Carrying Water in Regions of Drought
The Jerry Carry is a pack board designed to ease the physical burden of carrying water long distances in regions of drought. In sub-Saharan Africa where water is scarce, jerry cans that arrived as vessels for cooking oil are repurposed to carry water long distances over rough terrain. Struck by the bodily strain of this endeavor⏤ but inspired by the industrious spirit of prolonging the jerry can's useful life⏤my team set out to build a weight-bearing system that adapts to current water carrying practices.
After designing the pack board, we sought to build a resilient product system that engages the user in creation, repair, and future modifications to the design.
Collaboration on all design
Pack board build collaboration
Shoulder strap sewing
6.5 weeks, Winter 2018
Behind the Design
Water is heavy
A full jerry can weighs 40 pounds. If carried improperly, this amount of weight can cause permanent damage to the body resulting in life-long chronic pain conditions.
Inequality is a Cycle
Children will begin carrying water for their families at an average age of 11 years old. Women and children who are injured or fatigued from carrying water have less time and energy to devote to education and career-building, reinforcing cycles of poverty.
Current and Historical Water-Carrying Techniques
The weight is balanced entirely upon the weight-bearer's head. This causes direct spinal compression and requires immense stabilizing efforts.
Weight is balanced on either end of a pole that sits on the shoulders behind the head. This position strains the neck and falling could cause injury.
A piece of rope or fabric is positioned across the forehead to support the jerry can on the back. Most of the strain is placed on the neck.
Using found materials like rope and fabric, the jerry can is carried as a makeshift backpack. The load is supported entirely by the shoulders.
Competing Products on the Market
The WaterWear backpack is intended to be filled with water and worn on one's back. It's soft construction does not account for load-bearing for long distances.
A rigid frame is required to balance heavy weight and distribute the stress properly. The material is also susceptible to wear and would be difficult to repair were it torn.
The Hippo Roller has been widely advertised as a solution to the duress of water carrying. The water container remains on the ground and is rolled with an elevated handle.
However, this design does not take into account the rough terrain that travelers must often traverse in order to transport water to their homes. Many users have cited this as a deterrent to the use of this product.
Tips from a Pro Backpacker
Since we couldn't travel to meet the women we were designing for, we looked for inspiration closer to home. Backpacking is a similar long-distance weight-bearing exercise over rough terrain. A backpack is used to distribute the weight to reduce negative impact on the body and to allow for dynamic, hands-free movement.
Annika, 20 years old, frequent backpacker:
"As a woman, I need to get the right weight distribution across my shoulders and hips."
Women rely on lower body strength much more than men and curvier body shapes can make it hard to find a comfortable hip belt fit.
⏤women need adjustable hip belt options
⏤a chest strap and hip belt balance the weight so your shoulders don't have to do extra work
⏤neck mobility is important
⏤maximize shoulder mobility
⏤curved shoulder straps are comfortable for a woman's chest
⏤a rigid frame improves weight distribution
⏤a pack needs to be easy to swing onto your back from the ground
To Measure the Outcome's Success
to withstand heavy loads and rough terrain
to minimize the weight our users carry
to adapt to a variety of objects and needs
replaceable parts to prolong useful life
to fit a variety of body shapes and sizes
Dhakiya, Mother of 4, Northern Kenya
She walks 6 kilometers a day with a jerry can.
Dhakiya has made straps out of canvas to carry the 5 gallon container, but despite this she has chronic neck and back pain.
Her children help with chores, taking them away from education and social activities.
Testing Initial Concepts
aeration through slots
too flexible - lacks support
needs more back protection
good lower back support
not flexible enough
no air flowing to back
slots for lashing
needs more shoulder clearance
Testing Weight-Bearing Frames
shelf held weight too low
supports curve of the back
held up to weight test
not enough aeration
needs more shoulder clearance
blocks neck movement
held up to weight test
offset for weight and aeration
Testing Variations of a Bent Pack Board
We laser cut a cardboard version of our design to check for final changes that needed to be made. We had a hard time pulling the trampoline taught, so decided to add metal posts for an even stretch. When trying it on, we also found that we needed to taper the pack board a bit more in the shoulder area for better freedom of movement.
many lashing configurations
dual hip adjustment
Building a System
We were inspired by projects like Precious Plastic, an open source plastic manufacturing and workspace blueprint that encourages recycling and participation in the creation of new things.
Precious Plastic's open source plans and instructional video library allow people all over the world to create their own maker spaces and build modular machines with basic tools and materials.
More to come!
Stay tuned :)