"Meet me at the base camp lot. Bring water, STAT. Bad Shape." It's not the text you want to read when you know your hunting buddy is on a blood trail. Many bad thoughts can cloud your mind if you're an hour away like I was in this story.
Hydration is no joke. You need it to live, even on a hunt close to home like this one. This friend of mine was hunting whitetails close to home on a hot evening. He finished his water on his car ride to the spot. After he shot a doe, he got turned around in the dark a few times and was in rough shape when I could get to him.
Slamming some electrolytes and water perked him up enough for us to retrieve the doe he killed a mile and a half from the parking. But had he been in worse shape, things would not have turned out as well as they did.
Having a hydration plan in the back country, at home, and on major Western adventures is so important. If you're shopping around for a solution, the details in this article will help you find what hydration system will work for you!
There are two main types of gravity water systems: a bladder and tube or a bucket system. The benefit of both is that they can supply a large volume of water. The downside is that many of them take a longer amount of time to filter water.
A bladder is compact when empty and still compliments a back country hunt well. In contrast, the bucket system is more for a base camp setup when you want water available around camp. The bucket is perfect for this setup. A few 5-gallon "grey" water bladders and a bucket system will save time from a hike to a spring and will be there for drinking, cooking, and washing. The bladder system is ideal for base camp or overnight camping hunts.
A water filter pump is a great option for the days you're trekking further from base camp. They're easy to store but take up extra space in a pack. You'll also need a compatible water bottle to attach to the pump. Many of these have cleanable and reusable filters so that you can expect more bang for your buck. The last thing to consider with a pump is that it has moving parts that can break. If that happens in rugged country, consider carrying our next contender.
There are tablets on the market that can make water drinkable. They are very effective, but it's important to allow time for them to work. Also, a contaminated bottle can cause issues, so you will have to ensure that filtered water splashes the threads of the bottle and they are clean as well. They are a good life-saving choice. The bottle they come in is small, making them no problem to pack for an emergent situation.
Squeeze style filters are perfect for most types of hunts. Some attach to a bottle or a bag or come with their own bottle. I am partial to a GRAYL water bottle because it's easy to use, has excellent bacteria coverage, and you have safe drinking water in about eight seconds. The only downside is their initial cost and the need to replace a filter. But in most cases, they are worth every penny.
The best part about squeeze filters is that they are lightweight and the easiest to pack. Bonus they get the job done fast and effectively!
Water is an essential part of a back country hunt. In fact, it will help keep your head in the game, at the very least. When you're planning your trip, think about a few things. Does the function match the plan? Will your filter last long enough to make it through the trip, or will you need a backup? Most importantly, does it work?
The more moving parts, the more important it is to make sure those pieces and parts work! If your handle is broken off a pump or your tubing leaks on a gravity bag, it won't help much in the back country.
If you're about to embark on the hunt of a lifetime, take advantage of the simple steps of hydration!
Author: Aaron Hepler, Exodus Black Hats Team Member