Three Things to Consider Before Buying a Jerry Can for Fuel and Other Liquids

Take your apocalypse roleplay into the real world...or, you know, transport fuel.

Close up of a red gas can
A full can means you’re never left stranded on the road or with a lawnmower that won’t start.Getty Images

Way back in 1937, German engineers designed the Wehrmacht-Einheitskanister—literally “Armed Forces Unit Canister”—to safely and reliably transport fuel during the war. The Allied Forces also had cans for carting around fuel, but they were notoriously terrible: leaky, easily punctured and difficult to use. Upon seeing the German wonder—dubbed a jerry can because “Jerry” was slang for “German” among US troops—American Army engineers jumped at the chance to copy it. By 1945, US troops in Europe were moving fuel in more than 19 million of these souped up canisters. Basically, it’s the Mercedes-Benz of gas cans.

Wavian USA Red Authentic NATO Jerry Fuel Can and Spout System (20 Liter)
The sleek European design features military grade, rust-proof steel.Wavian USA

The first consideration when choosing a jerry can is the material. These canisters were traditionally metal, but are now available in a plastic version as well. While plastic is less likely to explode (yikes!), it’s not a great choice for storing fuel for longer than a month. That’s because the contents can leach into the plastic, and plastics can deteriorate as they expand and contract with temperature changes. Military grade steel boasts a Brinell Hardness Number two to three times higher than regular steel, which makes it ideal for tough jobs.

UI-50-FS Red Galvanized Steel Type I Gasoline Safety Can with Funnel, 5 Gallon Capacity, 13.5" Height, 12.5" Diameter
This canister is durable and includes serious precautions for fuel storage, including a flame arrestor screen.Eagle

If you’re using your metal jerry can to store or move fuel, consider a model with a spring-loaded cap for the spout and a flame arrestor screen. The tension of the cap prevents gas vapors from leaking out of the canister, which helps prevent explosions when the outside temps creep up. A flame arrestor screen also inhibits explosions by preventing an outside fire from getting to the contents of the fuel can.

No-Spill 5-Gallon Poly Gas Can (CARB Compliant)
Push-button control for pouring fuel without dangerous dribbles.No-Spill

Many jerry cans are EPA-compliant, which means the Environmental Protection Agency deems them safe for use in all US states. A canister that’s also labeled CARB-compliant meets even stricter standards laid down by the California Air Resources Board. While this higher standard isn’t mandatory outside of California, it’s a good indicator that the jerry can is the best quality available.