Hydration is a key part of any adventure. When bladders with hoses first started to come out, I was skeptical and held out for a while, perfectly content with my Nalgene bottles which nested nicely in the nook above my hip between me and my Gregory Pack. I could drink on the go, no problem. Or so I thought.
While the CamelBak Stoaway was not my first exposure to this hydration method, it has been my most constant. I picked the Stoaway up for my Trans-Sierra Snowshoe Trek for Atlas Snow-Shoe Co. Since we were going to be pushing over 13,000 foot peaks and camping in the snow we were keen to try the insulated Stoaway.
The Stoaway fit nicely in our bulging packs and the insulation and covered mouth-piece worked well. It’s still smart to blow the water back into the main bladder after taking a sip to help prevent the hose from freezing. The water will be fine if the temps are holding in the upper 20’sF, but any colder, especially with windchill, the hose will still freeze. At those temps, no reasonable amount of insulation is going to do you much good. Although, we did find on calm sunny days we could pack the bladder with snow, strap the Stoaway on the outside of our packs and the sun would melt the snow into water. The only caution here is this puts one of the heaviest items in your pack (water) at the furthest point from your center of gravity. It makes a huge difference to keep 100oz of water close to your body so it’s not leveraging your pack away from you making it feel heavier. Try strapping it on the side of you pack with some sort of counter balance on the opposite side, or right on the very top.
Another great feature of the Stoaway is the series of D-rings stitched into the insulation pouch. These have proven handy in situations like the one above to strap the pouch to a pack and while on a recent river trip in the arctic, I was able to strap it to the top of the gear of my boat providing me with easy access to water on the river. I’ve also found with a piece of webbing, the Stoaway becomes a pack on its own for little day or side trips. It also makes it easy to hang the Stoaway upside down to dry it out after use or washing it. I stuff the drinking hose (if it’s mostly clean) up in the bladder to allow it to breathe some.
The only con I deal with is the top can be extremely difficult to unscrew at times. I’m sure this adds to the leak-proofness of the system, but when it’s well below freezing, wearing mittens and trying to refill your water pouch, it’s a bit annoying. Still, I’d recommed it for any cold weather trips.