Irrespective of season, the most important thing of any adventure is ensuring that one stays properly hydrated. And no matter what one is doing, without water, things usually take a turn for the worse fairly quick. Although the various times of year each present their own challenges to staying hydrated, in my mind the most difficult time to stay hydrated is during wintertime. Unlike say, summertime, when everyone is hot and sweaty and therefore obviously thirsty, during cold weather, the body’s thirst response is diminished, and sweat evaporates faster in the cold air, leading one to conclude that they are not dehydrated when they are. Also, in cold temperatures there is an increased rate of respiratory water loss, which when combined with normal alpine respiratory water loss, leads to faster dehydration as well.
If all of these scientific facts weren’t evidence enough of the challenges that winter cold weather brings to staying properly hydrated, there’s also the practical facts. In winter, as a general rule, one wears more clothes (which also causes the body to burn more calories, and in turn become dehydrated faster), including some type of gloves or mittens. Over the years, I have found that if I have to fumble with a water bottle, or consider removing gloves to open said water bottle, chances are I’ll forgo drinking longer than I would during moderate to warm weather. Additionally, there’s also the temperature regulation issue, which is that when it’s blazing hot, drinking a cold cold drink is a refreshing treat. But, when it’s cold, the idea of ingesting anything south of room temperature sounds like an unpleasant experience. Over the years, I’ve tried a number of methods to keep my liquids: a) unfrozen; and b) easily accessible, some with more success than others. This is why when I was asked to test the Source Outdoor 2L Durabag Hydration System, I was interested to see how it held up to extreme conditions.
Out of the box, the Durabag is an impressive piece of gear, coming in at a slim forty centimeters in length, eighteen centimeters in width, and a total unloaded weight of just over a half pound. The reinforced cover of the Durabag also appeared to protect the bladder well, to prevent any punctures, tears or rips. From late December through early March, as pictured in the video above, and in the photos herein, I put the Durabag through its paces in a variety of winter sports – alpinerunning in the snow and ice, mountaineering, hiking, and on occasion, just regular walking. The features that stood out to me at first were the things that I most want in a winter hydration bag – ability to fit snugly in whichever backpack I was using – and a clog free and easily accessible tube. The tube had plenty of length, and was able to clip down snugly – and most importantly not leak during the variety of bags I used it in.
While ice buildup is common in any hydration system, especially tubes when the temperatures drop near or below freezing, and this was a concern of the manufacturer, I actually found that the system as a whole responded well to temperatures some ten to fifteen degrees below freezing over an extended period of time with no clogs or ice buildup. Obviously, such results will vary based on the amount of time one spends in sub-zero weather, but the bottom line for me is that the system handled the conditions it was designed for – and then some. Finally, over a three month period, the bladder in the Durabag did not stink, mold, or suffer any unpleasant odors or tastes, which can be an endemic problem of these types of hydration rig systems. In this respect, Source Outdoor has a number of proprietary products that are included in the bladder that are working – and working well.
After all that I put the Durabag through I was impressed – and convinced that it is one of the superior winter hydration systems on the market due to the lack of ice buildup, the bladder durability within the protective pocket, and the lack of any sort of decay issues within the bladder over time. The ability to access one’s water securely, lightly, and easily over the course of winter sports is what I find is important in staying hydrated, and as such, I would recommend the product for just about any winter sport. The only drawback I found with the product is that it does not come with separate straps that allow it to be a standalone product (one must have some sort of pack to carry it in or on). Having said that, Source Outdoor does carry a number of comparable standalone bladders that have the same type of quality that the Durabag possesses.
Disclaimer: I was contacted by Source Outdoor who inquired whether I would review their product. In conjunction with this, they provided me with a free sample of the product, which I then tested. While I was not compensated for this review other than being provided with the free product, readers should be aware of the underlying arrangement that exists, and know that the opinions provided herein regarding this product are based solely on my own experience with the product.