Climbing water solution

Asher Blackburn
Dec 30, 2016 · 7 min read

The problem at hand is the difficulty of bringing water climbing. As a sport where balance is crucial, a bottle of water can not possibly be carried. I want to design a solution that will bring hydration to this adventure sport without taking away its main values.

This project came to my mind when I was climbing a 10 pitch route with a friend of mine in Boulder, CO. We needed to be as light as possible to bringing a water bottle was not a viable option. Thinking we would be done in 3 hours we both took big gulps from out bottles and started up. The climb took us 7 hours and left us absolutely dehydrated.

A second time I free soloed this route (without rope, equpment, or any kind of protection). In this case I really had to be as light and balanced as possible. I finished again with a feeling of dehydration.

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A little background:

The Nalgene has for a long time been the waterbottle of choice for people living a dirtbag lifestyle. Perhaps because of its fortitude (they can get beat to shit without breaking), simplicity and mere sticker area.

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Problem: many use this bottle when climbing but have to leave it on the ground or in a backpack when climbing so it goes unused. Hooking it on to a harness makes the climber unbalanced. People end up hydrating before and after their climbs. What about long climbs that can span hours?

A common stereotype of climbers is that they can and do hang all their belongings on carabiners. This is true, climbers do love these handy attachers and a lot of things can be hung off of their harness. This only goes so far though. Especially when you already have necessary climbing gear hanging off of your waste, there is no room for a waterbottle. Yet some still try:

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Problem: this method is too clunky and although it may look cool, this is not realistic for hydrated climbing.

The backpack invented by the company camelback is revolutionizing water consumption in sports. The backpack that has a pouch inside for water can be accessed through a straw like device. Used in biking, running, kayaking, sking, and much more this backpack is an easy solution to waterbottles.

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The problem with this is that most of the time climbers don't want anything on their backs. It gets in the way of all the other gear. On top of this having a heavy pouch of water on your back will make you want to lean backwards, the last thing you want to do when rock climbing.


So there is a few things I need to acomplish in my solution:

  • Water needs to exist close to the body so that it doesn’t swing around.
  • Can’t be focused in one place, spread throughout center of gravity.
  • Lightweight only carrying a certain amount.
  • easy to refill in an outdoor environment
  • easy to access with one/ no hands

The first idea that came to my mind and really the one that made me so excited about this project is a water belt that is compatible with your climbing harness. Your center of gravity is around your waist so adding more weight to this part will minimize the effects.

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Climbers already have a harness on their body so I want to take advantage of this, putting water there as well. Not to big this “pouch” would contain about 15 fl ounces (about 1/3 of a Nalgene water bottle). A perfect amount to keep light weight and enough to supply water on a few hour climb.

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Here is my idea in a little computerized sketch:

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The next Problem is getting the water to your mouth. I love the devices that camelback uses for their bags, a plastic tube and a part for your mouth. These are perfect for action sports and would be ideal in this circumstances.

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This could attatch on your waste and extend to your mouth perfectly but the problem is the resting position when it is not in use.

My immediate idea was to make this retract into your waist. If you could reach down, pull it up, drink. Then let go and the mouthpiece would go straight back to your waste.


My inspiration for this retracting mechanism comes from a tape measurer. This gives you the ability to retract a large amount of length into a very small amount of space.

Here is a short video that shows how this mechanism works. This could retract a plastic tube instead.

see 2:20

A few problems first that a design with a retractable tube has to overcome:

  • When tube recoils, water has to be gone: All leftover water in the tube has to be out for it to coil flat.
  • Tube must coil flat
  • Attachment where tube meets harness and water pouch must be considered.

As great and easy as a retractable hose would be, it might not be possible within the guidelines of lightweight and balance. A recoiling action is just not realistic and therefor I must seek another solution.

There are two positions for the drinking hose: extended to reach your mouth and hidden out of sight.

What if after using the hose, you wraped it halfway around your body and Velcro-ed it to your harness.

Let me illustrate:

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The motion of reaching behind your back to retrieve the hose is the exact same motion as reaching into a chalk bag.

what this solves:

  • weight is evenly distributed (hose)
  • excess water can stay in the hose
  • tube to harness attachment is one generic side attatchment

My plan is to make a push lock in snap that will be attached to the harness so that you can reach behind your back and easily hook it in when done drinking.

A snap similar to the one below will be riveted onto the harness with the Camelback bite attached to the end.

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Here is how the hose will attach to the harness:

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And the hose back attached to the harness when done drinking

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This is about the length that the water tube must be to reach a climber in its outstretched position.

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Here is a representation of what the harness will begin to look like:

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With this key component:

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A plastic latch as shown above will allow the tube to always be attached to the water pouch. simply lift up to take the pouch out and push into place once refilled.

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And the latch on the back of the harness, with a solidworks mock up of what it will look like (molded in plastic).

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Another thought that just came to me is: what if the water pouch didnt leave the harness?

This would accomplish a few things:

  • No zipper/velcro attachment needed.
  • Easier to build up fortitude in harness if parts aren’t removed.

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