Consider that a liter of water weighs close to two lb. What you carry that essential liquid in shouldn’t add to that already substantial weight. There are two options; bottles or bladders. There are pros and cons to both, some not as obvious as others, but one thing should be clear – well, two things actually – your water is hopefully clear – but you’ve got to stay hydrated to keep moving.
MIKE ST. PIERRE
HYPERLITE MOUNTAIN GEAR // CO-FOUNDER + CEO
There are two possible systems here when it comes to your water containers: bladders or bottles. Both have pros and cons. I’m a bladder user as I find I drink more water having a hose right on my shoulder strap and not having to reach for a bottle every time I want a sip. Many thru hikers now refill the thin, tall Smartwater bottles as they store nicely in the side pockets of most packs. I will sometimes bring one bottle on long trips to make mixed drinks, but the rest of my water is stored in bladders.
Now, not all bladders are created equal. For bladders, I recommend a couple of the Platypus Hoser 2.0L Reservoirs. I carry two or three of these on trips for a 4 - 6 L holding capacity. In the deserts this is important, and there are many times I’m filling all three and having to carry them for the day. On the big trails like the Appalachian Trail, there is usually lots of water available, so I only carry 1 to 2 liters and pack the rest of the bladders away until I get to camp. I’ll then fill at least two bladders full. This gives me water to cook dinner and clean up, as well as water for coffee and breakfast and I’ll still usually have 1 to 2 liters left over to start hiking.
“THIS PAST YEAR I STARTED CARRYING A HYDRATION BLADDER FOR THE FIRST TIME. I DIDN’T HATE IT, BUT I DISLIKE THE INABILITY TO GAUGE HOW MUCH WATER I HAVE LEFT. I FIND THAT THE INCONVENIENCE IS OUTWEIGHED BY THE FACT THAT I FIND MYSELF DRINKING MORE WATER THAN I TYPICALLY DO, A HUGE BENEFIT FOR ME, AS I OFTEN DON’T STOP FREQUENTLY ENOUGH TO SWIG FROM A BOTTLE.” // ANNIE MACWILLIAMS
A 1 L SmartWater bottle weighs 1.3oz where as a 2.0L Platy Hoser Reservoir weighs 1.2oz (without the hose). That’s over two-times the water storage capacity for less weight than a 1L SmartWater Bottle.
The other convenient thing about these bladders is once one is empty, you unscrew your hose and screw it onto the next full bladder.
As for storing or carrying water, I tend to leave one to two liters on the outside main pocket of the pack. I leave all my hydration stuff in that back pocket for convenience. Putting the bladder inside the pack makes it’s difficult to gauge how much you have left and difficult to refill when needed. With 2 liters in the outer pocket of the pack, I can store any of the remaining full bladders inside my pack on top of the rest of my gear to help keep the weight higher up on my back. People ask, “Doesn’t the water in the back pocket of the pack pull the pack away from your back?” I don’t notice one to two liters back there, but more than that I might. I store the rest inside the pack on top of the other gear. I don’t worry about the bladder breaking inside the pack, but if it did, all the contents in my pack are in DCF stuff sacks or Pods. Even if a bladder leaks, my stuff will still stay dry.
BETHANY "FIDGIT" HUGHES
THRU HIKER // WORLD TRAVELER // HER-ODYSSEY.ORG
I carry a wide mouth Gatorade bottle for filling up at sources and a soft plastic bladder. In colder climates, it is important to remember to blow the water out of your tube to keep it from freezing. I peel the seal off the lip and put a few drops of bleach in the Gatorade bottle each month and swish it around to kill any scum which takes up residence there. The other sanitation issue I have encountered with this system is after a few months, scum can start growing in the bladder hose. If you don't have access to the specific cleaning system for the hose, rinsing it overnight with a bleach water solution can loosen the worst of it.
KRYSTIAN "SNAP" REPOLONA
THRU HIKER // PHOTOGRAPHER // @HIKES.CAMERA.ADVENTURE
For warm weather, two 1L SmartWater bottles and one 2L Platypus Platy Bottle.
For winter/work, I use two Nalgene bottless and one 2L Platypus Platy Bottle. The Nalgene bottles retain heat much longer and I can pour hot water into them to use at the foot of my sleeping bag at night.
BIKEPACKER // PACKRAFTER // @JESSI_GOES
In sub-zero temps, whenever possible I fill my bottles with boiling water to help prevent (or at least delay) freezing, and I use a Hydroflask and/or Nalgene bottles in an Outdoor Research Parka. Back at home in balmy Washington, if I’m going for a day trip (and therefore won’t need to refill my water), I tend to use a standard bladder. If I’m going to be overnight, I’ll carry a couple of soft flasks because it’s much easier to fill a small flask vs. a large bladder with water from creeks and seeps. When crossing Joshua Tree in a single push, I carried three liters in multiple soft flasks to distribute the weight a bit (a couple flasks in the front pockets of my running vest, a few in the back). As I finished each flask it was easy to collapse them and stash them in my pack.
LIZ "HANDSTAND" KIDDER
THRU HIKER // WORLD TRAVELER // @LIZKIDDER
I used 2 L bladders for dirty water/filtering/storage. After breaking/popping quite a few different brands, I ended up with a CNOC bladder, and I’m obsessed! It’s a soft/collapsible material, has a large/wide opening on one side for easy filling, fits the Sawyer on the smaller opening side, and as far as I can tell, it’s unpoppable! Durable, reliable, lightweight, and functional. A+! I also carried a 1L SmartWater bottle and a 700ml SmartWater bottle for my clean water bottles- nothing fancy. So, I had the capacity to carry up to 3.7 liters of water in total (or 4.4L if you count the Vargo BOT 700ml) which was plenty for the Appalachian Trail. On other trails where you’d haver longer stretches between water sources, you’d definitely want capacity for carrying more water than that.
EDDIE "OILCAN" BOYD
THRU HIKER // TRIPLE CROWNER // @OC_BOYD
I usually go by the mantra of about one liter of water consumption per 10 miles once I am about 1,000 miles into a thru hike. Before that, I try to have one liter every five miles. When I hiked the CDT, my capacity was between four to six liters. I was surprised at how many excellent water sources there were along the divide and didn’t usually carry more than a liter most of the time. My favorite water bottle is a recycled Gatorade bottle for the drink mix bottle, a SmartWater bottle for the filter bottle, and the 2 L Platypus Platy Bottle for the long carries and camp. Hydration is the absolute key to having a good time in the backcountry. I have had many episodes with improper hydration that have threatened my adventures and immediate health. Climbing Mount Katahdin at the beginning of the Appalachian Trail left me completely dehydrated after bringing only two liters for the whole climb. I ended up not being able to keep up with my hydration and had to bail out and approach the AT in a different way. (Flip-Flop thru hike) On the first day of the Pacific Crest Trail, I brought four liters for the 20-mile trek to Lake Morena. I was entirely out of water by mile 16 and stumbled into camp only to be too dehydrated to eat or keep anything down. My dehydration worsened over the next two days until I made it to Mount Laguna and was seen by an ambulance and given two bags of saline to recover. After a zero-day and a call to mom, I continued – lessons learned. There are multiple other times I have been dangerously dehydrated, but I won’t get into all that here. What I’m trying to say is DRINK WATER. And not just the day of the hike! Start hydrating a few days before.