If the battle to stay hydrated on the trail wasn’t difficult enough, winter brings on its own unique challenges. For many of us southern California types, we often decide to change up our hikes and camping trips and we love to challenge ourselves. That challenge this time of year often involves mountains and the snow.
The main focus on this edition is proper water storage. This sounds a lot simpler than it is, and while it’s often a non-issue, we’re not gonna play that. We are going worst case scenario, or an overnight trip with me. Some personal experience and research has left me with this: Don’t eat snow. Snow is frozen water and will drop your core temperature (a bad thing). Melting snow is an option, but time and gear will affect your ability to process water. Yes, process water. It is a process that many people overestimate. Are you using the sun (limited time frame)? Are you making a camp fire (time and materials)? Or, did you wisely bring a stove? Let’s go with stove, since how you process water effects how warm, how fast you can and, how often you hydrate when melting snow and ice. Of course the best option is flowing water sources, even with traditional water processing methods, we might still be hindered by the cold, like frozen filters for instance. That’s why we kind of find ourselves coming back to fire. Assuming you have the ability to process we will move to the focus of this article, how you store it.
The meat and potatoes of this article is the proper winter storage of your drinking water. This New Year’s we had the opportunity to stay at a cabin in beautiful Mt. Laguna, so not ever wanting to pass up an opportunity to train, we did a little experiment. We grabbed one unprotected Nalgene bottle, one Nalgene bottle in an Outdoor Research insulated sleeve, and for our insulated bottles we had a Hydro Flask. All bottles are around 32 fluid ounces and were filled to the neck. In the name of science I did what I would probably do anyway in nature and left all three on the fender of the jeep, overnight, through the snow storm.
In the morning our control, the unprotected bottle, was frozen solid, so we know the temperature was legit. As for the bottle in the Outdoor Research insulated sleeve, the water was cold and ready to drink, so win! The upside of the sleeve is that it makes for a great belt carrier and lets you use your regular Nalgene bottles (if you are like me you might have a couple). The Hydro Flask also did well and has become my favorite car water bottle over the last couple of years. These things keep water cold when it’s hot and hot when it’s cold. I am very impressed by these bottles. The drawback of carrying the amount of water you need is basically price.
If you find yourself stuck without insulation, all is not lost. Make sure the water is warm after you have processed it. To avoid getting burned with the warm water in the bottles, you can put them in your clothes when you’re on the move. Side note: Yes, it can and will get cold enough that your water can freeze while you are still hiking, especially if you are attempting self-rescue. Some of the first water sources to have issues will be your hydration bladders, hence why I am pushing the bottles, wide mouth bottles, so you can break up ice if you have to. Alright, now to get back on track… So, say you are not hiking, but instead you are camping, cool. Insulated bottles, check. If not, you can put warm bottles in your bag and they will actually help keep you warm, especially if you stick them in your crotch or armpits. If you are in your tent and don’t have room or don’t want armpit water, at least store your bottle upside down, so any freezing will be at the bottom when you flip it upright.
So once again why do we do all of this, the answer is simple hydration. Working out in a cold, snowy environment will cause you to need to stay on top of it. If not, dehydration symptoms will mix with high altitude problems and issues and make them worse. So, in the end: Hydrate, hydrate often, and plan for your continual hydration. Thanks for taking the time to read this and we look forward to seeing you get the fox out there!