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By request, I'm bumping this post up over one about Wyoming and the Wyoming Basin, which is likely to be a little long and borderline sappy.
I can speak to a few aspects of hydration systems, and will direct you to other resources for more comprehensive information. I'll break this into two parts, water vessels and water filtering devices. Of course there is some logical overlap, but here it goes...
I'm talking about the things from which you actually drink. In my opinion, you have two options: water bottles and water bladders.
I have only a few good things to say about water bottles. Here they are: water bottles are good for squeezing water out of fast and in a very specific direction. This only seems to be very important when you are trying to clean peanutbutter mud off your chain.
Water bottles are also good for .... Um. Well that about sums it up. I'm not saying it can't be done. It's cheaper to put 4 bottle cages on your bike if you already have the eyelets than to buy a frame bag. So take my advice with a healthy dose of your own perspective.
Water bladders are superior to bottles for two important reasons: carrying capacity and ease of drinking. Most cycling water bottles are 21-26 ounces, or 0.62-0.76 liters. At this rate, you're going to want about 3-4 water bottles to have about 2 Liters of water on you at any time. Volume of water is personal preference. I find that keeping 0.5 - 1.5 liters on me keeps me going between water sources. You might want more. One advantage of water bladders is that they tend to be sized at 1 liter or more. Right away you're getting more water per vessel.
The other advantage is being able to stuff them in a frame bag, backpack, or other hiding spot quite easily. With an appropriate length hose attached, you should be able to drink water at any time with minimal hassle. (Reaching for a water bottle while riding on washboard just isn't comfortable.) Make sure your hose is long enough to run to your mouth without too much craning from your frame bag. Most hoses are designed for backpacks, not frame bags.
The negative to water bladders is that they're less durable. They're more likely to get a small hole or wear easier than a water bottle. Make sure the place where your water sits isn't too crowded with extra junk to prevent rubbing or punctures. Have super glue and fabric tape handy to fix leaks.
Compatibility with your bikepacking system is important. If you're putting water in your frame bag, bladders like Camelbak or Osprey may not work because of the rigid components like the circular "lid" or the stiff "spine" of the Osprey bladders. This is why I found Platypus bladders to work well. The Hoser line of bladders means the bladder is malleable, all around. HOWEVER, this doesn't mean you should be habitually folding your bladders in your bags. I found that repeated folding tended to cause more wear on the bags over time. If you have a small frame bag like me, you're better off buying two, 1 liter bladders and nestling them in side by side instead of buying one, 2 liter bladder stuffed or folded in the bag. I had one bag fail because of folding; Platypus hooked me up at the next town for free.
Lastly, the clear Platypus bags seem to hold up better over time than the colored ones, but I have yet to have a leak in the colored bag. It just looks like it has been through hell and feels more papery than the clear bag (as if a finish had worn off).
Water Filter Systems
I'm using a gravity filtration system. There's a decent comparison page for water filtration systems on Outdoor Gear Lab: http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Backpacking-Water-Filter-Reviews
I've been really happy with the Platypus GravityWorks system; I've also seen people really pleased with the MSR Sweetwater Microfilter. While I'm traveling in foreign countries, I use the First Need filter as it treats some viruses in addition to bacteria. On the divide, you mostly just need to address bacteria from cattle grazing.
I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to get enough water in the Platypus Dirty bag along the route (say for example that there's only a puddle of scummy water that you need to drink from). However, I've found that the water sources along the Divide (even in the middle of summer) are volumous enough and frequent enough to always fill the whole 2L bag with no real issues.
It also works quickly. It'll filter 2 liters of water in about 3-5 minutes. And as the name suggests, gravity does most of the work for you. You'll filter water into your clean Platypus bladder, or into your friend's water bottle, or right into your mouth if you feel so inclined.
So do your own research to see what solution works best for you, but I hope this helps answer some not-easily found answers.
Oh, one more thing:
If you were thinking of just wearing a backpack to carry your water, ask yourself if you want to have a sweaty back every day for weeks or months. Then try to find a frame bag or many water bottle cages.
I wear a backpack only when I need to carry more than 2 liters of water at a time (aka Wyoming Basin) . My friend who traveled with a backpack through Wyoming said that if he had to do it over again he would've made the backpack a less essential part of his gear setup. So there you go. Some empirical evidence.
I'll try to make this a friendly read for both the nerdist and the skimmer. Nerds, read the fine print. Skimmers, read the bold print.
When I first started researching what I would do for power a couple months ago, the pieces of the puzzle weren't really lining up in a way that made sense. Far as I could tell, there were about four options for power on the trail:
- Slave to the Outlet - can you picture yourself asking for the outlet at a hometown diner while cowboys sit down to eat ? I can't.
- Batteries - disposable, easy to buy at gas stations, lots of them, plus a USB battery pack for your phone
- Solar Panels
- Generator Hub
They rank in that order of up-front cost. Option 1 and 2 didn't really appeal to me. I'm an environmentalist at heart, so I was actually interested in seeing if there were creative ways to power up. Narrowed down to solar panels and a generator hub, here's why I chose generator hub:
- Solar Panels - These are probably not a bad option if you have a rack that allows for a flat-ish surface upon which you can strap the panels while you ride. However, for my bikepacking setup, I am using soft bags and this real estate just isn't there. Considering that I'd be biking for most of the day, this leaves very few sunny hours that I could spread out the array. Solar panels need sun. It gets cloudy; nuff said?
- Generator Hub - I'm going to be biking 6 - 7 hours a day. Wouldn't it be great to constructively use some of that wattage? At first, it seemed like a dynamo hub would be too delicate for off-road application, but Schmidt's and Shutter Precision (SP) make robust thru-axle dynamos. Rain or shine, as long as I'm going faster than about 5 mph, I can charge stuff.
As far as I can tell, there are TWO companies that make dynamos for thru-axle bikes. (Most new mountain bikes have a thru-axle. Not sure what this means? Click here.) I could've switched to skewer, but with all the miles I was going to put on the bike, it seemed like I should stick with the more robust option.
SCHMIDT'S - German engineering, historically the company for high-end dynamos, first prototype in 1992 - They offer legacy in tried-and-tested products, which is backed by a 5-year warranty. Evidently their "pressure compensation system" is supposed to prevent water from intruding due to difference in temperature, and is now incorporated into all the SON dynamos. The SON 28 15 goes for about $380.00 USD after taxes and shipping.
SHUTTER PRECISION - Taiwanese company, formerly a digital camera shutter company, newer to the dynamo scene (2008) - However they have designed their dynamo, they tout an innovative approach that achieves remarkable efficiency at higher speeds. And a for a price that won't make you gulp, hard. One can get an SP 8x for about $215.00, which comes with a 2-year warranty.
A note about customer service: Both were excellent - Although it took a little longer for SP to get back to me (presumably because of the time difference), both companies emailed thoughtful responses when I asked them technical questions, even adding details that I didn't know to think of (e.g., wheel building specs). Additionally, each of the companies were transparent about their product, even when being compared to their competitor. Verbtaim, SP said, "SON is good at very low speed…." I really appreciated the honesty.
Efficiency - SP claims a 78% efficiency at 15km/h (9.3 mph), which is record-breaking; however, they claim lower efficiencies at lower speeds. Schmidt's claims an efficiency of 65% at 15km/h, but have a higher efficiency at lower speeds. Personally, I would like to see third party tests of each hub to validate the data. The most reliable information I found was from their websites, and this one German article that Google translate does a knock-out job of translating. I say this because when I tried to compare the wattage to speed graphs from each company, it's not clear how they conducted each of their tests, so it was too hard for me to say that I was comparing apples to apples.
Durability - SP claims to have built what they consider the strongest hub on the market, but Schmidt's has the time and 5-year warranty to back up how they feel about their durability. Other tour divide riders have used SP, but I couldn't find any review straight from the source. My guess is that SP just needs more time to build confidence in their product.
Price - This is where we see the big separation in the two companies. Schmidt's is almost double the price of SP. I can appreciate that SP is making a really rad technology available to more people, but I don't believe in something for nothing, and in all of my research, I couldn't really pin down why theirs was so much cheaper.
I ended up choosing the Schmidt's SON, but would consider SP again in the future:
In the end, I purchased the SON because I felt the 5-year warranty said a lot for the product's durability and Schmidt's commitment to customer support. I also felt that I would often be traveling at lower speeds on a mountainous, off-route trail, and appreciated the very high efficiencies in the range of 3-9 mph. Lastly, I was probably scared off by the price of SP and the very high efficiencies claimed at higher speeds. I'm a person that believes there's NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH. I'm sure that SP has some very good manufacturing practices and high quality data to back up their claims, but I couldn't find it. However, I do believe that SP is working toward great things, and that in due time, they will be become a more established brand. For both camps, it seems like some third-party testing is in order, and then I could really write a non-biased review.
This hub: Schmidt's SON 28 15 http://www.nabendynamo.de/produkte/son_28_15_en.html
with this Rectifier (aka USB converter)
Sinewave Cycles Revolution: http://www.sinewavecycles.com/products/sinewave-revolution
I can charge a phone directly or an external battery pack. I chose the Anker 2nd Gen 9600mAh.
My friend at Bikesport helped me figure out how to get the components quickly, and did a #supepro job building the wheel. Many thanks!
I'll post again about performance and whatnot. For now, I'll leave you with some pics of a hot hub.