Water Bottles


For the longest time my preferred system of carrying water with me on long camping trips and on endurance races such as the Iditarod was a 32 ounce Nalgene bottle tucked into a simple foam sleave.

It worked fine in “warm” weather, but in temperatures of 0 Fahrenheit or colder, the contents of the bottle had best be drank within 2-3 hours of exposure to the cold, or the water would become unappealing slush (if you could even manage to un-screw the lid). It was inefficient and very awkward to drink from while standing on the back of a moving team–many times have I been trying to gulp some ice cold water while trotting along at -40, hit an unexpected mogul and had about fifteen ounces of water soak my face and throat.

Around 2004 I started experimenting with a homemade system I ripped off from J. King–essentially a large plastic water jug, about a half gallon, with a hole drilled through its lid to allow a 3/8 plastic tube “straw” to poke through and reach to the bottom. and stick up high enough that I could lean my head forward from where I stood on the runners and still put my lips on it. All I had to do was put in the same effort I would if I were siphoning a gas tank (and hope like hell no one saw me doing it), and I could gulp water easily while on the move. I found that the straw had to be completely vertical because if there was even the slightest belly, the water in the straw would freeze solid, rendering the system completely useless. I used 3 layers of reflective water-heater insulation to house the bottle and wrapped the whole thing up with about 200 yards of high quality Duct-Tape. All in all, the system worked okay–certainly much better than the Nalgene bottle–but I found that it had a serious flaw; if I had to stop in the bush somewhere, as is often the case on the Iditarod, and get into my sleeping bag for a few hours, there was no way for me to keep the system from freezing up. Ultimately, I discarded it because of this flaw.

After this, in 2008, I found the easiest, easily the best, system of all the ones I’d ever tried and still the one I advocate today.

Now I simply take between 3-4 twenty ounce water bottles (store-bought, any brand), heat them up almost to the point of bursting, and stick them into the top portion of my survival suit–the suit is belted at the waist so there is no way for the bottles to fall down my legs–when I want a drink, I open up the zipper, extract a bottle, and drink the 20 ounces as quickly as possible, discarding the empty container in my sled bag once finished.

The advantage here is this–warm bottles help keep me toast in extreme cold weather, and if I get into my sleeping bag for a few hours, I can bring the extra bottles with me and keep them from freezing while a catch a couple of hours of rest. Plus, absolutely zero amount of preparation or “extra” gear. To this day, this is the system I use for extreme mushing.

Thanks for tuning in–more to follow….

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5 Responses to “Water Bottles”

  1. Marlene Phillips-Daniels Reply April 2, 2011 at 23:11

    Huh, most interesting.I know that keeping hydrating is really important.

  2. I am wondering how many water bottles blew up before you figured out the correct amount of time ant temperature to heat them. 🙂 Great solution, though. There is so much more to this sport than meets the fan’s eyes without reading about it. So as long as you write I will read.

  3. Thanks for sharing. Simple is good. Less “gear” is good. What is your preferred drink? Water, or something else?

  4. Bike riders in FLA use a “camel pack” H2O pack worn on the back with a “straw” that wraps around the neck to the mouth.
    Why only hot water? Just curious. Heat up the body, keep you warm, inside and out!

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