Thursday, 12 March 2015

Ortlieb water belt

I tend not to drink enough water when backpacking, mainly because I just fill my Traveltap bottle and make it last between refills which may be few and far between. I suspect that dehydration is the cause of night time leg cramps which I tend to suffer from quite often when backpacking. If only water wasn't so heavy. I recall a day on the Lakeland to Lindisfarne hike (remembered for three days and nights of non-stop rain) when there was a dry stretch from Wooler to St. Cuthbert's Cave where we intended to pitch that night. I carried two litres of water for the whole of the day. That was an extra 4.5 lbs on my back which was no joke. If only water wasn't so heavy. Well, now it isn't! A recently acquired piece of kit is a water belt made by Ortlieb. It holds two litres and straps round the waist with adjustable straps and a plastic buckle. On its own it is used just to carry water but an optional extra is a drinking tube so water can be drunk whilst on the move without having to stop to take a bottle out of a side pocket of a backpack. The tube is easily fitted by removing part of the valve fitting from the water belt and replacing it by a screw fitting at one end of the tube. At the other end of the tube is a lockable bite-valve. This is twisted a half turn to turn the flow on and off. There is a cap attached to a cord to cover the bite-valve.



I'm not sure whether the belt is supposed to be worn on the back or the front. I've tried both but have settled for the front. I tighten the belt buckles gradually as the belt empties. The 33 inch long water tube is actually longer than I need and I thread it through a loop on a shoulder strap of my pack to keep it under control. I may shorten it a little. I can also carry the belt in my pack as a water reservoir would normally be carried. It can also be worn bandolier style although I haven't tried this. I wonder whether two could be worn in this way so four litres could be carried!

For the first few days of use, the water had a pronounced plastic/rubber taste but this has disappeared now. My first use of the belt was on the South Downs Way where water is scarce, with the exception of water taps every few miles which are invaluable. I filled up at each of these and, the weight of the water being round my waist, rather than my back, I never noticed the weight. I've often wished for dehydrated water to save weight. The Ortlieb water belt is better and will now be an essential piece of kit for me. I tend to carry two litres now as a matter of course. I have used it with river water plus chlorine tablets. It was fine, apart from the chlorine taste, but it needed rinsing out several times to fully get rid of the taste. As opposed to, say, a filled roll-up water container being carried, it's not so obvious that one is looking to discreetly wild camp somewhere.

Although, at first sight, I think many hikers will think this is a great idea, I should say that I use a pack without a hip belt and so the Ortlieb water belt is comfortable. I don't know how it would fit as well as a hip belt.

Price – the best price I found (from Ghyllside Cycles of Ambleside) were for the water belt £16.65 and for the optional drinking tube £13.50. This is one of the best pieces of kit I've come across for a long time.

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