Monday, October 22, 2007

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. Playtpus water bottle - flexible and lightSure, 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:
  1. 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.

  2. Insulator - When it's Outdoor Research water bottle holder (red) while I skin towards Powder on Mount Timpanogussuper 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.
Winter Water Bottle Test

While at 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.

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Anonymous colorado climber said...

I use an insulated tube, which seems to work well most of the time. I do have to stay on top of it, and be sure to drink often and then blow the water back into the bag, but it becomes habit after awhile. The insulated tube along with a pack that has the insulating sleeve seems to work ok as well.

Sometimes it just freezes up though, and that definitely sucks!

10/22/2007 4:26 PM

Blogger sharpm said...

I use a Camelbak bladder with insulated hose inside my BD pack, but even the "blow back" method didn't work on cold days out the back door at The Can. One day when it froze solid, I just pushed the whole tube back into the bladder inside the pack. Voila, it defrosted completely inside my pack. Now I just keep in all in the pack, and pull out the tube during stops. Only takes a sec with a top loader. I really prefer a bladder 'cause it doesn't swing all all over the place like a bottle.

10/22/2007 10:47 PM

Blogger climbingrocks said...

No luck whatsoever with hoses! They just pun intended. Good ol' nalgene works for me. Im afraid some company is going to make some battery powered water warmer or something.

We need less wires out there. Example Met 5 jacket, yikes!

10/23/2007 2:46 PM

Blogger powstash said...

I hope there are some product designers taking note here. Great comments all.

Colorado Climber - I agree with you and perhaps I was a bit over the top on my post but if you do stay vigilant then most of the time you can keep it from freezing. One slip of attention and you're doomed.

Nobody has had one burst in the pack like me? I guess I'm due for a larger pack or to leave some of my gear at home rather than making my pack so tight that the bladder will burst like a Bajio burito.

10/30/2007 4:57 PM


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