My BASE WEIGHT is about 14 pounds, with my HYDRATION gear representing 5% of the weight at .7 pounds.
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Water is one of those necessary evils of backpacking. We can’t hike without it, but dang it weights a lot. In fact one liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds, a serious addition to your pack weight. If only dehydrated water was an option 🙂
There are two primary considerations when it comes to hydration: Vessel & Treatment
There are four primary categories of vessels in which to transport your liquids. Many hikers will carry more than one type. You’ll need to consider capacity and function when making this decision.
- Hydration Bladder – Very popular, but they come with some challenges.
- Placement in pack – Most packs include a compartment along your spine for this purpose. The challenge is knowing when the bladder needs to be refilled and how to refill without unpacking your bag (reference Sawyer Fast Fill Adapter). Tip: When I carried a bladder, I placed it on top of my pack liner with my down jacket covering it to keep it cool, and opening/hose insert face down for improved flow.
- Potential Leaks – Plan for the inevitable by placing all your gear in a pack liner except the bladder.
- Bottles – Nalgene bottles are probably the most popular, followed closely by Gatorade and SmartWater bottles.
I typically carry a 700ml SmartWater bottle. I use it for my flavored beverages and for gulping or glugging water (otherwise I drink from a hose).
- Collapsible Bags – These have become extremely popular over the past few years as a lighter more compact way to store water and are especially helpful when additional vessels are needed for long dry stretches.
I’ve tried several brands and found I prefer Evernew. The 1500ml (or 1.5L) capacity works best for me as I use the bag in conjunction with the Sawyer Squeeze filter and have a harder time squeezing larger bags.
There are five primary categories of water treatment. With plenty of opinions and choices, your choice may be somewhat dependent upon your water source and somewhat upon your concerns about water-borne illnesses such as Giardia, E. coli and Cryptosporidium.
- Filter – The most popular types of filtered treatment are pump and hollow-fiber membrane. You will want to compare the specs on filters to ensure you are receiving the protection expected. In my opinion, Sawyer is at the forefront and in my opinion their specs should be used as a measurement standard.
- Pump Filters – This method was the first in modern treatment. It is labor intensive, but one of the benefits is that it can be used in very small pools of water, where filling containers for other treatment may be a problem. While pumps tend to need more cleaning and maintenance than other options, the positive is that they can be taken apart easily for infield repair and maintenance. They are also heavier and more bulky than the other options.
- Hollow-Fill Membrane Filters – This type of filter has become very popular over the past few years, primarily because of weight, size, reliability, flexibility and ease of use. Initially the cost was about the same as pumps, but cost is continuing to decrease. In fact, the Sawyer Mini is a mere 2 oz, 0.1 micron filter that fits in the palm for your hand, with a 100,000 gallon guarantee, for less than $25. The flexibility of hollow-fiber technology is that these filters can be used several ways:
- Squeeze Method – Sawyer invented this technology and it has revolutionized filtering. A “dirty bag” is filled with water from the source, then connected to the filter and squeezed into your clean vessel. You can use the Sawyer PointOne or Mini for this purpose. I’ve tried both Sawyer filters and found I prefer the efficiency of the PointOne, even though it’s slightly larger and more weighty.
- Gravity Method – I believe MSR or Platypus were the first to create this method. A “dirty bag” is filled with water from the source. The dirty bag is hung from a tree or elevated on a rock or log, the filter is attached between two sections of hose and your clean vessel is quickly filled with no effort on your behalf. You can also use the Sawyer filters as a gravity option (tip: loosen the connection coming out of the bag to stop the flow).
- In-Line Method – With this method, your hydration reservoir becomes the “dirty bag.” It is filled with water from the dirty source, the filter is spliced in your drinking hose. I use this method as I find it a very efficient way to filter on demand. The flow through the hose may not be quite as efficient as without the filter. Most filter manufacturers sell an adapter kit, if not, it is fairly simple to create your own, and with the new Sawyer Mini, an adapter is no longer needed. I use the in-line method as I don’t like to take time to filter. I’d rather filter on the go.
- Chemical – Many hikers choose this method due to cost, weight and simplicity; however, there are trade-offs. If you are interested in this option, I encourage you to do some research, especially regarding time to treat, process to treat, and what waterborne illnesses you may not be treating. The main categories of chemical treatment are:
- Ultraviolet – SteriPen is the only brand I’m aware of offering an ultraviolet solution. There are several models and just like chemical treatment, there are similar issues to be researched.
- Boiling – This is really not an option for backpackers unless you plan to always have a campfire. The amount of fuel required to boil water for sufficient time offsets the benefits of not carrying a filter. CDC Guidelines
- No Treatment – There are plenty of hikers who have not gotten sick from drinking untreated water. Decide for yourself if the risk is worth it.
- Scoop – sometime it’s challenging to fill your vessel directly from the water source. I’ve created three light-weight scoops that all worked.
- Capri Sun flask (top cut off)
- SmartWater bottle (top 3/4 removed)
- Platypus .5L bottle (bottom cut off)
- Pre Filter – There will be times you’ll want to remove debris prior to filtering. I’ve used the following systems:
- Knee-high nylon (worked well in conjunction with shortened SmartWater bottle)
- SteriPEN pre-filter replacement cartridge (placed inside the Platypus bottle)
- Field Cleaning of Filter – Sawyer provides a syringe to backflush the PointOne and Mini filters. A more efficient option is to use the blue fliptop from a SmartWater bottle. Tip: Remember to use clean water in a clean vessel. Be aware of pressure applied).
- Inline Option – I’ve created a system using the collapsible bottles. See below.
- Flexible Silicone Tubing – When making your own drinking tube (1/4″ inside dimension ID, 3/8″ outside dimension OD, 1/16″ wall)
- Insulated Hose Cover – helps keep water cool when hiking in hot temperatures and from freezing in cold temperatures
- Bite Valve – it’s a good idea to keep an extra in your emergency kit
- Sawyer Adapter – attaches to both sides of the PointOne Filter. If using the Mini, no adapter is needed.
- Jan’s Adapter – Drill a hole in the middle of a soda bottle lid. Insert a 1/4″ dual barbed connector with superglue.
Lightening My Load
YES, I know there are ways I can lighten my base weight. I could forego treatment, or replace my filter with Aquamira, and eliminate my scoop and inline accessories, but I like these items so for now I’ll carry the weight.