DIY Shoulder Strap Water Bottle Holders

P1010185A number of people have been asking me for more details about how I attach my water bottles to my backpack’s shoulder straps. I typically referred those people back to a previous video/blog post that I did entitled “I Put Kool-Aid In That!” in which I talk a little about this very thing, however, to be fair, that post talks about a number of things. So, today, I figured that I would just do a dedicated video & blog post in which I discuss this topic in particular. Also, I would like to mention that I started carrying my water bottles on my shoulder straps when I received my ULA Circuit, but after watching a YouTube video by Torben Bo Hansen, I changed it up just a bit…

I would like to also add that this has been my personal preference for carrying my water, and for my own particular reasons. Before this, I used a (heavy) Camelbak water bladder, but for me it was a pain to refill while on the trail, and well, it was just heavy. Once I got my Circuit though, I was given a reason, and a way, to leave my heavy bladder behind.

Using the water bottle holders that came stock on my ULA Circuit was my first dealing’s with storing my water on my shoulder straps. The system worked fine, although, in hindsight, I think I was using the top water bottle holder different than intended, which resulted in a few dropped water bottles while hiking. All-in-all though, I really came to like the way everything seemed to work out with my water bottle on my shoulder straps.

When I first changed over, I carried a single 32 oz Gatorade bottle on one shoulder strap, however, as my pack weight decreased, the weight of the single bottle really offset my packs balance. It was at this time that I noticed that Gizmo Joe was carrying 2 smaller bottles, one on each strap. Sometimes the simple things escape me, and when I saw this, I slapped my head, threw away my 32 oz Gatorade bottle and picked up two 20 oz Gatorade bottles.

Using 2 bottles did in fact balance the weight back out on my backpack when on lightweight trips, and again, I was a happy camper…er… hiker. As a bonus, this also allowed me to have a 40 oz water capacity on hand instead of 32 oz. The downside is that now I was carrying the weight of 2 empty bottles as opposed to just 1 (and for the record, if I remember correctly, one empty 20 oz Gatorade bottle weigh the same as one empty 32 oz Gatorade bottle).

Due to my happiness with this system, once I got my ZPacks Blast 30 backpack, I knew that I wanted to carry the same water carrying capabilities over to it, so I decided to make my own. But, in the spirit of lightweight backpacking, I did not want to use thick shock cord and beefy cord locks like the ULA Circuit used. Instead, I decided to replicate the Circuit’s top water bottle holder using thinner, lighter cord and a smaller cord lock, and on the bottom I used smaller diameter shock cord and a cord lock, which proved to work quite well.

P1010187

Then, just a couple of months later, I also got my ZPack’s Zero backpack, and again, I wanted to transfer this same water carrying capabilities over to it. It was around this time that I came across the above mentioned YouTube video, and at this point I made the top water bottle holder as it is in the above picture. At the same time, I also decided to leave off the cord lock on the bottom water bottle holder and just thread the shock cord through the daisy chain on the shoulder strap, and then tie the ends together.

After a good deal of use, I found that this last change proved to not only work well, but also weighs almost nothing. When I put the 2 top water bottle holders (as seen in the above picture) and 2 short pieces of shock cord on my scales, the grand total is a whopping 0.1 oz! After realizing this, I decided to change out the water bottle holders on my Blast pack as well, which was quite simple. All I did was tie the shock cord for the bottom water bottle holders on each shoulder strap, and then I use the top water bottle holders with whichever pack I am using at the moment. Light, easy, inexpensive, durable & effective. What more do I need?

Making these are quite easy. All one needs is a short length of shock cord, a short length of some sort of light weight, small diameter cord and 2 mitten hooks. Simply tie the shock cord through a daisy chain, loop, d-ring, or something similar towards the bottom of the shoulder strap. Then tie a loop in one end of each piece of regular cord, and tie the mitten hook to the other end. Just be sure that the loop is big enough for the mitten hook to thread through. If making 2 set’s (one for each shoulder strap) I would suggest to be sure and make the overall length of the top water bottle holders to be as close to the same length as possible. This will allow each of the bottles to hang in the same spot on each shoulder strap.

Here is a short (for me) video that I did that may explain all of this better:

Also, just to note, here are a few reasons that I like carrying my water on my shoulder straps:

  • Easy access. With this system, I can remove, drink and replace the water bottle while on the go.
  • With the water on my straps, I can always be aware of how much water I have on hand.
  • The Gatorade bottles are lightweight, durable and inexpensive. Plus they come prefilled!
  • The wider mouth on the Gatorade bottles make it easy to filter water into, or treat with chemicals (depends on trip), as well as makes it easy to pour drink mixture into the bottle for a flavored drink. It also makes dipping water easier from poor water sources.
  • The 20 oz bottles fit comfortably in my hands and feels more natural, rather than a compromise.

So, for me, this system has worked, and I am happy with it. Does that mean that I will use it forever? I don’t know. I will admit, after my last hike, I am tempted to try using the hose for my Platy with my Platy soft bottles. This seems like a good idea, but I am not sure if it is for me. Who knows…

Anyway, thanks for reading and watching!

~Stick~

Disclaimer: As mentioned in the writing, this idea is not my own, however, it is one that I have used for over the past year, and it works for me. I wrote this blog post to share this information with others that are interested in the same method.

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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24 Responses to DIY Shoulder Strap Water Bottle Holders

  1. sheffieldnick says:

    Thanks for explaining it so well – really great idea! Going to try it out on my Zpacks Slim pack.

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  2. jim says:

    Stick, why type of knot did you use for the bottom shock cord? thanks

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  3. Randy says:

    What type of cordage did you use for the top portion if thus system attached to the mitten hook?

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  4. Darren says:

    Stick, love this idea and just completed the JMT using it. I used .75L water bottles with sport tops. Also, I would recommend carrying an extra shock cord loop on longer hikes. I broke one and wasn’t able to repair it until I found some cord lying on the ground a 100 miles later.

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    • Stick says:

      Darren,

      Glad to hear that this worked out for you. Good point on having a small piece as a back-up, although, I will admit, I have yet to break any of mine. Just curious, what size shock cord were you using? I use 3/32″ shock cord on mine, and it is pretty tough. I can’t see myself accidentally breaking it, maybe cutting it… Also, I imagine that I could cut a short piece of cord from my bear line to help repair it.

      Anyway, thanks for chiming in with your experience with it, I appreciate it!

      ~Stick~

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  5. Chad, not sure what the weight difference is, but have you looked at the Evernew water bladders and hydration hose? They use a bit of a different design for their tube that has a straw that goes into the bladder to reach the bottom so you do not have to turn the bladder upside to drink from. http://www.evernewamerica.com/EBY271.htm

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    • Stick says:

      Chris,

      Thanks for pointing that out, I had not seen the Evernew drinking tube before, however, it does look to be a bit heavier than the Platy drinking hose. Although, that doesn’t mean that a little modification might fix that…or at least help it some… 🙂

      ~Stick~

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  6. Hiking Dude says:

    What?!?!? You didn’t take the label of the gatorade bottle? All that extra weight! 🙂
    I’m sold on carrying water on the front straps too. I just tie two shock cord loops – for top and bottom grooves in 600ml water bottles. No clip weight and haven’t had one slip out – yet.
    I also think having the 2.5lb of water in front helps offset the pack weight so you can walk more upright.

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    • Stick says:

      Haha, I actually thought about that while making the video… but this time it was ok. I just grabbed this one from the pantry to use in the video… it hasn’t been out with me yet… but when it does… rest-assured, the label will be gone, and the little ring too! 🙂

      I agree with you about the way that it counterbalances the weight a bit too.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

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  7. bubba says:

    If a wide-mouth bottle is accidentally tipped over, a lot of water spills out in a hurry. That could be a serious hazard if your water supply is critical. That’s why I only use narrow-mouth bottles. Never had a problem adding powder or treatment chemicals.

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    • Stick says:

      Bubba,

      That is a good point, and one that I typically worry about when filling any water container, at least with clean water. So far I have not been lucky though and have not had any misfortunes (at least with water). As far as adding flavor or chemicals to the water bottle, I agree that it can also be easy enough with smaller mouths, but it is even easier with a bigger mouth, and especially if I am filtering into the bottle.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

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  8. Quahog says:

    I’ve used my daughter’s ponytail elastic bands to hold the bottom of the bottle and an Aqua Clip for the top. An Aqua Clip weighs 3/8 oz., is super easy to take off your shoulder strap with one hand.

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    • Stick says:

      Quahog,

      Nice find on the Aqua Clip. I had not seen that before. A buddy of mine likes to use the smaller bottles like the Aqua clip is designed for, so I will be sure to pass this along to him! Thanks for the info.

      ~Stick~

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  9. Steve says:

    Hey Stick…great video on the 20oz. gatorade water bottles. I too have made several water bottles from these. Your attachment system is simple and very effective. Another use for the gatorade bottles…they make a simple and effective fishing rig. Just tie your fishing line to the indented section of the bottle which is shaped like a spool of a reel. You can even cast with this rig. When you hook a fish you simply wind him in by hand. The inside of the bottle is your tackle box. I make fishing floats from the quills of wild turkey feathers which conveniently fit inside the bottle and very lightweight.

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    • Stick says:

      Steve,

      Good call on using the Gatorade bottle as fishing gear. I will admit, strangely enough, I am not big into fishing (or hunting). I get too bored hanging out in one spot. However, for a while now, I have thought about how nice it would be to hike along a lake, or a good stream, stop, throw a line in, catch some fish, clean it and cook it. That would be awesome… I just gotta learn how…

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by again!

      ~Stick~

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  10. jdrower says:

    Stick
    Another great video.

    When you say use your Platy straw, are you talking about drilling a hole in one of the Gatorade bottles that will let you push the straw to the bottom of the inside of the bottle (while still upright) and attaching the other end (with mouth-piece) higher up on the daisy chain with enough slack that you can just grab the drinking end and go for it. You’ve got the extra weight of the straw but it’s not as long as if it were attached to a bladder somewhere in your pack. Now you don’t have to disengage the bottle from your shoulder strap. Using the straw will probably get one to drink more, something from which we can all benefit.

    After one bottle is empty, you could switch bottle caps and start drinking from the next bottle.

    Best regards
    JD
    PS Have you done a video on powders etc. that you add to your water? When I foolishly did a sub-9 hour SoBo R2R at the GC when I was 64, if I hadn’t had flavored electrolyte powders, they may still be turning over rocks looking for my carcass. I do wish I’d left at 10-PM instead of midnight.

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    • Stick says:

      JD,

      I don’t mention a Platy straw in the write up. Are you referring to the Platy hose I mention at the end? If so, here is a link to what I am talking about:

      Platypus Drinking Tube

      This will screw right on to a Platy soft bottle that I bring to collect and store my water in on trips. On this past trip, I noticed that Ben was using this drinking tube with 2 Platys. He simply screwed the drinking tube to one, flipped it upside down and stored it in one of the side pockets. When that one was empty, he uncapped the other Platy in the other side pocket, screwed the drinking tube on it, inverted it in the pocket and kept going. It does look like an ideal system, and lightweight. I am going to play with this and possibly take it on my next trip…

      Your idea is a good one too, however, I would still want to be able to seal off the cap when not drinking from it. I guess if the drilled hole was the exact size though, it would seal it off most of the way.

      And no, I have not done any write ups on powders in general. I usually use some of the Camelbak Elixir tabs, or just some of the little single serving Kool-Aid packets. I also bring 2 Emergen-C’s per day too.

      Hope this helps.

      ~Stick~

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    • jdrower says:

      Stick
      Tube or straw. Regional differences in nomenclature. I understand what Ben was doing. I might use something like that for when I do the NM section of the CDT in April and May. In addition to the extra 40-oz available in the shoulder strap bottles.

      Thanks
      JD

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    • Stick says:

      JD,

      Gotcha! I just went back and dug out my drinking tube and Platy bottle… I am going to pick up 2 more 1L Platy’s and give this method a shot though. Now I am debating converting my Sawyer Squeeze to an inline filter, or just treating with chemicals… Then of course, my Zero pack doesn’t have side pockets… 🙂

      That is cool that you will be doing the CDT! I am reading the book “A Blistered Kind of Love” right now, which is about the PCT, but still, the whole west side just fascinates me… I am really looking forward to getting to do the Wonderland Trail later this year and just hope that everything works out so that I can do it…

      Anyway, good luck on your hike!

      ~Stick~

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  11. JERMM says:

    Nice Stick, I’ve been using a very similar set up for my shoulder strap water bottle for years. It just works.

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