As the world’s number one fan of hydration reservoirs, one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced on the trail is having to ditch the water bladder on thru-hikes. The convenience of a hassle-free drinking method, combined with the constant reminder to sip throughout the day, is great for day-hikes but perhaps overkill—and even unreliable—on a thru-hike.
While thru-hiking the John Muir Trail this past summer, I struggled to stay hydrated my first week on trail and learned the hard way the repercussions that can come with neglecting your body’s basic needs. Although it was a huge learning lesson, I vowed never to put myself in a dangerous situation like that again.
But what else, besides my own self-scare tactics and a consistent phone alert begging me to drink water, would do the trick?
Cue the Chicken Tramper Ultralight Gear Water Bottle Sleeve.
This ultralight mesh water bottle holder sits comfortably on your backpack’s shoulder strap, making it easy to drink on the go. No more stopping to take off your heavy pack for a water break or twisting and turning every which way just to barely retrieve your bottle from the depths of those deep side pockets.
For all you under-hydraters and “work smarter not harder” believers: this one’s for you.
Capacity: 0.7 liter Smart Water bottle (standard) / 1 liter Smart Water bottle (large)
Weight: 1.4 oz (standard) / 1.6 oz (large)
Dimensions: 8.25″ tall, 3.125″ diameter (standard) / 10.75″ tall, 3.125″ diameter (large)
Materials: X-Pac (VX07), nylon mesh, 1″ nylon webbing
Circumstances of Use
I was first introduced to the concept of a water bottle sleeve after my thru-hike of the JMT. I did not have this nifty item on my packing list at the time, but I certainly wish I did after using it over the last couple months.
This fall, I tested the sleeve on hikes that took me over frigid mountain peaks, through thorny brush areas, and on open dirt trails. I used it with multiple backpacks, ranging from 25-liter day packs to 50-liter ultralight packs, adapting to the attachment methods on both daisy chain and gear loop options.
A water bottle holder seems pretty basic, right? It’s a sleeve that holds your water bottle and attaches to your pack’s strap. When I first received this item, I worried I wouldn’t have much to say.
However, CTUG seamlessly integrates a myriad of carefully-planned features into the sleeve design.
Shock cord: At the top of the sleeve, both the standard and large holsters feature an adjustable shock cord with a cord lock. The cord tightens the diameter of the mesh or pulls over the top of a water bottle, thus keeping it from wiggling around. It’s a simple concept that ensures the effectiveness of this product.
Nylon mesh: My biggest concern with this product was that the mesh would snag or pull easily, rendering the pocket useless over time. To test this, I brought the sleeve on a dense brush trail. After a pretty hefty bushwhack, the sleeve still looked to be in great condition, with no concerning rips or tears. Time will be a factor in terms of the product’s longevity, but this short, intensive stint didn’t do damage to the durable mesh.
Adaptability: CTUG claims this sleeve can be attached to essentially any kind of backpack, so I fact-checked this statement and could not find a backpack in my gear arsenal that wasn’t conducive.
Chicken Tramper Water Bottle Sleeve Pros
Accessibility: The CTUG Water Bottle Sleeve does exactly what it’s intended to do: it adds convenience without taking up “prime real estate” on your pack. Accessing your water becomes significantly easier when the bottle is securely latched onto the front of your body, as opposed to shoved in deep backpack pockets. Now it’s a brief process to get a drink of water, as opposed to taking off your entire pack or shimmying around uncomfortably to reach that impossible spot.
Frees up space: Using a water bottle holster gives you two extra pockets on the sides of your pack to store goodies. I found this helpful when it came to storing fragile items, such as sunglasses or regular glasses, that I worried would break when stuffed inside my pack.
Secure: I was skeptical about the secureness of the sleeve. Would it bounce around as I walked? I was pleasantly surprised to find that the s-clips did their duty. The water bottle sat close to my pack’s shoulder strap and did not feel uncomfortable or heavy after walking for miles.
Durable: For the shorter stints that this water bottle sleeve endured, it showed few to no signs of distress when put through the wringer. Only time will tell, however, as it would need to endure many more miles to truly be deemed durable.
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Chicken Tramper Water Bottle Sleeve Cons
Luxury item: While this piece of gear certainly made my life a tad bit easier, it is not a necessity. At $30, I can see how this would be an item most would pass on. It’s helpful to own, but would not make or break a trip for me.
Bulky: I did not test the 0.7-liter sleeve, so perhaps this was user error, but the 1-liter sleeve was bulkier than I was expecting it to be. The overall item is lightweight, but the height of the large sleeve was a bit tall for my liking, and was difficult to position on my backpack’s strap where it wasn’t right in my face. The 0.7-liter (standard) sleeve would work just fine for any Smart Water bottle size, given the shock cord to keep it in place.
Difficult S Clips: Upon first use, I followed the CTUG instructions on how to open and close the clips and had no trouble attaching them to the pack’s webbing. Once outdoors and in the elements however, it became a bit trickier. The clips were finicky and difficult to open or snap shut in the cold. For the most part, I would not anticipate needing to remove the sleeve from my backpack very often, but it’s worth noting that it can be challenging, especially in the cold.
Limiting: The water bottle sleeve has a 3.125″ diameter, which only fits tall and skinny water bottles, such as Smart Water or similar-style bottles. A Nalgene or other wider bottle would render this item useless.
Overall, the Chicken Tramper Ultralight Gear Water Bottle Sleeve is an excellent luxury item for those who don’t mind spending a little extra money for the ease of hydration. And when it comes to the everyday challenges of trail living, you appreciate each moment of convenience. While I don’t see this piece of gear as a necessity on my packing list, its durability, light weight, and convenience make it a great contender for my next thru-hike.
Comparable Water Bottle Sleeves
Weight: 0.56 oz
Materials: Dyneema Composite Fabric Hybrid and mesh
Weight: 1.32 oz
Materials: DCH50, durable stretch mesh, and 1/8″ high density foam
Disclaimer: The Chicken Tramper Ultralight Gear Water Bottle Sleeve was donated for purpose of review.