Finally, a real solution to a real hydration problem has emerged, courtesy of Travis Rosbach and Cindy Morse at Hydro Flask, a young company out of Bend, Oregon. Between them, they’ve designed a double walled, 18/8 food grade stainless steel hydration bottle with an insulating vacuum seal between the two walls. For details of the problem I mentioned, read on.
As my favorite mode of transportation involves using skis, often in quite frigid weather, my primary hydration issue is that of my water turning to ice a few hours into the backcountry. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve arrived at a mountain summit, reached for the water in my single-walled bottle, and found it to be a completely frozen, utterly useless, block of ice. Encountered even more often than that scenario, I have found my fluids turning to slush inside the bottle, as I’ve been fewer hours into the ski day. Drinking frozen slush and suffering the effects of such cold entering the body is a dismal proposition when the outside air temperature is 10 degrees, and it’s cloudy with snow falling heavily. It certainly was an ugly notion on this trip up Argenta, when I froze in no time and gave up on having any fluids whatsoever during the outing.
Having freezing or frozen fluids in hand is a situation I have run into so many times that I’ve wondered on numerous occasions if I’m doing something wrong when it comes to winter hydration. I’ve tried all, or at least most, of the methods folks use to combat this winter specific phenomenon.
Throw a Camelback into your pack, next to your back, and the heat generated there, combined with the insulation from the pack, will keep the bladder from freezing. Yep, but then the hose freezes! And I’ve tried all the tricks to keep the hose from freezing, too. Blow the water back into the bladder so the hose is empty? Check. Over time, pressure from gear inside the pack will force water back up the hose. My bite valves tend to lose their precision fit after a few months, and leak when force is applied to the bladder. I’ve been through enough bite valves that I don’t consider replacing them to be a viable solution any longer. I’ve used the on/off switch style bite valves and blown the water back into the hose, too. In my experience, those switch style valves freeze even faster than the non-switched type! Eventually, beginning with the bite valve and working its way up the hose, ice clogs the system and I’ve got to stop and drink from the bladder. This is time consuming and irritating.
How about Neoprene hose covers? Those lead to the same thing – ice starts forming at the bite valve and works its way up the hose. Hand warmers on the hose tube? That can work, but who wants to pay for an additional pair of hand warmers to use on their hose each day out? That sort of cost structure can only be rivaled by buying bottled water, which is pretty much the Eighth Deadly Sin these years.
I’ve skied wearing my Camelbak completely under my coat for a season. Not only did I look like a hunchback the entire year, but my water, far from frozen, was often warm and thus sort of disgusting. I found a chest mounted Camelbak device and dropped the hunchback look, but maintained the disgusting warm water deal. Heating water before heading out for a day only prolongs the inevitable, frozen conclusion. The fluid is solid an hour or two later than it takes if I left the house with cold water in my bottle. I’ve used single walled stainless and single walled plastic bottles, twist off lids and various bite/pour/dribble/drip/flip valves. These systems utilized, I have drunk more slushies than I can count, as they all do little to prevent fluids from freezing.
The only bottle I’ve found that helped solve this problem is a double walled thermos style bottle, which kept my fluids from freezing for a pretty long period of time. However, the pop-up style lid that this unit came equipped with leaks, often twists apart (complete blow-up), and, combined with the screw top cap, is slow to operate. Don’t even remind me that it has no lid hook with which to affix it to the outside of my pack – every time I want a bit of hydrating fluid when I use this bottle, I need to stop, remove my pack, and dig it out to have a drink. I lose precious time in the mountains repeatedly performing this ritual, and as we all know by now, Light and Fast is the right approach where mountains are involved.
All that said, I’ve obviously tried many hydration systems over many years. Nothing has ever excited me quite like the Hydro Flask. It addresses each winter specific issue I’ve listed, and others I haven’t even mentioned so far. Each Hydro Flask is BPA free, has a lifetime warranty against manufacturer’s defects, and is fully recyclable. Five percent of your purchase price goes to one of 20 or so charities that you can choose from a list. It is available with a sipper valve, which was designed to allow for continuous flow. Every Hydro Flask is made from high quality, food grade 18/8 stainless steel, allowing transport of hot food, to enjoy steaming upon arrival at your destination. Bottles are available in narrow, standard, and wide mouth sizes, all of which will accommodate ice cubes. The existing color palette offers a pleasing variety, with the powder coated, soy based ink continuing a companywide eco-friendly theme. The vacuum sealed insulating properties will keep your fluids cold all day long on even the hottest of summer days. No condensation develops on the outside of the bottle, so you won’t leave water rings wherever you set it down, nor will bottle sweating moisten the contents of your backpack. Slotted threads disperse steam as you twist off the lid.
Hydro Flask User Tip: Loosen the lid slowly for the first 3/4 turn to allow all of the pressurized steam out slowly rather than in a burst. If you have changed elevation between filling the bottle and drinking from it, pressure will also have built up inside the bottle. Use the same slow twist-off technique to mitigate spray.
Simply put, Hydro Flask is creating the most well thought out vessel I’ve encountered, in a world where water containers are a dime a dozen. It has numerous characteristics which combine to make it a world-class hydration bottle, standing head and shoulders above other offerings.
The Hydro Flask, developed by Cindy Morse and Travis Rosbach, presently available in 12, 18, 21, and 24 ounce sizes, retails between $19.99 and $27.99 for the listed sizes. Worth its weight in gold? You decide. Found at over 300 retail locations, including Deschutes Brewery, Marmot Mountain Works, and select Whole Foods stores, or online at Amazon.com, Sportco.com, or most directly, at the Hydro Flask website. Still uncertain? Don’t just take my word for it – check out the Facebook link on the Hydro Flask website and see what other users are saying about their experiences with the product.