I cross-country ski in the winter, usually not more than 2-3 hours, but it can get quite cold, -15, -20°C, and I'm often on a frozen lake exposed to wind that rapidly rips the heat out of anything.

In those conditions, I cannot simply leave a bottle in an outer pack -- they freeze, particularly once they are half empty, and it is easy to end up with a good proportion unusable. I like to take ~1-1.5 liters and consume most of it.

Since I'm travelling light, there isn't much to put in a pack except water, so nothing to insulate it with. Even if I throw in an extra fleece, this is not enough.

The best solution I've found is to wear a camelback style reservoir beneath my outer layer in a flimsy drawstring backpack. However, the hoses on those freeze very easily, and even with it under a jacket I have gotten enough ice in the line to make it hard to use, etc. It's also a bit awkward, and I dread having the bag or the hose burst or leak.

Anyone have any better ideas? It would be great if there were something palatable I could add to the water to lower the freezing point.

8 Answers 8


With a hydration pouch, if body heat keeps the reservoir ice-free, the best option is to simply blow into the tube so water retreats into the reservoir after each sip. It sounds annoying but I had a leaky mouth valve that drenched my shirt for over a year and the process became a reflex after some time.

As for water bottles, there is no panacea. You could try an insulating bottle parka although it only slows down the freezing process.

Thermos bottles are annoying because they themselves becomes incredibly cold on the outside and they tend to be heavy. Not my choice unless it's for hot beverages.


Cross-country ski on groomed trails is mostly in the past for me and I had never tried to find a solution to the freezing bottles problem, but I have never been a fan of using hydration pouches in the winter for any activity. I know blowing in the straw works from experience, but I use Nalgenes with parkas on my pack waistbelt as soon as temperatures go below freezing and simply deal with the slow loss of liquid water. My constatation though is that the extra Nalgene (inside a parka) that I carry in the backpack close to my back doesn't freeze and actually becomes warmer from body heat, even in -10°C to -20°C. The fact that it's buried in my down parka certainly helps on that front.


Both sugar and alcohol will, of course, lower the freezing point somewhat (but may add other issues, particularly the alcohol, and sugar really doesn't help much - see this question).

The best bet is likely a thermos (HydroFlask, any of a number of other similar items) which will keep the water close to the original (tap, inside room, warm) temperature for quite some time. Downside is that it weights a bit more than a Nalgene bottle, but not dramatically more. My Hydro Flask, used mainly for coffee (work or play) has a good positive seal and has never leaked on me (yet).

  • 1
    At least with sugar that won't work in practical terms: outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/10623/… And as you noted, even if it did with alcohol (I doubt it) that's a really bad idea for obvious reasons.
    – imsodin
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 20:43
  • @imsodin - for sure. The colligative properties of sugar aren't that much help. (Similar to the folks that think you add salt to water for pasta to increase the boiling temperature - it really doesn't help much until you add so much you will spit the pasta out as inedible).
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 20:56
  • Doh, a thermos is of course the answer. The reason I haven't been using one is because carrying a large cylinder of metal gives me, very literally, a headache -- wacky I know, and this morning I had completely forgotten about this odd qualification of mine which explains why there isn't a common solution to this problem: Because there is a common solution to this problem, just I'd already disqualified it. So I'll have to live with the camelback inside my jacket, lol. Until someone makes a plastic vacuum bottle.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 7:30
  • 2
    you can find neoprene insulation sleeves that are nowhere near as efficient as thermos, but still help preventing freezing
    – njzk2
    Commented Jan 6, 2019 at 2:39
  • @goldilocks: I don't know how the metal of the thermos is giving you a headache, but I have seen thermos with plastic outside and reflecting glass inside. Maybe one of those will solve your issue? Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 19:35
  • Use warmer water to begin with (even hot. possibly tea if you don't like drinking hot water)
  • Use a thermos or an bottle insulation sleeve (typically made of neoprene, it will help a bottle stay warmer for a bit longer)
  • Bring more water, since as you noticed, when the bottle is less full that's when it freezes
  • When you notice that your water gets really cold, put it under your outer layer

You can hardly avoid drinking water freezing in this temperatures when in a backpack. So this leaves you with basically two solutions:

  1. Keep it in an inside pocket, which is probably not very comfortable
  2. Use a small thermos bottle. It is not exactly ultra light but every time out mountaineering in cold weather I really valued something warm to drink.
  3. (Since it is only 2-3 hours, drinking sufficiently on the car or cabin before you leave and not drinking while out skiing.)

Not a solution in itself, but pushing the "unusable" point somewhat further:

Carry the bottle (preferably in thermo sleeve, and with warm/hot water at the beginning of the tour) upside down.
This way, the ice mostly starts forming near the bottom of the bottle instead of first thing closing the opening.

Of course, once you notice that ice forms, it's time to drink the still-liquid part fast before it is frozen as well.

There's also some compromise between having a larger bottle (so more water = more heat capacity) per surface vs. two smaller bottles with one wrapped in the clothes in the backpack for much better insulation (be sure that it doesn't leak, though).

  • ah, that's smart! Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 19:13

If you bring a smaller water bottle it will fit into something like this which you can wear under your coat so your body heat will keep it warm. Some downsides are that it is slightly less comfortable than putting the bottle in your backpack, and you can’t carry a lot of water.


Here's my personal heiarchy;

  1. Camelbak-style bladder (I prefer Platypus), tuck the nozzel into my shirt and blow water back into the reservoir between drinks.
  2. Above, but start with warm/hot water
  3. Replace bladder with wide-mouth Nalgene water bottles (narrow ones seem to freeze quicker)
  4. Above, but start with warm/hot water
  5. Above, plus add Outdoor Research "Parka" - https://amzn.to/2TPr9q1
  6. Switch to large REI thermos - only on the coldest days since it's pretty bulky.

I've also purchased one of the Arctic Innovations battery-powered heating elements for a bladder hose (https://www.arcticinnovations.com/) but haven't had a chance to test it out yet. I've been hesitant since I don't want my water supply to be battery-dependent but for a short 2-3 hour trip, it might be a solid option.

  • 1
    Hose heater!?! :D
    – goldilocks
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 18:52

I used to snowshoe in winter, and would be out all day. I would take a 2 liter pop bottle, and put a pair of work socks on it to insulated it. This went into my daypack next to me. I always carried a spare fleece anyway. It went on the back side, forcing the bottle to remain next to my back.

In the morning I would fill the bottle with hot sweet coffee. Hot juice, tea or hot chocolate would also work. By the end of the day, the remnants would still be at least luke-cool even at temperatures of -25 to -30C.

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