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The decision was made last night to proceed with the standard course for this weekend’s San Juan Solstice 50, which means that I can begin planning drop bags and making other logistical decisions.

I’d already decided that I would go with a two bottle hydration pack rather than using a bladder, and doing so necessitates that I find the best way to carry a third bottle for the first 9+ mile stretch along the Continental Divide Trail/Colorado Trail. Looking back at prior years’ results, and digging into the splits of people finishing in the 13-14 hour range (my hopeful finish time), I estimate that I’ll spend roughly 3 hours covering that segment of the course — so two bottles won’t be enough for me.

Since I’m not going to use trekking poles, I’ll be able to use my hands for that third bottle. But there isn’t a drop bag at the aid station that’s at the end of that section, and I don’t want to carry the third bottle until the next drop bag (another 9+ miles further).

So it’s time to make a disposable bottle.

I don’t know if anyone else does this kind of thing, so let me explain. By “disposable bottle” I mean a bottle that I only need for a portion of the race, that I plan to pick up from a drop bag part way through but (due to how the drop bags are spaced) plan to dispose of at an aid station (or other trash receptacle) before the finish. For example, at the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 the section from Bull Wheel to Diamond Peak is too far for me to go on just two bottles. So I picked up a disposable handheld from Tunnel Creek, carried it empty to Bull Wheel (just a couple miles), then filled it along with the others for the run down to Diamond Peak. I don’t have a drop bag at Diamond Peak, so that’s where I put it into a trash can.

I don’t consider using a disposable handheld to be wasteful, just a cost of running the race (right alongside the entry fee, travel expenses, gear and fuel, etc.). Besides, over the years I’ve gotten so many water bottles as giveaways or at deeply discounted sale prices that the cash cost is generally just a dollar or two.

I started my construction with an empty bottle with an old Orange Mud bottle from the back of my gear closet. Initial weight: 3 ounces.


My “go to” construction materials for these types of projects are duct tape (no surprise there) and woven polypropylene. The latter comes in many forms, but I use empty 25 pound rice bags (hooray Pacific Ocean Marketplace!) or those big blue shopping bags from IKEA. Here’s the scrap of the IKEA bag I settled on:


For this build, I also decided to reuse a piece of packing foam that came with a recent electronics purchase and fashion a cushion for the back of my hand. I might be all weird and puffy at high elevation, right? So maybe a little comfort would be appreciated.



Build a couple thin loops for the top and bottom of the bottle, attach the hand strap, and voila! 3.7 ounces for the finished product:


But once it was done, I started to wonder if I could do better. Could I make something that was even lighter, and which would be easier to stow (either attached to my pack, or tucked into the waistband of my shorts) once it’s empty?

I went digging and found this horrible thing in my closet:


I hate these little bottle-sack-bags. The edges are sharp, they’re crinkly and uncomfortable to carry, and I even though I’ve acquired a few of them over the years, I’ve never used them. But they are definitely light and packable. That sounds like a great candidate for disposable gear. Carrying capacity = approximately 18 oz.

Initial weight = 0.7 oz.

I figure that since this bottle will be the first one I start drink from once I leave the aid station, it should only take about 30 minutes before it’s half empty, at which point I can tuck it in my waistband. So to heck with the cushioning and the stronger polypro attachments, I’m going 100% duct tape on this one!

Start with a long strip…



Use the clippy hole, go diagonal to avoid having to grasp across the sharp edge….


And done.


Just 0.8 oz total. Obviously there were some trade-offs made, and I’ll probably be happy to get rid of this thing when I get to the Divide Aid Station. But the best kind of disposable gear is the gear you won’t miss.