How do you keep water from freezing in the backcountry?

Grouseman

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Oct 17, 2020
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This year I will have a backcountry camp six miles from the truck and three miles from the closest water source. I will have a multi-fuel stove, but due to the wildfires, I will not have a wood stove. I plan on hauling in 5 days worth of water. I expect lows in the single digits and I could easily go 3 or 4 straight days below with high temps being below freezing. I know the forecast changes, but it looks like I will have a snowy and cold day early on, so the sun may not be out much. I will be ditching lightweight water bottles for nalgenes so i will sleep with 4 warm nalgenes inside my bag and I will be able to keep that thawed during the day hunting. My concern is my 5 gallon reservoir.

Anyone have any tips? Burying it is all I can think to do, but that will be a total PITA with the soil conditions where I am going to camp.

Thanks all
Man that's tough...hate to say but I'd look for an area that allows stage 1 restriction legal shepherd stove...keep it warm in the tent. I wouldn't mess with not knowing if I could have water available or not.
 

Larry Bartlett

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Im typing now as a wilderness guide and expedition leader...ditch the 5-gallon jug unless you're in a vehicle. In that case okay.

I never travel with more water than I can use in 48 hours. Animals need water too, so if you're 2 days from water, you're 24-36 hours from terrain with animals who drink water. I've found this true even in the Pamir Mnts in Afghanistan and Tajikistan where water simply hides from humans.

You might have to rethink your wilderness savvy and develop a system that is manageable and logical. Sometimes, like negating the 5-gal jug (40-lbs of water??!!), we push ourselves to operate outside of the normal range of logic for the sake of reason. go with small containers and be tight with usage.

it sounds like you're graduating from road hunting to backcountry hunting...trim the kit and work on a better plan for water minus the large heavy spine-benders.
 

Carlin59

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Jun 6, 2013
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Colorado
The dromedary bags make nice pillows when full, that will account for ten liters combined that won’t freeze at night.
 

BeaverHunter

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Sep 15, 2018
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767
Pissing in a bottle in the middle of the night is the only way to go when its like 5 degrees out. Getting out of a warm sleeping bag, putting on frozen boots, going outside and possibly getting snow from the tent down your neck and back, and pissing outside is no fun.
I’ve camped in single digit temps and never done this or heard of anyone doing it. Not sure I would find that easier than just peeing outside. To each their own though. Maybe it is easier. What are you going to do with your frozen bottles of pee?
 

Poser

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Dec 27, 2013
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Durango CO
I’ve camped in single digit temps and never done this or heard of anyone doing it. Not sure I would find that easier than just peeing outside. To each their own though. Maybe it is easier. What are you going to do with your frozen bottles of pee?

It’s super common for climbers to use pee bottles in cold weather. I’ve seen guys who could pee in a bottle without leaving their sleeping bag. Van dwellers often use them as well. After some experimentation, I prefer just to step out of the tent unless it’s dumping rain. I never was super accurate and require a wide mouth bottle
 
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J

Jn78

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Joined
May 9, 2018
Messages
163
Im typing now as a wilderness guide and expedition leader...ditch the 5-gallon jug unless you're in a vehicle. In that case okay.

I never travel with more water than I can use in 48 hours. Animals need water too, so if you're 2 days from water, you're 24-36 hours from terrain with animals who drink water. I've found this true even in the Pamir Mnts in Afghanistan and Tajikistan where water simply hides from humans.

You might have to rethink your wilderness savvy and develop a system that is manageable and logical. Sometimes, like negating the 5-gal jug (40-lbs of water??!!), we push ourselves to operate outside of the normal range of logic for the sake of reason. go with small containers and be tight with usage.

it sounds like you're graduating from road hunting to backcountry hunting...trim the kit and work on a better plan for water minus the large heavy spine-benders.
I am not really new to the backcountry. I am certainly not as experienced as some others, but over the past 25 years I've probably spent close to 1000 nights in the backcountry on 4 continents, always unguided. Granted most of that was not hunting, but I've dealt with stuff like hyenas and elephants in camp in Africa and mudslides washing away a trail in the Andes, so I hope that, with some helpful suggestions from others on here, I can figure out how to keep some water from freezing for a few days.

This trip is just presenting a unique challenge because creeks, wallows, and springs are dried up and there is no snow on the ground that I could melt. I cannot have a fire due to restrictions and a cold front looks like it is pushing in at the start of the season. If any one of those circumstances were different, my problem would not exist.

Carrying 40 pounds of water 3 miles isn't a big deal, at all, and is totally worth being set for the first few days of the season, in my opinion. I don't think there is anything unmanageable or illogical about a 3 mile hike with 40 lbs.

I could camp at the water but there will be wall tents there and I prefer to be away from folks, especially with the crowds this year.

Also, there is water on private within a few hundred yards of camp. Water is on private. Bedding areas are on public.
 
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J

Jn78

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May 9, 2018
Messages
163
I’ve camped in single digit temps and never done this or heard of anyone doing it. Not sure I would find that easier than just peeing outside. To each their own though. Maybe it is easier. What are you going to do with your frozen bottles of pee?
100 degree pee doesn't freeze super fast.
 
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J

Jn78

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May 9, 2018
Messages
163
Van dwellers often use them as well.
I did about 3 months in a van one summer. I had a dedicated nalgene for piss. I drew a skull and cross bones on the bottle. I think that got the attention of the canadian border crossing officer as she was tearing my van apart. The look on her face when she opened that bottle and sniffed was one of total horrible.
 

5MilesBack

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Feb 27, 2012
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Colorado Springs
Heck, I even use pee bottles in base camp in September. Roll over, pee in bottle, roll back over and back to sleep. And on solo road trips I only stop for fuel, and with a 38 gallon tank I can make it 700 miles.......so I use bottles then too.
 

Paul Bais

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Nov 27, 2015
Messages
89
store the water bottles in a black trash bag to help gather some heat in the mid day sun?
 

JPD350

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Feb 25, 2012
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Location
Abq NM
I would find a natural depression on the ground or in rocks then assemble a wood, log and branches roof over the water or just find a big diameter downed tree and hollow out a little area under it then pack thick pieces of wood around it along with some fresh pine branches and dirt. Also I agree with others to use the 6 liter Drom bags instead of plastic jugs.
 

SaltySailor

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Aug 21, 2018
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Palmer, Alaska
I am not really new to the backcountry. I am certainly not as experienced as some others, but over the past 25 years I've probably spent close to 1000 nights in the backcountry on 4 continents, always unguided. Granted most of that was not hunting, but I've dealt with stuff like hyenas and elephants in camp in Africa and mudslides washing away a trail in the Andes, so I hope that, with some helpful suggestions from others on here, I can figure out how to keep some water from freezing for a few days.

This trip is just presenting a unique challenge because creeks, wallows, and springs are dried up and there is no snow on the ground that I could melt. I cannot have a fire due to restrictions and a cold front looks like it is pushing in at the start of the season. If any one of those circumstances were different, my problem would not exist.

Carrying 40 pounds of water 3 miles isn't a big deal, at all, and is totally worth being set for the first few days of the season, in my opinion. I don't think there is anything unmanageable or illogical about a 3 mile hike with 40 lbs.

I could camp at the water but there will be wall tents there and I prefer to be away from folks, especially with the crowds this year.

Also, there is water on private within a few hundred yards of camp. Water is on private. Bedding areas are on public.
Lol, hell, if you are willing to carry 41 lbs of water 3 miles from a water source, just haul a 20lb propane tank and a buddy heater for a total weight of 47lbs from the truck to camp! Make your water run once, then keep heater on low and be warm and toasty with unthawed water at all times.
 
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Jn78

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May 9, 2018
Messages
163
Lol, hell, if you are willing to carry 41 lbs of water 3 miles from a water source, just haul a 20lb propane tank and a buddy heater for a total weight of 47lbs from the truck to camp! Make your water run once, then keep heater on low and be warm and toasty with unthawed water at all times.
Thank you. Honestly, I don't know why this never occurred to me. It is certainly not a conventional thing to do backpacking, but I guess neither is setting up a multi-day basecamp 3 miles from water when temps are close to zero, there are fire restrictions, and there is no snow on the ground to melt.

The little buddy heater weighs 4 pounds. The heater, 4 one-pound bottles, and a small propane cooktop weigh 12.5 pounds all together. By adding the heater, I will be comfortable replacing pack boots with regular boots, leaving my multifuel stove and extra fuel bottle, leaving my down vest, switching another layer, and leaving hand/toe warmers. By the time my hunting partner leaves a thing or two behind, we will each hike in with less than 2 additional pounds.

I think we will build a little rock wall wall in front of the heater and probably incorporate a space blanket into the wall, put the water in between the wall and the heater, and add some electrolyte mix to the water. Fingers crossed, but I think that our water will not freeze. An added bonus is we will be way more comfortable in the morning and at night.
 
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