(Prefer to listen to your content? Follow this link!)35,000 foot desert
Coach seats generally account for more than 85% of the capacity in single aisle aircraft used for domestic routes. Beverage service in coach is limited, so bringing our own hydration aboard any flight over two-three hours is mandatory unless you like getting dry mouth, lightheaded and lethargic from dehydration. The growth of international long-haul (6+ hours) and the newest ultra-long haul (15+ hours) routes place an even greater premium on in flight health and wellness writ large, but hydration in particular. Airplane cabins are dry by design, mimicking desert conditions. Modern cabin design has followed economic trends in the world with increasing competition for high revenue frequent business flyers leading to a hard product arms race in the front of the planes.
Simultaneously, the rise of ultra-low cost carriers (ULCCs) has created the need for increased density in the main cabin, spawning new “Slimline” seat designs, which have hard plastic backs and seat back pockets with wire mesh reinforced nets that greatly reduce usable seat back storage. The soft leather/elastic seat back pockets of previous designs afforded ample storage and flexibility even for long flights in Coach. These new Slimline seat designs make it much more difficult to store traditional cylinder shaped water bottles. These factors conspire against us to make staying hydrated in-flight more difficult than ever. Landing in a dehydrated state only makes a trip more difficult and less enjoyable/productive.
How much water should you drink per flight hour? The Aerospace Medical Association suggestions drinking eight ounces of water every hour you are in the air. For a three hour flight, that means you must consume at least 24oz. of water. Some airlines such as Delta, are now using larger 10oz. cups, which is great. Unfortunately, I have yet to take a three hour flight with three drink services in the main cabin and even then, that would only satisfy the minimum. Individuals with higher metabolisms who live a more active life or have a higher fitness level will likely need even more water (this author certainly does).
Waiting for water
A simple rule to stave off dehydration is to never feel thirsty. You need to constantly be drinking enough water to maintain a healthy hydration level. Especially on long haul flights, I'm parched each and every time drink service comes around. I definitely don't fault the flight attendants; they have a much wider range of responsibilities than most people realize. Most people reading this article are likely good passengers with proper etiquette and don't want to hit the call button every time they need more water. We need to take responsibility for our own fluid supply. However, modern security measures in the post-9/11 era have made this annoyingly difficult.
Carry-On Water Bottle Options
Hard Side Bottles
TSA lets you bring an empty water bottle through security and most airports have dedicated bottle filling stations at the water fountains (awesome and good for the environment). The new seat designs combined with the new coach cabin layouts make it much more difficult to carry a traditional cylinder shaped water bottle like Nalgene, Hydro Flask or Yeti on board. Their conventional cylinder design makes it difficult (sometimes impossible) to fit a bottle with any useful capacity in the new Slimline seat back pockets. These bottle designs were never optimized for transportation and storage density. They are bulky and somewhat heavy, especially if you opt for vacuum insulated designs. Airplanes are uniquely inconvenient because there isn't any sort of deep beverage holder (which Nalgenes rarely fit anyway). You can try using a bladder but you’ll be moving your bag around the whole flight.
Soft Sided Water Bottles
Soft water bottles such as Hydropak and Vapur are a good alternative to the hard sided bottle. The soft-sided construction allows them to conform to a wider range of storage spaces than a cylindrical water bottle like Nalgene, Yeti or Hydroflask while being substantially lighter than their cylindrical brethren. Soft bottles also fold up when they are no longer needed, so post-consumption storage and transport is a breeze. Unfortunately, soft-sided bottles can “flop” or fall over when stored in a seatback pocket, encroaching on precious legroom. They are also difficult to clean and are easily lost when empty. I lost five bottles and stopped buying them after the fifth bottle went MIA. I am a well-organized traveller who runs through a pre-departure checklist as if I were in the cockpit. I don’t often lose things. In fact, I still have the first pair of Oakley Blades I bought in 1988. This made the easy disappearing act of the soft-sided bottle particularly troublesome.
With a 50 oz. capacity (more than most standard size bottles), a shape that's compatible with even the most modern and impractical seat back pockets and no need to even move the bottle for use, it is as if IcePlate was built for modern air travel from the beginning. IcePlate also has an optional Dust Cover Kit for the bite valve if you want extra protection from contaminants or other passengers. When we designed the IcePlate the entire focus was on its ability to be frozen and worn close to the body (in the high altitude inland deserts of California) under ballistic armor. We didn't think about in-flight use during design but IcePlate has quickly proven to be uniquely suited to this task. If you are wondering what is the best carry-on bag to use with the IcePlate, look no farther than the Vertx Gamut EDC (pictured at top of article). I've been traveling with the Gamut EDC/IcePlate combo since IcePlate was launched in August 2016 and haven't looked back. Although Vertx designed the Gamut EDC before we designed the IcePlate, the fit so well together it is as if they were designed by the same team at the same time with the intention of total integration (if you are wondering if IcePlate will work with your everyday carry pack, check out our article on Backpack Compatibility). Especially if you're headed to a destination with an outdoor itinerary, having an IcePlate handy is going to help maintain your performance even after arrival: it doesn't have to simply be another thing to stuff in the checked bag.