Quick Tip: Water bottle leveler

Well over a decade ago, I spent a weekend training as a crew leader for a volunteer trail maintenance group.

Much to my chagrin, most of the weekend was not about learning techniques for trail building. Instead, we spent the weekend mainly watching PowerPoints, doing communications exercises, and learning about methods to get messages across.

In other words, I spent a whole weekend in a corporate-like structure during my free time. :O   That weekend was my first introduction to the fact that academia, non-profits, and the corporate worlds tend to mirror each other in some ways.  Both worlds take the same classes and read the same kind of books.  And both groups use the same techniques based on the classes and these books!

These same books appeared in several searches. -from Quora

The younger version of me could not believe I was spending a weekend doing what I try to avoid during my day job.  The older version of me now just chuckles at the apparent similarities between the corporate world and the volunteer world when I attend volunteer meetings or even some hiker gatherings.

Most outdoors people come from the same college educated, middle-class background and it shows. 😀   Oh,  techniques are useful at times for marketing ideas, communication, and organization. Among others. But not always appropriate methods for everything in our lives.  But that’s another discussion.

After that weekend, I decided that while I enjoy volunteer trail work, I’m a better fit doing ala carte trail work for different orgs as my work schedule permitted.

But I did learn some interesting techniques during the one trail-building workshop that weekend.

In particular? A quick and dirty way to find level ground.  Something most people have on them when outside: A water bottle!

Simply place the bottle on the ground horizontally, and you can see beyond eyeballing if the ground is level or not.


Useful for the level placing of a water bar or other structures…or before pitching your shelter.

Do I use this technique all the time? Of course not. But any knowledge is useful. And this technique does come in handy at times. I used the method at Henry Coe recently. And Doug never saw this technique before and thought it was an interesting idea. Hence the inspiration for this article!

I do not remember the details of those Trail Crew workshop PowerPoints. But over a decade later, I certainly remember this simple and effective idea.

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John Freeborg
John Freeborg
6 years ago

Simple and multi-purpose – great!

Colorado Jones
2 years ago

Very practical. I’ll be trying that out on next week’s backpacking trip. From now on, my trusty 8 oz Craftsman level is staying home in the toolbox where it belongs 🙂