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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Carrying Water

This post is inspired by my current irritation. I had to go out and buy a fucking black camel back today. I had a green camouflage one but that isn't sufficient. I must have a black camel back. Not I must have one or I can't wear a camel back; I just had to go out and get one. I fucking had one of them 5 years ago and I mothballed that POS. Awhile after that my sister mentioned wanting one for Christmas or something and I walked out to the garage, found mine and gave it to her. I only got the green one because it was free. Forty bucks down the drain but it really isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things as my wages do reflect this sort of thing.

This got me to thinking about carrying water. Broadly speaking there are two carry water. There are bottles and bladders (camel backs, hydro storms, etc). If you didn't pick up my thoughts in the rant above I'm not a huge fan of bladders. Admittedly I could have just had really bad luck with bladders but I've had a few different ones made my multiple manufacturers. I like bottles, specifically hard plastic ones with screw on lids. Two great examples of these are GI canteens and Nalgene bottles. There are oodles of different types but really anything that is hard plastic and has a lid that screws on securely is probably a fine choice.

My personal bad luck with bladders aside I do have one big issue with them as used by many people. Bladders (especially with current larger sizes) have a bad tendency to lead people to putting all their eggs into one basket. Far too often I see folks whose only water source is a bladder with a tube flopping around near their face. If something in this inherently weak system (in comparison to hard plastic bottles) fails they are up a dry creep with a wet back or possible backpack. Even if you have one of those big assed gallon and a half blivets that are attached to your back by straps have another source of water. For the record I am not talking about a little day hike where the worst case is you turn around and are back at the car in ten minutes. I am talking about situations where you need to rely on the water you are carrying and possible periods of time where resupply (even that needs to be filtered) might not be readily available.

Regardless of the method of water carrying you go with (admittedly I am prejudiced against bladders) the bottom line is that you need to have some water readily available and some more in your ruck. You need some readily available to drink while you walk/ ski/ whatever. This could be in web gear or those little water bottle pouches on the side of commercially made packs or by some other fashion. The balance of your water needs will be carried in your ruck.

Now comes the question of how much water to carry. I think it all depends on your needs but for longer hikes, a potential night in a dry camp, etc I like to have at least a gallon and a half. Two quarts readily available and a gallon in the ruck. I figure that is a reasonable amount for most situations. Keep in mind that water weighs right about 8lbs per gallon. IMHO a gallon and a half covers most situations except long 10+ mile stretches of no water, multi night dry camps or seriously high temperatures, etc. To be honest in those situations you would need to strongly rething the practical ability to carry enough water to be self sufficient on your back. Some other method for travel or procuring water is going to need to be found or plans would need to be dramatically changed..


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