Moving our family and photography business into an RV and living on the road (often by a river) has been nothing short of a dream come true, however, it does have a few inherent challenges: namely, sourcing and managing water, power, and finding a decent internet connection. After three years on the road, we have made a few modifications to both our lifestyle and our Winnebago View that have allowed us to maximize our time in our favorite places, which often lie well off the beaten path.
For power, we have solar panels on the roof of our RV that keep us fully charged. We also have a built in generator that serves as a noisy, but effective plan B. Internet is a bit trickier: we rely on our phones, a hot spot, and a signal booster for most of our needs. With this setup we manage to stay powered up and connected to the civilized world—at least most of the time.
Water, however, is another story. It seems that our RV has an insatiable thirst, using on average about 5 gallons a day for our family of three. This includes basic hydration, cooking and hygiene—no matter how conservative we are with our usage, we are constantly searching for the next spigot to resupply. You would think that the 40 gallon storage tank in our RV would allow us to stay off the beaten path for an extended stint, but just a few days of careless dishwashing will leave us parched, and a shower in the RV using up to 3 gallons/minute? Forget about it!
After over a thousand days under our belts living on the road and managing a very limited water supply, here are three water conservation strategies that have served us well and allowed us to maximize our time in the wild:
1—Oftentimes we find ourselves in a roadside situation where there might be a water spigot available, but for whatever reason we cannot use it to refill the freshwater tanks in the RV. It might be because we can’t get the RV close enough for the hose to reach, or that there is no dump station to purge the wastewater—and I promise, it is a REALLY BAD IDEA to fill with fresh water without first dumping the waste water!! Regardless, if there is water available outside the RV, take advantage of it. This is where portable water storage—like our 6L Water Tank—comes in really handy. It has a large enough capacity that it conveniently meets most of our immediate needs around camp, but folds away to almost nothing so that it is easy to store when we aren’t using it.
Photo: Kathy Holcombe
2—Dishwashing is our single biggest drain on our water supply, but with careful management, you can minimize water consumption with the following tips: First, always wash your dishes immediately—they are far easier to clean if you catch them before food gets really stuck. Second, get your sponge wet, apply soap and start scrubbing all of your dishes. We can almost always scrub an entire meal of dishes for our family of three without any additional water than the initial sponge soaking. Third, only when your dishes are thoroughly scrubbed do you use additional water to rinse your dishes. Depending on the amount of dishes you have, sometimes it is better to fill a shallow basin to rinse the dishes, and sometimes it is better to rinse them under a trickle straight from the spigot. Use your best judgement.
3—While we live in an RV, it is simply the tool that allows us to chase adventures kayaking, climbing and exploring the backcountry. For sourcing water when we are miles down the river or trail, our GravityWorks filter is our go-to tool to keep the weight in our packs/kayaks to a minimum while providing us with filtered water to keep us well hydrated. It’s lightweight and easy to use, and when we come across a good water source, all we have to do is fill up the reservoir, hang it on a nearby bush or tree, and in minutes, we have fresh, filtered drinking water to refill our bottles.
While water will always be a limiting factor in our never-ending road trip, we’re getting better and better in stretching every single drop so that we can spend our time out in the wild—kayaking, climbing, or exploring the backcountry as much as possible… instead of searching for the next spigot to fill our tanks.
About the author: Four years ago, Kathy and her family took a radical leap when they traded in their beautiful Boulder, CO home for the freedom of the open road in a Winnebago RV and have been chasing adventures ever since. You can find them climbing in the mountains, kayaking in the rivers and exploring remote and wild places as they criss-cross their way across North America. Through their stories and images, they hope to inspire others to get outside and set out on their own adventures. They call this lifestyle Famagogo.com.
How Reservoirs Solved My Hydration Problem
By Jenny Abegg | July 21st, 2017
I’ll admit it: I’ve struggled with hydration in the past. As an alpine rock climber, on long, arduous approaches, I’ve often opted to put my head down and hike rather than stop to take water breaks. I’ve bonked more times than I can count, my lack of water consumption resulting in trailside naps or sufferfest summits. However, when I made the transition from water bottles to hydration reservoirs earlier this year, my solution to dehydration became clear: drinking water became infinitely easier, and in turn, I was more likely to do it. Since switching over, the proof has been in the pudding: I haven’t bonked once.
Case in point: this June, my friend Alix and I set off to climb a peak high in the Rockies. We began early, with a plan to move fast. Using reservoirs allowed us to move continuously upwards without having to stop to retrieve water bottles from our packs. It was a relief to have my reservoir with me, knowing that with a water bottle, I would’ve held up Alix with frequent water breaks, or, more likely, not stopped at all to hydrate.
In Wales for a wedding around the summer solstice, I went for a trail run on the coast with a 1.5L reservoir in my running pack. Instead of a hard water bottle riding against my back in the pack, the flexible reservoir was almost imperceptible. As I ran over the rolling sea bluffs and across sandy beaches, I was able to hydrate as needed, avoiding interruptions to my rhythm or stiff legs from having to stop to retrieve a bottle—the bite valve of the reservoir was always available.
Hydrating while rock climbing can be a challenge, too: often I’m hanging at belays with one hand free, and given that I have a chronic case of the “dropsies,” the possibility of fumbling a water bottle is dangerously high. Over the years I’ve learned to streamline every process while on a long climb—I eat mostly bars, carry the route description in my pocket, and am very particular about managing the rope and gear for speedy transitions. While climbing Devils Tower in July, I threw my 3L Big Zip LP reservoir in the pack for my partner and I, stashing the hose inside as well. Not only was it a streamlined setup for us, it was also ridiculously easy to hydrate—we just had to fish out the hose and open the valve, a one-handed process that could be done while belaying, looking at the route description, or swapping gear. To add to that, the reservoir shrunk as we drank, making the backpack smaller and easier to carry up chimney sections. Brilliant.
Home in the Pacific Northwest mid-July, my parents and I took off on a quick two-day trip into the North Cascades. I carried a pack of overnight essentials, including a full 3L reservoir—I slipped the 6+ pounds of water into the hydration sleeve in my pack, placing it close against my back. In the past, carrying multiple liters of water in various bottles and locations made my pack unruly and unbalanced, in turn making me rather unruly when scrambling on technical terrain. Up high on Church Mountain, however, I realized that this instability was mostly alleviated when the water was carried close to my back. Problem solved.
My summer with reservoirs has made me a convert. There is surely no better way to stay hydrated in the outdoors, from fast-and-light adventures and backpacking trips to rock climbing and day hikes. Not only that, but by happenstance I discovered that reservoirs are useful for more than just outdoor pursuits—they are perfect for those endurance journeys that happen between the main events: road trips. From bonks to bumps in the road, I found reservoirs a great solution for hydration.
Raised by mountain-loving parents on the flanks of the North Cascades, Jenny Abegg’s idea of a perfect day starts and ends wearing a headlamp, and includes a snowy approach, dry granite, and endless high fives with a favorite partner. Her passion for adventurous climbing has led her from the jungles of Rio to windy spires in Patagonia, from the unexplored faces of the Purcell Mountains to heady granite domes of North Carolina. Currently based out of her GMC Safari nicknamed “Ol’ Blue,” Jenny is a climbing guide and a writer, exploring the topics of climbing, life, and the spaces between.
Getting Dirty for the Sturdy Dirty Enduro
Platy Contributor | June 13th, 2017
Issaquah, Washington: Mud-spattered and breathing hard, two mountain bikers emerge from Tiger Mountain’s lush, fern-scaped forest. They’ve just dropped out of “the Legend” trail, expecting a short fire road recovery before catching another trail back up the ridge. They do not expect to see us.
“We got pizza!” someone yells out. The riders—a father and son—look up with amused smiles to see our crowd welcoming them to a table stacked high with still-toasty pizza boxes and growlers of beer. An easy-up tent keeps off the drizzle, a constant companion here in Western Washington. It keeps things verdant green year-round, and it also makes for good trail building.
Today is a Sturdy Dirty Dig Day, one of a series of trail work events designed to let riders give sweat equity back to the trails and get them in prime condition for the Sturdy Dirty Enduro, a women-focused mountain bike race to be held here on June 17, 2017.
Counting more than a dozen, these hard-working, dirt-encrusted volunteers have been toiling on the “Easy Tiger” trail just up the road. Like many of the Tiger Mountain trails, Easy Tiger feels a world apart with its thick stands of trees and ubiquitous ferns. The recent trail work has made the place feel primordial, with the fresh earth scent of clay and turned-up duff in the air. Along the trail lay signs of civilization: Rogue hoes. McLeod shovels.
The workers have been on finishing duty: backsloping the top part of the bench-cut trail so it won’t erode, and replanting ferns to stabilize the grade where it’s been built up with exposed dirt. “The replanting also narrows the trail and makes it prettier,” says Bryan Connolly, trail crew chief at Tiger Mountain and a member of Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, the largely grant-funded nonprofit organization that maintains the trails at Tiger with the help of volunteers.
The dig day is sponsored by Sturdy Bitch Racing (which organizes the Sturdy Dirty Enduro), and several of the enduro’s sponsors: Bell Joy Ride, EVO and Georgetown Brewing. The work party event attracted as many women as men, and all are hoping to come out to the race to either compete or cheer.
Now in its 4th year, the Sturdy Dirty Enduro is an enduro-style mountain bike race that brings women racers together to experience timed downhill-oriented course sections interspersed with more relaxed, transition trail riding. Famous for its fun-filled, themed aid stations (a Mexican cantina is one favorite) and costumed volunteers, the Sturdy Dirty takes a serious race and makes it into an all-day party.
Harrison Gill, one of the volunteers at today’s dig day, is ready for that party. When asked why he’s planning to volunteer at the Sturdy Dirty, the Redmond resident is beat to the punch by Ady Lane.
“Because there are going to be 250 women?” says Lane, one of the enduro’s organizers.
Gill laughs and agrees.
The Sturdy Dirty Enduro has become such a popular mountain bike event in the Northwest, the organizers decided to expand it this year to a 3-race series with the help of Roam Events and title sponsor Liv Cycling. The series now includes the race at Tiger Mountain and two other races in Oakridge (Westfir, Oregon) and Big Bear (Big Bear Lake, California).
“When we started the Sturdy Dirty back in 2015, it was the first women’s enduro mountain bike race in the country,” says Lane. “Now we’re putting on the only series of its kind in the world. It’s a daunting task, and we could never do it without all the amazing men and women who come out to volunteer. They really make the Sturdy Dirty.”
Not everyone among the dig day attendees is planning to volunteer at the enduro. Natasha Weiss, a Bell Joy Ride brand ambassador who helped organize the dig day, plans on racing it. A youthful woman with an air of toughness that makes you think twice about calling her cute, Weiss is happy to see women flocking to the Sturdy Dirty—and giving back to the trails.
“It’s a value to get women out to dig days.”
Want to volunteer or race at a Sturdy Dirty Event? Visit sturdydirty.com to sign up to volunteer or register to race.
Want to help build trails in Washington or Oregon?
Washington: Check out Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance’s calendar of events, including dig days, here.
Oregon: Visit Disciples of Dirt’s calendar for dig days and other bike events.
Sturdy Dirty Enduro Series Calendar
Sturdy Dirty Seattle: Tiger Mountain (Issaquah, WA), June 17
Sturdy Dirty Oakridge: Westfir Portal (Westfir, OR), August 19
Sturdy Dirty Big Bear: Snow Summit (Big Bear Lake, CA), October 14
Meet the Meta Maker
The story behind the making of our Meta Bottle + Microfilter
Platy Staff | May 1st, 2017
Hi there, Platypus wordsmith Keith here—I recently corralled one of our resident product design engineers, Mikk, and asked him about his efforts in making our Meta™ Bottle + Microfilter personal water filter bottle. Turns out, there’s a lot that went into it. Note: we weren’t able to go back in time and get Arnold Schwarzenegger of the 80s to test the flow rate, so that’s a speculative estimate for illustrative purposes. Also, nobody was hurt in any shattering incidents. Enjoy the interview!
Hey Mikk, remember that XKCD cartoon that touched on the amount of time and work behind ordinary things? When that came out, it immediately reminded me of our process in making the Meta Bottle + Microfilter. As the design engineer, you were at the heart of that. So let’s go back and talk about it…
So… what is the Meta Bottle + Microfilter?
It’s a water bottle, it’s a personal filtration system, and it’s a not-so-personal filtration system—I personally used it on St. Helens to filter the water for me, my mom, my dad, and my sister when we went up for Mother’s Day… Well, we couldn’t get the permit for Mother’s Day, so we went the day before Mother’s Day. [Laughter]
But it’s just a 1L bottle—you were filtering for a group of four? Was that because it’s compact, or…?
It was compact, and I brought it because, yeah, I’d designed it and it was just finished enough at the time to bring it on the trip—it wasn’t production quality, it was a prototype and had issues, but I wanted to see how well it worked. It was easy having it hanging off the side of a pack. You could grab it, scoop up water and keep going. For group filtration, I was melting the water, dumping it in the bottle and squeezing it, and it was fine.
Why did we make it?
Platy wanted a bottle that was close to a hard bottle in functionality—it stands up on its own, you can set it on a desk and it won’t ever fall over no matter how full or empty it is. It’s also easy to drink from—you can hold it any direction you want and drink from it. We wanted to make it so you could integrate a water filter into it, too—that was the other part of it.
We wanted to give customers an option that could be used hiking, but also be a bottle that you could use in the car. It has the microfilter, so it’s also your water filter.
How wide, how far, how deep was the concepting adventure?
It was as wide as Google goes. Almost. [Laughter] I mean, sure, I can look at what other outdoor brands are doing. But there wasn’t anything out there like this at the time, there wasn’t a “go to the trail, use it around town” filter bottle out there. We wanted to have a traditional tip and sip solution. So I went out and researched as much as I could.
It was this continuously branching tree. As soon as I found out about things that held water that are soft, or hard, or a combination of both, I’d keep researching things until it was clear that they weren’t viable or relevant any more.
So the discovery phase was a super-broad—?
SUUUUUPER broad [laughter]… because we had no idea what the product was going to be made of, or even what it would look like. It was a new thing for us. It was unlike anything Platy had ever made—it’s semi-rigid.
At what point was the discovery phase over and things started gelling?
I think… [laughing] realistically, I think the discovery phase was over when the product was done. We weren’t quite sure—I wasn’t 100% positive that it was gonna work until it actually worked 100% functionally. Until then, it was like “We might not have a product…” But the initial discovery, I think that was about 6 months.
Walk me through the validation process.
First, you have discovery so you know what’s out there. Then you ask “What can we do with this information?” We had figured out we could do maybe four or five different designs. Then there’s discovery phase two. You’re narrowing down what you’re really going to put engineering work into; you’re learning and talking to people. You go to experts and ask “Can you do something like this? Is this possible? Is that possible? Do you know?”
A lot of the answers we got were “We don’t know, and no, we don’t think it can be done.” We would say back, “Well, okay, we see your point… but… could you at least try?”
So there was some back and forth?
Totally. For the bottom of the bottle, one source was telling me “You have to do this this certain way so you can actually manufacture it.” But that didn’t align with what we wanted to do. We talked to some other sources, and they said “Yeah, you can do that, but it’s really, really expensive to make.” I suggested we try a different approach, and because we were using a softer material it ended up working out; the material was so forgiving.
So you have discovery phase two—narrowing down options, researching what we could actually do. Around then, you’re going into initial prototypes. For our first proof of concept, we took a hard bottle, cut a hole in it, glued a silicone piece over the hole, and stuck a filter in the lid. You’d push the silicone piece to squeeze water out of the bottle. We did more research and proof of concept testing. From the testing, we realized that the challenges we were initially encountering were because of difficulty in deforming the materials, not because of the filter.
Did you know from the start that a Hollow Fiber microfilter was going to be the filter?
Not exactly. We started with a huge base of understanding—we have people on the team who have a ton of knowledge about water filter media. Initially, though, we considered everything.
We were working closely with our water lab people, too, asking them if we could do this or that with certain filter media. The water lab people were awesome resources—chances are they’ve tested whatever you’re asking about, and they know all the benefits and drawbacks, so it was really easy to narrow things down quickly.
What about the hard top half, was that easy to design?
In terms of the concept, the top was pretty well nailed down early on. In terms of how you could make it, it was complex because there are so many threads on the bottle. There are two sets of internal threads and one set of external threads.
We did start with a single, continuous thread on the outside where you drink from. A single, continuous threading is great—it works, it’s on everything, but you have to turn the cap a bunch to close it.
You wanted a maximum of a half turn or something?
Yeah, because we wanted it to be super usable, where you weren’t unscrewing the top one or one and a half times to open it, like on some hard bottles.
So we went with a two-start thread—there are just two “short” threads, instead of one continuous one—which allows you to open or close the cap with a half turn. A little less of a half turn, technically.
There was a mention of “This bottle has a great ‘mouth feel’”, which is hilarious, but when you’re designing something that people are putting their mouth on…
What does “mouth feel” mean from an engineering perspective?
That’s always kinda funny. With the two-start thread design, there aren’t any threads that go all the way around the lip of the bottle, so you have a couple smooth vertical parts that your lip can rest against instead of a thread. Once we knew we’d have a two-start thread, I wanted to add a radius on the smooth vertical parts. Instead of a flat surface, it’s cupped just enough that it feels a little different and more natural than a flat surface. Most people will probably never notice it, it’s super subtle, but if you were able to compare them side-by-side, you’d notice the difference. The cupped one just feels better.
For the microfilter, one of the earlier things you were working on was the stacking of the adapter—
The first hope was that you could just screw the microfilter itself directly into the top. We tested that out with one of our GravityWorks filters, but that testing confirmed that we needed an adapter with an air return valve so the bottle could reinflate after filtering.
I called the second iteration the “Rocket Ship”—it literally looked like a rocket ship. But with that design, you’d end up with this lake of water that you couldn’t ever get through the filter.
I then made an adapter that was offset, where the microfilter is able to essentially go all the way up to the top of the Meta bottle, and the air-return valve sits right next to it. We added holes in the sides of the microfilter’s housing, which allows more water through.
We tried some other random stuff, too. We looked into maybe making a GravityWorks-sized filter for the Meta Bottle, so you would have this massive-sized filter, but we already had a much smaller filter that did two liters a minute, so there wasn’t much of a point.
Speaking to the two liters a minute thing—in terms of one’s ability to drink water comfortably, you researched that…
Well, there are tons of variables… but, generally, the typical rate that somebody will drink at when they’re thirsty, it can be two to three liters a minute at a time. It’s not like they’re at a party doing a chugging contest, but they’re thirsty, so it’s still a fair amount.
So two liters a minute is not nothing?
It’s a lot of water. And that two liters of water a minute that we list as the flow rate, that’s the average flow rate of the filter. If we gave this to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 80s, he could probably get almost four liters a minute through the filter if he was trying.
You were measuring how hard people were squeezing the bottle, too?
Yeah. I had to figure out how to relate all these different variables. You can’t just measure how hard people squeeze a bottle and then measure the flow rate of the filter and say that’s what people will get when they use it. You have to measure people drinking from the bottle and see what pressures they’re generating when they’re squeezing and drinking.
We started with, “How hard do 20 people squeeze the bottle?” We collected that data. Then we asked, “How hard do 20 people squeeze when they’re drinking from the bottle?” We collected that data, and it was like half of what we’d found before. We were always collecting data.
For us, we wanted to speak to real-world use—how people would be using it on the trail. So we wanted to know how hard people squeezed when drinking, and we wanted to accurately talk to that.
So we had this choice where we could say “Hey, we can do four liters a minute”… But we don’t say that.
Two liters a minute is a great flow rate for a filter, and it lines up with the average, easy squeeze we found in our research. Two liters a minute covers 99% of users. Technically, we could advertise faster, but then it becomes advertising wars… and we’re engineers.
Were you sourcing materials, too?
The materials part was super, super early because we have our taste-free guarantee. We knew that regardless of what the final product ended up looking like, we would be using certain materials, so we figured we could go ahead and do the taste testing.
Early on, we thought we might use silicone because it’s supposed to be taste-free. Turns out, it’s not. It tastes really bad. Granted, maybe not every silicone that’s available—there are literally thousands available—but all the ones I was able to test came back very poorly in our own taste testing.
We moved on to TPE, and even within the TPEs, there were some that weren’t good enough for us, but they were better than the silicones. Then we found a few TPE options that met the criteria for our taste test, which was nice, because it meant I could stop drinking really disgusting water.
You know that urethane flavor you can get with some other reservoirs? Especially if you let them sit for a while in the sun? That’s what I was drinking almost every day for a while.
Wait, you were self-testing??
Self-inflicting, yeah. [Laughter] It was for the good of our customers!
Any other things that were cool or interesting in the making of the Meta Bottle + Microfilter?
I really love the cap. Like, really, really love the cap. The lanyard is flush inside the top of the cap. The cool thing is that, for the cap, we did an overmold. There’s a hard inner part, and then a soft outer part. The soft part is a second process, so you can use that to hide geometries and mesh things together. We use that to make the lanyard disappear into the cap effectively. It’ll still spin freely, too, but it’s totally integrated.
You spent a chunk of time working on the lanyard—the weighting, the texturing…
Yeah, and specifically the transfer from the ring to the flat section of the lanyard. There’s a lot that went into that… like, literally, those two millimeters of 3D model are really complicated to make. [Laughter]
You have the manufacturing mold that opens up and down, and then you have to have parting lines perfect so it’s comfortable in hand, and cosmetically looks good. To make the lanyard comfortable for carrying, I changed the model so that the parting line wasn’t where one’s fingers would touch, which wasn’t how it was originally spec’d from the tooling maker. They wanted to put it elsewhere, and I had to push back and say, “No, we really need it over here…”
So designing for use, not designing for manufacturing ease?
It’s like, if you have the parting line here [in the middle of the lanyard], you’re going to feel it on your fingers and it’s going to hurt. So I designed that out so it’s smooth and comfortable, but that’s one of those little things that nobody’s going to ever know…
Now they will…
Ah, right! [Laughter]
The other crazy thing was choosing the hardness of materials. And choosing materials! The first material that was recommended? I should have chosen it. But I was mostly new to injection molding, and so I’d also heard, “This polypro is a great polypro” Great! Turns out, it’s a great polypro… if you need a stiff polypro. BUT, if you dropped it ten feet, it would shatter.
I remember the shattering of stuff…
[Laughter] Yeah!! A piece shot like 30 feet, which was COOL… but not acceptable for our users. So we found a different material that doesn’t shatter into a thousand pieces, which is kind of an obvious thing that we can’t let happen.
Dialing in the softness of the bottom was another deal. We tested a ton of options to figure out which one was hard enough to make the bottle reinflate, but still soft enough to squeeze easily. It was a big balance game. AND, we had to make it so that it doesn’t over-inflate on an airplane… which was a fun test. Pressure testing is fun. I never got any of them to actually explode, but some of them did turn into really cool balloons.
It’s true, you do get to do some fun tests. Well… I think that’s it, Mikk. Thank you for chatting and for all you did in making the Meta Bottle + Microfilter!
Totally! It was fun.
Editor’s note: Mikk is busy working on the next generation of hydration awesomeness, so we appreciate him taking the time to humor us and recount his adventures in designing our first water filter bottle. As this long, albeit entertaining interview revealed… a lot of work can go into something as simple as a bottle. Thanks again, Mikk! And thank you, dear reader, for joining us!
We believe in clean, great tasting water
For over 20 years, Platypus has been the leader in flexible, taste-free hydration from the city to the trail.
We offer a family of easy-to-use, adventure-ready hydration products—including filters, hydration packs, and storage solutions—and proudly make the majority of our products here in the U.S.A.
We believe in having fun, giving back, and enjoying every sip of the adventure.