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Frozen Hydration Pack Tube

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I'm curious as to what you guys use when it's really cold (<20*F) and your hydration tube freezes? I have tried many things: tube/mouthpiece insulation, blowing the liquid back into the pack after I drink (though this becomes very tiresome sucking out the air for the next drink), and drinking more often hoping the tube won't freeze. I have long used a water bottle and resorting to the OR Water Bottle Parka. But I really want to keep using my hydration pack.


Is there some alternative or do I go back to the Parka when it gets really cold?



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One of the bigger problems is water freezing in the bite valve. There are a combination of ways to discourage freezing there. First and foremost, I don't think there is really a way around having to blow the water back into the tube after drinking. The problem is that may not be enough.


Another trick I've heard of but not done myself, is to place a stiffener like a coat-hanger along the tube so the "at rest" position of the tube is with the bite valve facing up. This discourages the water to collect in the bite valve itself.


You could attempt to insulate the bite valve better than the stock "winter kits" that folks like Ultimate Directions sell. The rubbery cap arrangement seems to not do enough, as I've witnessed someone having freezing with a mid summer Rainier summit climb even when using that plus the standard neoprene sleeve that those kits use.


The solution that seems to work best is to have a different pack. Backcountry Access has several sizes specifically oriented for winter use, that include a zippered stowage area for the drinking tube in the shoulder strap of the pack itself. This seems to be quite effective, providing you remember to zip your tube back underneath the cover after drinking.


Another manufacturer that has this feature are packs out of the "Switch" series from Osprey. The largest one out of the series is highly modular, allowing you to convert from barely there nearly bladder only size; to the traveling light mode that can carry shovel, probe, skins, and small amount of clothing; to the final composite system which they term 55+5 (referring to the liters of volume). By building the pack around shoulder straps that continue to shield the drinking tube in all the configurations, it ends up pretty versatile.

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I'm in the Northern Rockies (Bozeman) and use an MSR Hydromedary.


After filling the bladder (with boiling water), I add some chic-drink (eg Gu2O, Cytomax, etc) - the increased salt concentration also delays freezing in addition to the other hydration benefits. The sack gets shoved down into the pack's pad pocket and buried in gobs of insulation in your pack, the drinking tube comes up through your hydration tube hole (I use a McHale w/guide harness so I hacked a hole above the shoulder strap and reinforced it with a rubber gasket). The tube goes down the strap as normal (you may need to buy a longer Tygon tube if your bladder sits low in a bigger pack, stock tubes are usually too short for this). Tube is insulated with REFLECTIX (not neoprene, reflectix is way lighter), which is that bubble wrap insulating stuff you buy at Home D. One layer of Reflectix, then some thin duct tape strips to keep it in place.


Then you home sew a TUBE SOCK shelled with silnylon and lined with fleece, with an inside diameter large enough to slide over the reflectix-insulated tube. Both ends are open. You slide the fleecy tube sock over the tube, tuck in one open end into the rubber hydration hole gasket (it stays in place fine). Make sure it's long enough to go past the bite valve by at least 3 or 4 inches. You know the eskimos that wear the huge parka hoods with 8" front face tunnels fringed in fur? that's the effect you're working on here. You could even fringe the end of your tube (Google Fur Trim but don't come crying to me if your porn flags get overloaded blush.gif). And use one of those camelbak winter bite valve caps as well. It helps.


So then, when you need to drink (you can do this 1-handed), slide the fleecy tube sock up the tube, pop the bite valve insulating cap off, suck away, blow back into the bladder, pop the cap back on, and pull the tube sock back down.


This rig works remarkably well down to well below zero, assuming you are actually drinking your water and not letting it fester in your bladder all day. it should keep water for you for 6 hours, by which time you should have probably burned thru 2 or 3L of water anyway assuming you're moving up on a climb etc.


And, in good lightweight style, consider the dual use nature of your new fleecy tube (hopefully with fur trim) grin.gif.



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Thanks everyone. These are good tips.


Big_Sky_Ry: that's some setup. I'm looking into that as a great option. I'll report back when I put it through the paces.

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