When we are out walking or cycling we of course should drink regularly to stave off dehydration
and exhaustion. We naturally drink more at higher temperatures and humidity, but even in cold weather we should maintain a good fluid balance. However we have never been so spoilt for choice for the ways and means of doing so. Long gone are the days of clipping an army surplus water bottle to your belt, unless of course you want to!
Why Purchase a Specialist Water Bottle?
Well of course you don't have to, quite a few people carry plastic mineral water or soft drinks bottles that they reuse until they crack as they are usually pretty thin. Let’s face it most tap water in the UK, and mainland Europe at least is perfectly drinkable and the idea is not to revert to buying bottled mineral water, which causes a huge worldwide environmental problem with discarded bottles in land fill and floating around in our oceans. However, you should ensure that the plastic bottles you use are free from BPA (a chemical used to make certain types of plastic that research shows can affect your health if it seeps into your water).
A good solid bottle however should last a long time. The best ones for a good many years were the Swiss-made aluminium Sigg bottles, still available but not so cheap. They tended to last for 20 years until finally so dented, you split the bottle trying to push the dents out! If you liked this style, you could try the beautiful stainless steel bottles from Klean Kanteen with a 'sports Mouth piece', which is easy to use on the go and there is a loop to secure it to your backpack. Also, check out the Brita Blue Sports Water Bottle, which has a filter to reduce impurities such as chlorine. The filter will need soaking every four weeks to keep it clean. It also has a hoop so you can attach it to your rucksack.
It is easy to forget about your bottles after a trip, but all bottles, flasks, bags and feeder tubes need to be thoroughly cleaned in hot soapy water and rinsed before use. Especially with water bags, they can be cleaned with lemon juice, vinegar or use sterilizer solutions such as Milton or those available for home brewing. Concentrate especially on pipes and bite valves where bacteria can build up. Most of the water bag manufacturers sell ingenious brushes which can be pulled through tubing to clean it.
How Much Should I Carry?
The amount of liquid capacity you carry should be determined by the type of activity undertaken, the environmental temperatures and the propensity on a trip to refill or purchase additional drinks. Bearing in mind that a litre of liquid weighs 1 kg (in addition to the weight of the vessel it is in), bringing 3 litres with you is usually more than enough to carry in most conditions. Obviously, you are going to drink it throughout the exercise, but too much to carry makes you work so much harder. Most people will be fine carrying two 1 litre bottles or two 500ml bottles, especially if you are cycling.
Bottles to Squash
Some people don't like the fact that they are carrying large volume bottles that take up quite a bit of room in their bags, and may not always be that light. Luckily the new ultra-running craze has provided us with some very lightweight and durable silicone based bottles, which squash flat once they are used. They also fit really well into external rucksack pockets. Check out the range of Salomon Soft Flasks, or those by Ultimate Direction.
Still very popular with walkers, runners and cyclists there are many makes of water bags to be carried in the rucksack such as Camel Back and Salomon. They come in different sizes with all manner of closure systems. The advantage being that you can drink on the hoof or at the wheel without having to lay a finger anywhere else, or take your bag off. This means that you are more likely to drink more regularly. There is a downside however, some types of closure may leak or fail under pressure in your bag resulting in your gear getting soaked. Even triple laminate plastics can fail after they have been creased a few times, although more often now the water pouch is being made of highly durable silicone. Feed leads can also come adrift and bite ends pull off quite easily or can dangle in the dirt when you take your bag off. Everyone has their preferences, but I was put off by this kind of system when I saw a 3-litre pouch just drain through a bag on a trip.... not good if you are carrying camera gear and a laptop, not so bad if you are just out running!
Walking in Britain or elsewhere you may have a kettle in your room, or even if you don’t, if you take a lightweight heating element kettle, you can produce hot drinks including soups and carry them in stainless steel flasks, some with wide mouths, which keep them hot for hours. Most supermarkets produce very cheap vacuum flasks, which unlike their predecessors are almost unbreakable. However, do check the cap-closure pourer, the simpler the better. Anything you have to push in is likely to fail. There is a brand called Chillys that make some very pretty steel flasks, which may keep drinks hot or very cold for 12 hours. Try not to use straight boiling water in flasks and bottles. A head of steam can spray from the cap when you open it and burn you. The best thing is to put some hot water in the vessel to preheat it, pour it away and then pour in the hot drink.
On the cold front, the simplest way to keep a drink cold is to put a damp sock over the bottle and the evaporation cools the bottle. However, there are modern double walled plastic drinks bottles which do the job very well such as the Camel Back Eddy Insulated Bottle. Cyclists will also find a range of insulated bike fitting water bottles, see models manufactured by Elite or Salomon.
You've seen how race cyclists tend to throw their bottles on to the road or in the verge during a race? A way forward with all plastic water bottles may be what we are seeing in the Elite Supercorsa Biodegradable cycling bottle. Finally, Elite have produced the Supercorsa Bottle, made of vegetable oil based plastic, rather than from petroleum based plastic and it will - eventually – decompose if abandoned by the too eager cyclist. It may well be a way forward for other bottle manufacturers too.