Homer's Travels: Camping And A Change To My Hydration System

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Camping And A Change To My Hydration System

This post is another camping/Appalachian Trail (AT) related post.  My mind has been stuck somewhere on the AT the past few weeks (months?) and most of my post ideas lately have been camping or AT related.  I seem to be stuck in preparation mode.  I mean ... the AT is less than three years away.  I can't just put this planning stuff off.  So here's another camping/AT post.  Specifically, lessons learned about hydration systems from my first camping experience.

For years I have been a fan of hydration bladders, commonly known by their most popular brand  name: Camelbaks.  Camelbaks are plastic water bladders worn either in a small backpack (a hydration pack) or in a special pocket inside a larger backpack.  A hose with a valve runs from the bladder to front, usually attached to the pack's shoulder strap.  As you hike you simple suck water out of the bladder through the tube.  Camelbaks are convenient keeping water close at hand while leaving the hands generally free.  The water filled bladder, often the heaviest part of one's gear, is kept high on the back, centered between the shoulder blades, and close to the body, the best place to carry the extra weight.

I used a small hydration bladder pack on several of my early hikes in California.  I used a bladder in my backpack for both of my Caminos.  For my first camping trip I carried a liter of water in a bladder and a second liter in a bottle kept in a backpack side pocket.  It is during my first camping trip that my opinion of camelbaks changed.

At my campsite I used water from the one liter bottle to drink from, prepare my meal, and to put out the fire at the end of the night.  The water in the hydration bladder was hardly touched.  Why?  It was not convenient to remove the bladder from the pack to use.  You could drink from the tube easy enough but, to say put out the fire or put water in a pot to boil, you would have had to remove the bladder and the drinking tube from the pack and, rather awkwardly, empty the water onto the fire or into a pot.  Generally .... inconvenient.

Over the past few days I have started assembling a new hydration system.  The first thing I purchased were new containers to hold the water.  I decided to try a soft sided bottle made by Platypus (Platypus PlusBottle).  The platypus bottle is made of a material similar to, but thicker than, a hydration bladder.  When full the bottle will stand up on its own.  When empty the bottle can be flattened and rolled up for easy storage.  The bottles will be more versatile than a camelbak providing easier access to water for cooking, drinking, and cleaning.
One Liter Platypus Bottle (39 g - 1.38 oz).

I purchased two 1 liter bottles and one 2 liter bottle.  This will allow me to mix and match depending on how much water I need to carry.  For overnight camping trips the two small bottles will both have clean water in them.  For the AT and other multiday camping trips one of the smaller bottles will be used for 'dirty' water while the other small and the large bottles will be used for clean water.  The idea is to use the dirty bottle for collecting water from rivers, streams, springs, ponds, and other potentially contaminated water sources.  The dirty water would be passed through a filter into one of the clean bags.  I have not purchased my filter yet but it will probably be a Sawyer Mini (more about that in a future post after I've had a chance to buy and use it).

  Camelbaks have their place.  They work great for longer day hikes during hot days when carrying more water is wise and the water will be used for drinking only.  Camelbaks are great for bike rides when it's an easy way to carry water while riding,  Around campsites ... their usefulness is more limited.

So my first camping experience taught me a few lessons on the need for better tent stakes, the need for more food, and the need for a change in hydration systems.  Can't wait to learn more lessons my next camping trip so I can continue fine tuning my gear ... a task that, I expect, will never really end.


  1. About tent stakes....did you drive them straight down or did you put them at an angle? Someone mentioned that is what they did on a windy campout. Just a suggestion/thought.

    1. Mom: I drove them in at a 45° angle. I read somewhere that was what you were supposed to do. If the sand hadn't been there the stakes I had would have worked.

  2. I giggled every time I read "bladder" It's such a funny word! It's definitely not too soon to start planning the AT. Do you know where you're starting/stopping yet (or did you already share that? I'm catching up on your posts today!)

    1. Autumn: I'm doing the whole thing from Georgia to Maine. Over 2000 miles.

      Bladder is a Beavis and Butthead word, isn't it?