The Essential Mountain Biking Supplies In My Hip Pack

Fanny pack, bum bag, MTB stuff carrier, the nerdy thing your dad wore in the 70s, whatever you call it there’s no getting around how convenient the Platypus Chuckanut Hip Pack is. For a quick ride, it carries all the essentials without weighing you down. I’m a bit of a minimalist on the mountain bike, I don’t normally opt for the backpack and kitchen sink. I like to carry exactly what I need and nothing more.

mountain biking hip pack items
 

Here are the 5 things that are always in my Chuckanut Hip Pack:

1. Flexible SoftBottle

Water isn’t for cowards. Water isn’t just for washing blood off your uniform. On a one-hour ride, the flexible Platypus SoftBottle (included with the pack) is usually just enough water to keep me from drying out and shriveling in the Utah desert. The SoftBottle really comes in handy on longer rides when you can use it in addition to a water bottle on your frame.

re-usable collapsible water bottle

2. Cell Phone

I like taking photos and videos of my rides. I like to track mileage and elevation. I also like not getting lost in the woods for hours on end trying to navigate a tricky trail system. I always carry my phone when I ride. Conveniently, the Chuckanut has a phone-shaped, fleece-lined pocket — bet you can’t guess what it’s for? I like how the phone pocket is tucked against my back, that way my screen doesn’t crack into a thousand pieces if I take a tumble.

mountain biking with a hip pack

3. Multi-Tool

I go barebones while biking, but one thing I never ride without is a multi-tool. I don’t know how many times it has saved my ride. Whether it’s for fixing tweaked handlebars after taking a dirt sample or repairing a broken chain, a multi-tool will keep your ride rolling after things go sideways. I make sure to carry one with a chain breaker and all the hex keys so I can fix just about anything that goes wrong.

4. CO2 Cartridge and Inflator

Flats tires suck.

quick mountain bike ride

5. Food

I get hangry if I don’t eat. Riding while hangry is a dangerous game. I’m always packing a few sugary snacks to get me through a ride, no matter how short. Nothing is worse than the dreaded bonk. I keep my snacks in the waist belt pockets for easy access. There’s plenty of room for a granola bar and gummies.

6. Bonus Item: Rain Jacket/Windbreaker

Regulating your temperature while on the bike can be a little tricky. I find that I overheat on the way up, get nice and sweaty, then proceed to shiver in the 20 mph wind chill on the downhill. I like to pack a windbreaker on those brisk mornings. I tuck it in the external pocket and cinch down the straps. Once I hit the top of the climb, I break out the jacket and enjoy my perfectly regulated body temperature.

All in all, I’m a huge fan of the Chuckanut Hip Pack. It surprisingly holds a lot of gear for being such a slim, low-profile pack. It stays put on my hips while I ride without too much bouncing around. It carries everything I need and nothing more.

Conor Barry is an outdoor, adventure, lifestyle and scenic photographer. He spends a lot of time on two wheels, taking dirt samples with his face and trying to keep up with more talented riders. Luckily, he lives in the amazing mountain town of Salt Lake City, UT, surrounded by mountains, forests and lakes. He’s got a thing for being outside, getting dirty and spending time with good people. Half of the time, he’s lucky enough to call that “work.” See his work at conorbarry.com or on Instagram @conorbarryphotography.

Planning for Hydration on Long-Distance Hikes

Hydration is key no matter if you’re thru-hiking or just out for a day hike on a local trail. Planning for a hike involves many different aspects. One of the biggest is learning where and what types of water sources are available on your chosen trail. One of the most common mistakes hikers make is to hit the trail without much of a plan. Some hikers even carry less water in an attempt to cut pack weight. Through my Triple Crown experiences – hiking and bikepacking the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail – I’ve evolved how I filter and carry water on long-distance pursuits.

Finding Water

Not knowing where to find water can lead to many issues like dehydration, soreness, headache, cramping, and a number of other health-related issues. All of these conditions can be avoided by some simple planning at home. Most trails have detailed guides and regularly updated water reports that you can use to check the status of the water sources. Active hiking communities also share information through word of mouth and online forums – water is always at the top of the list. Trail Angels are another great source of information as well and are often more than happy to chip in any local knowledge they can share.

water sources on thru hikes

Staying Hydrated

There are also many aspects to keeping hydrated on the trail. How much water do I need? Where is the next water source? Will it be flowing? Is it clean or dirty and need extra filtering? Will there be water left in a cache when you get there? Keep in mind different conditions and trails may require different filters.

While on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in New Mexico, I needed to carry large quantities of water and most of the sources were less than ideal. Earthen cattle tanks are prevalent in New Mexico and are possibly the worst water sources of all. Not only did I have to carry such large water quantities at one time, I also had to filter it. With that in mind, I needed a filter system that could not only handle less than ideal water sources, but could efficiently filter large quantities without taking forever.

Filtering Water

The Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System met all my requirements. I was able to filter up to 4 liters at once, completing camp chores as the system worked its magic. It was a key part of my cooking set up. The GravityWorks system has two bladders, so I was also able to carry additional unfiltered water with me between sources and filter as room became available in my Platy Bottles. The fast flow rate and pump-free technology eliminated long arduous filtering sessions at the water source.

Another important feature of the GravityWorks is that you can backflush the system in 4 seconds, maintaining peak performance with minimal fuss. As a hiker, I like to walk from sun up to sun down and don’t want to be slowed down by annoying tasks, so this feature is paramount.
I’ve used many filtering systems and the Platypus GravityWorks is one of the simplest and most versatile on the market.

Even before I did my first overnight hike, my philosophy on filtering water was simple: why let something like giardia end your hike? With the right equipment and knowledge, it doesn’t take long to simply treat or filter water so you can confidently stay hydrated.

Craig Fowler is a professional adventurer, story teller, and motivator. Specializing in hiking and bikepacking, Fowler has gained insane amounts trail knowledge/expertise and put it all on his website oneofsevenproject.com. Through his numerous guides and resources pages covering both bikepacking and hiking, he helps breakdown barriers both mentally and physically in hopes of encouraging others to get out more and to follow their own passions. Fowler is currently the only person to have completed both the bikepacking and thru-hiking triple crowns. For more checkout his website, or follow his adventures at @oneofsevenproject.

What Does it Take to Build and Maintain Mountain Bike Trails?

The Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is the nation’s largest statewide mountain bike advocacy organization and is dedicated to creating, maintaining and protecting sustainable mountain bike opportunities in Washington.

When riders think of Evergreen, they typically think of our 5,500 strong membership, or our legacy of advocacy work dating back to 1989, or one of our recent major trail network openings like Raging River near North Bend.

It often comes as a surprise though when people learn that we have the largest paid trail crew of any mountain bike organization in the country. Evergreen currently employs 12 full-time professional builders and, in the summer, that number balloons into the low 20’s as we take on part-timers to keep up with the demands of maintaining and building Washington’s ever-expanding trail network.

Brian Tustison is one of Evergreen’s full-time crew members and I caught up with him on a recent cloudy day in Port Gamble, Washington as he scouted the area to begin planning for a new mountain bike ride park set to begin construction soon.

Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance
 
Hey Brian, just the basics first… What do you do at Evergreen?

I’m a full-time trailbuilder. Within that I role I plan, design, construct and maintain trails.

What region do you primarily work in?

I typically work in south Puget Sound– basically south of the I-90 corridor. I’m based in Tacoma and I work out from there.

What’s a typical day for an Evergreen trailbuilder?

For me it depends on whether I’m doing design work or construction– every day starts with sitting in traffic (laughs). Normally it’s all about communication with your coworkers to get an idea of what needs to get done that day. You establish a goal and just start chipping away at it. For design work, you consult your map, figure out a goal and then go trudging off into the woods to hang flags and take notes.

Mountain bike trail building
 

A lot of folks don’t really know the ins and outs of what it takes to build a trail. Assuming you’ve already gone through all approval, permitting and environmental studies– run me through what happens next… I guess you’d start flagging?

Well, honestly, once your permitting is in place, you’ve already done a lot of flagging so at that point you need to figure out with your crew and your land manager how you want to build the trail. If you’re doing a machine-built trail then you need to start thinking about ordering your machine, stocking up on supplies and walking the flag corridor with your coworkers to get ideas. If it’s a handbuild– we just mobilize, load up tools and also get in touch with our volunteer coordinator to start planning work parties. Handbuilt trails are always super volunteer driven.

Talk a little bit more about that… Your job really relies on quality volunteers.

Volunteers get everything done. They fill in so many holes through their hard work and they contribute thousands of hours to trails each year for Evergreen. We can rough in a half mile of trail in a day in the right place with a huge volunteer work party. Volunteers who listen and take good direction are really worth their weight in gold. We can’t get it done without them.

As Evergreen is moving forward, we’re getting more opportunities to build more raw and rugged hand-built trails to suit more advanced riders– volunteer input on that just ensures we’re building what the public wants.

Evergreen Trail Builder
 
What do you enjoy most about your work?

Everything… It’s hard to pinpoint it. I could spend every day in the woods building and test riding trails. Places like Swan Creek, a mountain bike park in Tacoma where I started, are amazingly popular now and it’s pretty rewarding to see just a massive amount of kids riding– to the point where it’s hard to have a work party on some trails on the weekends because some trails are just so busy.

Bikes were a really important part of my life growing up and I want to share that with the next generation.

Speaking of that, how did you first get involved with trailbuilding and also mountain biking in general?

I’ve always been a bike person and for me, building was always part of riding. I started out riding BMX– I was probably 11 years old or so when I first got a solid bike. My mom had sold her horse and we had a bunch of property in the backyard. If I wanted to ride I just had to make something to ride so I’ve been building pretty much since Day 1.

As I grew up I got into cars but then eventually found myself bike commuting and less and less interested in spending a bunch of money on cars. After that I just fell right back in love with bikes and gradually got more and more into mountain biking. I really like riding bikes and I really like being out in the woods so it just seemed like a really natural progression.

Trail building with Evergreen mountain bike Alliance
 
Tell me a little bit about what’s in store for the woods out here in Port Gamble?

Right now we’re working on a new mountain bike ride park out here. Port Gamble has a bunch of miles of really fun cross-country style trails, but as a destination, they’re lacking a progressive skill-building zone so that’s what we’re out here designing and getting ready to build.

We’re looking at putting in progressive jump lines, some drops and a skill-building section so people can start here and build up some confidence before they strike out onto bigger trails.

Marking mountain biking trails
 
Why should riders support Evergreen?

Riders should support Evergreen because Evergreen supports riders. I think that’s really the easiest way to say it. We are not just building new trail, but we have a team of volunteers and office staff who all spend a lot of time advocating for the mountain bike population in Washington. What they get done behind the scenes¬– things like advocating in Olympia or working with land managers– is really impressive.

Trailbuilders sometimes get all the glory but without them– without grant writers or people going and talking to their representatives, nothing gets done.

For their 30th anniversary, Evergreen has set a lofty goal of 30,000 hours of trail work for 2019. They host weekly dig days and, for those who’d like to get out for an overnighter, numerous backcountry work parties. Visit evergreenmtb.org for more information and a calendar of events.

Volunteer Trailbuilding Outside of Washington
Trailbuilding organizations throughout the country are looking for volunteers. Consider donating your time to helping build and maintain trails with one these MTB advocates:
International Mountain Bicycling Association
Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association
New England Mountain Bike Association

5 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Single-Use Plastic

More plastic has been produced in the last 10 years than during the whole last century. This dramatic increase of plastic production means the systems that contain, control, reuse, and recycle plastic can’t keep pace. Why is this an issue? Most plastics are made of recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which doesn’t biodegrade. PET photodegrades meaning it breaks down into smaller fragments over time, polluting our waterways, food sources, and soil.

With single-use plastics making up half of the nearly 300 million tons of plastics produced each year, it’s no longer enough to pat ourselves on the back for recycling.

We must reduce single-use plastics. It’s too easy not to.

While this can seem like a daunting task, here are five tips to help reexamine your plastic use in everyday items.

1.Examine Your Consumption:

Reducing your waste starts with understanding what you’re throwing out. This requires examining the trash that has collected in your home. Does your waste come from food packaging because you don’t have time to cook? Do you have excess product and shipping packaging from online shopping? Recognizing where your trash is coming from is an easy way to evaluate your own waste problem areas and begin to change your habits.

Softbottle

2. Carry a Reusable Water Bottle:

Staying hydrated is a good thing, but American’s purchase 50 billion plastic water bottles annually, which isn’t sustainable for our planet. Instead, carry a reusable water bottle everywhere you go. Our collapsible SoftBottle is a convenient option because when it’s empty, it easily flattens and rolls up compactly, saving space. This helps reject plastic use in everyday life and while traveling (like when the flight attendant brings a plastic cup to fill with water from a plastic water bottle). Just say no.

3. Filter Your Own Water:

If you don’t trust the tap water at home or while traveling, you can still eliminate plastic water bottles by filtering your water source. Pull out that camping water filter and use it under a faucet as well! Using a gravity filter like our GravityWorks is compact, lightweight, and filters water while you work on other tasks, whether indoors or outdoors. Hang the filter on a bathroom hook while you get ready for the day and then pour the filtered water into your reusable water bottle.

4. Switch to Reusable Produce Bags:

Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags annually, and only about 1 percent get recycled. Resist the urge to bag groceries with plastic and bring your own reusable shopping bag instead. Many cities are even implementing plastic bag bans and some stores charge for plastic bags. You can also ditch plastic produce bags by placing fruits and vegetables directly in your shopping cart or purchasing reusable cloth bags. Start to build your grocery shopping kit with reusable shopping bags, produce bags, and even a few mason jars.

5. Buy Compostable Toothbrushes:

Have you ever considered that your old toothbrush could still exist somewhere on the planet? It’s estimated that in the United States alone, 850 million toothbrushes are discarded each year – that’s a lot of waste! Next time you need a new toothbrush, opt for a bamboo alternative instead. This way, your toothbrush will compost rather than contribute to the landfill.

Bonus: Life on the go? Carry reusable dining essentials in your bag including utensils, straws and food storage containers. Be a role model by encouraging your friends, family, and co-workers to do the same.

When making these changes you may feel the urge to go through your items, toss them away and start fresh.

Do not do this.

Take your time, use what you already own, and when it’s time to replace, consider an eco-friendly alternative. These little changes can add up to make a big difference. Every time we make a purchase, we have the power to support a practice that is sustainable. This Earth Day we challenge you to take a look at your garbage and determine how to cut down on single-use plastic use in your life.

What’s in my Pack?

Emily Slaco is a Pemberton-based rider, guide, skier, and all-around fantastic person. We asked her to show what she carries in her W’s Siouxon Pack when she rides.

I’ll often pull something out of my pack trailside and immediately get asked, “What else you got in there?” along with some inquisitive looks. To be honest, I carry a fair amount of stuff but there are a few things that I bring along on every ride which have saved not only myself but many clients of mine from a long walk out in the woods. So here it is: a few of the bits and bobs to be found in my Platypus Siouxion pack.

Platy Siouxon Hydration Pack

The Basics

First aid kitI like to be prepared… chock it up to the guide in me, but I’m either going out for a ride with my whole pack or I’m doing a quick backyard lap with a buddy and I’m not carrying much other than my cell phone. My Siouxion 10L pack is a great size for most all of my rides. In the Siouxon, I carry these basics pretty much all the time and they fit easily in the multiple compartments and pouches of my pack without overstuffing it. Basic bike tools are shown clockwise from the top; One Up Components pump, shock pump, tire pressure gauge, extra brake pads, master links, patch kit, valve core remover & valve stem, derailleur hanger, lube, zap straps, tire levers, seat post collar, chain break, tube, duct tape, sunscreen, pliers, shifter cable, electrical tape, emergency shot blocks & my trusty Adventure Medical Kit.

My One Up Components Tool System fits in the headset of my bike and my tube is strapped right to my frame.

One Up component tool kit for bikes

Full-day Rides

When riding in the backcountry or when expecting any unfriendly weather, I always bring my Ride 100% jacket & gloves. They tuck easily into the outside pouch of my pack when I’m not wearing them. When I’m going on longer rides, I also always make sure to bring nourishment! I like real food as opposed to bars (unless it’s an emergency), so I’ll usually grab a piece of fruit and some trail mix. A Nuun tablet can be extra handy on hot days and for those longer adventure mission rides my trusty hip flask always tags along… You should always cheers your friends when you hit your goals!

What's in my mountain biking pack

Backcountry, Overnighters & Big Missions

When heading out into a remote area or somewhere hard to access in an emergency, I’ll beef things up with a few extra items. My inReach allows me to send out an emergency SOS message as well as to send pre-set messages or text messages with important info. For example I have an ‘I’m OK but will be late’ pre-set message. You can also send specific text messages with what you need or where you need help to meet you. A headlamp and toque (yeah- that’s Canadian for warm hat) are also handy when you get caught out a little too late.

I love to ride in the more remote mountains of the South Chilcotin, so along with my basic emergency items I always carry a paper map and mini compass for navigational purposes as you can’t rely on your phone in the backcountry. I’ll also pack bear spray which is proven to be the MOST effective bear deterrent should you get into an encounter.

Pack necessities for bike trips

Stay safe & happy trails!

You can follow Emily as she rides and guides her way through BC – @emilyslaco

Ideas for Pairing Wine and Camping Meals

Whether consumed through a glass, mug, or straight from the bag after you slap it, wine is a fan-favorite on any camping trip, and sometimes a little wine with dinner is just what you want! Rather than packing in a traditional bottle of wine that leaves you with a heavy glass bottle to deal with, why not try something that’s more lightweight? The PlatyPreserve helps to preserve your wine, ensures tastes are imparted on your wine, and can roll up for easy stowing when you’re done.

We sat down with Jen Jones, a Certified Specialist of Wine & Spirits and an avid hiker here in Washington State to find the perfect wines that pair with your camping trips. Obviously, wine prices vary depending on what state you live in and where you do your shopping, but we’ll offer you some ‘everyday’ wines in addition to some ‘feeling fancy’ wines. Wine prices can go from five dollars to hundreds of dollars, so we wanted to offer some reasonably priced options that pack flavor and compliment some of our favorite backpacking meals.

Your PlatyPreserve can hold an entire 750mL of wine, so pack up your favorite pairing and hit the trails!

Beef Stroganoff:

This meal is best paired with a red wine that has bold flavors but not too heavy to overpower the creaminess of the sauce. Mountain House does a really good Beef Stroganoff with a savory sauce with real beef and egg noodles – just what I need after a hard day on the trail.

  • Bogle Essential Red, California $10.00
    This blend has created a ripe and mouth-filling wine. Full-bodied from start to finish, this wine has notes of sarsaparilla, dark berries and black plums – this wine is juicy and jammy.
  • Bergevin Lane Linen Red Blend, Washington $18.00
    Intense garnet in color, with hints of smoke, baking spices, coffee, and black cherry. This thoughtful blend finishes with a “booyah” of ripe, bright fruit.

Mac & Cheese:

Food that evokes memories of comfort food are so satisfying when away from home. My favorite backcountry version that combines big, hearty noodles with a smooth, rich cheese sauce, making the creamy, richness of Chardonnay an excellent pairing. Simply let the PlatyPreseve chill in a creek or mountain lake while you cook up your meal to bring out the flavor.

  • Barnard Griffin Chardonnay, Washington $12.00
    This Chardonnay has an intriguing combination of citrusy aromas, firm acidity and a very ripe flavor profile; another outstanding vintage for the variety.
  • Raeburn Chardonnay, California $20.00
    This Russian River Chardonnay has an array of fruit tones ranging from pear and apple to nectarine. The fruit is complemented with hints of toasted oak and vanilla.

Pad Thai:

Ah, the quintessential Thai meal: Pad Thai. In my opinion, Backpacker’s Pantry makes the best version made for the mountains. The peanut sauce is packed full of flavor and if that’s not enough they also provide lime and powdered sriracha to delight your cravings. The ultimate pairing for this backcountry dish is a Reisling. The acidity and light sweetness of this wine balances the complex, spiciness of the dish.

  • Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Washington $10.00
    Pure, focused and mouthwatering with hints of citrus, lime, and white peach. Carries on to a long refreshing finish. (A great option for any spicy Thai meals!)
  • Poet’s Leap Riesling, Washington $20.00
    This wine’s aromas are bright with hints of honeysuckle, peach, and lime zest. It drinks slightly dry, but has a balance that’s spot-on.

Lasagna:

Zesty sauce, lots of noodles, and plenty of cheese, do I have you salivating yet? Backpacker’s Pantry makes a fantastic vegetarian Lasagna that offers a hearty, filling meal at the end of a long day. Rich favors of tomato sauce call for the delicious wines from the Tuscany region, and why not tip the hat to the nation that gave us lasagna?

  • Rocca Delle Macie Rubizzo, Italy $9.00
    Ruby red with brilliant with violet reflections. This wine is fruity, but rich and has good structure.The perfect red for pizza and lasagna.
  • Antinori Villa Toscana, Italy $20.00
    Intense flavor with hints of ripe berry fruits. This is a rich, smooth wine that pairs excellently with Tuscan food.

Chocolate:

Contrary to popular belief, most wines do not often pair well with chocolate. With dark chocolate such as the Theo Chocolate Bars the best pairings are soft, fruit forward reds that don’t contrast with the bitterness of chocolate.

  • Roscato Rosso Dolce, Italy $12.00
    Brilliant ruby red in the glass with intense aromas of blackberries and ripe wild berries. This wine is fresh and lively with a soft lingering finish. It is red, but with a slight chill in lake or stream, this wine is really fun and is excellent with dessert.

Let Gravity Do The Work

The garage door opens, allowing a light offshore breeze to enter, drying the kayaks and freshly washed lifejackets. Packing for a multi-day kayak expedition, I stand amidst of a mountain of gear—paddles, dry bags, food, and multiple dromedaries of water. Guiding sea kayak expeditions means equal parts adventure and planning, and sea kayaks can hold a ton of gear, yet I can’t help but wonder how all of this will fit. Packing is an art that takes patience and creativity, so making sure boats are properly packed (not too heavy or unevenly balanced) helps for efficiency of the team.

Water is the heaviest item on any given expedition. While paddling through the straits and open seas, the human body is exposed to the elements for long periods of time. With little shelter from the sunshine while kayaking, it’s especially important to hydrate in order to stay alert, happy, and comfortable.

Water Filtration with the gravityworks from Platypus

As a rule of thumb, each person needs a gallon of water a day on an expedition—weighing roughly 8 lbs each. With four guests and one guide for five days that means 25 gallons or approx. 200 lbs of water. Even though we split the gear between the group, that’s still a lot of weight, so any opportunity to lighten the load is happily considered.

The map shows fresh water sources on two of the islands where we’ll be overnighting. Thanks to the Platypus GravityWorks Filter System, I can leave some of the water weight behind and let gravity do the heavy lifting. Because this filter works on gravity alone, you don’t have to worry about pumping or waiting patiently for iodine before having fresh, potable drinking water. This allows us more time for wildlife, taking in sunsets, and using our valuable energy in more rewarding ways, like paddling farther and camping in more remote and wild places.

Water Filtration with the gravityworks from Platypus

I used the GravityWorks filter to gather clean water where accessible, for two of our expedition days (that’s 10 gallons of water, or 80 lbs., that we didn’t have to pack), giving us more space and allowing us to conserve energy.

How to use the GravityWorks water filter:

Locate Your Water Source

Before you go into the backcountry with only a water filter as your source of hydration, make sure that water is available and accessible. This seems obvious, but often in the middle of summer, those water sources that were once reliable in spring can become dry. My map showed a large amount of fresh water sources and after a little internet digging and chatting with local fishermen, I knew that fresh water lakes would be plentiful. When choosing your water source, be sure to use the cleanest and clearest water obtainable for filtering.

Once you have found your water source, open the reservoir labeled “dirty” and fill with water by scooping it into the bag or collecting it. The filter has a wide brimmed mouth, making it easy to fill no matter the size of the water source.

Water Filtration with the gravityworks from Platypus

Choose Your Gravity

Now that you have filled your dirty reservoir, it’s time to filter your dirty water into potable, freshly harvested drinking water. Find an option for hanging your reservoir, be it a tree, a boulder, or a strong arm. For the quickest and most efficient flow of water, hang or place your dirty reservoir well above the clean reservoir, water bottle, or hydration system that you will be filling.

Water Filtration with the gravityworks from Platypus

Make The Connection

Now that you’ve chosen your location to optimize gravity, it’s time to get the water flowing! Ultimately, you will be connecting the dirty reservoir to the clean reservoir, bottle, or hydration system via the long tubing. Platypus color-coded the connections to ensure you don’t cross-contaminate. Blue and white indicate clean components; grey and black indicate dirty.

1. Attach the longer hose with the white connection at the bottom of the GravityWorks filter.
Make sure the big blue arrow is pointing down. You want the arrow to indicate that clean water is flowing towards your clean reservoir. Now is also a good time to make sure the black shut-off clamp is connected to the long tube. This is helpful for pinching off the flow of water.

2. Attach the blue capped end of your clean hose to the reservoir labeled “clean,” and place the clean reservoir on the ground.
If you have the GravityWorks Carbon Element, this will be placed between the GravityWorks Filter and the clean reservoir. (When in doubt, always just make sure the blue arrows point down towards the clean reservoir!)

3. Attach the shorter hose with the grey component to “dirty” reservoir, and then to the black plug atop the GravityWorks Filter.
Once you release the shut-off clamp, water will begin filtering through the system. Pro tip: If you allow a little water to run through the shorter hose before attaching it to the filter, it will prevent air bubbles from getting trapped in your filter.

Water Filtration with the gravityworks from Platypus

If you don’t want to connect the flow of water to your clean reservoir bag, you’ve got options. You can add it to your water bottle or one of the Platypus hydration systems. This is super easy to do with Platypus’s many adaptable and versatile components.

Get Flowin’

The water should be flowing and filtering now! The GravityWorks system filters dirty water into clean water quickly at roughly 1.5 liters per minute. If you see the filter begin to slow down, you can always give the “dirty” reservoir a light squeeze. Also make sure to periodically backflush your filter. This can be done by simply lifting the “clean” reservoir above the “dirty” reservoir and allowing the water to flow backwards. Don’t worry, you aren’t contaminating your system. This can help dislodge any clogged hollow fibers in the filter, and prolongs the usable life of your filter.

Water Filtration with the gravityworks from Platypus

Cheers—Your Water Is Ready To Drink

You should have clean water ready for drinking! When gravity is doing the work, as a team we have more time to check gear or eat snacks, and as a guide it gives me the opportunity to check on guests, while they sit on the edge of the beach, enjoying the experience.

There is something magical that happens when you get to harvest your own drinking water from the land. It allows our modern day mind and bodies to see the important connection between human beings and the earth—a concept that’s often lost in today’s uber-accessible world. This realization helps us all to appreciate our valuable resources and work hard to conserve this wild world we get to call home.

How To Clean Your Platypus Hydration Reservoir

One of the most common questions we receive around our product is, “How do I clean out my hydration bladder?”

We sat down with our team of engineers to uncover how best to clean and maintain a Platypus hydration bladder (commonly referred to as a hydration system). We’ll go over the importance of routine maintenance, how to clean or disinfect your hydration bladder, and some handy tips for drying your favorite hydration bladder.

Why is cleaning my hydration bladder important?

You don’t want to give bacteria a chance to build up in your hydration bladder.

How often should I clean or disinfect my entire system?

It’s up to the user and their personal preference. Our engineers rinse and dry their hydration bladders after every use, and this is a simple and effective way to keep your system in shape. Ultimately, it all comes down to your frequency of use and what you’re putting in your bladder (the bag that holds your water).

If you use a drink mix like Nuun or SkratchLabs, you should rinse after every use. These substances can leave a lingering taste and can also allow for bacteria growth. Make sure to always rinse after using these!

If you’ve filled it with water directly from a stream or lake in the wilderness without treating or filtering it, you’ve theoretically exposed your hydration bladder to bacteria. In the backcountry, this can be necessary from time-to-time, so just make sure to disinfect when you get home.

What is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?

Cleaning is really to make sure the product is rinsed out and free of any lingering tastes, while disinfecting is an attempt to sterilize your system. The determining factor is what the last liquid in your reservoir was. Disinfecting has more of an application if you’ve used your reservoir in ‘dirty water’ or notice visible signs of bacteria growth in your hydration bladder.

How do I clean my hydration bladder?

The simplest option is to rinse and dry your entire hydration system (bladder, drink tube, and bite valve). This typically is an okay option if you’re only using clean water in your hydration system, and this should suffice for routine cleaning. Our Cleaning Kit can also greatly assist in scrubbing the bladder and tubes! If you’ve used spirits or a flavored, sugary mix in your bladder, or simply would like to wash out your system because you detect a “lingering taste”, we suggest the following method:
 

 
Step 1: Baking Soda & Water
Fill your bladder with a solution of water and baking soda (Roughly ¼ cup of baking soda per ¾ cup of water). Make sure to seal the Slidelock™ closure and invert to test. Shake the bladder vigorously for 20-30 seconds. Make sure the solution also runs through your drink tube and bite valve.
 

 
Step 2: Add Lemon Juice

Now add ¼ cup of lemon juice to the solution, seal the Slidelock™ closure, and shake the entire bladder for another 10 seconds. You may now open the bladder, but make sure to point it away from you! The lemon juice and baking soda may cause pressure to build in the bladder, and you don’t want to take that solution to the face. Make sure to include the drink tube and bite valve in the cleaning process.
 

 
Step 3: Shake & Vent

You’re going to want to do this process of shaking, venting, and running the solution through your drink tube and bite valve three times. After that is done, try to expel as much air as possible, and leave the entire system to soak for 20 minutes.
 

 
Step 4: Empty & Rinse

You can now empty the bladder, and flush the entire system with warm water three times.
It’s important to make sure to clean and rinse the tube and bite valves as well. Often times, people will just clean their bladder, but that ignores the part that actually touches your mouth! Point your bite valve down towards the sink and pinch the mouthpiece to allow the mixture to flow through the drink tube and out of the bite valve for a thorough cleaning.

How do I disinfect my hydration bladder?

 

 
Step 1: Bleach & Water

Add a couple of drops of bleach to water (2-5 drops per liter of water), and it’s okay to do this with the water already in your bladder. Make sure to use bleach that is fragrance-free and does not include any dyes. You may then seal up the bladder, swirl the solution around, and run it through the drink tube and bite valve. Now leave your hydration system to sit overnight.
 

 
Step 2: Rinse & Dry

The next day, empty the bladder. After emptying the solution, rinse the entire system with warm water three times. You can now leave the system to dry.

How do I dry out my hydration bladder after cleaning or disinfecting?

 

 
Step 1: Remove Excess Water

First, always attempt to remove any water left in the bladder. Shake out any excess droplets of water, and dry the inside film with a paper towel if possible (Our Big Zip™ has an extra-wide opening to help your hand get in there).
 

 
Step 2: Prop Bladder Up

We’ve done extensive testing in our water lab, and the most efficient means of drying your bladder is to leave it pointed up. This allows water to evaporate and easily escape the bladder. Sunshine can also help to speed up the evaporation process, and all of our hydration systems are UV-safe and can be left in the sun to dry.
 

 
Step 3: Keep Interior Open

When the sides of your bladder touch each other, it drastically slows down the drying process. The interior will dry much faster if propped open to prevent the sides from touching each other. We suggest using something like a cooking spoon, spatula, or the Slidelock™ closure to prop open the bladder.

Getting the most out of your hydration system.

Never use dehumidifying substances or materials designed to absorb water like a silica gel pouch. These are often not food-grade substances and can leave inks or residues behind that should not be consumed, and can even deteriorate the lining of your bladder. Also, don’t try the ‘newspaper in wet shoes’ trick as your newspaper could be dirty or leave traces of ink behind.

Keeping the bladder in the freezer is a common trick that many of us do to avoid having to frequently clean our bladders. It’s easy to come back at the end of a ride or hike and quickly rinse the entire system and throw it in the freezer. It saves you from having to worry about the sanitation of the product between uses as the freezing temperatures prevent bacteria growth. You can just throw it in your freezer while wet and it keeps the hydration system clean for the next use (make sure to flush any extra water out of the drink tube and bite valve if possible).

Water & Living On The Road

Photo: Kathy Holcombe

Moving our family and photography business into an RV and living on the road (often by a river) has been nothing short of a dream come true, however, it does have a few inherent challenges: namely, sourcing and managing water, power, and finding a decent internet connection. After three years on the road, we have made a few modifications to both our lifestyle and our Winnebago View that have allowed us to maximize our time in our favorite places, which often lie well off the beaten path.

Photo: Kathy Holcombe

For power, we have solar panels on the roof of our RV that keep us fully charged. We also have a built in generator that serves as a noisy, but effective plan B. Internet is a bit trickier: we rely on our phones, a hot spot, and a signal booster for most of our needs. With this setup we manage to stay powered up and connected to the civilized world—at least most of the time.

Water, however, is another story. It seems that our RV has an insatiable thirst, using on average about 5 gallons a day for our family of three. This includes basic hydration, cooking and hygiene—no matter how conservative we are with our usage, we are constantly searching for the next spigot to resupply. You would think that the 40 gallon storage tank in our RV would allow us to stay off the beaten path for an extended stint, but just a few days of careless dishwashing will leave us parched, and a shower in the RV using up to 3 gallons/minute? Forget about it!

Photo: Kathy Holcombe

After over a thousand days under our belts living on the road and managing a very limited water supply, here are three water conservation strategies that have served us well and allowed us to maximize our time in the wild:

1—Oftentimes we find ourselves in a roadside situation where there might be a water spigot available, but for whatever reason we cannot use it to refill the freshwater tanks in the RV. It might be because we can’t get the RV close enough for the hose to reach, or that there is no dump station to purge the wastewater—and I promise, it is a REALLY BAD IDEA to fill with fresh water without first dumping the waste water!! Regardless, if there is water available outside the RV, take advantage of it. This is where portable water storage—like our 6L Water Tank—comes in really handy. It has a large enough capacity that it conveniently meets most of our immediate needs around camp, but folds away to almost nothing so that it is easy to store when we aren’t using it.

    Photo: Kathy Holcombe

2—Dishwashing is our single biggest drain on our water supply, but with careful management, you can minimize water consumption with the following tips: First, always wash your dishes immediately—they are far easier to clean if you catch them before food gets really stuck. Second, get your sponge wet, apply soap and start scrubbing all of your dishes. We can almost always scrub an entire meal of dishes for our family of three without any additional water than the initial sponge soaking. Third, only when your dishes are thoroughly scrubbed do you use additional water to rinse your dishes. Depending on the amount of dishes you have, sometimes it is better to fill a shallow basin to rinse the dishes, and sometimes it is better to rinse them under a trickle straight from the spigot. Use your best judgement.

3—While we live in an RV, it is simply the tool that allows us to chase adventures kayaking, climbing and exploring the backcountry. For sourcing water when we are miles down the river or trail, our GravityWorks filter is our go-to tool to keep the weight in our packs/kayaks to a minimum while providing us with filtered water to keep us well hydrated. It’s lightweight and easy to use, and when we come across a good water source, all we have to do is fill up the reservoir, hang it on a nearby bush or tree, and in minutes, we have fresh, filtered drinking water to refill our bottles.

Photo: Kathy Holcombe

While water will always be a limiting factor in our never-ending road trip, we’re getting better and better in stretching every single drop so that we can spend our time out in the wild—kayaking, climbing, or exploring the backcountry as much as possible… instead of searching for the next spigot to fill our tanks.

Photo: Kathy Holcombe

About the author: Four years ago, Kathy and her family took a radical leap when they traded in their beautiful Boulder, CO home for the freedom of the open road in a Winnebago RV and have been chasing adventures ever since. You can find them climbing in the mountains, kayaking in the rivers and exploring remote and wild places as they criss-cross their way across North America. Through their stories and images, they hope to inspire others to get outside and set out on their own adventures. They call this lifestyle Famagogo.com.

How Reservoirs Solved My Hydration Problem

I’ll admit it: I’ve struggled with hydration in the past. As an alpine rock climber, on long, arduous approaches, I’ve often opted to put my head down and hike rather than stop to take water breaks. I’ve bonked more times than I can count, my lack of water consumption resulting in trailside naps or sufferfest summits. However, when I made the transition from water bottles to hydration reservoirs earlier this year, my solution to dehydration became clear: drinking water became infinitely easier, and in turn, I was more likely to do it. Since switching over, the proof has been in the pudding: I haven’t bonked once.

Case in point: this June, my friend Alix and I set off to climb a peak high in the Rockies. We began early, with a plan to move fast. Using reservoirs allowed us to move continuously upwards without having to stop to retrieve water bottles from our packs. It was a relief to have my reservoir with me, knowing that with a water bottle, I would’ve held up Alix with frequent water breaks, or, more likely, not stopped at all to hydrate.

Friends don’t hold up friends on the trail: a reservoir made it easy to hydrate on the go. Photo: Sagar Gondalia

In Wales for a wedding around the summer solstice, I went for a trail run on the coast with a 1.5L reservoir in my running pack. Instead of a hard water bottle riding against my back in the pack, the flexible reservoir was almost imperceptible. As I ran over the rolling sea bluffs and across sandy beaches, I was able to hydrate as needed, avoiding interruptions to my rhythm or stiff legs from having to stop to retrieve a bottle—the bite valve of the reservoir was always available.

Photo: Krystle Wright

 

Hydrating while rock climbing can be a challenge, too: often I’m hanging at belays with one hand free, and given that I have a chronic case of the “dropsies,” the possibility of fumbling a water bottle is dangerously high. Over the years I’ve learned to streamline every process while on a long climb—I eat mostly bars, carry the route description in my pocket, and am very particular about managing the rope and gear for speedy transitions. While climbing Devils Tower in July, I threw my 3L Big Zip LP reservoir in the pack for my partner and I, stashing the hose inside as well. Not only was it a streamlined setup for us, it was also ridiculously easy to hydrate—we just had to fish out the hose and open the valve, a one-handed process that could be done while belaying, looking at the route description, or swapping gear. To add to that, the reservoir shrunk as we drank, making the backpack smaller and easier to carry up chimney sections. Brilliant.

Hands-free hydration on the rock. Photo: Alexander Volberding

Home in the Pacific Northwest mid-July, my parents and I took off on a quick two-day trip into the North Cascades. I carried a pack of overnight essentials, including a full 3L reservoir—I slipped the 6+ pounds of water into the hydration sleeve in my pack, placing it close against my back. In the past, carrying multiple liters of water in various bottles and locations made my pack unruly and unbalanced, in turn making me rather unruly when scrambling on technical terrain. Up high on Church Mountain, however, I realized that this instability was mostly alleviated when the water was carried close to my back. Problem solved.

Backpacking in the N. Cascades. Photo provided by Jenny Abegg

 

My summer with reservoirs has made me a convert. There is surely no better way to stay hydrated in the outdoors, from fast-and-light adventures and backpacking trips to rock climbing and day hikes. Not only that, but by happenstance I discovered that reservoirs are useful for more than just outdoor pursuits—they are perfect for those endurance journeys that happen between the main events: road trips. From bonks to bumps in the road, I found reservoirs a great solution for hydration.

Essential road trip equipment: convenient access to drinking water and a good friend. Photo: Sagar Gondalia

Raised by mountain-loving parents on the flanks of the North Cascades, Jenny Abegg’s idea of a perfect day starts and ends wearing a headlamp, and includes a snowy approach, dry granite, and endless high fives with a favorite partner. Her passion for adventurous climbing has led her from the jungles of Rio to windy spires in Patagonia, from the unexplored faces of the Purcell Mountains to heady granite domes of North Carolina. Currently based out of her GMC Safari nicknamed “Ol’ Blue,” Jenny is a climbing guide and a writer, exploring the topics of climbing, life, and the spaces between.

Getting Dirty for the Sturdy Dirty Enduro

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Issaquah, Washington: Mud-spattered and breathing hard, two mountain bikers emerge from Tiger Mountain’s lush, fern-scaped forest. They’ve just dropped out of “the Legend” trail, expecting a short fire road recovery before catching another trail back up the ridge. They do not expect to see us.

“We got pizza!” someone yells out. The riders—a father and son—look up with amused smiles to see our crowd welcoming them to a table stacked high with still-toasty pizza boxes and growlers of beer. An easy-up tent keeps off the drizzle, a constant companion here in Western Washington. It keeps things verdant green year-round, and it also makes for good trail building.

Today is a Sturdy Dirty Dig Day, one of a series of trail work events designed to let riders give sweat equity back to the trails and get them in prime condition for the Sturdy Dirty Enduro, a women-focused mountain bike race to be held here on June 17, 2017.

Counting more than a dozen, these hard-working, dirt-encrusted volunteers have been toiling on the “Easy Tiger” trail just up the road. Like many of the Tiger Mountain trails, Easy Tiger feels a world apart with its thick stands of trees and ubiquitous ferns. The recent trail work has made the place feel primordial, with the fresh earth scent of clay and turned-up duff in the air. Along the trail lay signs of civilization: Rogue hoes. McLeod shovels.

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The workers have been on finishing duty: backsloping the top part of the bench-cut trail so it won’t erode, and replanting ferns to stabilize the grade where it’s been built up with exposed dirt. “The replanting also narrows the trail and makes it prettier,” says Bryan Connolly, trail crew chief at Tiger Mountain and a member of Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, the largely grant-funded nonprofit organization that maintains the trails at Tiger with the help of volunteers.

The dig day is sponsored by Sturdy Bitch Racing (which organizes the Sturdy Dirty Enduro), and several of the enduro’s sponsors: Bell Joy Ride, EVO and Georgetown Brewing. The work party event attracted as many women as men, and all are hoping to come out to the race to either compete or cheer.

Photo Credit: Chris McFarland

Now in its 4th year, the Sturdy Dirty Enduro is an enduro-style mountain bike race that brings women racers together to experience timed downhill-oriented course sections interspersed with more relaxed, transition trail riding. Famous for its fun-filled, themed aid stations (a Mexican cantina is one favorite) and costumed volunteers, the Sturdy Dirty takes a serious race and makes it into an all-day party.

Harrison Gill, one of the volunteers at today’s dig day, is ready for that party. When asked why he’s planning to volunteer at the Sturdy Dirty, the Redmond resident is beat to the punch by Ady Lane.

“Because there are going to be 250 women?” says Lane, one of the enduro’s organizers.

Gill laughs and agrees.

The Sturdy Dirty Enduro has become such a popular mountain bike event in the Northwest, the organizers decided to expand it this year to a 3-race series with the help of Roam Events and title sponsor Liv Cycling. The series now includes the race at Tiger Mountain and two other races in Oakridge (Westfir, Oregon) and Big Bear (Big Bear Lake, California).

Photo Credit: Colin Meagher

“When we started the Sturdy Dirty back in 2015, it was the first women’s enduro mountain bike race in the country,” says Lane. “Now we’re putting on the only series of its kind in the world. It’s a daunting task, and we could never do it without all the amazing men and women who come out to volunteer. They really make the Sturdy Dirty.”

Not everyone among the dig day attendees is planning to volunteer at the enduro. Natasha Weiss, a Bell Joy Ride brand ambassador who helped organize the dig day, plans on racing it. A youthful woman with an air of toughness that makes you think twice about calling her cute, Weiss is happy to see women flocking to the Sturdy Dirty—and giving back to the trails.

“It’s a value to get women out to dig days.”


 
Want to volunteer or race at a Sturdy Dirty Event?
Visit sturdydirty.com to sign up to volunteer or register to race.
 

 
Want to help build trails in Washington or Oregon?
Washington: Check out Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance’s calendar of events, including dig days, here.
 

Oregon: Visit Disciples of Dirt’s calendar for dig days and other bike events.
 
Sturdy Dirty Enduro Series Calendar

Sturdy Dirty Seattle: Tiger Mountain (Issaquah, WA), June 17
Sturdy Dirty Oakridge: Westfir Portal (Westfir, OR), August 19
Sturdy Dirty Big Bear: Snow Summit (Big Bear Lake, CA), October 14

Meet the Meta Maker

The story behind the making of our Meta Bottle + Microfilter

Alpine wilderness was a great testing ground for developing the new personal water filter bottle
Mikk, a tent, and a goat enjoy alpine views. Mikk designed our Meta Bottle + Microfilter. The goat just looked majestic. Photo: N. Precup

Hi there, Platypus wordsmith Keith here—I recently corralled one of our resident product design engineers, Mikk, and asked him about his efforts in making our Meta™ Bottle + Microfilter personal water filter bottle. Turns out, there’s a lot that went into it. Note: we weren’t able to go back in time and get Arnold Schwarzenegger of the 80s to test the flow rate, so that’s a speculative estimate for illustrative purposes. Also, nobody was hurt in any shattering incidents. Enjoy the interview!

Hey Mikk, remember that XKCD cartoon that touched on the amount of time and work behind ordinary things? When that came out, it immediately reminded me of our process in making the Meta Bottle + Microfilter. As the design engineer, you were at the heart of that. So let’s go back and talk about it…
Totally!

So… what is the Meta Bottle + Microfilter?
It’s a water bottle, it’s a personal filtration system, and it’s a not-so-personal filtration system—I personally used it on St. Helens to filter the water for me, my mom, my dad, and my sister when we went up for Mother’s Day… Well, we couldn’t get the permit for Mother’s Day, so we went the day before Mother’s Day. [Laughter]

Our new personal water filter bottle offers flexible hydration
Our Meta Bottle + Microfilter in the wild. Photo: CMA

But it’s just a 1L bottle—you were filtering for a group of four? Was that because it’s compact, or…?
It was compact, and I brought it because, yeah, I’d designed it and it was just finished enough at the time to bring it on the trip—it wasn’t production quality, it was a prototype and had issues, but I wanted to see how well it worked. It was easy having it hanging off the side of a pack. You could grab it, scoop up water and keep going. For group filtration, I was melting the water, dumping it in the bottle and squeezing it, and it was fine.

Why did we make it?
Platy wanted a bottle that was close to a hard bottle in functionality—it stands up on its own, you can set it on a desk and it won’t ever fall over no matter how full or empty it is. It’s also easy to drink from—you can hold it any direction you want and drink from it. We wanted to make it so you could integrate a water filter into it, too—that was the other part of it.

We wanted to give customers an option that could be used hiking, but also be a bottle that you could use in the car. It has the microfilter, so it’s also your water filter.

The hollow fiber microfilter installs easily into the Meta personal water filter bottle
Installing the microfilter into the Meta Bottle is easy. Photo: CMA

How wide, how far, how deep was the concepting adventure?
It was as wide as Google goes. Almost. [Laughter] I mean, sure, I can look at what other outdoor brands are doing. But there wasn’t anything out there like this at the time, there wasn’t a “go to the trail, use it around town” filter bottle out there. We wanted to have a traditional tip and sip solution. So I went out and researched as much as I could.

A personal water bottle in town converts to a personal water filter bottle for the trail that removes protozoa and bacteria
From the city to the trail, the Meta Bottle + Microfilter offers flexible hydration and water filtration. Photos: CMA

It was this continuously branching tree. As soon as I found out about things that held water that are soft, or hard, or a combination of both, I’d keep researching things until it was clear that they weren’t viable or relevant any more.

So the discovery phase was a super-broad—?
SUUUUUPER broad [laughter]… because we had no idea what the product was going to be made of, or even what it would look like. It was a new thing for us. It was unlike anything Platy had ever made—it’s semi-rigid.

At what point was the discovery phase over and things started gelling?
I think… [laughing] realistically, I think the discovery phase was over when the product was done. We weren’t quite sure—I wasn’t 100% positive that it was gonna work until it actually worked 100% functionally. Until then, it was like “We might not have a product…” But the initial discovery, I think that was about 6 months.

Walk me through the validation process.
First, you have discovery so you know what’s out there. Then you ask “What can we do with this information?” We had figured out we could do maybe four or five different designs. Then there’s discovery phase two. You’re narrowing down what you’re really going to put engineering work into; you’re learning and talking to people. You go to experts and ask “Can you do something like this? Is this possible? Is that possible? Do you know?”

A lot of the answers we got were “We don’t know, and no, we don’t think it can be done.” We would say back, “Well, okay, we see your point… but… could you at least try?”

So there was some back and forth?
Totally. For the bottom of the bottle, one source was telling me “You have to do this this certain way so you can actually manufacture it.” But that didn’t align with what we wanted to do. We talked to some other sources, and they said “Yeah, you can do that, but it’s really, really expensive to make.” I suggested we try a different approach, and because we were using a softer material it ended up working out; the material was so forgiving.

3D printed prototypes and design evolution of the Meta Bottle Microfilter personal water filter bottle
The Meta Bottle + Microfilter took on many shapes throughout its evolution.

So you have discovery phase two—narrowing down options, researching what we could actually do. Around then, you’re going into initial prototypes. For our first proof of concept, we took a hard bottle, cut a hole in it, glued a silicone piece over the hole, and stuck a filter in the lid. You’d push the silicone piece to squeeze water out of the bottle. We did more research and proof of concept testing. From the testing, we realized that the challenges we were initially encountering were because of difficulty in deforming the materials, not because of the filter.

Did you know from the start that a Hollow Fiber microfilter was going to be the filter?
Not exactly. We started with a huge base of understanding—we have people on the team who have a ton of knowledge about water filter media. Initially, though, we considered everything.

We were working closely with our water lab people, too, asking them if we could do this or that with certain filter media. The water lab people were awesome resources—chances are they’ve tested whatever you’re asking about, and they know all the benefits and drawbacks, so it was really easy to narrow things down quickly.

What about the hard top half, was that easy to design?
In terms of the concept, the top was pretty well nailed down early on. In terms of how you could make it, it was complex because there are so many threads on the bottle. There are two sets of internal threads and one set of external threads.

We did start with a single, continuous thread on the outside where you drink from. A single, continuous threading is great—it works, it’s on everything, but you have to turn the cap a bunch to close it.

You wanted a maximum of a half turn or something?
Yeah, because we wanted it to be super usable, where you weren’t unscrewing the top one or one and a half times to open it, like on some hard bottles.

So we went with a two-start thread—there are just two “short” threads, instead of one continuous one—which allows you to open or close the cap with a half turn. A little less of a half turn, technically.

There was a mention of “This bottle has a great ‘mouth feel’”, which is hilarious, but when you’re designing something that people are putting their mouth on…
[Laughter] Yeah…

What does “mouth feel” mean from an engineering perspective?
That’s always kinda funny. With the two-start thread design, there aren’t any threads that go all the way around the lip of the bottle, so you have a couple smooth vertical parts that your lip can rest against instead of a thread. Once we knew we’d have a two-start thread, I wanted to add a radius on the smooth vertical parts. Instead of a flat surface, it’s cupped just enough that it feels a little different and more natural than a flat surface. Most people will probably never notice it, it’s super subtle, but if you were able to compare them side-by-side, you’d notice the difference. The cupped one just feels better.

Meta Bottle has a smooth lip mouthpiece for great mouth feel when drinking filtered water
The smooth and cupped sides offer a more natural and comfortable feel when drinking.

For the microfilter, one of the earlier things you were working on was the stacking of the adapter—
The first hope was that you could just screw the microfilter itself directly into the top. We tested that out with one of our GravityWorks filters, but that testing confirmed that we needed an adapter with an air return valve so the bottle could reinflate after filtering.

Hollow fiber microfilter prototype designs show evolution of personal water filter bottle designs
The evolution of the thread-in Hollow Fiber microfilter took many shapes as well.

I called the second iteration the “Rocket Ship”—it literally looked like a rocket ship. But with that design, you’d end up with this lake of water that you couldn’t ever get through the filter.

I then made an adapter that was offset, where the microfilter is able to essentially go all the way up to the top of the Meta bottle, and the air-return valve sits right next to it. We added holes in the sides of the microfilter’s housing, which allows more water through.

We tried some other random stuff, too. We looked into maybe making a GravityWorks-sized filter for the Meta Bottle, so you would have this massive-sized filter, but we already had a much smaller filter that did two liters a minute, so there wasn’t much of a point.

Speaking to the two liters a minute thing—in terms of one’s ability to drink water comfortably, you researched that…
Well, there are tons of variables… but, generally, the typical rate that somebody will drink at when they’re thirsty, it can be two to three liters a minute at a time. It’s not like they’re at a party doing a chugging contest, but they’re thirsty, so it’s still a fair amount.

So two liters a minute is not nothing?
It’s a lot of water. And that two liters of water a minute that we list as the flow rate, that’s the average flow rate of the filter. If we gave this to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 80s, he could probably get almost four liters a minute through the filter if he was trying.

You were measuring how hard people were squeezing the bottle, too?
Yeah. I had to figure out how to relate all these different variables. You can’t just measure how hard people squeeze a bottle and then measure the flow rate of the filter and say that’s what people will get when they use it. You have to measure people drinking from the bottle and see what pressures they’re generating when they’re squeezing and drinking.

Personal water filter bottle squeeze pressure testing gauge
Mikk’s custom pressure-testing setup was an integral part of developing the Meta Bottle + Microfilter.

We started with, “How hard do 20 people squeeze the bottle?” We collected that data. Then we asked, “How hard do 20 people squeeze when they’re drinking from the bottle?” We collected that data, and it was like half of what we’d found before. We were always collecting data.

For us, we wanted to speak to real-world use—how people would be using it on the trail. So we wanted to know how hard people squeezed when drinking, and we wanted to accurately talk to that.

So we had this choice where we could say “Hey, we can do four liters a minute”… But we don’t say that.
Two liters a minute is a great flow rate for a filter, and it lines up with the average, easy squeeze we found in our research. Two liters a minute covers 99% of users. Technically, we could advertise faster, but then it becomes advertising wars… and we’re engineers.

Were you sourcing materials, too?
The materials part was super, super early because we have our taste-free guarantee. We knew that regardless of what the final product ended up looking like, we would be using certain materials, so we figured we could go ahead and do the taste testing.

Early on, we thought we might use silicone because it’s supposed to be taste-free. Turns out, it’s not. It tastes really bad. Granted, maybe not every silicone that’s available—there are literally thousands available—but all the ones I was able to test came back very poorly in our own taste testing.

We moved on to TPE, and even within the TPEs, there were some that weren’t good enough for us, but they were better than the silicones. Then we found a few TPE options that met the criteria for our taste test, which was nice, because it meant I could stop drinking really disgusting water.

You know that urethane flavor you can get with some other reservoirs? Especially if you let them sit for a while in the sun? That’s what I was drinking almost every day for a while.

Wait, you were self-testing??
Self-inflicting, yeah. [Laughter] It was for the good of our customers!

Any other things that were cool or interesting in the making of the Meta Bottle + Microfilter?
I really love the cap. Like, really, really love the cap. The lanyard is flush inside the top of the cap. The cool thing is that, for the cap, we did an overmold. There’s a hard inner part, and then a soft outer part. The soft part is a second process, so you can use that to hide geometries and mesh things together. We use that to make the lanyard disappear into the cap effectively. It’ll still spin freely, too, but it’s totally integrated.

You spent a chunk of time working on the lanyard—the weighting, the texturing…
Yeah, and specifically the transfer from the ring to the flat section of the lanyard. There’s a lot that went into that… like, literally, those two millimeters of 3D model are really complicated to make. [Laughter]

You have the manufacturing mold that opens up and down, and then you have to have parting lines perfect so it’s comfortable in hand, and cosmetically looks good. To make the lanyard comfortable for carrying, I changed the model so that the parting line wasn’t where one’s fingers would touch, which wasn’t how it was originally spec’d from the tooling maker. They wanted to put it elsewhere, and I had to push back and say, “No, we really need it over here…”

The cap lanyard was designed to carry the bottle and personal water filter comfortably
The integrated lanyard was deceptively complex to design in such a way to feel comfortable in hand.

So designing for use, not designing for manufacturing ease?
It’s like, if you have the parting line here [in the middle of the lanyard], you’re going to feel it on your fingers and it’s going to hurt. So I designed that out so it’s smooth and comfortable, but that’s one of those little things that nobody’s going to ever know…

Now they will…
Ah, right! [Laughter]

The other crazy thing was choosing the hardness of materials. And choosing materials! The first material that was recommended? I should have chosen it. But I was mostly new to injection molding, and so I’d also heard, “This polypro is a great polypro” Great! Turns out, it’s a great polypro… if you need a stiff polypro. BUT, if you dropped it ten feet, it would shatter.

I remember the shattering of stuff…
[Laughter] Yeah!! A piece shot like 30 feet, which was COOL… but not acceptable for our users. So we found a different material that doesn’t shatter into a thousand pieces, which is kind of an obvious thing that we can’t let happen.

Pieces from product validation testing of the Meta Bottle + Microfilter personal filter bottle's hard upper part
Shards left over from materials testing of the Meta Bottle + Microfilter’s top portion. Testing is an integral part of behind-the-scenes product development.

Dialing in the softness of the bottom was another deal. We tested a ton of options to figure out which one was hard enough to make the bottle reinflate, but still soft enough to squeeze easily. It was a big balance game. AND, we had to make it so that it doesn’t over-inflate on an airplane… which was a fun test. Pressure testing is fun. I never got any of them to actually explode, but some of them did turn into really cool balloons.

It’s true, you do get to do some fun tests. Well… I think that’s it, Mikk. Thank you for chatting and for all you did in making the Meta Bottle + Microfilter!
Totally! It was fun.

Editor’s note: Mikk is busy working on the next generation of hydration awesomeness, so we appreciate him taking the time to humor us and recount his adventures in designing our first water filter bottle. As this long, albeit entertaining interview revealed… a lot of work can go into something as simple as a bottle. Thanks again, Mikk! And thank you, dear reader, for joining us!

 

 

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