Thursday, 4 March 2010

gear we like, part 3: flasks and hot drinks

  • Flasks

Not a part of everyone’s gear loadout I know, even in winter there are a number of people I know who still prefer to take a bottle of water or squash out, but for me the flask is the king of cold weather hydration!

(Note: lots of people carry both a bottle of water and a small flask of hot drink, I only tend to do this if I am doing a big big day where I will be needing lots of fluid – i.e. days where I pack the camelbak as my primary source of hydration, and the flask becomes a luxury morale booster.)


Anyone that knows me, knows that I drink alot of tea. I can’t stand coffee, I do partake of the occasional good hot chocolate, but primarily I am a tea drinker. Funnily enough I never used to drink all that much of the stuff, but working in an office meant I learned the time-wasting value of a trip to the kettle (especially if you were making drinks for 5+ other people, but I digress…), oh and of course Phil (my dearly beloved) is apparently addicted to the stuff. I should really run a tally of how many cups he averages a day – could prove quite interesting. Anyway, I seem to have digressed again, so back on topic: flasks and hot drinks on the hill.

Nothing is quite as morale boosting as a nice hot cup of something after you’ve spent the previous hour or so freezing your butt off on some god-forsaken belay half way up some frozen crag. Using a flask to carry a hot drink is also the best way I’ve found of ensuring the fluid you’re carrying is still drinkable when you need it (i.e. it hasn’t frozen as can be the problem with simply carrying a bottle or a camelbak when it is really, really cold).

I guess I don’t really need to say much more do I? Hot drink on the hill – big thumbs up. Still fluid fluids? Humungous thumbs up. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the flask!

(Of course flasks are also great in summer, but winter is for me when they really come into their own.)

  • Hot drinks for the hill (aka ‘what to put in the flask’)

Right, so I’ve dug my flask out of the cupboard, ready to fill it with warm goodness, but what exactly should I fill it with? Now I know that everyone is going to have a different opinion on this and many people will go with something coffee related, but as I’ve already mentioned I can’t stand the stuff.

Some people I know go with a hot squash type thing (usually either orange or blackcurrant), and this is far from a bad idea. Personally though, I steer away from these types of thing as I just find them too sickly sweet which then puts me off drinking when I really should.

Hot chocolate is not the most successful of drinks to choose for a flask, simply because you end up with alot of grit in the bottom (I’m obviously talking about simple drinking chocolate powders, I have never experimented with proper hot chocolates in a flask because firstly, it seems like a waste of good hot chocolate, and secondly, because it is again a very sweet drink option and probably not that great a source of hydration anyway).

Tea. You’ve probably already guessed this is where I was heading, but you might be surprised yet!

I’ve already mentioned that I drink alot of tea, and this is bog standard builders tea for the vast majority of the time (for any non-British readers, ‘English Breakfast Tea’ is the stuff – none of this ‘Early Grey’ nonsense). At home our tea of choice is Twining’s Everyday Tea – loose leaf (the only place you seem to be able to buy the loose stuff is Waitrose currently, but the tea bags are everywhere and equally good – we just prefer loose leaf for its cost and waste advantages…anyway…), always with milk but no sugar, thank you.

Now, standard tea with milk is a great drink at home, but is utterly crap from a flask – the milk means it goes all grey and nasty, oh and it stews. If you don’t mind drinking it black, then this is better, but it does still stew, and isn’t entirely pleasant when cold or only lukewarm.

I’m not into herbal teas, but I do like Green teas and White teas (and by White tea I don’t mean tea with milk – White tea is essentially unfermented Black tea). Last year I was using alot of Green teas in my flask as it doesn’t stew anywhere near as much as Black tea and is still actually quite pleasant to drink even when mostly cold. Winner! This year I discovered White tea, which has all the advantages that Green tea does in a flask, but for me tastes even better on the hill (it’s slightly more like standard Black tea in taste I feel, although not by much).

(One additional note about Green tea and White tea, is neither contain caffeine, which can also be an advantage on the hill as caffeine is of course a diuretic.)

All drinks are a matter of personal taste, but if you’re like me and are looking for a good flask drink that is still drinkable when cold and isn’t coffee or squash, I recommend you try some Green or White teas, but for goodness sake only leave the bag in for a few seconds, because if you brew them strong they taste absolutely vile! Green and White teas need to be weak to taste good. Trust me.

So my pick of the drinks, currently, White tea:



  1. I usually a carry a litre of water and my partner carries a 1 litre flask of tea (earning the nickname "team-flask"). Tea is surely the king of all drinks!

  2. Hmm, thought-provoking! I tend to drink a fair bit of tea (and ludicrously strong coffee) in 'real life', but when on the hill I cannot stand hot drinks and probably couldn't be bothered to carry the extra weight of a flask ... I value my lightweight pack. =) I think the main reason though is that I virtually never get cold, regardless of temperature, and my main problem is overheating. Drinking hot liquid would just make things worse!