This isn’t something I worried that much about, but I was asked this recently so I decided to do some research to find the best ways to carry water while skiing.
All exercise requires energy, and its usage is fueled partly by water. Unless you hydrate regularly, you will become fatigued, etc. It’s vital to carry water when skiing unless you’re skiing immediately next to the lodge. You can use:
- Water bladder backpacks
- Hard Water Bottles
- Collapsible water bottles
I’d never pondered on this issue previously, and my initial reply was to ask why you would carry water when you’re skiing on tons of the stuff in a semi-frozen form already.
By the way, as an Amazon Associate, I earn when buying qualified products through links on my site.
Believe it or not, staying hydrated is incredibly important while skiing, especially if you are backcountry or cross country skiing.
My friend here has a lot of experience skiing and has a lot of personal experience on the topic, it’s a highly recommended read for more details on how to stay hydrated while skiing.
How to Stay Hydrated When Skiing
I asked 67 skiers how they drink and carry water when they are skiing and I got very colorful results.
As far as actual hydration goes, this is what most people prefer to do:
|Preferred Method Of Hydration||Activity||Percentage|
|Hydration Bladder (CamelBak most popular)||Downhill/BC/XC||32.6%|
|Water from Ski Lodge (Or drinking before)||Downhill||20.4%|
|Other (Soda, Coffee, Energy Drinks, Thermos, Powerade)||Downhill||18.4%|
A lot of people like to drink beer, whiskey, gin, or other alcoholic beverages while they ski. You can see evidence of this if you look under the chair lifts when the snow melts. While that’s a choice that’s up to you I need to mention that higher altitudes mean that you will be much more easily affected by alcohol and it’s up to you if you want to combine that with navigating through trees on two very slippery skis.
Most people choose to hydrate with a hydration bladder when skiing.
How To Use A Hydration Pack While Skiing (Without It Freezing)
It’s not so simple as to just grab your CamelBak and hit the slopes. Because you’re often skiing in potentially sub-32-degree F, (0-degree C) weather, your water is going to freeze!
By far the most common problem skiers have is their hydration bladder’s hose freezing. That’s about the last thing you want when you’re working hard in the snow. Here are some essential tips to keep your hydration bladder from freezing:
- Wear your Hydration Bladder underneath your jacket. If the hydration bladder is small enough you can fit this in some larger jacket pockets. Otherwise, whatever carries your hydration bladder can be worn underneath your snow jacket. This can be a bit uncomfortable on lifts if your hydration bladder is filled up to capacity, so some people opt to only fill their hydration bladder halfway
- Blow out your hydration bladder hose after each use. Normally, when you take a drink from your hydration bladder you just open the gate, take a pull, and then close the gate. However, when you’re in sub-freezing temperatures, you need to blow back the water all the way back into the reservoir.
- Stow your hose and mouthpiece in your jacket when not in use. This is the annoying part–your mouthpiece can still freeze with the water left in it if you don’t keep the mouthpiece out of the cold.
- Use an insulated hydration bladder. Hydration bladders come in all sorts of carriers–if you get a standard hydration bladder with a backpack there won’t be any insulation to keep the water warm. There are some hydration packs that are insulated, and I’ll go over them in the next section. You may get away with wearing these on the outside if there’s enough insulation, but if you’re backcountry skiing for hours it may be best to still wear them under your jacket.
- Use an insulated hose sleeve. Another option to add insulation is to actually wrap insulation around your hydration bladder using a sleeve like this one (Amazon). I know of some that use regular pipe insulation to do this as well.
If you’re trying to find out if your insulation system will keep your water from freezing without putting it under your jacket, you can put your insulated hydration bladder outside your house to test it.
Examples of Hydration Bladders Available
Camelbak is the best-known hydration backpack, but this is just one option these days:
- TEC Insulated Hydration Backpack & 2L BPA-Free Hydro Pack for skiing and other activities. Compact & Lightweight, the water stays cool for up to five hours. (Even longer in normal skiing conditions)
- CamelBak Bootlegger Ski Hydration Pack, 50oz – The Crux Reservoir provides 20 percent more water (per draw) and an on/off lever that makes it easy to prevent leaks while skiing.
- It fits under your ski jacket if required and is ideal for preventing water from freezing in sub-zero temperatures
- An insulated tube and bite valve cover protect your water supply from extreme heat and cold
- Dual adjustable sternum straps increase stability and offer a range of adjustments for comfort and fit
- The insulated reservoir compartment protects your water supply from extreme temperatures
- CamelBak Zoid Ski Hydration Pack, 70oz
- Lift-friendly low-profile design, with pocket and key clip
- Great for carrying snacks, phone, wallet, keys, etc.
- It also features the Crux Reservoir
- Osprey Kamber 16 Men’s Ski Backpack
- Available in one size and color
- Has ski-glove-friendly zipper pulls and buckles, which allow for quick and easy usage
- The front panel offers access to the main compartment dry gear
- Insulated hydration reservoir sleeve
- The extra-large front panel pocket has several compartments, a key clip, and a scratch-free pocket for ski goggles
- Tuck-away diagonal ski attachment
- Reinforced wear points exist to protect the pack from abrasion
- CamelBak – Stealth 85oz Mil-Spec Crux Black
- Military Spec CRUX reservoir with external fill as discussed above
- Produced from 500D Double-rip Cordura (fabric) for a combination of durability and strength
- Quick-release shoulder straps can be unclipped for easy removal
These five models are a good cross-section of what is available on the market today, but they all have silicone or plastic pipes in which water will freeze on frigid days. The only lasting solution to this issue is to have the tube inside your jacket where your body heat will prevent the temperature of the water from dropping to freezing point.
The Downside to Hydration Bladders
The biggest danger of a hydration bladder is popping the bladder and getting your body wet. If you’re wearing your hydration bladder under your jacket (which is what most people do to keep the water from freezing), then this bladder can pop if you fall while skiing. (I mean… who falls while skiing? Certainly not me…)
It can take a single fall to burst these types of carriers, and though some of them are made of very strong material, you may want to consider another method if you’re relying on that water.
How To Use A Water Bottle While Skiing (Without It Freezing)
There are a LOT of options when it comes to using a water bottle. You can go with insulated vs. non-insulated water bottles. Water bottles will have a much harder time freezing unless you are going to be out all day and not keeping your water bottle close to your person.
Here are some tips to using a water bottle without it freezing:
- Keep your water bottle close to you. Some people choose to use soft plastic water bottles and keep their water bottles in a pocket. Crucially, this means if you fall, you don’t fall on a hard plastic water bottle that can really hurt.
- Use a Waterskin: Waterskins have the benefit of being moldable–you can fit these in pockets in your ski jacket and you will be able to take them out and drink them without having to worry about frozen hoses and the like. The one downside is that if you land on a waterskin, these can pop and make a bad day.
- Use a hard water bottle: Alternatively, you can use a hard water bottle. My favorite water bottle is a Nalgene, the plastic is thick and extremely durable. This plastic will be at least some insulation, although not much. Take care with these, if you fall on it, that can hurt a lot.
- Use an electrolyte solution: It’s not likely that this will lower the freezing temperature by a whole lot, but many people report Gatorade and other sports drinks freeze at lower temperatures because of the added sugar and sodium chloride. You can get the same effect by adding an electrolyte solution to your water bottle.
- Use a hard water bottle with a straw: If you want the benefits of a hard plastic water bottle (such as a Nalgene) but you want a drinking hose, someone on Etsy is making an adapter, here. If this doesn’t exist when you read this article, there are water bottles with straw adapter lids that prevent leaks but allow you to use them. If you want to wear your bottle on the outside of your jacket, you may need to insulate the hose and bottle.
Example Water Bottles
- Hydro Flask Standard Mouth Water Bottle, Flex Cap – 21 oz
- Keeps most beverages cold for up to 24 hours and hot for up to 12 hours
- BPA-free and phthalate-free
- 18/8 food-grade stainless steel
- Pair this with the Hydro Flask Standard Mouth Insulated Sport Cap for one-handed use (I can recommend this addition when skiing)
- Mizu M8 – 25 oz. Single Wall Narrow Mouth Stainless Steel Bottle with Loop Cap
- Lightweight / single wall design, created to keep your life simple and single-use-free wherever you go.
- Enduro powder-coated 18/8 food-grade stainless steel that is safe and durable and won’t transfer flavor. The enduro finish is a clever powder coating for an easy grip matte finish.
- The M8 is Mizu’s most popular product because it is the ideal size and weight, whether at home or on any adventure.
- Klean Kanteen Wide Water Bottle with Stainless Loop Cap
- Brushed-Stainless Single Wall, 27-Ounce.
- High-Quality Food Grade 18/8 Stainless Steel Construction is durable under most conditions
- It comes with BPA-free Polypropylene #5 cap with a Stainless Steel bottom to create an all-stainless interior.
- 54-millimeter opening fits ice and is easy to fill and pour
- Compatible with all Klean Kanteen Wide caps
- Easy to clean electropolished interior which doesn’t retain or impart flavors
There is not a lot to say about water bottles these days. Most are stainless steel and will insulate the contents for a reasonable period. My favorite is the HydroFlask range, but this is purely personal, and I often also carry hot beverages in my Mizu M8 and cold water in the HydroFlask.
I learned early on to avoid carrying these hard water bottles in the pockets of my clothing. A hard landing on top of one of these bottles is enough to cause you to toss them off the mountain. I usually ski with an insulated day bag (smaller backpack) carrying the bottles and some trail snacks, gel packets, mobile phones, etc.
Collapsible Water Carriers
Another innovation is the collapsible bottle which does not have a hard shell and doesn’t hurt when you fall on it. The beauty of these bottles is that they take up far less space once empty, so there is no more lugging of empty bottles to the trash, and hopefully, less litter tossed carelessly in nature.
You can also avoid using single-use plastic bottled water, etc.
- HYDAWAY Collapsible Water Bottle,
- 17oz Spout Lid
- Food-Grade Silicone, this beauty collapses down to a slim 1.5-inch profile to comfortably fit in your pocket or day-bag
- Leak-proof – Watertight seals exist throughout to prevent unwanted spillage
- BPA-free plastic, the bottle is dishwasher safe and offers a wide-mouth opening
- Tap Multi-Function Collapsible Water Bottle
- BPA-Free Flat Hydration Soft Canteen
- Flexible and foldable, the Tap weighs just 16 oz and has a 500 ml lightweight bladder
- When freezing, fill up to 80% and pop into the freezer—a great companion for outdoor activities.
- It is easily cleaned with hot water.
- Valourgo Collapsible Water Bottle
- Silicone with leak-proof Valve
- BPA Free
- One color (Aqua Blue) 21 oz
- Quickly cleaned, even in a dishwasher (Bad news for slimy deposits)
- This soft collapsible water bottle is unbreakable and can be exposed to temperatures ranging from 40°F to 248°F
- Four eye-catching colors are available
- Nefeeko Collapsible Water Bottle
- Reusable BPA-free silicone bottles for most sports
- Leak Proof with carabiner
- Nefeeko foldable water bottle can hold 550ml of liquid at just 198g of weight.
- It can be folded from 9.8 inches to 5.5 inches in height.
- The shatter-proof, flexible, and durable collapsible silicone water bottle comes equipped with an aluminum-alloy carabiner for hooking wherever suitable
- The wide-mouth design makes it possible to add ice, lemons, or energy drinks into it.
In most cases, the various sports water bottles are thoroughly tested and inspected before delivery. Nefeeko, for example, provides a two-year guarantee. If you are not satisfied with the bottle for any reason, you are urged to contact them for a prompt reply.
If you decide to go the collapsible bottle route, soak for an hour in hot soapy water and rinse well before use. Those folds have a way of trapping microscopic manufacturing materials and need to be adequately cleaned.
Is Staying Hydrated While Skiing Important?
Like any form of strenuous exercise, skiing is not only fun but as you get better, go further or ski for longer, skiing depletes your water reserves if left unchecked. Dehydration is possible anywhere, particularly if the exercise is strenuous. (even swimmers)
For a skier, dehydration is not something most of us consider, particularly if you are constantly wiping out and getting a mouth (and nose) full of wet snow. Generally, you will stop for lunch and a drink, and that will be sufficient to keep your mind off food and drink and on the slopes.
As you improve your technique, you will spend less and less time lying on your back or semi-buried in a snowdrift and far more with your entire system of muscles straining as you descend the mountain. The legs will burn the most, but your core will also be fighting as you twist and turn, bob and rise during the run, and by the time the day ends, you will feel a good skiing day in most muscles.
Even at reasonably low exertion levels, your body will start to warm up, and the moment you perspire, you begin to lose fluids. You might not notice this is first, but slide your jacket or jumpsuit’s zipper down, and you’ll be met by a cloud of steam – another form of fluid loss.
All of this takes water from your body, and you must stay hydrated rather than re-hydrate when you have already got a pounding head, blurring vision, and light-headedness. Snacking on fruit, dried meat, nuts, etc., is essential, but even more important is your water intake. Assume that once you start to feel thirsty, it’s too late, and avoid this with good planning.
It’s also not all about flying downhill time and again. Cross country skiers often expend even more energy than their downhill cousins as they traverse mile upon mile of uneven country, constantly climbing long inclines in the process.
Like hiking, this exertion requires that you keep yourself well-nourished, and water must always be considered. Skiers who prepare for these needs correctly will ski better, for longer, and have a far better skiing experience.
Proper hydration is required for the correct functioning of the human brain and other organs and for regulating temperature. Hydration ensures our joints and our muscles perform correctly, and it can prevent muscle cramps, dizziness, pounding headaches, and other harmful effects of dehydration.
Dehydration is dangerous, mainly when practicing an extreme sport like skiing, and can cause confusion and lowered reaction levels: Not a good idea when you’re risking your life.
Preparing to Stay Hydrated When Skiing
Drinking too much water before you start your day skiing is silly and very uncomfortable. You can only take on a certain amount of water before you set out, so do so and remember to plan for refueling stops while you are having fun. There are also several other things to consider concerning avoiding dehydration, and here are four life-saving tips:
- Caffeine – This drug exists in tea and coffee and is something many skiers love to consume in the Side or Back Country or on the slopes.
Despite its popularity during sports performance, caffeine is generally recognized as having a diuretic effect, as confirmed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA). They advise caffeine users to drink extra water to avoid dehydration during exercise.
If you’re going to drink tea or coffee when skiing, expect more toilet visits and plan to replace the water that has passed through the kidneys.
- Alcohol – Compulsory for many via the ubiquitous hip-flask, alcohol does contribute to dehydration, so either stay off the ‘wobble-juice’ or match it glass for glass with pure water. (No, water in your bourbon does not qualify)
- Clothing layers – New skiers battle with this at first, but it’s worth mentioning even to more seasoned skiers: Wear thin layers, using garments you can remove if necessary and carry comfortably for the rest of the day. Trying to ski with a heavy wool pullover tied around your waist or over your shoulders is not fun.
Consider instead having one thicker ‘outside’ garment and several thin ‘inside’ garments that can be removed and shoved in a ski-suit pocket or a lightweight carry-bag.
Clothing produced with vents is an excellent choice as you can open or close the vents as needed. If wearing a mask, this can be easily removed and replaced as conditions change. Overheating leads to dehydration, and if you can limit this heat, you will require less water to drink (and carry).
- Water – Carry it. Drink it. Value it.
Common Signs of Dehydration:
- Thirst (obviously)
- Joint pain
- Impaired performance
Most weekend athletes don’t pay much thought to dehydration, but you must stay hydrated when doing any physical exercise, as we have learned here. If you ski the way most experienced skiers do, you will burn around 574 calories per hour. (I used a 180lb man for this calculation)
If you go cross country, you will burn over 650 calories per hour, even at a moderate pace. Without water, this would be a hazardous undertaking, particularly in adverse conditions and if alone. The result of dehydration in the backcountry might well be disastrous, so always carry water whenever and wherever you ski or stay close to available water sources.
Calorie counts courtesy of WebMd’s calorie calculator tool.