Shoulder mounted hydration system
A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!
Home › Forums › Gear Forums › Gear (General) › Shoulder mounted hydration system
- This topic has 17 replies, 11 voices, and was last updated 5 years ago by SmithCreek.
Feb 20, 2018 at 3:30 am #3519395
I’ve been a diehard fan of hydration reservoirs over the last 10 years (specifically, the Platy Hoser), despite their decreasing unpopularity among UL hikers, since they allow quick and easy access to water while hiking, carry water near one’s center of gravity, and are relatively lightweight. A Platy Hoser system is probably equivalent to two 1 L Smartwater bottles that all seem the rage these days…However, my experiences with the Katadyn BeFree on the Colorado Trail this past summer has changed the way I view hydration. Due to plentiful water sources, I would typically stop, stoop down and quickly drink from my BeFree flask, feel hydrated and move on with about 0.5 L in the flask to get me to the next water source. In the past, I’d always carry about 1-1.5 L in my pack and the amount of water in my hydration bladder was always somewhat of a mystery unless I pulled everything out.
Recently, I’ve been thinking of switching to a shoulder mounted system. One thought was to carry two BeFree’s–one on each shoulder so in case one fails I have a backup. But the BeFree bladder (I have the 1L version) is a bit floppy and flares out towards the bottom, making it impossible to insert into a water bottle pouch such as the ones from Zpacks or MLD. I tried a Smartwater bottle, but it is a bit floppy and tends to lean forward away from my shoulder straps, at least in my Zpacks pouch. I’m wondering if anyone else has tried using soft flasks? Something like this?
I don’t see much mention of these being used by people in the UL backpacking community, only ultrarunners and the like. However, it seems like it would conform nicely to one’s shoulder straps and result in a more streamlined solution to shoulder water carry. Thoughts? Also, while we’re on this topic, what are your favorite water bottle pouches?Feb 20, 2018 at 3:41 am #3519396
I have prefer Zimmerbuilt’s pouch over MLD or ZPacks. It’s stiffer and stays open so the bottle slides in and out more easily than in the MLD version. It works really nicely with the 700(750?)ml Smartwater bottle.
Zimmer doesn’t put a strip of eastic on the back by default (which is weird to me since he puts elastic on the back of the zip pocket). If you order one from him you might ask for him to put it on.
Softbottles are just floppy and weird to me. I don’t care for them.
My BeFree processes water so quickly I don’t mind filtering into Smartwater bottles. I carry a 3L which processes enough water for two people. It’s just so easy.
I can’t wait for someone to package that type of filter in something compatible with a standard bottle size… it’s inevitable that it will happen at some point.Feb 20, 2018 at 3:47 am #3519397
I completely agree on the BeFree. I do understand how floppy flasks can be annoying, but I’m wanting to give it a try to in an effort to keep the water weight as close to my shoulder straps and natural feeling as possible. Any idea if someone could make me a custom water pouch to carry a 1L Platypus? What I love about the Platypi (is that the plural form) is that they are extremely durable, stand up, conform to the shape desired, and are clear.
Something like this….Feb 20, 2018 at 3:57 am #3519400
I’ve carried the smaller version of that using ULA’s shockcord setup briefly when tanking up. It kinda works and would work pretty well with a line tied around the neck to hang it.
I wonder if a stretchy Lycra pocket would work for you… Perhaps with a short straw setup like ultrarunners use?Feb 20, 2018 at 5:42 am #3519418Terry SparksBPL Member
@firebugLocale: Santa Barbara County Coast
Call me fortunate for having water bottle pouches on the sides of my pack that are tilted at 45* that make it easy to grab and put back without slowing down. I prefer Gatorade bottles with wider openings for adding things to my water but often also carry a smart water bottle, if I have the squeeze filter with me or it’s cold. The smart water bottles are good for heating water after dinner, putting into the bag to keep me warm and I keep it warm for rehydrating my oatmeal for a no cook breakfast. I tried the bottles on the shoulder straps but didn’t like the bouncing along the trail, nor did I like the added weight in front, causing me to lean forward slightly. The forward lean was putting more of the load on my quads, which are smaller and weaker than the glutes, where it needs to be.Feb 20, 2018 at 1:09 pm #3519440Hoosier TBPL Member
I carry two 16oz smart water bottles on the shoulder straps of my ZB Quickstep and love it but that’s the largest size I have found comfortable. I have only found two small issues with this system.
Feb 20, 2018 at 10:18 pm #3519535
- The outside corners of the pouches tend to rub the inside of my biceps when using trekking poles (which I typically always use) which becomes a bit annoying.
- This system is quite annoying to use with a poncho as it affects fit and the bottles are tough to get in and out compared to side pockets.
Which shoulder pouches are you using? For those that own the Zimmerbuilt pouches, how do they secure to the strap? I own the Zpacks pouch and I love it, but it doesn’t seem exactly ideal for a water bottle (at least not a very tall one). The attachment point is about 3″ down from the top, so the water bottle I tried at home (591 mL Smartwater bottle) leaned forward. I’d like to have the water bottle sit snugly without bounce or rubbing. I suppose I may have to experiment with different bottles/holders.
So far, I’ve identified the following water bottle holders:
- One custom built by someone on this forum (Justin Anderson
Am I missing any other options I should consider? Anyone else do this sort of custom work?Feb 21, 2018 at 4:31 am #3519601
I have hiked and run extensively using 2 500 ml soft flasks, one on each shoulder strap. I like the Ultimate direction ones since they have large mouth openings and no hard edges. I love how they pack down to nearly nothing as they empty. Also they are compatible with the BeFree filter top which is handy.
I use the BeFree 500 or 600 ml and love it. I think the smaller size is better as it fits in a shoulder pocket well and is less floppy. Use a regular bottle or platy for addistional storage as necessary. In the Sierra where I do most of my backpacking, there is usually enough water that I only need to carry .5 to 1L at most, so I can use the BeFree and one additional soft flask (and/or another bottle or 1L platy in a side pocket as needed). Makes water stops much quicker when you often don’t even have to take your pack off, just pull out the BeFree and fill it up, if necessary fill the other soft flask or bottle and keep going.
I have a bunch of Ultimate direction packs that are designed to hold soft flasks on the shoulder straps, and work quite well. I’ve also used the Zpacks shoulder pouches with a small gatorade bottle on a Zimmerbuilt pack – they work fine that way, but I don’t recall how well they work with a soft flask.
Typical backpacks have enough padding on the shoulder straps that a hard sided gatorade bottle or bike bottle works fine and does not cause any irritation – which to me is the main reason to use a soft flask, aside from the sloshing that happens when you run with a less than full hard bottle. Taller bottles are tippier on the shoulder strap, to me the smaller Gatorade bottles are pretty ideal for this use. Bottles are probably a bit lighter and more durable, and are definitely cheaper than soft flasks. The soft flasks are comfortable and user friendly, but will eventually spring a leak, and they are not cheap – but they may be replaced on warranty if they do leak, depending on the manufacturer.Feb 21, 2018 at 4:57 am #3519610Feb 24, 2018 at 6:31 pm #3520449tom laknerBPL Member
A small loop of shock cord with a cord lock attached above the bottle holder on your shoulder strap holds the bottle quite well and keeps a taller(1ltr) bottle in placeFeb 25, 2018 at 1:14 am #3520557
Are the Ultimate Direction flasks durable? Have you used them extensively with the BeFree filter? It would be nice to have a backup flask to filter with in case my Hydrapak flask that came with the BeFree filter fails.
Do you find that it is easy to retrieve/replace the 500 mL Befree flask from your shoulder pockets?Feb 25, 2018 at 2:15 am #3520567David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
I keep seeing the title, “Shoulder mounted hydration system” and I keep thinking of something like this:Feb 25, 2018 at 7:53 am #3520593Nick SmolinskeBPL Member
@smoLocale: Rogue Panda Designs
I really like 20 oz gatorade/vitamin water bottles with two pieces of shock cord. The bottom piece of shock cord is just tied in a knot and the top piece has a cord lock so you can tighten it into the channel near the top of the bottle.
The key is to use a high-grip cord lock like the Posigrip. Shoulder strap construction techniques might make a difference too – my shock cord is tied to a tight daisy chain that is bar tacked through the whole shoulder strap (through the foam and all). My bottles don’t bounce at all.
The downside is that it’s a two-handed operation to put a bottle back on. One wacky solution would be to just bolt a bicycle bottle cage to your shoulder strap. Combine that with a squeeze bottle and you’ve got true one-handed operation. This cage from Cateye is only 1oz.Feb 25, 2018 at 12:54 pm #3520607Peter AtkinsonBPL Member
@peterbobLocale: Yorkshire, England
My preference is to carry water on my shoulder straps using these:
They look pretty similar to the Zimmerbuild ones to be honest. They take a bottle easily and don’t bounce about.Feb 25, 2018 at 1:52 pm #3520608Andrew StevensBPL Member
I have the MLD and Zimmerbuilt that I have used on various packs. I have found for me they work best if you just sew them to the shoulder strap with the bottom almost to the buckle. I don’t carry more than 500 mls per bottle because anything larger tends to stick up too high and hit your face. I have made a bunch of packs with diagonal pockets but I can rarely get the bottle back in the pack without stopping. I have a friend who has the z-packs pockets. They are light and have a lot of room but too floppy for my liking. All of the pockets seem too heavy, especially if you sew them on. You don’t need any of the straps. I just made four of them for a couple of packs and I think I’m happy with the design. I can show some pictures as they are pretty easy to make with micro-grid and 3m tape.
The Befree is a 42 mm opening (I’ve seen it written as 43) so there are not too many soft bottle that will work with it. I use a 1 liter square soft flask as I’ve also found it works so fast. I carry two soft flasks and two smart water bottles, since they are lighter and seem to go in and out of the pockets easier. I found a nice 500 ml square water bottle with sport cap that fits well in the pockets. I think the sewing of the pockets and the square water bottle keeps the movement to a minimum.
There are many places in the Sierra where I just fill my bottles from the streams without any worry of Giardia. Having bottles on your shoulder makes that great. I’ll try to send some pictures in the next day or so of the water bottle building process.Feb 26, 2018 at 6:12 am #3520783
@David Poston –
The UD flasks are made by Hydrapak (pretty sure but not 100% positive). I’ve used them with the BeFree a couple times but not extensively. I think they fit just fine but I’d have to retest to be sure, no time now but might be able to do it tomorrow and let you know. They are durable as soft flasks go, but they will eventually spring a leak like any soft flask or bladder, and require more care than a hard bottle. I am not sure how well they fit in a typical shoulder pocket as I generally use them with the UD vests and Fastpack which they are designed to fit, and they go in and out of those pockets quite easily. The .6L BeFree fits pretty well in the large zippered “burrito pocket” on the UD PB Adventure Vest 3.0.Feb 26, 2018 at 1:44 pm #3520797
@David Thomas – that would be a Shoulder Mounted REMOTE Hydration System, and is a great option for hydration at a distance – especially for trip leaders who may have participants who are somewhat lackadaisical about self-hydration.Feb 26, 2018 at 2:06 pm #3520801SmithCreekSpectator
what Tom said, but instead of a line lock I use a mini biner, holds a one liter bottle with no flopping. I attach the biner to the bottle with braided masons twine and have 2 loops of thin bungee cord attached to the shoulder strap but one is sufficient.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!
Our Community Posts are Moderated
Backpacking Light community posts are moderated and here to foster helpful and positive discussions about lightweight backpacking. Please be mindful of our values and boundaries and review our Community Guidelines prior to posting.
Get the Newsletter
Gear Research & Discovery Tools
- Browse our curated Gear Shop
- See the latest Gear Deals and Sales
- Our Recommendations
- Search for Gear on Sale with the Gear Finder
- Used Gear Swap
- Member Gear Reviews and BPL Gear Review Articles
- Browse by Gear Type or Brand.