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Boiling Water for Winter Hiking

Fill Up Your Winter Water Bottles at the Convenience Store
Fill Up Your Winter Water Bottles at the Convenience Store

I used to get up extra early on the days when we’d drive to the mountains for winter hiking, so I could boil water for my water bottles. Since we’d meet in downtown Boston at 5 AM, this meant getting up at 4 AM to get ready. Those days are over.

It dawned on me that I could get water at any gas station convenience store on the way to the trail head, so I can sleep longer in the morning before we drive north. You really do stay better hydrated if your water is warm in the afternoon, and not the consistency of slush.

The picture here was taken at the Irving’s Gas station next to Eastern Mountain Sports in North Conway, but you can get water like this anywhere they have a hot water valve on their coffee machines. So far, I’ve pulled this trick in Conway, near the western end of the Kancmagus Highway, in Lincoln on the eastern end of the Kanc, and at the AMC Highland Center in Crawford Notch. Their water is really hot!


  1. Is it ever hot enough to deform your polyethylene bottle?

    • yes, this happened to me last week in not even too cold temps.. I filled my 1L nalgene hdpe and stuffed it into a neoprene sleeve. I always shake it for a moment and then unscrew to let out pressure build up from the initial heat expansion of the boiling water being immidiatley capped (screw down the top)..then after that air escapes I normally keep it in my sleeping bag to warm me up as soon as I get ready to sleep. However, I forgot it outside on the cold floor, and I think the cold contrast of the outside/floor on the hot water inside perhaps cause the Nalgene HDPE to contract with two noticable huge dents on both sides (as if you squeezed it with your index finger and thumb from each side… but this deformation resolved itself by the next day after returning home and cleaning the bottle in hot water..

      I have never had that problem with either Tritan nalgene or hdpe even if its really cold as long as I keep them inside my sleeping bag overnight… but they key is to let that initial air escape by gentle shaking it after screwing down the top as soon as you add the boiling water (ie pour in -screw down- shake for 1 second – unscrew – air escapes -screw shut firmly – and your good to go).

  2. Actually, it helps melt them back into shape. They tend to scrunch up if they're not used the rest of the year. But they don't get so soft that they turn into Dali sculptures. They are damn hot though!

  3. What kind of water bottle is that? I got rid of all my nalgenes years ago after switching to gatorade bottles (not because of bpa's, but just because I never used the nalgenes). Now that I'm trying to get back into winter stuff, I have no good water bottles!

    • I think Nalgene HDPE and Tritans are great. I have the 1 Liter sizes and even 1.5 liter sizes which are hard to come across.
      I used them for water AND for carrying grains like cereal and couscous..etc..

  4. so what do you drink for the first hours of your hike when this is still boiling hot because it's insulated? Or does it cool down to drinkable levels relatively fast?

  5. It's called a Hunnersdorf bottle. Wide-mouthed so it doesn't freeze in winter and better than Nalgenes because they're easy to open when wearing a mountaineering glove. They're part of a complete water insulation system in winter from Joel, the owner, is well known in ultralight alpine climbing circles. You should check his stuff out. Here's my review:

    • sometimes I would store the bottle upside while carrying so any freezing happens first towards the top (bottom of bottle) otherwise the screw can freeze shut making it hard to open).. had that happen to me on the trail a few times when hiking in freezing conditions.

  6. Miska – the bottles cool down to hot but drinkable levels within 90 minutes, even when insulated. That's fine because I pre-hydrate in winter by drinking at least 1 quart of water before arriving at the trail-head. Realize that I'm often hiking in sub-zero (f) weather in the mountains.

  7. Good to hear. I've been planning on getting a set of 40 Below's overboots to replace my heavy leather boots for winter… the bottle system may have to wait another year, though. For now it'll be a cozy made of an old blue-foam pad and duct tape, and an old nalgene borrowed from a friend.

  8. I used this technique this morning before a snowshoeing outing in Northern Arizona in single-digit temps and it worked extraordinarily well. My water bottles are the metal uninsulated kind so I wrapped my space blanket around them, which is really more the consistency of a "space tarp" than those cheap thin little aluminum bags. I was afraid I'd get them too hot for the blanket so I only used 50% boiling water. Despite the extremely cold temps my water was warm well into the late morning and never got slushy, which was a good thing. Thanks for the great tip!

  9. That’s a great idea. Not that I’ll be going on many Winter hikes…… But I might. :)

  10. Provided they do not charge for the water. Some of those stations charge the price of coffee just for hot water so make sure your good to go on the goose….otherwise, you could be spending a whole lot of money on hot water! Love the bottles!!!

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