This guide provides information on the best water bottles of every type, from insulated to collapsible.
Water is the source of life and has been carried in portable vessels for years, but it wasn’t until hikers and outdoorsman started to use Nalgene’s lightweight and durable scientific containers to carry consumables that water bottles caught on as an everyday and outdoor item. The Rochester, New York-based company’s own scientists used its products for camping in the Adirondacks in the 1960s, and as the conservationist movement caught on in the 1970s, Nalgene started branding its products with the label Nalgene Outdoor — the modern day water bottle had arrived. As the fight against single-use plastics continues, water bottles have expanded from the realm of camping and backpacking and into everyday life. Today, no everyday carry kit is complete without a reusable, durable, leak-proof water bottle.
How We Tested Them
Water bottles are among the few items that every member of the Gear Patrol team, including not only our writers and editors but also our photographers, designers, social media coordinators and marketers use on a daily basis. Over the years we’ve collectively tested countless bottles during our everyday office lives.
Beyond that, the outdoors team has made a consistent effort to test new bottles as they come out in every type of situation. We’ve used them at the office, on mountain biking jaunts to New Jersey, backcountry ski treks in Grand Teton National Park, a climb up Mt. Rainier and beyond. We’ve evaluated each bottle for crucial faults like leaks as well as short- and long-term durability issues. More subjective matters such as aesthetics and feel-in-hand we assessed as a team before arriving at a joint conclusion.
Types of Water Bottles
Nalgene’s plastic water bottles were the first to catch on as an everyday carry item. Concerns over BPA (bisphenol A) and other harmful by-products found in plastic products revealed a gap in the market and spurred other brands to construct water bottles made of stainless steel and glass. Water bottles have become super durable, colorful and temperature-regulating thanks to vacuum insulation. There are a lot of resealable drinking vessels available to consumers today in a variety of materials that range in volume from 16 to 64 ounces and beyond.
Plastics are the lightest but are less durable than metal, can sometimes retain flavors and come with concerns about chemicals leaching into the liquid (although most plastic water bottles today are safe to use). Metal bottles can be heavier, but they are easy to clean (most are dishwasher safe) and don’t retain any flavors or odors. Insulated bottles are ideal for maintaining the desired temperature of a beverage but are bulkier and heavier due to their double-walled construction. The type of bottle that you decide on depends primarily on what its intended use will be.
Best Non-insulated Narrow Mouth: Miir 27oz Bottle
Miir’s 27-ounce non-insulated bottle brings a design-forward approach to the simplest type of water bottle without using gimmicks or a fancy paint job. The bottle is made from 18/8 medical-grade stainless steel and doesn’t retain flavors; there’s no metal aftertaste either. The bottle’s cap is leak-proof and uses a unique handle design that makes it easy to grab and clip to bags, unlike those of many other small mouth bottles. The less-bulky body size means it’ll fit in a cup holder too.
Best Non-Insulated Wide Mouth: Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Water Bottle
Klean Kanteen’s Wide Mouth Water Bottle is as fundamental as a non-plastic water bottle gets. Its body is made of stainless steel, which is flavor- and odor-resistant, easy to clean and BPA-free. Its lid is molded plastic, leak-proof, and nearly indestructible (meaning you can trust a carabiner won’t rip through it). The wide mouth can accommodate backcountry water filters too. Put a dent in it? Hammer it out and keep on drinking.
Best Insulated Narrow Mouth: Mizu V8
Insulated water bottles are preferable for their ability to keep contents cold or hot, but adding double-walled technology can quickly make a bottle bulky, even at lower volumes. Mizu’s V8 gives the best of both worlds, with a 26-ounce capacity that betrays its size and insulating capabilities. The V8 also earns points for the availability of different lid styles, even though its standard gives the bottle a beautiful and clean aesthetic.
Best Insulated Wide Mouth: Yeti Rambler 18oz
Like Yeti’s coolers, its everyday water bottle, the Rambler, is an ultra-durable vessel that’ll keep a beverage cold or hot for longer than it’ll take to finish. Yeti’s double-walled insulation is constructed of high quality 18/8 stainless steel. The leak-proof cap features a sturdy and simple handle design that has room enough for more than just a single finger, and its wide mouth means your nose won’t get in the way when your thirst calls for a chug. The Rambler’s uncomplicated cylindrical design and flush lid make it a standout among similar insulated bottles. (The Rambler is available in greater volumes too.)
Best Collapsible Bottle: Hydrapak Stash
Collapsible water bottles border on gimmicky, but a good one can stand up to the titanium-walled and insulated heavyweights with its unique utility. Hydrapak’s Stash is a good one. The main body of the Stash is made of soft and flexible BPA- and PVC-free thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), but its top and bottom are a rigid plastic, which allows for easy drinking (despite the bottle’s unsupportive body material) and lock into each other when collapsed. It can also remain standing on its own when filled, which is the downfall of other collapsible bottles. Full, the Stash is as big as any other liter-sized water bottle; empty and collapsed, the Stash is less than a fourth of its original size, freeing up all the space in your bag that other bottles will continue to occupy even when empty.
Most Affordable: Nalgene
Nalgene products were first developed for use in science labs, but the company may very well be responsible for bringing everyday water bottles into the modern life and helping to reduce the use of throw-away plastics. Its water bottles have been widely-used for years and remained popular even as insulated vessels carve out their space. The Tritan is Nalgene’s no-frills classic; it’s a hard-sided plastic bottle with a wide mouth, plastic screw-top lid and easily-legible measurements in milliliters and ounces.
Best Flask: Platypus Platy Bottle
Platypus’ soft flask-style bottle is a great alternative for distance hikers and others with a focus on saving weight. The Platy is a two-liter flexible flask made of BPA-free polyethylene with a simple twist-off cap. The main benefit of this super-minimal water bottle is that it’ll take up less space as its contents are consumed, freeing up space in your bag.
Best for Running: CamelBak Nano Handheld
Technically, CamelBak’s Nano Handheld is precisely what its name implies: a handheld water bottle. But it also isn’t, because you don’t need to hold the bottle per se — CamelBak’s X-Grip straps the bottle securely in your hand, freeing you from the chore of an active grip and letting you focus on the run. The bottle itself is a lightweight 17-ounce soft flask that stows easily when empty, and on the opposite side of the hand strap is a small zippered pouch that has enough space for running essentials like your keys, a credit card or gels.
Best for Cycling: Specialized Water Bottles Purist
Specialized’s bicycle manufacturing eclipses the fact that it’s been making sport water bottles since 1978. There’s a good chance you’ve quenched your thirst with one of its bottles too, as much of its business involves customization. The Purist is constructed with a glass-like non-permeable barrier fused to its interior, which prevents the malleable material from retaining tastes and getting moldy as other soft plastic bottles are prone to do. It’s also available with one of three different types of active valve lids.
Best Growler: Hydro Flask Beer Growler
Hydro Flask’s 64-ounce Beer Growler is a major upgrade from the glass jugs you’ll ordinarily find at breweries. Hydro Flask’s growler is equipped with double-wall vacuum insulation and lined with stainless steel, which doesn’t retain flavor and is easy to clean. Its lid is equipped with a rigid, easy-pour handle and is designed specifically to maintain carbonation too. That helps if you aim to transport beer up a mountain, or even just in the car to a casual gathering, and if your drinking destination is hours away, no worries — the insulated construction will keep whatever’s inside cold for hours and hours.
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