounts leak through. As the water droplets leak out of the bag, they are immediately exposed to the hot desert sun which makes them evaporate, this process combined with the motion of the car and/or wind would cause the water still trapped inside to stay cool.


Desert water bags were already used in the 1920s and 30s in the southwest and amongst Route 66 travelers. Initially intended as a cooling mechanism for water human consumption by desert dwellers, farmers, miners and construction workers, eventually these bags became a popular way for drivers to cool down their vehicle’s radiator as back in the day they were prone to problems while driving under the hot desert sun. Today, there are better options for desert water coolers, but the traditional desert water bag has become an antique collectible and still produced in small scale.

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Desert Water Bag Canvas

New Desert Water Bags for Sale

American Glory Unisex Vintage look Canvas Desert Crossbody Handbag

From the 1920s to the 1960s water-filled Desert Water Bags hung on the outside of cars, ready to douse the radiator if it overheated, or quench the thirst of the driver. Their classic design inspired this unisex, crossbody satchel, which is sturdy enough for road trips, and chic enough to satisfy your thirst for fashion. Canvas Crossbody has a washed worn look which uses copper shot gun labeled snaps for flap closer. Internal pockets on either side of bag along with a large center divider pocket, bag is light weight but durable.

Eagle Brand Automotive Water Bag

Here is a vintage water bag made by the Wenzel company of St. Louis. Does not appear to have been used as the original tags are still attached. It measures about 17″ x 11″ and looks to be in near perfect condition. In those days, it was common to bring with you everything you might need on a cross-country trip. There weren’t rest stops every few miles like today.

Antique Desert Water Bags for Sale

Desert Water Bag Canvas Specialty

Vintage Desert Water Bag Canvas Specialty

Vintage Desert Brand Camping Water Bag Los Angeles, Canvas Specialty Survival – the original, most iconic water desert bag. It is not in production anymore, so all items for sale are second hand.

Desert Camping Essentials Checklist

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