By: randosteve|Posted on: November 29, 2007|Posted in: DIY - Modification, Gear | 14 comments

Coverts your bottle into a CamelBak
My new hydration setup.

I don’t know about you all, but I am definitely a CamelBak-type hydration fan. I don’t like to stop that much on the uphills, so I find being about to drink on the go helpful instead of waiting for a break and then guzzling water. Yeah…occasionally the tubes freeze, but filling them up with hot water in the morning helps avoid that problem. Many of the packs these days also have hydration sleeves build into the shoulders straps to further help insulate the tubes and keep the water flowing.

As I used hydration bladders more and more over the years, I got tired of leaks that would occasionally happen with the standard ‘rubber’ bladders that came with the traditional CamelBaks. Every once and while I would find some water dripping of the bottom of my pack or find my down jacket a little soggy…usually right when I needed it most. I found that replacing the regular bladders with a dromedary bag from MSR was the answer to my prayers. They are much more durable than their rubber counterparts, come in a variety of sizes, and are compatible with the CamelBak tubing. I find this a bonus because I like the CamelBak locking systems and bite valve.

My old hydration setup
My old hydration rig.

One aspect of using hydration bladders that I don’t necessarily like that much is in regards to winter camping. At times, one must sleep with it close to the body in order to keep them unfrozen during the cold of night and there is always the chance of rolling over it while asleep…and blowing it up. Also, it can be a little more cumbersome filling them up from a pot of melted snow…not impossible…just a bit annoying since they don’t stand upright on their own. Over the years, I found hanging the bladder from an ice axe or ski pole to help, but you’re still dealing with a floppy bag of water all the time.

What you need to buyAt this past summer’s Outdoor Retailer, CamelBak was showing off a new hydration kit that was going to able to transform their water bottles into hands free drinking tools. Introducing the Hands Free Bottle Adapter which also fits on Nalgene bottles. I’ve been anticipating the arrival of these at the shop and they just recently arrived. I picked one up and did some modifications that I thought would help it work better. First off, I fitted the tube with a thermal control kit from my old drinking rig for added protection from the cold. I’ll be using a Black Diamond Covert and Anarchist pack a lot this winter. Both of them have hydration sleeves in the shoulder straps, but a little extra protection never hurts. The hands free kit comes with an Ergo Valve, but I find that the straight valves fit better in the BD shoulder straps, so I switched the bent valve for a straight one.

Flexible tube reaches to the bottom
Modified bottom tube reaches the bottom
and works with different size bottles.

Most of the time, on longer tours, I like to carry about 100 oz. of water, so I’ll be using big 48 oz Nalgenes. The Bottle LID Kit kit comes with a short and stiff tube that reaches into the bottles, but often not the bottom to reach all the water inside…and definitely not to the bottom of the 48 oz bottles. I had an old hose lying around so I cut one long enough so it would bend when it hit the bottom, ensuring full access to what I’m drinking. I think it will also work with smaller 32 oz. bottle as well, since it will just bend and twist as needed to fit inside, but I might trim it don’t a little bit more.

Ridge holds the tube in pl ace
Defined ridge holds drinking tube on,
and nozzle can be folded and locked closed.

The tube is secured to the bottle lid by a grove that seemed to fit pretty darn tight and I’m not anticipating any problems there. One of the best things about the system though is that I feel you have the best of both worlds at your finger tips. Hand’s free drinking out of the tube on the go and more civilized drinking out of a bottle at camp. Also, in the event that the tube does freeze, you’re left with a regular water bottle. What could be better?

What do you use?