By: randosteve|Posted on: January 29, 2009|Posted in: DIY - Modification, Gear, Gear Reviews | 29 comments

cold-temps3Yes…I am a confessed CamelBak addict. (Actually, I prefer the MSR Hydromedary bladders, modified with CamelBak accessories.) Whether its summer or winter, I find myself always sucking out of a hose for hydration when I’m in the mountains. In the summer, its’ easy. Just fill up your bladder, plop it in your pack…and you’re good. Winter can often be another story, with cold temps often freezing up your hose, making drinking impossible. While many companies offer insulated sleeves in their backpacks for hydration hoses, they aren’t a complete fix and I’ve had my hose still freeze up using them. I’ve also had the access zippers freeze up from the residual water in the bite value, nearly destroyed them trying to get them open. They also add in fiddle factor and I don’t really care if a backpack has one or not. So, what’s a skier to do? Here are some cold weather tips to help keep you drinking on the skin track with your hydration bladder.

Randosteve’s drinking rig. Made more durable with Seam Grip. Who needs BPA?

  • Fill your bladder with hot water. Doesn’t have to be boiling….but the hotter the better I guess.
  • Mix in your favorite electrolyte drink. I use Nuun because it is very easy to use in tablet form and doesn’t muck-up my bladder with a bunch of sugars like mixes with added carbohydrates do.  The salts will act as an antifreeze freeze…though by how much…is hard to judge.
  • Pack your bladder next to your backpack’s back panel, so your body will help keep it warm as you’re skinning. Also, stuff your extra gloves, hat, down jacket, food, etc, to insulate the water from the cold.
  • Don’t fill your bladder all the way, and don’t squish it in your pack.  The pressure will push water up into the hose, where it is harder to stay warm.
  • Putting hot packs near the bite valve works well if you have an insulated shoulder strap on you backpack…but adds in fiddle factor.
  • Hold the hose upward with the bite valve open after drinking. This allows all the water to flow back into the bladder, minimizing the amount of water able to actually freeze in the hose. Blowing air back into the hose just doesn’t cut it.
  • Keep your hose on the shorter side, so the bite valve is more parallel to the ground when you’re wearing you backpack.  This will make it easier for any remaining water in the hose to drip back into the bladder instead of sitting stagnate down near the bite valve.
  • If your hose does freeze, or to prevent it from freezing in extreme cold, stick the hose down your back…between your body and backpack. Be sure the bite valve is in the ‘off’ position.  After skinning for a few minutes, the hose will thaw. I have virtually always been able to revive a frozen hose using this technique and you don’t have to take off your backpack to do it. I find this is harder to do with backpacks that have insulated shoulder straps.

Sticking the hose down your back will thaw even the deepest freezes.

Got any tips of your own to add, or any nightmare hydration badder stories? Please, do tell in the comments section. I hope you can put some of these tips into play because I feel you really do drink more…and more consistently…when using a hydration bladder. Allowing you to go further…faster