With the busy guide season underway but the waters rising, we’ve got a minute to think about what we’re contributing to some of the big environmental problems and what we can do to help bring about change. Here’s one that has been nagging a lot of guides for years: disposable one-time use plastic water bottles. As a working guide in Montana, day in day out bottled water has been part of my routine. Load the cooler, hand it out to clients, retrieve the half-full bottles from the bottom of the boat at the end of the day. So many bottles. We’re talking two, three, four bottles per angler per day. Cases upon cases. Ugh. It just was a part of life and part of my weekly Costco run to load up on bottled water. When a good friend and fellow guide Jason Brinenstool declared his intentions to go completely plastic free in his boat this season, I’ll admit I thought it would be a hard switch. I was skeptical that I could do the same. We hate change. Change is tough. And I thought my reasons to stick with the status quo were enough. Here were my reasons:
1. Carrying enough water for the trip.
I thought in pure sense of volume, no way could I find big enough reusable containers that would still fit in a cooler. Here’s what a typical use of one bottle looked like: I hand them the water, they drink a bit and stick it in the cup holder where it inevitably gets warm. They don’t drink the warm water, and ask for another down the river. Lots of bottles. Which led me to my second reason.
2. Cooler Space
It isn’t a glamorous subject, or one that they teach you in guide school. But packing a cooler is a fine art, and you get into a system when you’re working daily. Bottled water was a known quantity and took up only so much space in the cooler. With reusable containers, how many and just where would I put them all? Reusable containers are usually a little beefier, and a bit tougher to stack all nice and neat.
People tend to think of bottled water as “clean water”. No one else has drank from that container and therefore its sanitary. And to some extent that is true; as a day in day out guide, washing water bottles would be one more step in the process of loading up for the day, unloading and prepping for the next. Seemed like more work.
Have you seen the price of them Yeti coolers? Says everyone ever before finally breaking down and buying a Yeti cooler. They simply work better. It’s like that with non-disposable water bottles as well. Hydroflask, Yeti, Klean Kanteen and all the other premium brands come with a price tag. But they work better. My concern was buying these nice water bottles then having clients forget they were in their hands as they finish out the day, then bye bye money.
Well, I considered all of them and with a little push from the people over at Costa, I’ve decided to give it a go. After talking with other guides and outfitters and considering what kind of system would make it possible for me daily in the boat, I’ve got it down. Here’s my new setup and how it meets those previous arguments.
– rotating stock of metal reusable water bottles. (six of ’em)
– A smaller, dedicated beverage cooler.
– A single large water container for doling out refills.
I know, a second cooler sounds absolutely crazy. But I’ve got another Yeti here, and on drift boat days it can tag along without compromising boat space. On raft days, I’ll be skipping the second cooler and the large water container will sit in the large Yeti. The reusable bottles will rotate out so that cleaning will only have to take place every three days. The large dispenser is a vacuum-sealed yeti, so even on raft days the water should stay pretty darn cold if it is in the shade, like inside the dry box. The initial cost was kinda high, but I save my receipts and I have a feeling at the end of the season I’ll come out ahead since I won’t be buying cases of water every few days. And if these containers last, that means next season. And the next. And the next. Will some clients be turned off by drinking from a container that has been used before? Maybe. But when the sun is beating down on the river, I don’t think they’ll complain for too long. Hydration will win over that argument, and it will make for a good chance to talk about just what is going on with disposable plastic and our waterways. Maybe they’ll change their viewpoint a bit as well. I’ll let you know how it goes.
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