Water weight is a necessary evil when backpacking. Staying hydrated is critical, so adding roughly 2lbs 3oz of weight to our pack for every liter we carry is something we can’t avoid. Depending on the time of year, destination and our activity level, we may need to consume as much as a liter of water an hour throughout our backpacking experience so we need to consider water storage, water retrieval and water quality on every trip we take.
The first step to staying hydrated is being sure you know where you will find water. Be sure you research your destination before you hit the trail. Remember, just because there is a little blue line on the map it doesn’t mean that there will be water there. Talk to locals and rangers to be sure the water you are counting on is actually flowing at that particular location that particular time of the year.
However, hydration bladders wouldn’t be our first choice in below freezing environments. In below freezing conditions we will utilize hard sided bottles that we store upside down (so the first water to freeze will be at the bottom of the container and not the top) deep in our packs. We usually sleep with the bottles in our sleeping bag, and may even put hot water in them to create a heater effect to improve our sleeping bag warmth.
In warmer conditions, if we have extended distances between water sources, we have to carry enough water for the entire trip or we simply want to keep a supply of water ready at camp, we call upon Sea to Summit’s Pack Taps. Available in 2, 4, 6 and 10 liters (3.8, 4, 13, and 14.5 ounces), they’re lightweight, easy to attach to our packs when full and easily packable when empty.
When it comes to water retrieval we prefer to make as few trips as possible down to the source. To carry larger amounts of water all in one trip we utilize Sea to Summit’s Folding Bucket. The free standing Folding Buckets allow us to bring back 10 or even 20 liters of water to camp all at once with a single scoop into the source. They’re fantastic for those water sources that are off the ridge or a significant distance from camp.
Want to go lighter? Trade the 2.6 ounce free-standing option for the 0.8 ounce ultra-sil option. The lightweight ultra-sil option is still a fantastic way to transport water from the source, it’s just not free standing.
These two options are a great example of the typical weight, comfort and convenience trade-offs associated with backpacking equipment: improve your comfort by needing only one trip to the source, up the convenience with a free-standing design, or choose the weight savings of the ultra-sil design.
Once you know where your water will be and how you plan to retrieve and carry it, it’s critical that you ensure your water is safe to drink.
No research required, treat any and all water you plan to drink.
Water treatment can be accomplished in a variety of ways, so once again we are going to search for an option that best meets our weight, comfort and convenience needs. Boiling water definitely works, and all we’d need is the weight of a single match, but having to start a fire and bring a pot of water to a boil every time we need a refill isn’t very convenient.
Chemicals work, but they take an extended period of time to be effective.
Pumps work, but they can be a lot of work.
UV devices work, but they take batteries to work so be sure you carry back-up. Consider packing a pre-filter, so you won’t have to drink all of the sediment that they don’t remove from the water.
We now have an option that weighs only 3 oz., was developed with 0.1 micron absolute hollow fiber technology originally designed in the medical field to clean blood, and is versatile enough to be used for everything from adventure travel to backcountry travel.
The Sawyer Squeeze Bag System is the most versatile gravity filter we’ve seen which probably explains why the Editors of BACKPACKER recognized this system with a 2012 Editors’ Choice Award. The filter can be used with the included reusable bags, we simply fill the bag and give it a squeeze, no pumping required. Or, we can use the adaptors to insert the filter right into the line of our hydration bladder, fill up and move on, as fast as we drink, water is being filtered on the way to our mouth. Or, if we have any bottle with a standard size top we can screw the filter on, open the spout and drink.
The lightweight Sawyer Squeeze Bag System (3 oz) allows us to feel safe knowing that our water will be clean and gives us the comfort of knowing we will be drinking sediment free water.
Best of all, the filter comes with a one million gallon guarantee (no replacement cartridges ever!) so you can use it all day, every day!
Bottom line: If you want to stay safe, stay hydrated!
See You Outside,
Sheri and Randy Propster
For more essential “As Seen On Tour” information check out: http://www.getoutmoretour.com/2012/07/02/as-seen-on-tour/