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Recycled Water Bottles to Shave Pack Weight

Col. John Potter provides us with some great advice:

Some of my hiking buddies were unhappy with their ability to track water consumption from their single, large hydration bladders. So we investigated the eco-friendlier (reduced plastic) half-liter disposable water bottles as possible alternatives.

The idea is to use four of these instead of one 2L bladder. All four will fit in the side pockets of a Gossamer Gear overnight pack. For those of us without (enough) side pockets, two can be carried on the shoulder straps as shown in the photos. The necks of the bottles are held by water bottle clips attached to the strap buckles, and loops of shock cord around the lower straps and bottles keep the bottles in place. I used the rig shown (with plain water in one and electrolytes in the other) for four days in Grand Canyon. The bottles were secure and accessible, and consumption was very easy to keep up with.

Jon Potter

Col Jon Potter

The lightest bottles we’ve sampled (small cap, ring removed) weigh around 10g, with the Costco store brand coming in at 9.5g each. So four weigh as little as 1.3 ounces (plus 0.4 ounces for clips and shock cord, if you carry two on your pack straps). This represents a savings of 1-3 ounces over a 2L bladder with drinking tube (the difference being mostly the brand of drinking tube and the hose length).

11 Responses to Recycled Water Bottles to Shave Pack Weight

  1. Al May 30, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    I just use a Agua Fina 1 liter bottle and two 1 liter Platypuses. If I need to carry even more water I use a bladder from a Starbucks 3 liter box. (just snag one from your next office meeting)

  2. BarryP June 1, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    Great idea. And then if one breaks/leaks, you still have 3 more to run on.

  3. Irene Cox June 1, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    Yeah, great idea with the water bottle clips and I appreciate the tip about Costco water bottles. I am a 93 lb old lady who hikes The Canyon every year and I discovered that the bladder puts all that weight on your back whereas you can distribute it better with seperate bottles. I am all for saving every single ounce I can. The last trip I took I removed my deoderant from its plastic container and put it in a little pill envelope. Worked just fine.

  4. Mickey Mctigue June 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    John, If a bottle leaks you haven’t soaked items in the pack and you lose only 1/4 of your water. Not much to fail on the bottle. The bottles cost less, are easy to recycle and replace almost anywhere, and there is weight savings. An empty bottle can be refilled from questionable water sources and carried for emergency use. If I do not need it I just dump it. Better sick later then dead today.

  5. Jo June 3, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    I carry a powerade bottle in an accessible pocket, as well as my 3L bladder (rarely full even when I start out. I thought the powerade bottle would crack or wear out eventually, but it is going on 4 years old and completely intact. It is easier to fill from a creek if I am using purification tablets, and I can use it to measure how much I am putting in the bladder, or to mix powdered gatorade in.
    One use I have found for the bladder which has been WONDERFUL is to have it empty and partially inflated with air at bedtime, wrap it in layers of extra clothes, and voila, without carrying anything extra, a pillow with some substance to it for this side sleeper.

  6. Jerry W June 3, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    (1) A little googling makes it clear that re-use of plastic bottles is *not* a significant concern.

    (2) I love the way using plastic bottles is suggested as an innovative weight-saving idea! I never migrated to “hydration systems” in the first place, for precisely these reasons. No plastic bottle passes through our house without being examined to see if it is usable for walking purposes and you soon learn which work best. 10g bottles can be flimsy. They can crease and then leak. I use them for daywalks, but for treks, something a little more robust is worth the (slight) weight penalty, imho.

    (3) Globally, use of plastic bottles is a *major* ecological nightmare. Never buy more than you absolutely have to – bottled water in particular is extremely unsound, ecologically. I use orange juice bottles, which I buy occasionally and which are usually robust.

  7. Marco June 5, 2012 at 7:09 am #

    Bottles work great! I have been using wide mouthed gatoraid bottles or the like (Lifewater?) for many years. I have some older ones that still do the job. I don’t worry about the health concers, knowing that there is no chance I will get sick compared to drinking wild water. Several studies bear this out. See above post.

    They also fit the Adventuror and newer Opti UV sterilizers. Easy to fill at the watering hole, compared to a standard water or soda bottle, too. At about 3/4oz each they are a bit heavier than the thinner bottles. But here in the ADK’s, I don’t really need to cary more than two. I fill them whenever I pass a stream generally. I usually pack one out. Only emptying them for the last 4-5 miles after taking a fill-up drink.

    Typically, hiking or canoe trips, water is not a problem. Soo, two bottles is plenty along with breakfast (coffee/oatmeal) and cocoa at night. Plastics are a huge use of oil, generally, this needs to be curtailed or more sustainable materials used. Fleece is made from PET bottles, so this is also doing double duty on the same amount of oil, however, they require a LOT of heat to remanufacture.

    2 bottles fit into one of the pouches on my Murmur. A great little pack. I could wish for another pouch above them, though…mostly for trash and other trail garbage.

  8. John (Call Me Ishmael) October 21, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    If you don’t want to carry these bottles on your pack shoulder straps, or you want to keep them handy even when not wearing your pack, you can use Aqua Clips to carry them on your pack straps, hip belt or pants (belt not necessary).

  9. Stone February 9, 2015 at 6:43 pm #

    What camera bag do you have attached to the straps? I’m looking for a good option for my rangefinder.


    • Call Me Ishmael February 10, 2015 at 3:33 pm #

      I don’t have anything but the water bottle clips attached to my pack straps. Check out the Gossamer Gears Shoulder Strap Pocket for $15.

  10. Call me Ishmael December 1, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    And in cold weather, when you are wearing so much of your gear to bed that you don’t have much left to make a pillow, you can use the water bottles for extra pillow volume. Fill them with water so they won’t crackle all night long. Then squeeze each one while holding it upside down, to make sure you don’t have a leaker. Then slip them in a stuff sack or pants leg, with whatever else is soft and available. Kept under your head, the water won’t freeze as long as the lows don’t drop below the 20’s. Compared to keeping them in your sleeping bag, you don’t have as big a risk to your insulation if you do develop a leak some time in the night.

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