I rode my bike across the country last year, carrying three free water bottles from my pal Scott’s bike shop, Salvagetti Bicycle Workshop. I wasn’t really convinced there was much difference in any water bottle I owned — basically they all hold water and allow me to pour it into my mouth at some point.
My free shop bottles did the trick for 3,000 miles, getting splattered with road grime along the way, and taking on different mixtures of water, Gatorade and Coca-Cola over the span of eight states and 49 days. Then I got home and was chastised by a friend who works at Camelbak about not carrying Camelbak bottles on my bike during my ride. A couple days later, I got two Camelbak Podium Chill bottles in the mail at work. Well, that was a nice gift, I thought. Then they became the best thing to happen to me for most of the year in 2010.
I’m not a big hydration bladder guy — I have frozen a couple hoses in a few bad situations, ruined a couple bladders through other stupid moves, and am too lazy to pull them out of my pack and clean them when I get home. Just give me a container that won’t leak in my backpack, no matter what, and won’t explode when I chuck my pack off a 15- or 20-foot cliff, and I’m happy. Basically, a rinsed-out plastic Gatorade bottle will meet most of these requirements in a pinch, or a weekend of poor planning.
But these bottles, these became something special. I started running in April, and after a few months, I was starting to need to take water on my long runs. Camelbak has built something they call a Jet Valve, which is basically a bite valve for the top of the water bottle, except you don’t need to bite on it. Put it in or near your mouth, squeeze the bottle, water comes out. Stop squeezing, water stops coming out. Putting it in your pack? Lock the valve. The only time one of these leaked on me all year was when I filled them with water, locked the valve, and then drove from 5,280 feet to over 10,000 feet — a few drops escaped inside my pack.
As a past frequent sufferer of altitude sickness, I’m always battling to remind myself to drink water at higher altitudes. You might prefer a hydration pack. My solution is to just carry one of these in my hand when walking — hiking, backpacking, or on approaches to rock climbs. I never forget a water bottle in my hand, and I’m always drinking out of it. Maybe you feel the same way about a hydration bladder. That’s because you’re not me, forever setting your pack down and letting the bite valve on the end of the hose drop into the dirt.
If you’re like me, these retail at $10-$12.