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Thread: Using a Hydration Bladder in the Winter

  1. #1
    Senior Member NH Tramper's Avatar
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    Smile Using a Hydration Bladder in the Winter

    I finally decided to start a weblog -- been considering it for a while -- and decided to launch it with a subject that has been near and dear to me. Hopefully it's useful to my fellow winter hikers.

    nhtramper.wordpress.com/.../using-a-hydration-bladder-in-the-winter
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  2. #2
    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    It's been awhile since this topic has come up - seems like at one time it was a yearly occurrence.

    Am always amazed at the lengths we go thru to maintain a habit or preference despite all odds. My hat is off to you - I like a bladder also, but there are limits to what I'm willing to go thru to extend its seasonal life.

    Am glad you're out in the open about your use of a bladder during winter. I know of some people who won't hike with anyone who uses one in winter for the the reason you mention - mooching water.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    -1 for the water bladder. There are several disadvantages, and not all of them relate to Winter.

    1. What happens if it breaks, or springs a leak? Now you've lost all your water. And you might be soaked.

    2. What happens if the tube or bladder freezes, in spite of your best efforts? (See #1)

    3. All of your water is at the same temperature, uncomfortably hot at the beginning of the hike, and too cold to drink at the end.

    4. What if you want a little variety?

    I used to use a bladder. Now I carry multiple bottles. The first one is room temperature. It gets drunk before it gets cold. The next one is in a cozy and is hot tap water. It gets drunk when it is no longer hot, but not yet cold. The next one is in a cozy and is boiled. Ditto. Then there is a thermos of tea, which stays hot all day. I have water, Gatorade, and tea, so I have 3 different choices. A bladder is all one variety.

    OP: I hope your system works, but it does not work for me.

    KR: Excellent points!
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  4. #4
    Senior Member NH Tramper's Avatar
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    I understand, Kevin, the mooching could be a problem. Hopefully with the right information they won't have problems and will be self-sufficient all day. I see a lot of problems leading Meetups so that sort of prompted writing the piece. I'm hoping it'll help for those who could use it.

    To respond to the specific points mentioned by Tom:

    1. Regarding breakage, that is our number one problem with all the gear we carry isn't it? That is the one thing besides the weather that can spoil our best laid plans. Stuff can and does fail. I prefer Platypus because it is really heavy duty, much more so than CamelBak. I inspect it before each use, and I do what I can to prevent something from happening. I always carry a foam bedroll inside my pack so the bladder is well-protected from my other gear.

    2. That's what the article is about. Preventing it from, dealing with it if it happens, and what to do if all else fails.

    3. A preferred water temp is nice. A luxury. I don't get it in the summer, my water is always warm, and in the winter I start with room temp water and it gets nice and cold by the afternoon. It doesn't really bother me, though.

    4. Variety: I pull the backup bottle out of my pack and add a Nuun or some Gatorade if I want to I guess.
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    I specifically ban them on beginner or intemediate hikes that I am leading. I realize that with great care some people figure out an approach but for most of the people making a transition from summer to winter its too steep of a learning experience. I think to paraphrase from comments about motorcyle riders, there are two types of people who use hydration bladders in the winter, those who have frozen them and those who are about to.

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    Moderator bikehikeskifish's Avatar
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    I seem to remember a statement from you, Kevin, about disallowing them on your AMC hikes. Something like you don't want your water to become someone else's emergency water... I have not frozen one, but I have had the tube blow off the bladder at the interior connection point leaking water all over my back and legs - while XC skiing.

    Tim
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    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NH Tramper View Post
    3. A preferred water temp is nice. A luxury. I don't get it in the summer, my water is always warm,
    I kind of reverse the process in the Summer, cold water in the first bottle, and for the last bottle, freeze half of it and add water before the hike starts.
    Tom Rankin
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    I specifically ban them on beginner or intemediate hikes that I am leading.
    So the experts are free to screw up!
    Tom Rankin
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    Yup, if they voluntarilly want the extra gymnastics or like frozen drinks, its up them.

    Of course I caugth a tip this weekend and my favorite water bottle carrier is now in a spruce trap near the top of Hale so thats one major advantage of camelbacks compared to water bottles in pack pockets.

  10. #10
    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikehikeskifish View Post
    I seem to remember a statement from you, Kevin, about disallowing them on your AMC hikes. Something like you don't want your water to become someone else's emergency water... I have not frozen one, but I have had the tube blow off the bladder at the interior connection point leaking water all over my back and legs - while XC skiing.Tim
    You have a good memory, Tim - that's correct. In the years leading up to moving to CA, I lead lots of hikes for the AMC, and most often in winter. After several bad experiences with them, I decided that banning them on my hikes was the only option. Since moving back to NE I've only been involved in leading one AMC hike, so it hasn't been much of an issue for me personally. In early November I tried to stretch the season by using my bladder on hike to Vose Spur and it froze several times, even though it's insulated, blah, blah, blah. It was embarrassing, frankly.

    And NH Tramper - I have a couple of Platypus collapsible water containers and I agree with you that they're very tough. However, Camelbak does make a line of bladders aimed at the police, paramilitary, and military markets which is as tough, if not tougher, than Platypus, have a better system of connecting the hose and mouth piece, and have a better cap design. I stumbled on a site which sold them a couple of years ago when I needed to replace my bladder, and while it was a bit more expensive, it was a better value over time.

  11. #11
    Senior Member NH Tramper's Avatar
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    Thanks for the tip, Kevin.
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    Senior Member yardsale's Avatar
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    Had a group member fall and burst his bladder on a ski trip in BC at -5F. Not only did he lose all his water but all his gear instantly froze rendering all his extra clothing useless. Had other group members not had extra water and gear, he would have been in real trouble. My water bottle with insulated cover never fails.

  13. #13
    Senior Member KRobi's Avatar
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    Having used Camelbaks for many years as a mtn biker, I would say that similar to what Tim mentioned, the hose or more likely the bite valve/valve lock is more likely to break. I have watched (awesome sight) a two hundred + pound man do a high speed endo and land full on his back (Camelbak bladder). Saved him from major injury and none the worse for the wear! I have had leaks in the bite valves, which can be annoying in the summer and would be an issue in winter. Hot water and "nalgenes are much easier in winter. That being said, I only use bladders in summer. The bags that newspapers come in on rainy days make a sleeve in case a bladder does break, or more likely in my case, I don't screw the cover on tight. A side note...Camelbak has been excellent to deal with if there is a malfunction.
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  14. #14
    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NH Tramper View Post
    Thanks for the tip, Kevin.
    Here's a link to some of their very durable bladders. I have their LONG-NECK WATER BEAST.

  15. #15
    Moderator bikehikeskifish's Avatar
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    Mike & I have been having a conversation about Nalgene vs Bladder failures on FB. Might be interesting to this audience...

    Loss
    Nagene is more easily lost, snagged, forgotten, left behind, etc.

    Damage
    Bladder is more easily damaged (I've broken one, but I've dropped the Nalgene off the ladders on Morgan, resulting in a 15-foot drop onto the rocks and no worse for wear.)

    Freezing
    Both can freeze if not handled properly. This seems to be the main point of debate. Bottles, stored upside down in a cozie are still drinkable even when partially frozen. Bladders on the other hand do not freeze internally as easily due to higher volume (mass) of water to freeze. The failure in this case is in the tubing, and is more a matter of user error.

    Which is more likely? Freezing of the tube due to user error (inattention) or a loss / left behind bottle?

    Tim
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