A hydration bladder as an antidehydration pack on the boat – Coastal Rowing Gadget (3)

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In our series about useful coastal rowing gadgets, we would like to introduce a hydration bladder or drinking pouch. Isa Scheunpflug came up with the idea, and as always, she tested the usability of this idea quite intensively. She took a ~20k trip, bringing the boat to different spots around Hong Kong island. But while doing that, she needed to stay cool and hydrated. So, she decided to build her own minibar on deck. “This freakin’ bow rigger needs to be good for something, right?”

water bladder
Self-mounted drinking bladder at the bow rigger, credit: Isa Scheunpflug

We all know the issues with our water bottles in the boat. They are everywhere and, most of the time, out of reach. Most bottles carry 1000ml or less water. A second bottle seems useful if I do not want to dehydrate. Learn more about the symptoms of dehydration.

Drinking rules: 1000 ml / 10 K, or 500 ml per hour.

Scientists recommend that between 500-750 ml/hr (about 17-25 oz/hr) will fulfil most athletes’ hydration requirements under most conditions. The best would be to drink 250 ml every 20 minutes during your exercise. The American Council of Exercise recommends:

Hydration bladder as an antidehydration-pack on the boat – Forget your water bottles!

anti hydration pack
Hydration bladder in the backpack

What is a hydration bladder? It is a simple water bladder or water pouch you can find in some hiking backpacks. Usually, those water bladder/hydration systems come with a drinking tube. This is easier to manage in the boat than bottles are. These water “reservoirs” provide sufficient water whenever you go out into the waves.

Isa says: “I have a 1.5l and a 3l pack. The latter one has the advantage that it came with an insulation sleeve and an insulated tube. This keeps the water cool for longer. I add ice cubes into the bladder and cold patches to the insulation sleeve these days. It simply adds another level of freshness. It’s like having a little minibar on the boat.” This model is easy to clean, but you can find many different models. Choose whichever you like. Insulation sleeves can be a DIY project or just have a look at your local hardware store. Another easier solution is neoprene and/or an insulated bag for frozen food from the supermarket.

“What I like: the hydration bladder fits perfectly behind the bow rigger. With some elastic Velcro, it’s not even moving at all. I have put a Velcro line alongside my boat to have the tube handy, clean, and ready to drink. With one hand. No messiness in the boat, no tape used. The water is safely installed and can’t swim out of the boat or obstruct the feet, no matter how rough it gets.

It has one disadvantage: Keeping good hygiene is a must and takes quite some time after each row. Not so brilliant for the lazy folks amongst us.”

Hydration bladder or drinking backpack on your shoulder?

Another solution is a hydration backpack, which we have tested in the North Sea around Hamburg, Germany. It is one of the typical hiking backpacks, which I like on hikes because of its long water tube that almost reaches my mouth. On the boat, I assumed that I could row and drink simultaneously. But that was a bit of a wrong assumption. Wearing the pack on my shoulders while rowing was an absolute disaster. Just forget about it! Furthermore, it is also a safety issue – Your life jacket does not work when you wear a bag on your shoulders!

So finally, I stored the hydration bladder in the side net of our RUBENETTI. Have a look at the picture in the headline! This actually worked quite well until the bladder was empty. When it was almost empty, it started moving in the net and finally got in the way while rowing. We may have just placed it in the wrong position. We’ll try it again and keep you updated!

Conclusion: 8/10 points. For the small investment of 20-40 USD (with or without a backpack), it is definitely a thing to consider. I like it better than the water bottles in my boat. Plus: especially if you’re taking part in rowing activities or rowing training longer than 10km/6 miles, it’s a perfect way to stay hydrated without having to grab and open bottles while rowing.
Thank you, Isa, for this brilliant idea.


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