Having a rain catcher in your outdoor space is a useful source of free water. Not only is it easy to collect (even without gutters) but it’s also better for your plants than tap water.
However, the best type of rain catcher will depend on your space and, unsurprisingly, the amount of water you need. So before you go buy one, be sure to check out this guide to understand your options.
The concept of a rain catcher shouldn’t need much explanation. At its most basic level, it’s a container for catching and storing rainwater. It’s common for rain catchers to be connected to a gutter downpipe, although it can also be as simple as a bucket left out in the rain.
You can use rain catchers anywhere outdoors that gets rain. If you plan to hook one up to your gutter, it’ll be worth having it set up out of the way because you won’t be able to move a full barrel of water.
There aren’t loads of factors to consider before buying a rain catcher. Think about these basics and how they relate to your outdoor space. Doing so should help you narrow down the most appropriate options from the list below.
Think about how much water you’ll actually need and how often you get rain. For example, if it doesn’t rain very often, a larger rain catcher will be a better option because it gives you more flexibility.
But then if you only have a few plants to water, there probably isn’t much need for a 100-gallon rain catcher. If you have a 1-2-pint indoor watering can, a rain catcher of this size could give you up to 800 full cans.
Your outdoor space will impact the type of rain catcher you can install. A backyard or patio should be able to handle any option, particularly if you have access to a gutter downpipe that runs into a drain.
Spaces like balconies might be a bit more limited. You might not have direct access to the sky (although this isn’t a massive issue) and you might not have a gutter system to connect to.
Also, think about how much a full rain catcher will weigh. A pint of water weighs around 1lb., so a rain catcher can get pretty heavy once it’s full. Check whether your balcony has a weight restriction and be sure to factor this into your decision.
An overflow system is useful if you don’t want excess water spilling everywhere. It can be as simple as a shutoff valve on the inflow tube, and there’s no real need to get any more complicated than that.
Also, consider the fact that a rain catcher will likely be outside in all weather (depending on what you use). If this is the case, choose one that’s UV-resistant. A filter can be useful if you don’t want debris clogging up your barrel, but it’s not super necessary.
Best for: Patios and gardens
We might as well start with the most obvious option: a standard plastic rain barrel (such as this). Most install over or next to the drain, as this allows excess water to just overflow. The model linked here, for example, has an overflow pipe built into the back.
A useful feature you’ll find on a lot of plastic rain catchers is a link valve. Unsurprisingly, this allows you to connect several barrels of the same kind together. It’s a better option than buying a larger rain catcher because it gives you a bit more flexibility.
One thing to watch for is the quality of connectors and spigots. Even on mid-range models, these can be a bit cheap. Compromising on connectors will mean the barrel is more likely to leak.
- Lightweight when empty.
- Generally inexpensive for the size.
- The ability to connect several together is useful.
- Cheap connectors can result in leaks.
Best for: Patios, gardens and balconies
A collapsible rain catcher (such as this) is a good option if you’re short on space or don’t need a collection system all the time. One important thing to look for is the quality of the accessories, such as the spout. Most collapsible models require you to screw them in, which can make them prone to wear and damage.
Generally, a collapsible rain barrel will be plastic fabric with supporting poles. As such, they can fold up pretty small, meaning they’re ideal for storing in a shed or even a cupboard. Unsurprisingly, the collapsed size will be relative to the amount of water it stores.
You’ll want to go for a small rain catcher than you might otherwise want. Collapsible rain catchers are prone to leaks and the seams bursting. If you’re concerned about this happening, consider a DIY option instead.
- Easy to store when not in use.
- Suitable for those short of outdoor space.
- More prone to damage and leaks than plastic barrels.
Best for: Anyone
There isn’t much that we can say about the idea of DIY rain catchers because it could include literally anything that holds water. However, if you want some inspiration, this apartment-sized rain catcher is a good design. It uses a 10-gallon storage bin (such as these) with a few holes for spouts and inlets.
Make sure you use an opaque bin, although it can be any color. A transparent one will result in algae growth, which isn’t what you want.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a gutter system to connect to, something like this freestanding rain collector will work.
- Customizable to your space.
- Generally easy to build.
- Could end up being more expensive than a normal rain catcher.
Best for: Anyone who doesn’t need a lot of rainwater
Calling this a rain catching idea is using the term loosely. Just put some buckets or pots outside when it rains, and you’ll have caught some rainwater! Ideally, use a bucket with a lid (such as this) or some leftover food pots. Having a lid simply means you can store the water for longer.
This is a useful option if you have a covered balcony because leaving the buckets by the edge should collect some water. Of course, it won’t be as efficient as a barrel connected to a gutter downpipe, but it’s better than nothing.
The main downside of this option is the space it takes up. For example, if you use a few 5-gallon buckets, you need to keep them somewhere. This isn’t a massive problem but could restrict those without much outdoor space.
- Least expensive option.
- Easy to set up.
- Suitable for people who don’t need much rain.
- Storage could be an issue.
Hopefully, this guide has given you some information on the best type of rain catcher for your outdoor space. Generally, a standard rain barrel will be best, but one of the smaller or DIY options will work if you don’t have loads of room outdoors. Either way, set it up and get catching rain!