Water Bottle Solutions for Winter
I've sworn off of Camelbak style hydration systems for winter use. It's a combination of a few things but primarily it's the issue with freezing up. Just about every pack company is now copying what BCA (Backcountry Access) first did with the zip in the shoulder strap for a hydration tube. The goal - to end freezing up. But regardless of what you do I've had these hoses freeze up time and time again.
I've tested nearly all the packs out there, they all suck at this. Most of the shoulder strap sleeves use little to no insulation and expect your body heat to keep it from freezing. Sure, if I were in HAWAII perhaps it wouldn't freeze. Otherwise, you might as well just leave the thing unzipped.
Trust me, I know all the "tricks". But I didn't buy a pack to learn tricks. Save that for Halloween. Yes, I've tried blowing the water back into the bladder but ice still has a tendency to form in the bite valve rendering it useless. I've even skinned/climbed peaks with the end of the hose tucked into the neck of my jacket which yielded better results but that's a pain.
Two methods I employ to keep water from freezing while in the backcountry during the winter are:
- Platypus - I've long been a fan of the Platypus water "bottles" since they are flexible while full and when empty they take up little to space I think they are near to ideal. I'll often skin with one in the large chest/vent pocket of my soft shell jacket or in an inside pocket of my outer shell jacket. It's easy to get to without much trouble and keeps from freezing while inside my jacket. When it's gone, just roll it up and it's non-existent. The one draw back is the opening is small so should you forget to keep it in a jacket under the coldest of cold temps the opening could freeze easily. A ski tip is a simple way to punch it open though - much easier than a stupid bite valve.
- Insulator - When it's super cold out and I want to use a Nalgene bottle I'll use it with an Outdoor Research Water Bottle Insulator rather than just toss it in my pack. It's a very light weight foam insulation sleeve with a zip top and Velcro on the sides to attache over any waist strap or other location on your pack. As you can see in the image of me from last week skinning up Mount Timpanogus in Utah, I had the bottle insullator on the side of the pack's waist belt. (it's red) Temps were in the upper teens with a fierce wind. The water didn't even think about freezing up.
While at summitpost.org I saw this community member submitted test on water bottles for cold temps. It's a pretty interesting read with predictable results. It found that the thermos from GSI (this one happend to have an REI logo on it) performed best. I've not used a thermos to hold cold water as my methods have served me well but unless you're vigilant of your water while in the backcountry this winter, the chances are good that you may consider a thermos for more than rum enhanced hot coccoa.
What's worked for you? Is there a certain method that you use to keep water from freezing while in the backcountry during winter? Let the community know by commenting below.4 comments