Break the Ice

When the frost bites hard, fight back with the latest winter hydration systems

HYDRATION? You've got it dialed, or so you think. You've acquired a few floppy reservoirs for your fair-weather adventures, but take your fluid pack along on a ski tour and you'll soon be reminded of a cold, hard fact: Water solidifies below 32 degrees—and when it does, hoses clog and bite valves freeze shut. And without a ready supply of the wet stuff, your powder-day plunder will quickly run dry.

As a result, athletes have spent years jury-rigging: Some wrap their drinking hoses with pipe insulation, others snake them down sleeves, and an enterprising few duct-tape hand warmers to their reservoirs. Thankfully, this do-it-yourself era is coming to an end. With increasing numbers flocking to the winter wilds—snowshoeing alone attracted six million people in 2002—hydration pack companies have been aiming R&D at the deep-freeze dilemma. They're also responding to research that underscores the importance of hydration in wintertime, when common sense wrongly suggests that you need to drink less because you're sweating less. In fact, according to University of New Mexico physiologist Robert Robergs, an athlete working hard on a 32-degree day can perspire up to four pounds of fluid per hour. Such deficiencies can eventually lead to fatigue and loss of concentration—less than ideal when you're blitzing a tight tree run.

No winter hydration system will fight the freeze indefinitely, but the six new options we present here will buy you precious time. Read on, because the most vexing axiom of winter sports will never change: You can't drink snow.

From Outside Magazine, Jan 2004 Get the Latest Issue

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