Mountain Climber with Frozen Water Bottle by McKay Savage
Photo by McKay Savage
Have you ever been out for a run, opened your water bottle or taken a sip from your hydration pack, and discovered that the water is either frozen or so warm that it is unpalatable? On those days when it is really cold out or really hot out, you need to be sure to keep hydrated but it presents its own difficulties.

There is an easy way to moderate the water temperatures, though, so that the water remains available for a longer period of time over the course of your run.

Up until this past year, I rarely carried water with me and never really had to deal with this sort of situation. My first 50k trail race brought home to me the need for carrying your own water, and I purchased both a handheld water bottle and a backpack with a water bottle similar to a CamelBak but manufactured by the North Face. As such, I have had to rely on others for advice when it comes to carrying water.

When you are running in extreme hot or cold temperatures, here are some easy steps that you can take to keep your water potable.

  1. Start with hot or cold water. If it is hot out, put some ice cubes or partially freeze the water before setting out. If it is cold out, use lukewarm water.
  2. Ditch the water bottle. Using a backpack style hydration pack with a bladder instead. In both hot and cold temperatures, it takes longer to freeze or heat a larger volume of water. In the heat, holding a water bottle in your hand is going to warm it up faster than wearing a bladder inside of a backpack on top of your clothes and in the cold you will not be carrying a lump of ice that will freeze your hands.
  3. Position the pack appropriately. In the heat, keep the pack outside of your shirt. In the cold, you can wear the pack in between layers to provide some added insulation.
  4. Clear the hose after each sip. Once you are done drinking from the pack, blow air back into the hose. This will push the water in the hose back into the bladder where it will be slower to heat or freeze. It will also prevent you from losing access to the water in the bladder if your nozzle freezes because there will be less water to block it.
  5. Don’t blow too much air back into the hose. If you blow too much air back into the hose, the air will get into the bladder and the water will slosh around as you are running. Not that that will cause any problems, but it can be a little annoying.

That strategy should work pretty well for most conditions that you would run in.

I learned the tips for running in the heat from Jack Pilla, who beat me by about 15 minutes at the Pisgah race. I learned the cold weather tips yesterday from Ian Parlin. We ran out at Bradbury Mountain on the trails and Ian carried his water with him as he planned on running twice as far as I had been planning on. He got to test the air in the hose trick, which worked out pretty well for him.

I plan on experimenting with my hydration pack on my next long run, as my last few have left my mouth pretty dry by the end of the run. Running in the snow is a lot more work than running on the roads (and a lot more fun.)