Keeping properly hydrated while exploring the outdoors is one of the most important things you can do to keep you healthy so that you can enjoy the experience. Unfortunately, this message hasn’t gotten to all adventurers. On top of this, carrying water is one of the more difficult tasks to do. Water is heavy, it takes up a lot of space, and it can get too hot or cold (and freeze). While plastic water bottles are the most popular way to carry water, they may or may not be the best way to carry water.
To make carrying water easier, many companies offer hydration bags (essentially plastic bags designed to hold water). They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They are often more convenient than the traditional plastic bottles because they generally weigh less, are easier to pack, and can be connected to a tube so that you can drink from them without having to stop and open a bottle to drink from it. Research has shown that it is better to drink a little water, more often, than drinking a lot of water, less often. The ability to drink while moving is one of the greatest benefits of hydration bags.
One of the best hydration bags on the market is the UnBottle from Camelbak. Essentially speaking, it is a plastic bag that fits inside an insulated protective cover, and comes with a tube to drink from. But this simple description belies these other important features that make the UnBottle world class. They include:
- The UnBottle is virtually leak proof. Other than stabbing it with a knife, it won’t leak.
- As mentioned before, the UnBottle has two layers. The inner, plastic layer, is where the water is stored. The outer layer provides insulation and protection.
- The UnBottle can be stored in a pack’s hydration pocket, if it has one, or it can hang off the pack from D-rings that are attached to the UnBottle. There is also a handle to make it easier to carry. One of the advantages of a hydration bag like this is that carrying one in you backpack, whether it has a hydration pocket or not, is that is can fit into odd spaces, making it easier to pack.
- The UnBottle has a very wide mouth. This makes it easier to add water, to add powered drink mixes, and to clean.
- The tube that you drink from is long enough to reach from the UnBottle stored in your pack to your mough.
- Excess tube length can be stored in the UnBottle’s insulation bag. To drink from the UnBottle, you bite down on the mouthpiece and suck the water. As an additional way to prevent water from leaking out of the mouthpiece, there is a valve next to the mouthpiece. In practice, you will leave the valve open while moving, and only close it when storing the water. The mouthpiece, by itself, prevent most water from leaking.
- The UnBottle weighs just under 12 ounces, empty.
The Camelbak UnBottle is well-suited for hiking, backpacking, climbing, and trekking.
Using the Camelbak UnBottle in the Real World
Before using the UnBottle, I used hard plastic bottles to carry my water. They fit into mesh pockets at the sides of my backpack. Unfortunately, I had great difficult removing them from the pack while wearing the pack (my arms barely reached). It was even worse to put them back. Because of this, I would often not drink as much water as often as I should.
Finally, I broke down and purchased the UnBottle 100 ounce. It holds more than two standard hard plastic 32 ounce bottles I used to carry, essentially lasting all day without a refill.
I carry the UnBottle in the hydration pocket on my backpack. The backpack has a hole that allow me to run the drinking tube from the bottle to my shoulder, where I anchor it on a pack strap on my shoulder. This way, it is very easy for me to get access to water anytime I want without having to stop.
The insulation cover of the UnBottle is relatively effective. If I add cold water to it in the morning, it generally keeps it cool until about lunch time.
When you first use the UnBottle, the water has a plastic taste (which is very common for hydration bags). But if you wash it well with water and baking soda, and after a few uses, most of the plastic taste goes away.
Since this was my first hydration bag, it took me a little while to get used to drinking from the bite valve. Perhaps I am a little slow on figuring new stuff out, but once I got the hang of it, I didn’t have any problems.
If you also find drinking from hard plastic bottle a little troubling, you should consider the UnBottle. Ideally, you will want to carry it in a backpack that has a hydration pocket and a place for the drinking tube to get out in order to conveniently reach you. While the insulation cover is works, it is not good enough to keep water from freezing at extreme cold temperatures, like those you might find when mountaineering. In those cases, hard plastic bottles with insulating covers might be a better choice.
The Camelbak UnBottle comes in two sizes: 100 ounces and 70 ounces. The MSRP for them are $33.00 and $30.00 respectively.