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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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6  
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
    
Water doesn't freeze until zero :-) –  andy256 Sep 27 at 3:05

8 Answers 8

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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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
    
Osprey makes an insulated hose and bike valve as well. I may consider this as an upgrade to a neoprene cover. ospreypacks.com/en/product/hydration_packs__osprey_hydraulics_1/… –  Benzo Oct 28 '13 at 17:08

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

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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1  
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

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

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.

  • share|improve this answer
        
    According to the chart at engineeringtoolbox.com/ethanol-water-d_989.html To lower the freezing point of a solution of water and ethanol to 25f from 32f, you would need to have the alcohol percentage of the solution at 10%. That means you would need to add nearly an entire 750ml bottle of 80 proof vodka to a 100oz hydration pack to lower the freezing point. So, considering this, I don't think that adding alcohol is a practical solution to preventing freezing of water in low temps. I assume saline solutions will be too salty for practical application as well. –  Benzo Sep 29 at 19:36

    Putting a little glycerol (aka "glycerin" or "glycerine") in the water will help.

    Glycerol is edible, sweet to the taste. It will do double duty by giving you a few extra calories, and lowering the freezing point of your solution because it acts as an antifreeze.

    Because it's also bacteriostatic, unlike sucrose/glucose, it also shouldn't encourage microbial growth in the hydration system.

    Unfortunately, sports drinks probably shouldn't contain more than about 8% carbohydrate, and an 8% glycerol solution will only give you about 1-1.5˚C extra headroom.

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    I'm not sure how much you'd need to add to have decent freezing point depression -- my intuition is that it will be sickeningly sweet, but I'm not particularly inclined to do the math. –  Batman Sep 25 at 0:56
        
    Fair point; answer updated accordingly. –  sampablokuper Sep 25 at 15:26

    Having a quick release in the hose can help a lot.

    camelback quick release

    Generally, just the valve end freezes and the quick release allows you to get a drink. Click the system back together and stick the frozen end in your jacket. Generally it thaws in a few minutes.

    The insulated hoses don't do all that much. By far the best solution is the packs in which the hose is entirely enclosed in the pack strap. Backcountry Access Stash packs are a example.

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    After several winter races, I've got an opinion. Keeping the bladder close to your skin and running the hose under your shoulder help. Blowing back into the tube is also great. I am iffy on insulation, many of the most hard core winter racers I know prefer no insulation on their hose so that when it does freeze, they can see/find the ice to manually break it up. I am fine with having it there and finding ice chunks by feel. The omega answer for me has been the product below. (No disclaimer, I have raced with the engineer who designs and sells this, but have never been paid or endorsed by him or his company) It's a battery powered on demand heating system that is capable of thawing the whole tube in bursts.

    http://arcticinnovations.com/

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    Wow, in all my searching, I never found anything like this. Pretty cool product, but might be a bit of overkill for my own usage. –  Benzo Sep 29 at 12:36

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