Why hydration systems really suck

When hydration systems first came out, they seemed like a really good idea – dehydration affects performance , and with deeper breathing at high altitude leading to more loss of fluid through exhaled air, and the dry mountain air getting rid of sweat faster, it’s really important to stay hydrated from both a performance perspective and to avoid the onset of acute mountain sickness.

The problem is that, despite being a great concept, they simply don’t work in an alpine environment. The number of times I’ve had clients who swear by their hydration systems, and then later in the week, one of the folllowing happens:

  • The tube freezes (allegedly avoidable by blowing back in to the reservoir)
  • The nipple gets torn off – particularly likely with Australian duck billed mammal types…..
  • Client either doesn’t drink all the water or leaves loads behind at the end of the day

All the same, the week commencing 15th June was super hot and I was multi pitch rock climbing at speed, so I thought I’d give it a go again. I have a system from Source that is more robust than Australian duck billed mammals. on day 1, we went cragging at Arnad in Italy and on pitch 7, I felt a few drops of water. Looking up at the sky, there were a few clouds but nothing that looked like rain. After a few minutes, I realised the drops were only on my right leg. The nipple was leaking (not as bad as being ripped off at least).

Then the next day we were due to walk in to the Gramusset hut underneath the Pointe Percée so I filled it completely, shoved it down the sleeve in the back of the rucksack, and then packed the sack fully for 2 days away. Then went to pick the sack up to go out the door half an hour later, to discover a big pool of water on the floor, and an empty hydration system. I guess that the compression of the bladder had started a syphoning effect.

So – that’s it – no more hydration system use for me, unless I can afford to get either wet or thirsty, which kind of loses the point of them in the first place, eh?