Gear Tip: DIY Ultralight Water Scoop
How to make a one ounce water scoop
That occupies no space in your pack
Sure, the gram weenies and ultralight all stars rocking their Pa’lante packs, with their sub-five-pound base weights will scoff at the title of this post. They’ll boast how they don’t need a scoop for their water, because they use a leaf. Or they’ve perfected the art of sweeping their dirty water bladder through a half-inch deep stream 1000 times to get half a liter of water. But, for the rest of us, who value a bit of practicality—albeit at the expense of an entire ounce—here’s an easy, and cheap way to make a durable water scoop that nests with your water bottle like a Russian doll. It takes up virtually no space and adds a mere ounce to your ultralight hydration system. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Source your Bottles
This technique is simple, and effective. This scoop can to work with your favorite drinking bottle for backpacking, be it a Smartwater, gatorade, or whatever. You’ll need to find a scoop bottle whose main diameter is larger than your drinking bottle. In practice, I’ve built this with both the 1L Smartwater (1.7 oz) and the 1.5L Poland Spring (1.0oz). In each case, I found Essentia brand bottles fit nicely over the drinking bottles. Here’s the bottle sizing I used:
1L Smartwater (1.7 oz) pairs with Essentia 1 liter bottle converted to scoop (1.0 oz)
Total weight: 2.7 oz
1.5L Poland Springs (1.0 oz) pairs with Essentia 1.5 liter bottle converted to scoop (1.4 oz)
Total weight: 2.4 oz
Step 2: Measure and mark where to cut
Make a template by wrapping a piece of paper around your drinking bottle, and tape it so it stays in place—like a paper tube extending below the bottom of the bottle. Leave 4 or 5 inches of overlap below the bottom of the drinking bottle.
Place this over the top of the bottle you intend to convert into a scoop. Because this bottle is wider, it should stop part way down the taper. Make sure the template edge is level and trace it with a sharpie.
Use a box cutter to remove the top, being careful to cut a nice clean edge. Clean up the edge with a scissors if you need to. If there are burrs or sharp points, you may want to use a file or sandpaper to smooth it down. Poking your hands with tiny plastic slivers is no fun.
Step 3: Test the fit.
Ideally your drinking bottle should slide smoothly into the scoop. Be careful if building the scoop to fit the 1L Smartwater. Because the Essentia bottle is quite a bit wider, you have to get the cut on the taper right. If it’s too low down on the bottle, your Smartwater bottle will rattle around inside and may fall out of your pack when you lean forward. Aim for a snug enough fit that the bottles stay nested when you shift or invert your pack.
You're Done, Baby!
You’re all set! This little hack saved me tons of time on the PCT. I was able to use this scoop to easily grab water from all kinds of less than desirable sources. The nested design protects the lightweight plastic from damage and consumes very little additional space in the pack. The one I built for the PCT has survived over 2300 miles and is still going strong.
Do you use a scoop to gather water in the backcountry? Do you have a clever ultralight hack for your hydration system? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!