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I like to ride with a hydration pack when I mountain bike in the winter since all sorts of nasty stuff gets tossed up at my bottles. However, I've had issues with the tube or valve getting clogged due to the water inside freezing during rides in the low 20s. It's really hard to deal with this issue while you're out in the woods.

Is there anything I can do to prevent this from freezing so quickly?

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5  
Alcohol is a pretty good antifreeze. ;) –  Daniel R Hicks Mar 6 '13 at 22:55
    
I would also consider purchasing a hydration pack made for snowboarding / backcountry skiing. Camelbak and Salomon make these and typically have insulated hose or are made to be low profile and fit under a jacket. –  Benzo Oct 28 '13 at 17:10

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I see snowboarders with an insulating cover over the tube. If that doesn't provide enough insulation, I've worn my pack under my jacket leaving the entire pack, tube and bite valve covered and insulated.

Here is a 3 foot Hydration Pack Insulated Drink Tube Cover on amazon for $7 US

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What's the deal with the rads.stackoverflow redirect link? –  jimirings Mar 7 '13 at 0:03
    
No idea, I put in direct link to amazon, maybe StackOverflow is detecting and adjusting for the affiliate referral. –  Glenn Gervais Mar 7 '13 at 0:27
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@jimirings meta.stackexchange.com/questions/26964/… –  Kevin Reid Mar 7 '13 at 2:09
    
@KevinReid Cool! Thanks! –  jimirings Mar 7 '13 at 2:13
    
I can vouch for putting the tube under the jacket as well. It's the only thing that keeps the water flowing when it gets really cold. I have an insulated tube, but it simply doesn't work when it gets down to -20 °C/-4 °F. –  user1049697 Oct 20 '13 at 12:38

The trick is to blow the water back up the tube and into the reservoir right after you take a drink. This will keep your tube and bite valve from freezing. This works well even at well below freezing temperatures when skiing.

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Between blowing into the tube when done, wearing the pack under your coat and getting an insulated tube cover, you should be set. –  Chef Flambe Mar 11 '13 at 23:23

The tube has a lot of surface area and not a lot of volume, so it's going to lose heat quickly compared to the reservoir. In addition to insulating the tube mentioned by Glenn Gervais you can start with hot water in the reservoir and frequently drink a little bit to keep reheating the tube. This Nordic skiing article discusses this technique in more detail.

You could also try a Nordic skiing water bottle holder like the one in this (5 part!) article. I've noticed while skiing that a horizontal bottle seems stay ice free at the valve longer. In a vertical holder, turning the bottle upside down also helps.

I've never tried this, but you might also try to keep the water in the reservoir warm by attaching a chemical hand/foot warmer to the outside of the bag. Test it first to check that it won't damage the plastic bag, though I wouldn't expect something made to keep near your skin would get hot enough. Don't put it in the bag though. If it leaks it's probably dangerous to your health.

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I used the warm (not hot) water and frequent drinks when mountain climbing, with a insulation cover to extend time between drinks, with great success. Most chemical warmers are Sodium acetate - which is used as a food additive, and has a melting point of 55C - so it won't hurt the drink bladder –  mattnz Mar 7 '13 at 3:18

Here's a summary of some the options I've found:

Manual:

  • Blow back the water back in to your bladder to prevent freezing, this can cause your hydration reservoir to bulge though. I've also heard this can introduce bacteria to the bladder, making it get funky faster. This is less effective when you have a smaller amount of water in your bladder.
  • Use a compact reservoir and keep it under your jacket. Run the tube under your jacket or down your arm under the jacket. Keep it from being exposed when not in use.

    Insulation:

  • Neoprene insulation for your tube.
  • Bag makers have their own more expansive insulated systems than just a tube cover. Osprey insulated delivery system, which has a zip up cover for your valve. Camelback has the Antidote Thermal Control Kit which includes a cap cover for the bite valve and neoprene tube cover. Salomon makes a fully insluated hydration tube and bladder with bite valve cover for nordic skiing.
  • Use foam packing material and tape to make an insulated sleeve for your bladder, to slow the cooling of water in the bladder itself.

    Heat Managment:

  • Fill your bladder with warm or room temp water, so it will take longer to cool down.
  • Add hand warmers to the pocket in your hydration pack where your bladder lives. May want to put this in a sock to prevent direct contact with the bladder. This will keep the water around it warm, and prevent it from getting as cold so long as you keep drinking.

    Chemical:

  • Add a small amount of vodka to your water supply to prevent freezing by lowering the freezing point of the water. I'm not quite sure of the appropriate amount.
  • Add electrolyte tablets to water, which should in theory lower the freezing point of water a bit. Making it take longer for your water to freeze up. Do not exceed the amount suggested by manufacturer of electrolyte tabs. Not sure to what degree the freezing point would be lowered.

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    Some hydration packs (such as Source Hydration Systems) have a wider diameter than others and/or an insulated tube cover. Both of those can help keep water from freezing in the tube.

    Disclaimer: I am associated with Source Hydration Systems.

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    If you're affiliated with Source Hydration Systems in any way, you need to make that extremely clear. Second, you seem to have a lot of stuff in this answer that doesn't really address the question. –  freiheit Oct 20 '13 at 20:55

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