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How do you keep water from freezing while hiking in winter? I share my six best trail-tested in the Canadian Rockies tips to stop your water from freezing.
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You can still become dehydrated even when hiking in cold weather. That’s why you need to prevent your water bottle or hydration bladder from freezing.
I’ve learned the hard way from doing day hikes and snowshoeing in winter at -30C (-22F). Brrr. And let me tell you it’s not fun when your water freezes and you’re thirsty with nothing to drink.
Fortunately, with a bit of planning, it’s easy to prevent so you can enjoy a worry-free day of winter hiking or snowshoeing.
7 Ways to Keep a Water Bottle From Freezing When Hiking or Snowshoeing in Winter
1) Use An Insulated Bottle When Hiking in Winter
Insulated water bottles or thermos flasks help reduce heat loss and keep water from freezing for longer periods of time. Sometimes for up to 12 hours, depending on the bottle. They usually come with double walls between two layers of material, like glass or stainless steel, which trap air and retain heat much better than traditional plastic bottles or Nalgene bottles.
I personally recommend stainless steel since it’s unbreakable and I find that stainless steel water bottles are the best for keeping water from freezing.
You can check out the water bottles that we recommend here are 3 great choices for insulated water bottles
If you don’t have an insulated water bottle then you could buy an insulated bottle sleeve.
Although you can carry the insulated bottle jacket over your shoulder, I still recommend putting it in your backpack, close to your body so that it stays warm from your body temperature to further stop it from freezing.
2) Choose a wide-mouth bottle to keep water from freezing
Choosing a wide-mouth water bottle prolongs the freezing process as it takes longer for the opening to freeze than it would on a narrow-mouth bottle. One of the first times I hiked when it was really cold I brought my regular water bottle that had a narrow opening.
The top part froze, even though the rest wasn’t frozen but the frozen layer was thick enough that I couldn’t get to the rest of my water.
Wider openings also make it easier to pour hot water over it f your water does freeze and you do have access to water – big IFs in many cases, but if you’re lucky, your hiking buddy has a bit of hot liquid they can spare.
Related Reading: 16 Best Hiking Water Bottles: To Keep You Hydrated
3) Keep It Close to Your Body to Keep Your Water From Freezing
One of the easiest ways to stop a water bottle from freezing while hiking in winter is to keep it close to your body so that it stays warm from your body heat. This will help ensure that the bottle stays warm enough that it won’t freeze.
You could also add an extra layer of insulation around the bottle by wrapping it in a wool sock or an extra layer of clothing before storing it against your body as a heat source.
If you’re winter camping, then you can stop your water from freezing while sleeping with it.
While it may be handy to have your water bottle on the outside of your hiking backpack, avoid doing so when it’s below freezing, or you risk your water freezing.
4) Protect Your Water Bottle From the Cold Temperatures
Take your water bottle out when you need a sip of water, then put it back in your backpack, even if you stop for lunch. Protecting your water from the elements helps keep water from freezing.
The exception is if it’s above freezing and you can put it in direct sunlight.
5) Use a Chemical Warmer to Unfreeze Your Water
If your water does freeze, you can unfreeze it by using a chemical hand or toe warmer. Simply place it around your water bottle for 15 minutes or so until it unfreezes. These don’t take up much room and can be a staple in your backpack, along with your thermal blanket.
You can also shake it to help speed up the thawing process.
6) Put a Hot Drink in Your Water Bottle
Not only do hot drinks, like tea, coffee or hot chocolate warm you up in cold weather, but they also take longer to freeze. Not to mention it’s a good way to warm your hands to prevent frostbite or hypothermia.
You get bonus points if you put it in an insulated bottle which keeps drinks hot, further helping to stop it from freezing. If you do this, you can fill one water bottle with a hot drink and another with regular drinking water.
Related Reading: 20 Coffee Facts that Every Coffee Lover Must Know
7) Carry More Than One Source of Water
When hiking in winter I always carry multiple bottles of water in case one freezes. I usually hike with a water bladder and an insulated water bottle, which I fill with tea on really cold days.
Related Reading: The Best Winter Hiking Gear: What To Wear For Cold Weather
How to Keep Water From Freezing In Your Hydration Pack
Many of the same tips as above apply, but instead of an insulated bottle, you can use an insulated bladder.
Here’s one that I recommend:
- Crux delivers 20% more water per sip, with an ergonomic handle for easy refilling and an on/off lever to prevent leaks
- External fill means you can top off the reservoir without removing it from the fabric sleeve
- Multiple attachment points make it easy to lash the unbottle to boats, vehicles or backpacks
- Easy-to-grab handle makes carrying convenient while providing a loop on which to hang the reservoir
- Zippered tube access
Or if you don’t want to buy a new water bladder, you can wrap it in warm clothing. Keep it close to your body and just buy an insulated sleeve since the tube and the bite valve are exposed to the cold weather and are the most likely to freeze.
Just check that the attachment will work for your water bladder.
With our tips and a little bit of planning you’ll be able to keep water from freezing so you can enjoy your winter hike.
Also check out our other articles on winter hiking:
- Winter Hiking: 22 Tips for Hiking in Snow and Cold Weather To Stay Safe
- The 7 Best Microspikes for Hiking in Winter: And Why You Need Them
- 7 Reasons Why You Need an Emergency Thermal Blanket On Every Hike
- The Best Snowshoes: Our Guide to Buying the Right Pair
- 5 Ways to Prevent Frostbite When Hiking: Plus Signs To Watch For