How to Keep Your Water From Freezing When Running in the Winter

frozen hydration pack

Don’t let this happen to you!

These past few months, I’ve been running lots of miles outdoors in the cold while training for the Susitna 100 next month. These past few weeks it has been especially cold in the Anchorage area, and on race day, there is always the potential for it to get down to -20 to -30°F. Keeping your water from freezing when running for hours in these kinds of temperatures is a very important skill. I’m not going to last very long in a winter 100 miler if my water is frozen solid, and there are only aid stations every 15-20 miles.

Throughout my years of running in the winter in Alaska, I’ve picked up a number of tricks and techniques to keep my water from freezing. Personally I prefer wearing a hydration pack with a bladder. As long as you can keep the tube from freezing, overall I think it’s an easier method of carrying water in the winter and keeping it from freezing. Below are my tips and tricks, whether you prefer a hydration pack or carrying bottles.

  • Start with warm water. Obviously you don’t want to burn yourself (especially if you’re wearing a hydration pack), but the warmer the water starts out, the longer it will take to freeze.
  • Add drink mix and some salt to your water to lower the freezing temperature. In reality, we’re probably only talking about 1 or 2 degrees, but every little bit helps.
  • If you’re using a hydration pack:
    • Blow the water out of the tube back into the bladder after taking a drink. From my experience, the 2 places most likely to freeze up on a hydration pack are the tube itself, and the bite valve. This will help with both.
    • If possible, wear the pack under at least one layer of clothing to provide a heat barrier. If nothing else, tuck the end of the tube down the front of your shirt or jacket so it isn’t exposed.
    • Another option to the above is using a product called a tube garage that insulates the end of your tube and bite valve. There’s even space to tuck a hand warmer in there for extra heat.
  • If you’re using bottles:
    • Carry the bottles upside down. Similar to what I described above with hydration packs, a bottle’s bite valve will be the first place to freeze. Carrying the bottle upside down will keep the water in constant contact with the inside of the bite valve, making it take longer to freeze.
    • Carry the bottles under a layer of clothing. You want to keep the water close to your body and protected from the elements.
    • Consider putting a hand warmer in your bottle. My cousin swears by this method. She puts a hand warmer into a ziploc bag and drops it into her water bottle. Those things can last for upwards of 8 hours.

Anything I’m missing? What are your go-to methods for keeping your water from freezing in the winter?

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