Hydration Hacks for Winter
You’ve psyched yourself up. You’re going to do that winter hike, but how do you keep your water from freezing when the mercury drops below zero? I’ve started hikes were it’s -11° F at the trailhead. I’ve been on summits where the wind chill is -30° F, so I know a thing or two about my water freezing (unfortunately). I’m here to help you out with some hacks to keep you hydrated on your winter hike and backcountry skin ups.
Just like you insulate your own body when the temperatures drop, you also need to insulate your water. We all know that water will freeze at 32° F, so if the temperature is there or lower you need to protect it from freezing.
I know I do a much better job of staying hydrated if I am using a hydration bladder. Therefore, I try to use them as much as possible. This is also where I have gotten into the most trouble when it’s below freezing. The water in the hose and mouthpiece can freeze very quickly. Once that happens you might be out of luck. You can stick the hose down your shirt to get your body heat to defrost the hose and mouthpiece, but there is still that pesky section that is exposed from your pack to your shirt.
To help with that you can get an insulated sleeve to go over your hose and mouthpiece. Depending on how cold it is I will still stick it down my shirt even with the insulation on the hose. Probably one of the best hacks I learned is after you take your drink blow back into the hose. This will push the water back into the bladder and not leave it in the hose where it freezes much quicker. Now that your hose is protected you can also get a Thermo Bag to insulate your bladder. These come in handy when you are doing resort skiing and not putting off as much body heat.
Of course, there is also the water bottle route. So many brands now make insulated bottles that do an excellent job of keeping your water hot or cold for long periods of time. On winter hikes I also tend to have an insulated bottle with me, but instead of just water I usually do hot chocolate. If you are doing just water, you still might consider boiling it before putting it in your insulated bottle. It is nice to have a warm drink on a cold hike. The one downfall of the insulated bottles is they tend to be heavy. A lighter option is using a Nalgene in an insulated sleeve. I highly recommend NOT using a splash guard in the mouth of your water bottle since that’s the perfect place for water to freeze.
You can also stick the bottle in the sleeve upside down so it’s less likely to freeze around the opening and cap. I’ve been known to put a hand warmer in the insulated sleeve when it’s downright frigid.
Winter is such an amazing time to be out in the wilderness so don't let the cold weather stop you from venturing out. With a little extra preparation you'll be out enjoying the crisp air of a winter day. Just remember, if you are insulating your body you might also need to insulate your water.