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Backpacker Magazine – May 2003

Think Outside The Bottle

10 surprising uses for your water bottle.

by: Andy Dappen

We all know that collapsible water bladders are a light, compact solution for on-the-move hydration. But don't limit these multitasking tools to mere drinking duty. New and recycled reservoirs have many uses beyond thirst-busting. You can use yours as a:

Shower: Fill it with warm water, screw on a push-pull lid, wet yourself, close the nozzle, soap up, then rinse off.

Urinal: On winter camping trips, guys will appreciate a .5-liter bottle for wee-hour relief. Wide-mouth reservoirs reduce the risk of annoying spillage.

Pillow: Fill it with air or water, and wrap it in a shirt.

Hot-water bottle: Fill a bladder with steaming water, tuck it next to your belly, and sleep comfortably under the stars.

Air conditioner: In the summer, add snow from late-melting drifts to your wide-mouth or zipper-lock reservoir, then tuck it against your back to keep cool. On sweaty winter hikes, refill your bladder with snow after each drink. Place it under your shirt--you'll sweat less and convert snow into drinking water.

Folding bowl: When your bladder wears out, cut off the upper two-thirds and use the bottom to hold breakfast and dinner.

Flask: There's no lighter way to tote a little wine or schnapps.

Waterproof storage: Zip or roll-top bladders can shelter maps, binoculars, and small cameras.

Cold pack: Speed the healing of strains, sprains, and bruises by applying a snow-and-water-filled bottle to the injured area.

Deadman: Fill a wide-mouth or zipper-lock bladder with snow, tie a guyline to the handle, then sink it deep in a drift to hold down your tent.

Among the most versatile bladders are Nalgene's 1.5-liter wide-mouth canteens ($11), Platypus's Big Zip 2 2-liter models ($23), MSR's DromLite 2-liter bladders ($18), and Camelbak's 2-liter UnBottles ($30).

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Nov 27, 2011

One problem I've had with using my hydration bladder on Summer Treks is always drinking warm water. I estimated the water in the drinking tube outside the pack to be between 10 or 15 degrees F warmer than the water still in the bladder. As I take a drink, I would just sense the drop in temperature about the time I was finished drinking. By the time I was ready for another drink the water in the exposed tube was warm again. Some manufacturers sell 'insulating sleeves' but these are designed to keep water from freezing in winter and do not do a good job of keeping water cool. Indeed many of the sleeves absorb heat because they are black. My solution was both simple and cheap. I took a white terrycloth towel and cut it into strips long enough to cover the lenth of tube that is exposed outside my pack and wide enough so it could be stitched into a sleeve to cover the tube. On summer treks I continuely wet this sleeve at available water sources, making sure the mouth piece does touch the untreated water. As I hike the evaporation on the sleeve continues to cool the water. Water in the tube is now 10 to 15 cooler than the water in the bladder. If I remember my science correctly, this 20 to 30 degree difference is based on the fact that, while it takes only 1 calorie of heat to raise one cubic centermeter 1 degree centigrade, it takes 540 calories of heat to evaporate that same cubic centermeter of water.


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