In Search for the Ultimate Outdoor Water Storage Solution
Carrying water is a terribly dreadful chore that we outdoorsy people would be better off without. This necessary-for-survival substance weighs 8.35 pounds per gallon, or 2.2 pounds per liter, which makes it one of the densest things hikers carry. Although carrying less water — which can be made easier by identifying water sources before you reach them— is the best way to reduce water weight, minimizing the weight and size, and maximizing the functionality, of a water storage vessel can save weight and energy. This article explores the advantages and disadvantages of various water storage solutions for backpacking and other outdoor activities.
The primary drawback to rigid bottles is they don't pack well with other objects and they are heavy for the amount of water they carry. Let's consider several exmples: a standard 1-liter Nalgene weighs 6.2 ounces, a 40 fl. oz. (1.18 liter) Kleen Kanteen weighs 9.4 ounces, and the 1 liter MSR Alpine Bottle weighs 10.4 ounces. I believe these rigid bottles are too heavy and too bulky for most multi-day overnight trips; three empty one liter Nalgene bottles weigh more than a pound and consume more than three liters of your backpack when empty!!
Unfortunately, hydration bladders eventually leak through their various hose connections. Parts break or become lost and are expensive to replace. The thin plastic material used in bladders has very poor abrasion resistance; bladders are best kept inside a backpack. This leads us to their next drawback: when a bladder is inside a backpack adding more water to it is tricky at best.
In my experience, using hydration bladders can require you to also have a rigid bottle to dip into a creek and pour additional water into the reservoir inside your pack. In order to access the reservoir I often have to take lots of things out of my backpack then cautiously pour water into the opening. Many CamelBak type reservoirs allow you disconnect the reservoirs from the hose, thereby leaving the hose inside your pack, but there are several problems with this: (1) this connection is rarely reliable for more than six months of hard use. (2) I find that my backpack must be mostly empty in order to access the bottom connection. (3) Hydration hoses can be very challenging, if not impossible, to clean in the backcountry. For these reasons I believe hydration bladders are poorly suited for backpacking and the vast majority of outdoor activities.
All of this negative ranting leads us to the ultimate multi-purpose water storage solution, the MSR Dromedary.
duffel bag. The DromLite uses a lighter 200 denier fabric that's better for weight conscious applications like hiking and climbing. I've used both of these extensively over the past nine years and prefer the Dromedary in its 10 liter size for basecamping and car camping. I prefer the DromLite in the 4 liter size and use it as my go to water storage vessel for nearly all three-season outdoor trips from a day hike to multi-day climbs, and backpacking. Bring able to carry 4 liters of water in something that ultra packable, highly durable, and only weighs 5 oz. is revolutionary. There are drawbacks to Droms, of course: you can't drink out of them as easily as a rigid water bottle and they aren't suitable for winter use, but these limitations are trivial compared their benefits. For more information see the MSR DromLite review.