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Keeping water bottles on your shoulder straps
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Dan Johnson

Locale: PNW
Keeping water bottles on your shoulder straps on 02/10/2012 15:48:25 MST Print View

I was curious to hear what people think about keeping their water bottles attached to their shoulder straps instead of using the side pockets on the pack? I was thinking about carrying mine on my shoulder straps but wanted to hear other's stories on how it worked out. I thought that by moving my water out of my pack pockets I could use those pockets for other items (i.e. cookset or others bulky lightweight items).


Paul Gibson
(pgibson) - F

Locale: SW Idaho
Re: Keeping water bottles on your shoulder straps on 02/10/2012 15:53:27 MST Print View

Hey D,

I like it pretty well for smaller bottle (20oz and below) I used a few short pieces of 3/32nd shock cord to make loops on my shoulder straps to hold the bottle in place. On small piece loops around the neck of the bottle and another a bit bigger around the body of the bottle to hold it from bouncing around. I am planning to do something similar with my Tenkara rod this year to have it ready and easily accessible while I hike.



Richard Cullip
(RichardCullip) - M

Locale: San Diego County
I love them on 02/10/2012 15:55:01 MST Print View

I love the water bottle hosters (adjustable, elastic cords attach to the front of the shoulder straps) on my ULA CDT pack. Keeps the water bottles (0.5 liter Gatorade bottles) within easy reach and I've found them much easier to use while on the move than trying to keep the water bottles just out of reach in the elastic side pockets.

Ryan Linn

Locale: Maine!
Re: I love them on 02/10/2012 16:23:43 MST Print View

I'll second that. I switched to shoulder-bottles for the PCT, and I haven't been able to go back to anything else. Having them on the shoulders feels good as far as balancing the back a little, and it's the best alternative to hydration bladders for easy-access water. 20 oz gatorade or lifewater bottles are best for me, since they have that groove about 1/4 of the way down from the cap, so one piece of shock cord with a cord lock holds really well. 16 ounce juice bottle also work just fine. Here's one pic of them on my pack-- you really forget they're there, and they don't get in the way at all.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re: Keeping water bottles on your shoulder straps on 02/10/2012 16:24:35 MST Print View

Me too. I have a bungee rig similar to the one described above- consists of thin bungee cord and a cordlock. Use it with a 20 oz. water bottle and a straw. This rig is so much simpler and lighter than a Camelback but gives equally easy access.

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Keeping water bottles on your shoulder straps on 02/10/2012 16:28:40 MST Print View

I use a metal clip that goes around the mouth of most soda / water bottles (the "disposable" type out of vending machines). That uses a microbiner to my pack strap. Just reach and pull and it "snaps" off. I haven't lost a bottle yet and it's pretty handy.

Walmart carries them for a buck or two. I couldn't find the exact model, but here's the same idea:

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Keeping water bottles on your shoulder straps on 02/10/2012 16:29:27 MST Print View

I use a metal clip that goes around the mouth of most soda / water bottles (the "disposable" type out of vending machines). That uses a microbiner to my pack strap. Just reach and pull and it "snaps" off. I haven't lost a bottle yet and it's pretty handy.

Walmart carries them for a buck or two. I couldn't find the exact model, but here's the same idea:

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Simblissity on 02/10/2012 17:00:57 MST Print View

I like the Simblissity bottle holder.
It's featherlight and functional.

May not work any better than one you made yourself, but if DIY is not an option, it can't be beat.

jacko vanderbijl

Locale: Shelley Western Australia
Water bottle holders on ULA Circuit on 02/10/2012 18:01:38 MST Print View

I found the water bottle holder on the Circuit was great for a smallish bottle (up to 600ml/20oz) but as I could still reach the side pockets without taking pack off could still reach the larger bottle I kept in one side pocket if I ran out. I used the second set of shoulder straps to keep my bucket hat and/or buff. I wouldn't recommend shoulder straps for a large water container but am a big fan for a small water bottle about 10-15oz. I kept the best quality water there and had two larger bottles for water that was more for cooking or needing a bit of filtering. Every time I came to water I checked if it was better than I had and updated accordingly.

Aaron Croft
(aaronufl) - M

Locale: Oregon
Well... on 02/10/2012 18:12:23 MST Print View

Looks like I'm in the minority, but I've never liked having my water bottles attached to the shoulder strap. I always felt it was too bulky and finicky to attach the bottle that way when I could just slide it in a pocket.

But everyone is different of course.

George Geist
(geist) - M

Locale: Smoky Mountains
Moved from shoulder straps to hip belt on 02/10/2012 18:41:50 MST Print View

I tried carrying my liter water bottles on my shoulder straps, but found it hurt my shoulders having that much weight pulling down on the front of the shoulder straps.
While I found the location very convenient, the bottles were all in the way when I bent over for any reason.

What I finally settled on was sewing holsters that clip to my hip belt. This put the water weight on my hips and was still more convenient than trying to reach back into my pack pocket.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Side pockets on 02/11/2012 05:10:04 MST Print View

Like Jacko and George I prefer the side pockets for my water, if they are reachable like the ULA Circuit/CDT and others. Which I happen to now use for most trips.

Other packs have side pockets that are more difficult to reach and that is when I put a 12 oz bottle on the shoulder strap. That way I don't have to wrestle with the pack as much.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Side pockets on 02/11/2012 05:53:49 MST Print View

The support offered by doing a more symetrical loading is good, when you put them on both shoulder straps. However, I have a couple bad disks and find that Aarn style loading does me no good what so ever. The load needs to be on my hips.

My shoulder straps usually carry between 3 and 5 pounds of weight...just enough to stabilize the pack and loads. The hip belt picks up the vast majority of the weight at about 15 pounds around my waist. To put 2pounds on my shoulder straps also means I will balance two pounds from my pack. This puts the total pressure on my shoulders at 4 pounds plus it is "upper" loading. Upper loading is when most of the weight is carried high on your on your chest. I far prefer to have it lower, on my hips. But the weight is "loose" without an additional loading to stapilize the pack. Try it both ways as I have done. See which way works best for you. My wife really hates it. I like it, but after a couple days my back starts complaining.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: bottles on straps on 02/11/2012 07:30:45 MST Print View

I've always liked the idea of a bottle on the strap: out of the way while bushwacking, close at hand, but even with a 16oz bottle found the bounce of bungies intolerable. Recently, at the suggestion of Josh Spice, I've been using a Voile ski strap to keep a 16oz nalgene (it's winter) on my shoulder strap (right above the sternum strap). Cinched around the upper 1/3 of the bottle, it is totally stable and totally invisible. I anticipate going over to a lighter bottle come spring, but keeping the same rig.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Keeping water bottles on your shoulder straps on 02/11/2012 07:52:30 MST Print View

A picture is worth a thousand words.

I went to the configuration below for a couple of reasons.

Water bottle carriers and cell phone/camera sternum strap pocket

I wanted to be able to easily access my water bottles, camera and cell phone while hiking. Balancing the load was not one of my design criteria but as an afterthought I see where it does accomplish this goal. Another reason that I went in this direction was due to the fact that I use a dedicated side pocket on my pack for my shelter.

Shelter in the blue stuff sack in the dedicated side pocket of my pack

You'll notice that I carry a Gatorade quart sized water bottle on the other side of my pack. The two bottles on the shoulder straps are 28 ounces. I like having just a little more water than that on board in case I run into a long dry stretch of trail.

I haven't had any real issues with shoulder discomfort because of the water bottles on my shoulder straps. I use a hip belt to keep the majority of the pack weight on my hips. I sympathize with James and baby my lower back as much as possible.

Hip belt

The pack has the sleeping pad rolled and inserted into the pack as an open cylinder. All of my gear goes into a pack liner and inside of the "cylinder". When the pack is closed and compressed it transfers the weight to my hips fairly well.

George's idea of carrying the water bottles in holsters on the hip belt is very interesting.

Party On,


david delabaere

Locale: Northern VA
Platypus on 02/11/2012 08:42:59 MST Print View

Just got a bottle holder myself from gearswap. I do like have some weight in the front to counterbalance the pack. However having done a lot of photography I have to say that I carry the weight better when I put my lens on the hip belt.

Depending on the pack I have trouble putting back in the larger 32oz nalgenes in the side pocket. The platypus, even moreso a problem with side pockets.

I think I'm going to start looking into a solution to carry the platypus in the front.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Platypus on 02/11/2012 08:55:20 MST Print View



Done! ;-)

Seriously though I have toyed with idea of inserting a drinking straw through the top of my water bottles on the shoulder straps. I could then avoid removing them from the carriers except for when I have to fill and treat the water in them.

Party On,


John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Keeping water bottles on your shoulder straps on 02/11/2012 09:00:32 MST Print View

Golites method from the past was shock cord on bottom half of bottle and velcro strap on top half of bottle.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
definitely hip belt bottles: h4o on 02/11/2012 17:56:57 MST Print View

I played around with a bunch of versions, these are the latest that work for the required parameters (1 liter nalgene, 1 liter regular plastic bottle, 24 oz bike bottle, 18 oz bottle), had to go to dual straps to avoid excessive sway, and for times when a small bottle is used in a full liter sized water bottle holder, I added a small internal frame to the holder, weight of these is 10 grams for the size that fits 18-24 oz best, and about 12 grams for the size that fits 1 liter nalgene, 1 liter disposable, and down to 18 oz. Material is 2.2 oz 70 denier coated nylon. I don't think I'd use silnylon on these because of the constant sway pressure on the bottle holder when walking.

These are dual use, either pants belt or hipbelt. Main concern is that zpacks cord is a bit too narrow and might eat the hipbelt edges over time. I also made these in a cool 4oz blue mesh I found at the fleamarket, but the orange is lighter and stiffer overall.

I call these h4o because it's the forth major version, and the first one that actually worked well for all bottle sizes.

back  of holder, you can see the frame stiffener (a piece of plastic milk bottle or something)

on pants belt, holding 1 liter nalgene (too heavy for my taste for a 1 inch belt, but does work)

on 4" hipbelt, I use a small cord to keep it attached and avoid it sliding off

back of belt, you can see here why you need the stiffener frame, to avoid collapse when you tighten

the quest for the perfect water bottle holder continues, but these are pretty solid, a few dimensions are off but otherwise work fine.

Materials 2.2 oz coated nylon, 1.5mm zpacks cord, tiny zpack cord locks, and 1/2 inch grosgrain. Plus a small rectangle from a flat sided plastic bottle, like milk or juice.

Uncoated 1.9 oz nylon would take them under 10grams each. Silnylon would take them further down, closer to 7 grams, but I suspect durability would be an issue at that point.

Personally, I want less, not more weight, on my shoulder straps. I did make shoulder strap pouches though, those turned out nice, for little stuff.

Edited by hhope on 02/11/2012 18:06:09 MST.

Vince Contreras
(pillowthread) - F

Locale: like, in my head???
Bounce the bounce... on 02/12/2012 01:10:59 MST Print View

I like the lightness of the multiple-bungee bottle containment method, but I, too, find the bounce uncomfortable at times. I have since purchased a pair of Joe's (ZPacks) cuben backpack shoulder pouches and find them to be worth both the weight and cost increase. They work best with the 20oz gatorade-style bottles. Those new-ish, 24oz water bottles fit, but the pocket is not deep enough to not feel top heavy with a full bottle. The pouches also work really well with smaller bottles like the 16oz juice bottle--they have a little drawcord/cordlock around the top--allowing one a bit more room in the outer mesh pocket for additional items. Since the weight hangs from above the pouch, and the pouch has a pair of elastic bands sewn to the back to keep it snug to the backpack strap, it is never allowed to gain momentum, even when loaded down with a full 20 ounces. Super functional.