How To Buy a Water Bottle

The water bot­tle needs no for­mal intro­duc­tion. Sim­ple, util­i­tar­i­an, envi­ron­men­tal­ly respon­si­ble, and often boast­ing pea­cock-bright col­ors and unique designs, it can be eas­i­ly spot­ted on trails, back­seats of vehi­cles, and every­where in between. These days the water bot­tle is ubiq­ui­tous, avail­able at Sat­ur­day mar­kets, gro­cery stores, gas sta­tions, and any­where that sells out­door gear. Every water bot­tle does its job, which is to hold water, well. But with so many com­pa­nies design­ing spe­cial­ized mod­els for spe­cif­ic inter­ests, you can enjoy the ben­e­fits of a bot­tle that’s been tai­lored to your drink­ing style. This guide will intro­duce you to some top­ics that will help you choose the best water bot­tle for your needs.

Uses: Just when you think you’ve encoun­tered a water bot­tle for every use, a fresh com­pa­ny arrives on the scene boast­ing new tech­nolo­gies that enables a bet­ter drink­ing expe­ri­ence. Hydro Flask builds dou­ble walled stain­less steel bot­tles fea­tur­ing bas­kets that cap­ture debris from leaves so you can brew fresh tea to go by sim­ply pour­ing boil­ing water into the bot­tle. They also make a mod­el designed to elim­i­nate the lin­ger­ing reek of the booze you will inevitably fill it with. Vapur “anti-bot­tles” are col­lapsi­ble and fold­able so you can stick them in your pock­et when not in use—a handy option when going through air­port secu­ri­ty. With so many options, how do you choose?

The first step in decid­ing the best water bot­tle for your needs is to decide whether you’ll be pri­mar­i­ly using it around the house, for trav­el, or on a human-pow­ered out­doors mission.

Around the House: Re-using your bot­tle instead of grab­bing a clean glass every time you need a sip of water is a good way to avoid doing extra dish­es. It’s also a more envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly option than using a plas­tic bot­tle. You can keep the bot­tle by your bed, between cush­ions on the couch, or on a pile of equip­ment in the garage and you don’t have to wor­ry about it spilling or break­ing when you knock it over.

As you shop for a water bot­tle to have around the house, con­sid­er going big on style over per­for­mance. Brands such as Lib­er­ty Bot­tle­works fea­ture illus­tra­tions by local artists giv­ing each bot­tle a per­son­al­i­ty of its own. Bam­boo bot­tles by the Bam­boo Bot­tle Com­pa­ny look cool and offer perks like inter­nal straws and remov­able, dish­wash­er-safe glass inserts to make clean­ing easy. Too heavy for seri­ous hik­ing and a lit­tle too wide for cup hold­ers in most cars, bam­boo is an ide­al style of bot­tle for home.

Pro Tip: You can use a water bot­tle to store dried food items such as noo­dles. Just be sure to put it in the back of the cup­board where your friends won’t see it.

Trav­el: Water bot­tles are a neces­si­ty when trav­el­ing by plane (just make sure they’re emp­ty if you’re car­ry­ing them onboard), car, train, and how­ev­er else you get to your next adven­ture. When buy­ing a bot­tle specif­i­cal­ly for trav­el, be sure to bal­ance lux­u­ry with pack­a­bil­i­ty. You don’t need an ultra­light per­for­mance bot­tle to get you through a red­eye but being able to clip it to your bag or fold it up as you go through secu­ri­ty are nice options.

Good trav­el bot­tles are tough enough to sur­vive hard falls onto asphalt and repeat slam­mings by over­head com­part­ments. They are equipped with straps for cara­bin­ers or some oth­er way to hook them to your lug­gage with­out hav­ing to open it up every time you want a sip of water. Look for less a less flashy mod­el if you plan to be trav­el­ing overseas.

Pro Tip: If you’re trav­el­ling to par­tic­i­pate in a com­pet­i­tive event, do your­self a favor and bring only one bot­tle: the same one you used while train­ing and plan to use in the event.

Human-Pow­ered Mis­sion: Per­for­mance water bot­tles must be able to sur­vive abus­es galore. A good rule of thumb is the rock test: buy a bot­tle that feels sol­id enough that it won’t break if you smash it onto a rock with all your might. If you are reg­u­lar­ly bring­ing your bot­tle into the wilder­ness it’s like­ly that you will at some point take a spill and end up falling onto it with all your (and your pack­’s) weight. If it shat­ters under the impact and you’re left in the back­coun­try with no way to dis­till water you’ll have a lot more to wor­ry about than a bruised backside.

Water bot­tles for back­pack­ing should fea­ture some sort of strap sys­tem or cara­bin­er loop so you can attach it secure­ly to your pack­’s web­bing. That way you don’t have to risk it slip­ping out of the water bot­tle pock­et when you bend over to inves­ti­gate those bear tracks.

One of the most impor­tant things to con­sid­er when buy­ing a water bot­tle for back­coun­try use is purifi­ca­tion: Will you be using tablets, a fil­ter pump, or a UV-pen to puri­fy your water? If you’re using a fil­ter pump or ster­il­iza­tion pen then you want to be sure to bring two bot­tles: one for fil­ter­ing, the oth­er for stor­ing the lat­est clean water. And both should fea­ture wide mouths so you have room to work.

Pro Tip: You can use a water bot­tle to store dried food items such as noo­dles on a back­pack­ing trip. After you eat the noo­dles you’ll have an extra bot­tle to store water for the long slogs between streams. 

Open­ing: Do you want to drink while trekking with­out get­ting splashed in the face? Do you require room to do some prop­er fil­tra­tion?  Noth­ing will deter­mine how much you love or hate your water bot­tle as much as its open­ing. Choose wisely.

Spout: A spout is shaped like a cylin­der with a small ridge on top where a person’s teeth, lips, or fin­gers could grasp it and pull up, releas­ing the plug in the mid­dle of the cylin­der enough that water can flow out when the bot­tle is tipped and a per­son sucks on the spout. Spouts are great for min­i­miz­ing splash but can seem like a bar­ri­er between you and your water when you’re out of breath after a steep climb.

Noz­zle: Water bot­tle noz­zles are like short, thick straws attached to the top of a water bot­tle. They snap down to close and move up to open. Many noz­zles are often bite valves, mean­ing slight pres­sure from teeth must be applied while suck­ing to extract water. Like spouts, noz­zles are great for min­i­miz­ing splash but can seem like a bar­ri­er between you and your water when you’re out of breath after a steep climb. On the big plus side, your tooth marks will decrease the like­li­hood of oth­ers ask­ing to share your water.

Screw-top: Screw-tops are com­mon­ly used on mul­ti-pur­pose and human-pow­ered-mis­sion-style water bot­tles. The lid may or may not be attached to the bot­tle by a thin strip of plas­tic or fab­ric. (Get the ver­sion where it’s strapped on.) The size of the open­ing depends on the man­u­fac­tur­er, but the larg­er open­ings allow for fast access to large quan­ti­ties of water, while the small­er open­ings are more con­ducive to reg­u­lar sip­ping and less spillage. An added ben­e­fit of a big mouth is the abil­i­ty to scoop water out of streams for fil­tra­tion. 

Rigid­i­ty: Trav­el­ers should prize porta­bil­i­ty and look for lighter, col­lapsi­ble water bot­tles, while hik­ers and moun­tain bik­ers should find stur­dier, more durable con­tain­ers. (See the rock test above.)

Size/Volume: Hand­held bot­tles gen­er­al­ly hold 12 ounces of flu­id; small­er bot­tles on run­ners’ water belts (2–4 bot­tles) hold about 6 ounces each; and hydra­tion packs may hold any­where from 1–3 liters of fluid.

Weight: Water bot­tles are gen­er­al­ly weighed in ounces when emp­ty. Stain­less steel and alu­minum bot­tles are gen­er­al­ly heav­ier than their plas­tic brethren. Although most ath­letes want light­weight mate­ri­als to expend as lit­tle extra ener­gy as pos­si­ble, hydra­tion is con­sid­ered so vital that many ath­letes con­sid­er the extra weight of water more than worth any addi­tion­al ener­gy expend­ed to car­ry it. 

Car­rya­bil­i­ty: Although a water bot­tle strap works for hik­ing, it’s a dis­as­ter for run­ning due to bot­tle bounce. Although hydra­tion packs worn on the back are excel­lent for long runs and moun­tain bik­ing, they won’t work so well in freez­ing tem­per­a­tures at high ele­va­tion since the hoses and noz­zles tend to freeze up if not warmed with body heat or cov­ered by an insu­lat­ing sleeve.

Mate­ri­als: Water bot­tles are made from a host of mate­ri­als, each offer­ing unique fea­tures, advan­tages, and some­time disadvantages.

Stain­less steel: Water bot­tles made of stain­less steel keep liq­uids cold or hot much longer than plas­tic bot­tles and are often BPA-free. How­ev­er, they tend to get hot or cold to the touch depend­ing on their liq­uid con­tents. Food-grade stain­less steel bot­tles are high­ly rec­om­mend­ed in order to avoid any metal­lic taste in water left in them for sev­er­al hours.

PET: Many dis­pos­able water bot­tles are made from petro­le­um derived plyeth­yl­ene tereph­tha­late (PET), a recy­clable mate­r­i­al that does­n’t get recy­cled very often.

Poly­car­bon­ate: Many reusable water bot­tles are made of poly­car­bon­ate, as it is light­weight and shatter-resistant.

Alu­minum: Although alu­minum water bot­tles are heav­ier than plas­tic, they are usu­al­ly lighter than stain­less steel. Alu­minum water bot­tles may also con­tain a thin lay­er of epoxy or plas­tic resign lin­ing the side to pro­tect the water from alu­minum leach­ing in. Most lin­ers today are now BPA-free.