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Collapsible water bottles - why?
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David Dietrich

Locale: Central Mississippi
Collapsible water bottles - why? on 08/23/2014 08:08:13 MDT Print View

I keep reading recommendations saying to use collapsible water bottles for ultralight hiking, but I really don't understand why.

The big advantage seems to be space saving *when empty*, but unless you are strapping these things on the outside of your pack or carrying them, all that you're doing is creating air space in your pack once the bottle empties.

The other advantage I see touted is the weight savings, but the weight of hard bottles seems negligable when compared with the water they contain (2lbs/quart). The few ounces of weight saved is also counter balanced by the lack of durability, versatility, and balance. Durable bottles get purchased *once* (not every month), can boil water (if steel, which is my prederence), and add better structure and balance to their pack (which needs to be properly centered to avoid flopping and fatigue on long hikes).

Is there something I'm missing here, or are collapsible bottles a fad?

Troy Childs
(tchilds) - F
Re: Collapsible water bottles - why? on 08/23/2014 08:36:50 MDT Print View

Most of us carry a cooking pot for heating water. I don't think I've ever once needed multiple heating pots while backpacking.

I carry collapsing water bottles in my backpack external pocket. The reduction in volume really helps here. I also carry standard cheap plastic water bottles which can pretty much be crushed flat when not in use.

When I come to part of the trail that has no water resupply for a long distance, I load up all my water bottles and my collapsed bottles too.

It is nice carrying extra bottles that take up no space on certain trails. If you are hiking along side a river the whole time, I'd leave the collapsing bottles at home.

(FarWalker) - M

Locale: On a trail
Collapsible water bottles - why? on 08/23/2014 09:34:26 MDT Print View

Try one, it's obvious you've not used them and they are very functional for our purposes here, which is lightweight water carry. If you treat them with care they last years. As far as balancing and weight goes, where you place your heaviest items is a personal preference, I prefer to carry my water on the inside top of my pack, using a drink tube ( Platypus ). As far as plastic water bottles go every ounce you carry adds up to extra pounds, but that too is your choice. I haven't carried a Nalgene bottle since 1980, they area wonderful invention but just too heavy for me personally to want to carry, I'm trying to reduce weight not add on.

Kevin Haskins
(kevperro) - F

Locale: Washington State
Part of a system on 08/23/2014 09:42:12 MDT Print View

Part of it is personal preference and perceived utility.

I have one 2 qt. collapsible bottle and it is for dirty (unfiltered) water. It is useful when you are not sleeping near a water source and you need to tank-up and carry your evening and morning water. It also fits on my filter (Sawyer mini).

I also carry a 32oz. Gatorade bottle which is my "working" water during the hike. So... different tools for different needs. I don't know of a hard sided enclosure that would be as light as the collapsible and it takes up little room in the pack when not in use.

Also... my pack is never heavy enough to flop and unbalance. This is BackpackingLIGHT so we don't carry big bloated packs nor would you catch many carrying more than a 1-2 Qts of water.

Edited by kevperro on 08/23/2014 09:46:57 MDT.

twig .
(bretthartwig) - MLife

Locale: Australia
Collapsible water bottles - why? on 08/23/2014 09:59:48 MDT Print View

With a tiny pack like a golite ion every bit of space counts and a bottle that can conform to the available space makes packing easier. For me the "slosh factor" is the biggest plus, when the bottle is half full you can squeeze all the air out and the water doesn't slosh about in your pack as you walk. Mine have lasted years too , durability hasn't been a problem for me.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Part of a system on 08/23/2014 10:01:27 MDT Print View

I have 3 liter collapsible

I'll fill it and carry it a short distance to camp

I don't fill it, put it in pack, and carry long distance

This works if campsite is 0.1 to a couple miles from a water source

If I camp right next to stream there's no need for collapsible bag

If I camped miles from stream, then might as well have rigid bottle

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Collapsible water bottles - why? on 08/23/2014 10:16:20 MDT Print View

--The few ounces of weight saved is also counter balanced by the lack of durability, versatility, and balance.--

You do realize where you're posting right? :) We'll go to a lot greater lengths to save less weight than not carrying Nalgenes!

I use a hybrid system, a 1L soft Platy that I use as the dirty reservoir for my Sawyer Mini and 1L Smart Water bottles for the clean water. I also carry a 2L Platy in case I need to tank up for a dry camp. Like many others here, I have a small-ish pack to space is at a premium. If I'm not using the 2L or 1L Platys (which is most of the time) they take up almost no space in my pack. I simply don't want to waste 3L of space in my pack on empty containers. And the Platys have far outlasted the myriad of recycled water bottles I drink out of.


Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Collapsible water bottles - why? on 08/23/2014 10:23:11 MDT Print View

The only time I carry a collapsible water bottle is for water storage in camp. So I can fill up a bunch of water and only make one trip, and not take up any space in my pack when not using it.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Collapsible water bottles - why? on 08/23/2014 10:27:07 MDT Print View

Why? Because if everyone had the same style of backpacking, it may as well be like the old ford model t "any color you long as it is black!" :)

Personally, I have a 1 qt sports drink bottle for my normal use, a 1 liter platy that folds up nicely if I need the extra capacity and a 3 ltr nalgene canteen if I know I will be dry camping, with other people or need the water hauling ability.

If these bottles are a fad, it is a fad I have been using for almost 15 yrs. ;)

Edited by PaulMags on 08/23/2014 10:28:39 MDT.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Re: Collapsible water bottles - why? on 08/23/2014 10:27:44 MDT Print View

"You do realize where you're posting right? :) We'll go to a lot greater lengths to save less weight than not carrying Nalgenes!"

Actually, there are many here that use Nalgenes. They have shown up in may posts over the past couple of years.


collapsible water bottles on 08/23/2014 11:52:52 MDT Print View

Collapsible is good for extra water that isnt needed all the time, just for dry stretches.

Filling collapsible bottles is a pain in a stream. Often end up filling another more rigid bottle and then pouring it in to the collapsible one. I think they suck for everyday use. However, a 1L platypus with closure cap (not pull spout) is 0.8 oz, only second in wt to a very thin eco water bottle, and more durable. This is why some will use them.

I use a slightly heavier dasani water bottle most of the time with the label and plastic ring removed, weighs about 0.93 oz if I remember correctly. Worth it for filling convenience, and more durable than the really light water bottles.

Ive also used a 1l platy for drink mixes in certain areas. When empty it can fit into the bear cannister at night. Dont need wildlife chewing on your water carry ability.

David Dietrich

Locale: Central Mississippi
collapsible for long hikes on 08/23/2014 11:54:41 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the great feedback! I was shocked to see how quick, complete, and helpful the replies were (I am new here, you see).

Twig's point about durability is great to know!

I think James' comment strikes at the root of the issue, though: "If I camped miles from stream, then might as well have rigid bottle." I typically hike where there are no (safe) natural sources of water, so I am packing everything I need for 10hrs of hiking. According to my previous hikes, this amounts to about 3.7 lt / 1 gal of water. Given the weight of a gallon is 8lbs, this would seem to dwarf the weight of the bottle.

Even if I did use collapsible bottles, if I am always going to fill them each morning and drink them through the day, why is it useful to have 1 gal of empty space in my pack by the end of the day? What am I putting there instead? What will I do with it next day when I fill back up?

I think M B hit the nail on the head: "Collapsible is good for extra water that isnt needed all the time, just for dry stretches."

Edited by Hinds on 08/23/2014 16:41:37 MDT.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: collapsible for long hikes on 08/23/2014 13:35:57 MDT Print View

A few water-carrier generations ago, circa 1985, Adventure-16 made a 2-gallon water carrier consisting of a light plastic bladder with the same filler/spout as wine-in-a-box fit inside a slightly smaller nylon hang sack (hence the plastic liner never took any force, only the nylon did). I saw that and immediately thought, "Grand Canyon in Summer". Hike down hill with it deflated (or nearly so), but fill it up for the return trip. Yeah, water is heavy, but this way it wasn't poking you in the back. Empty it was 1.5-2 ounces. While backpacking, it was lovely for:

1) carrying 2 gallons from the lake or stream back to camp, hung from a tree, it was a convenient water source all night and the next morning.
2) they made (and I've MYOGed since) a mini shower head. It was (still is, maybe) the lightest, highest-capacity shower you could have.
3) inflate it with air, wrap a t-shirt around, and you have a pillow for use at night.
4) as you depleted your food and lacked the volume to fill your pack, the water carrier could be inflated with air and placed at the bottom of the pack to keep weight higher on your back.

I still use mine at times.

Especially in GCNP, I've imagined it could be handy in an emergency - someone suffering heat stroke, say. You can't reasonably carry them to the nearest water source to cool them down, but a runner with that water carrier could bring 2 gallons to the victim. Also, when dousing a campfire, you don't scrimp on the water if you can carry two gallons in one trip.

You can MYOG your own with a 5-liter wine-in-box bladder (dumpster dive behind the low-rent apartments and you'll always find one) placed in a slightly undersized stuff sack. Hot-knife a hole for the spout/fill spigot and stitch a hang strap on it.

In a pinch, remember your dry bag not only keeps water OUT but it can keep water IN. If opposing trail traffic tells you about an unexpected 10-mile waterless stretch, or you in some first-aid emergency, that dry bag becomes a 5-, 10- to 20-liter water carrier.

Edited by DavidinKenai on 08/23/2014 13:37:57 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Collapsible water bottles - why? on 08/23/2014 13:49:35 MDT Print View

I use collapsible water containers when backpacking. They are lighter in weight than a regular hard bottle. They take up less space since they collapse.

I use them all the time when around camp. My gravity filter uses two of these. In the event that I have to carry extra water over a long dry stretch, collapsible containers fit in pockets where hard bottles do not.

Besides, I found a source of collapsible Platypus-like containers that weigh about two-thirds what a Platypus weighs.

So, basically, I would agree that you are missing something here.


Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Re: bladder bags, and other collapsible bottle advantages on 08/23/2014 14:48:04 MDT Print View

Like David, I used 2 gallon bladder bags way back when, and thought they were great for a while.

Unlike David, I stopped using them after putting a hole in the thin plastic bag too many times. Even with repeated warnings, hiking partners never failed to lay the bag down on a patch of thorns. And when you are camping in that kind of country, suddenly not being able to carry a couple gallons of water becomes a serious problem. Yes, I put duct tape on the holes, but I don't think duct tape glue is FDA approved, and the duct tape patch usually leaked.

Like others, now I use a combination of hard-sided bottles and soft bottles, currently a 1.5 liter Trader Joe's Mountain Spring water bottle (imported from Olancha or Weed!), plus one or two 2 liter Platypus collapsible bottles.

Other collapsible bottle advantages:

- At the start of a long trip, my backpack might take an extra few minutes of power stuffing to get everything inside. A collapsible water bottle makes that process quicker and easier when I'm carrying less water.

- If an empty TJ water bottle ends up in the wrong spot in my pack, it makes repeated crink-crunk noises as the bottle flexes. Not a problem with a collapsible bottle.

- I squeeze the air out of a partially full collapsible bottle before sealing it. Then I lay it sideways across the top of my pack - a good place to carry dense weight, and no sloshing noise.

- Yes, I can crush a TJ water bottle to take up less space. Can't reuse it after that. And it develops sharp edges that poke holes in other equipment.

-- Rex

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: bladder bags, and other collapsible bottle advantages on 08/23/2014 15:27:20 MDT Print View

Both hard bottles and bladders have advantages, and I have and use both.

Basically, much of it boils down to the size of your pack. If it is big enough that it is no trouble to carry a few empty PET rocket bottles, then that may be the easier and safer solution. If not, then a collapsible bladder makes sense.

Where I have used a bladder effectively is for dry camps - the top of a mountain for instance. For the rest of the trip the bladder gets rolled up and stowed and does not get in the way.

Bladders: there are many heavy bladders designed to withstand being run over by a truck. Great for novices, not needed here at BackpackingLIGHT. Me, I use empty 5 L wine sacks (yeah, out of a box). Really light, but really strong.

Hard bottles: metal bottles and big heavy Nalgenes are OK for novices, but are not needed here at BackpackingLIGHT. Me, (and many others here) I use 1.25 L rocket-base fizzy mineral water bottles. (Large Coke bottles to some.) They are the lightest option of all bottles, and again are really tough. They survive drop tests amazingly well.


David Dietrich

Locale: Central Mississippi
Re: rcaffin on 08/23/2014 16:18:27 MDT Print View

I like the tips about rocket bottles and wine sacks! It seems overall that bladders are best for carrying water to a dry camp. The PET bottles seem satisfactory for hauling drinking water on the trail since they are equivalent in weight (one post listed them as about .4 ounces "heavier", I believe).

Edited by Hinds on 08/23/2014 16:50:49 MDT.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Re: wine bladder like containers on 08/23/2014 16:37:44 MDT Print View

I still have some of those old REI brand nylon bladder holders and wine box like bladders that come with them, but wonder if the plastic would have deteriorated and be unsafe for drinking water at this point?


Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Re: Collapsible water bottles - why? on 08/23/2014 16:40:13 MDT Print View

I have a dual use for my Platypus bladders. I took an extra cap (regular solid one; not the push pull ones) and then punched a bunch of holes in it with a heavy duty sewing needle. Just put that cap on a full bladder and walla... shower.


Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Collapsible water bottles - why? on 08/23/2014 17:03:48 MDT Print View