Today is a brief glance at the favoured ‘on-trail’ hydration set up that Three Points of the Compass is using. This is not an in depth review nor any form of recommendation, simply a peek inside the pack contents that I am currently using.
Hydration is all important. I believe that many of any stumbles, slips, accidents and mistakes, even navigational, be they small or large, that occur to hikers, are as result of being dehydrated. You sweat more on trail, this fluid has to be replaced. I have come across hikers that do not like to drink because it means they will have to pee. Or they don’t want to carry water as it is heavy- it is. Little in a pack will weigh as much as water does- 1 gram per millilitre, or 1 kilogram per litre.
I drink constantly throughout the day, in fact before I even hit the trail. Even while hiking, if I see an opportunity for a mug of tea, I invariably take it. If I am out for multi-days, amongst the first thing I am doing when making camp is preparing a pint of oxo, tea or similar, followed by more drinks later.
My hydration set up on trail is fairly simple. A bottle to drink from during the day, plus a water filter attached to a ‘dirty water’ bladder, and a ‘clean water’ bladder. I keep most of this together in a lightweight blue (for water) 150mm x 280mm drawstring, 0.5oz Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) stuff sack from Tread Lite Gear. In case of emergency, I also carry a few days supply of water purification tablets, usually in my ditty bag. My final item carried is a spare type 400 bottle cap in my ditty bag. Lose a bottle cap and a bottle is pretty useless.
Hiking in wet locations means that less water has to be carried. In Scotland, with water everywhere, I am relying simply on one or two 850 millilitre bottles, probably one, and refilling from the many water sources available as required. Any plastic bottle will suffice but like many hikers I like the Smartwater bottles as they are smooth sided and taller, slipping into pack side pockets better.
I have to buy replacement bottles extremely infrequently, I have some ten or so knocking around the house and they continue to be rotated into use as required. There really is no need to carry the good, but heavy, aluminium or steel water bottles available from gear shops as a plastic bottle can have a long life if refilled and used with a small degree of care.
Further south I will be carrying one 850ml bottle and a 2 litre clean water bladder. I have used Osprey, Platypus, Evernew and Cnoc bladders extensively and prefer the Evernew. These are light, reliable, have a cap permanently attached to the bladder, which prevents it being lost, and a gusseted bottom which means it stands well when filtering into it. Alongside that I will often be carrying a water filter.
Everyone seems to have their individual preference as to water filters. For the past few years I have favoured the Katadyn BeFree. I like the semi-exposed filter that can easily be swished around and cleaned. It has a good flow rate and the wider thread size (42mm) means that bottles are easier to fill from streams and the like though does limit you to what bottles will connect. On a day hike I might simply carry the 0.6lt flexible Katadyn bottle/soft flask, but that is a bit small. The small 0.6lt flexible bottle that comes with the BeFree is made by Hydrapak, a company that also makes the 2lt Hydrapak Seeker flexible bottle. I normally carry this 2lt bladder permanently attached to the filter as my ‘dirty water’ bag and leave the small 0.6lt bottle at home.
Water filters should not be allowed to freeze as the expanding water within the membranes causes these to split and even though it can appear fine, it will no longer be filtering effectively. If the weather is even close to freezing, my filter is kept deep within my pack during the day or next to my person (in a waterproof bag) through long cold nights.
When hiking in much of lowland Britain there is considerable agricultural run-off into streams, this is accompanied by occasional industrial or effluent pollutant. Few lovely clear looking chalk streams are actually pollution free and a filter will struggle to clear contaminants such as pesticides, molluscicides and fertilisers. The BeFree will continue to filter out bacteria and protozoa including Giardia and Cryptosporidium, but not viruses, just fine, but diluted chemicals is another matter. I will frequently not even bother to carry a filter in lowland South East Britain for that reason.
As mentioned previously, this blog is in no way a recommendation. It is simply the set up that has worked for me on the majority of my hikes over the past few years. That said, I have had minor disasters that required immediate change. Hiking in Scotland on one occasion I had my little blue bag containing filter with clean and dirty bladders stored in my packs side pocket alongside my water bottle. Not going in to detail, pure stupidity on my part combined with bad luck saw the whole hydration ensemble come adrift and sail happily down a stream to never be seen again. I had to fall back on to my emergency water purification tablets I stow in my ditty bag until I reached a town three days later where I could purchase a replacement bladder and bottle. My main lesson from this was that I no longer stow my blue hydration bag in my packs side pocket, instead it is now kept either within the expandable back pocket on the pack, or inside it.