The Best Water Bottles of 2017
Water bottles come in all shapes and sizes, and the selection is daunting. We researched more than 55 models, choosing 13 of the best to test ourselves. Our 2017 tests fleet included both insulated and non-insulated steel bottles, plastic versions, and collapsible models. For three months, our testers hiked, climbed, biked, and went to the office, testing each contestant's ability to handle an active lifestyle. Our experts also measured things like how each contender affected the taste of its contents and how well they kept liquids at their desired temperature. With a plethora of data, we narrowed down the available choices, and our review will help you select the bottle for your lifestyle.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated May 2017
Warmer weather is approaching, and we updated our review as of May 2017 to include all the information you need to purchase a new bottle for summer. We added comparison charts and graphs to the individual product reviews, and we also examined accessories for each model. Plus, we reanalyzed the market, ensuring that our Editors' Choice winner is still the king of the hill.
Best Overall and Top Pick for Stainless Steel
Hydro Flask Wide-Mouth Insulated
Hydro Flask is known for its bright, sleek, and simple bottle design. After a review of the 2017 market, the Hydro Flask Wide-Mouth checks all of the boxes needed to earn it out Editors' Choice award. No other models tout the ease-of-use and cleaning that the Hydro Flask boasts, and its durability and overall appeal won over our testers. Throughout long backcountry hikes, forays to the climbing gym, and jaunts around town, it carried everything from hot tea to ice water. For most excursions, it was by far our testers' favorite bottle. The wide mouth makes it is easy to drink from, fill up, and clean. Plus, a rounded rim isn't harsh on your lips and doesn't get hot when the bottle is filled with steaming liquid. The soft, rubber carrying handle is simple and comfortable to hold. Hydro Flask also offers a variety of lid options, so you can fully customize your setup.
Easy to use and clean
Maintains beverage temperature well
No lingering flavors
Tons of color options
Read full review: Hydro Flask Wide-Mouth
Best Bang for the Buck
The Nalgene Wide-Mouth is our pick for the Best Value Award, as well as our top pick for plastic bottles. The simplicity of this bottle is unparalleled. It has been a longtime iconic staple in the world of water bottles, and as a result, many bottle accessories (from water filters to backpack bottle sleeves) have been designed to fit with its distinctive mouth and shape. The Nalgene is also quite durable and easy to clean, and we loved the graduations on the bottle when cooking in the backcountry. Furthermore, the Nalgene's body doesn't impart strong flavors on its contents, nor significantly retain flavors from other liquids. Our Best Buy winner certainly deserves its popularity. With a variety of other sizes and shapes available, you can customize your choice to fit your needs.
Popular for good reason
Resists flavor retention
Simple and lightweight
Easy to fill
Too large for most cup holders
Spills if moving while drinking
Read full review: Nalgene Wide-Mouth
Top Pick for Collapsible
Though there were only two bottles in the collapsible category; the Platypus Softbottle still won by a landslide. It is the lightest bottle we tested, easy to fill, even from a shallow stream, and collapses down to the size of an empty plastic bag. These features make it ideal for backpacking or climbing, where finding room in the pack is always a struggle. The Platypus does not stand up well on a table, but it is better suited for the great outdoors anyway. The bottle is difficult to clean since it has such a narrow mouth, but at only $8, the Platypus is perhaps not meant to last that long anyway.
Very packable and lightweight
No frills design
Hard to clean
Read full review: Platypus Softbottle
Top Pick for Glass
Lifefactory Glass Flip Cap
Similar to the collapsible category, we only tested two glass bottles this year. One was the new Soma Bottle and the other the Lifefactory Glass Flip Cap, a tried and tested favorite. This year, we tested the Lifefactory flip-cap, which we liked less than the original simple lid design. Even so, the Lifefactory bottle proved to be the most durable and practical glass bottle. It works very well as a lifestyle model, while at the same time satisfying the increasing consumer demand for alternatives to plastic. Glass is widely accepted as being safe from chemical leaching. It fits well into car cup holders, as well as your hands, due to the comfortable silicone sleeve. We loved that it provides the portability of a water bottle, yet feels like drinking out of a glass in our kitchen. We were also very impressed when it passed our drop tests. With proper care, this bottle will last a very long time.
Durable silicone casing
Easy to clean
Problematic flip cap
Read full review: Lifefactory Glass Flip Cap
Analysis and Test Results
This year, we decided to break down the bottles into categories based on the material used, except for the collapsible class, which are also plastic but perform a very different function than your typical plastic bottle. This left us with four main categories: metal (stainless steel, both insulated and non-insulated in the same category), plastic (all BPA-free models), collapsible, and glass. From there, we chose the top pick in each material category. Then, we awarded an overall Editors' Choice Award, two Top Picks, and the Best Value. The winners of our overall awards were, as you'd expect, the top pick in their categories as well.
When selecting your next one, there are a few things to consider. Do I want a metal, glass or plastic bottle? A screw cap or a straw for sipping? Do I need it to regulate the temperature of my drinks for extended amounts of time? The models tested for this review hosted a variety of differences in materials, lid types, volume, insulation, and even rigidity. To help you navigate the increasingly varied world of water bottles, we've outlined the primary features, advantages, and disadvantages of each major category.
Types of Water Bottles
There are many different ways to categorize bottles — by activity, by size, and by design. However, as we stated above, the review will be structured around the materials used in the design of these products. This is especially critical since the materials used to produce them have become a topic of increasing debate. Although plastic bottles can offer advantages in weight, versatility, and price, many consumers prefer metal and glass bottles due to potential health concerns of storing liquids in plastic containers. We've highlighted the pros and cons of each bottle type, as well as dug into the main issue concerning plastic bottles.
Containers with plastic bodies have long been a favorite choice among reusable bottle fans, and they remain the most commonly seen type of bottle at the local rock climbing crags, campsites, and the gym. This is not without reason. Plastic is very lightweight, versatile, and often inexpensive. It can also be formed into a variety of shapes, making for many ergonomically pleasing bottles. Plastic is also translucent, allowing you to manage and keep track of your water consumption. Furthermore, plastic bottles are strong and durable, able to withstand most abuse, even from your freezer. Oh yeah, and they come in pretty much any color you can imagine so that you can match it to your mountain bike or purple laptop cover. These bottles are well-suited for a variety of activities and are especially handy on backpacking trips and excursions lasting more than one day.
Plastic bodies have long been a favorite choice among reusable bottle fans, and they remain the most commonly seen type of bottle at local climbing areas, gyms, campsites, and classrooms. But, there is rising concern about the health effects of plastic bottles, primarily bottles made with BPA plastic. What is BPA? And what is all the fuss about? As leaders in the field of gear reviews, we believe it is our responsibility to make consumers aware of issues like this that involve the products we review. We've summarized the information currently available below to help you decide for yourself how you want to approach this controversy.
You can read more about BPA and Estrogenic activity, as well as other chemicals.
This is the largest category this year, containing six of the 13 bottles we tested. Most of the bottles are vacuum insulated, making them useful for hot or cold liquids. They all have different lid designs, some specific for one-handed drinking like the Avex Brazos Autoseal Stainless, and some for easy carrying and simplicity like the Hydro Flask Wide Mouth.
No matter how you slice it, stainless steel bottles, like the Klean Kanteen Vacuum Insulated and the Hydro Flask Insulated, are the top pick when it comes to longevity and durability. With proper care, they very well could last you your life. They can also take a severe beating without losing a single drop of liquid, although they will show signs of wear such as dents and scratches. However, the plastic caps on these stainless steel bottles will likely break before the bottle ever will. The cap on the CamelBak Chute Vacuum Insulated bottle had the most plastic parts of all the metal bottles we tested and thus is the most prone to breakage. The metal bottles we tested were all made from food grade 18/8 stainless steel, which is widely accepted as not having the health concerns of plastics, as noted above.
Metal options were formerly criticized for their perceived heaviness, but this is becoming a thing of the past. The Klean Kanteen is only slightly heavier than the rigid plastic bottles in this review. The small margin of difference is even easier to see when considering its weight in relationship to its volume: the Classic comes in at 0.27 ounces per fluid ounce held, while the Nalgene weighs 0.20 oz/fl oz.
This improvement in weight allows non-insulated metal bottles like the Klean Kanteen Classic to be justified for use on longer, multi-day trips. They can even serve as an emergency (or even primary) cooking vessel, although this is the exception rather than the rule. If every ounce counts, then plastic is going to be a better option. If not an issue, though, we find the added durability of a metal bottle to be a significant advantage. The Hydro Flask and Klean Kanteen Insulated did weigh significantly more than the plastic bottles (yet less than the glass bottles) due to the additional materials required for insulation.
The packaging on both Klean Kanteen bottles we tested claims that they do not "retain or impart flavors" on the liquids stored in them. However, in our tests, we found that they both left a metallic smell and/or taste on their contents. They also retained flavors to some extent when tested, falling in the middle of the pack in this criterion. In contrast, the Hydro Flask Insulated performed very well in the above tests.
The Hydro Flask did a great job of not retaining flavors from previous beverages. Even coffee couldn't leave its strong taste behind in this model.
For water purists, glass is the way to go. In our testing, we found that water tastes best from glass bottles. Both the Lifefactory Glass Flip Cap and Soma Water Bottle scored well in the general taste and 24-hour taste tests, although they did slightly hold onto the flavor of the sports drinks used in our flavor retention tests. Additionally, glass is considered a safe material for storing food and liquids. Using a glass bottle feels like drinking water in your kitchen and is the cleanest way to go. Respected organizations like the Environmental Working Group have long lists of concerns about plastics and cite glass as a safe alternative. (Find the full article here). Both glass bottles in this review are designed for day-to-day use; they fit well into car cup holders (the Lifefactory was a very convenient size) and they have smaller volumes that reflect this intended purpose.
Glass does have two obvious drawbacks: weight and fragility. Both of these qualities make glass bottles a poor choice for most backcountry adventures. While well-suited for the office or studio workouts, they are simply too cumbersome to be taken on backpacking trips and too fragile for the average outdoor climbing session. The Soma bottle is an especially niche bottle with its slender shape and small holding volume (.5 L or one pint). We found it to be very top heavy and had a hard time standing it up without it falling over, due to its rounded bottom. The Lifefactory Flip Cap is a better option for glass because it holds more water and is more stable.
Though this is not a bottle designation that comes from the material used in construction, we picked our favorite collapsible bottles and placed them in a unique category because of their uniqueness. Collapsible bottles are not for everyone, however. Platypus has been dominating the collapsible container market for years, making a very simple plastic pouch with a small lid. Very collapsible, very effective. These bottles are great for backpacking, as they are so lightweight, they are hard to beat. The Nomader, our other collapsible bottle we tested this year, is a little different. Answering the call for a collapsible bottle that is easy to drink from, the Nomader has a lid with a spout to drink from. This makes it less collapsible than the Platypus Softbottle, but better for traveling or throwing in your bag, since the Platypus is a bit awkward for use around town.
By breaking up our bottles into four categories, we were able to look more closely at how each bottle compares to its peers. There is a bottle for every activity, and its important to consider what you are going to do with the bottle before buying it. In general, plastic is lighter than metal, so the plastic or collapsible bottles were our favorites for backpacking, hiking, and climbing days where our packs were already hefty. The metal bottles are perfect for an all-around bottle, and paying a bit extra for an insulated bottle seemed like it was worth it if you're going to spend time in extreme environments or just want coffee at work. The glass bottles are the trendy choice and ideal for use around town, but not as versatile or durable, so they're not practical for taking to the crag or backcountry. Read on to hear how we tested all of these bottles and picked the best one for each category.
For more information on other features, check out our Buying Advice.
Criteria for Evaluation
We scored all 13 bottles using the results from five criteria: ease of use, taste, durability, ease of cleaning, and weight. The most important area that we focused on was ease of use because that is what separates one bottle from the next each time you use it. Besides carrying these bottles around for three months, we put them through various tests indoors. Following the chart below, we summarize how we tested within each criterion and highlight the best and worst contenders.
Ease of Use
As hydration is the main purpose of a water bottle, we measured how easy (or difficult) it is to fill up and drink from each bottle. We also considered the likelihood of spilling when drinking, and we noted any signs of leakage. Other aspects of the bottle that went into this evaluation are lid design and the ubiquitous carrying handle.
Overall, we felt that simpler was better when it came to ease of use. We found some of these bottles to have too many features and were difficult to learn how to use effectively. The Nalgene Wide Mouth and the Hydro Flask Vacuum Insulated, both winners in their perspective categories, were our favorites to a great part due to their simplicity.
The wider the mouth, the easier to fill, but also the more difficult it was to drink from. Somewhat of a surprise, we really enjoyed drinking from the AVEX Brazos Autoseal Stainless. The AUTOSEAL lid mechanism works very well, allowing users to get a quick and easy gulp without unscrewing any caps; it also passed our leak test. The Klean Kanteen Vacuum Insulated scored well here also, since it was simple and easy to use. The Klean Kanteen Classic scored lower because of the Sport Cap, which we found to be difficult to drink from. On both Klean Kanteen bottles, the width of the opening was wide enough for easy filling and ice cubes, but small enough to drink from without spilling.
The CamelBak Eddy lost points here because it fails the leak test and provides only a slow flow of water. Although it didn't leak a huge amount, it was more than we would want to end up on our laptops/phones. The straw design was quick to use but did not allow for satisfactory gulps. It's for sipping, not gulping, which we found annoying when we needed water the most (like during workouts). The Platypus SoftBottle lost points since it's awkward to drink from and easy to knock over, while the Lifefactory Glass lost points because the shape of the spout sent water up our nose if we weren't careful when tipping the bottle back to drink quickly. The carrying handle of the Contigo Thermalock was awkward to use and strangely shaped, discouraging us from using it when carrying the bottle around.
Not only do we want to hydrate using our bottles, but we also want the water to taste good. Some bottles imparted flavors on the liquids they contain, a characteristic that we did not appreciate. And if you store liquids like flavored drink mixes and coffee in a bottle for a day, some bottles will retain that taste and pass it on to the next thing you put in the bottle, even after washing.
For our taste metric, we combined the results from three separate tests performed on each model. First, we filled each bottle and took a drink to check for any immediate effects on taste. Second, we left them filled with water for 24 hours before taste testing them again. Finally, we filled each bottle with a flavored sports drink mix, left them sitting for 24 hours, emptied the bottles, and hand washed each bottle with soap and warm water. Then, the bottles were filled with tap water and taste tests were conducted to see if we could detect any residual flavors from the sports drink.
If your bottle is retaining flavors, try soaking it in a mixture of on1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp vinegar, then fill the bottle with water. Let it sit overnight, following up in the morning with a thorough rinsing.
Both glass bottles, Lifefactory and the Soma, came out with top scores in this category. They did not impart flavors to the water and kept water relatively fresh-tasting, even in our 24-hour test. Furthermore, both bottles proved resistant to retaining flavors from other non-water liquids. No bottle scored perfectly in this test, as the drink mix was detectable in each product. However, the effect on taste was very minimal in the glass bottles, and after cleaning them again with baking soda and vinegar, they returned to "like new" tastes.
Two plastic bottles, the Nalgene and AVEX Brazos, also scored very well in this metric. The other plastic bottles did not fare as well here, with the two collapsible bottles, the Platypus SoftBottle and Nomader, retaining strong flavors of sports drink and even soap. The Nomader also left a rubbery taste in the water the first few times we used it. The straw of the CamelBak Eddy also imparted a strong rubbery taste to the water, and also retained the flavor of the sports drink rather significantly. The stainless steel bottles fell in the middle of the pack in these tests, neither soaring nor flailing.
The durability of a bottle is a major determining factor in value, especially if you're relying on only one vessel as your water source. Going from stream to stream in the backcountry, you need to know that your bottle won't break and leave you without water. Based on years of outdoor experience, the OutdoorGearLab team knows that collapsible models tend to be less durable than their rigid counterparts due to frequent stress on flex points. Meanwhile, the bodies of rigid contenders are usually very durable but often have failure points on the lids. To come up with a score in this category, we considered the type of material used for the bottle and cap. The stainless steel and rigid plastic bottles scored at the top of the materials test, with glass falling in the middle and collapsible bottles scoring the lowest.
Each bottle was also subjected to two drop tests. We filled the bottles with water and dropped them 3.5 feet onto a concrete surface, once on the bottom of the bottle and once on the cap. The Platypus Softbottle and Nomader proved that its flexible properties allow them to take a serious hit, walking away almost entirely unscathed. We did have some bottles fail the drop test. The AVEX Brazos busted when its bottom hit the hard ground, while the Hydro Flask Insulated and Contigo both broke when dropped on their caps. All the other bottles survived with minor cosmetic damages. The biggest surprise in our drop tests was that the Lifefactory walked away with its integrity intact. The silicone sleeve and plastic cap did a sufficient job of absorbing the impact force, keeping the glass from shattering.
Ease of Cleaning
Even the dirtiest outdoor enthusiasts wash their bottles once in a while. At least, we hope they do. In this metric, we used a standard bottle brush and timed how long it took to hand-wash each contender. Although some of these bottles are labeled as dishwasher-safe, we decided to rate with hand-washing times for two reasons: 1) Not everyone has access to a dishwasher, especially in the great outdoors, and 2) As you read above, we do not recommend washing plastic components in the dishwasher. Lastly, we also factored in the number of parts and their complexity.
In general, the wider the mouth of the bottle, the easier it was to clean. The Hydro Flask Insulated and Nalgene bottles scored the highest in this category. They are both simple designs with wide mouths, allowing for quick and easy cleaning. On the other side of the spectrum were the bottles with complex parts, including the CamelBak Eddy and the Citrus Zinger. The Nomader and Platypus Softbottle proved particularly challenging to clean as well. Our bottle brush was too large to fit inside these bottles, and they required many cycles of rinsing to reduce the taste of soap left behind. We also found that dirt and other debris tended to stick to the Nomader more than other bottles due to its rubbery, soft design.
We highly recommend purchasing a bottle brush to make cleaning quicker and easier (and less frustrating!).
Although less consequential in day-to-day use, the weight of an empty bottle is a major factor when considering which bottle to use on long hikes and multi-day backpacking trips. In this sense, a lighter bottle provides the versatility that a heavier bottle does not. When scoring in this category, we weighed the bottles using our scale and divided by the volume to find out how heavy each bottle is per fluid ounce (oz./fluid oz.).
The Platypus SoftBottle weighs in as the lightest-only 1.2 oz. The other plastic bottles also scored well in this category, as did the Klean Kanteen Insulated. The insulated stainless steel bottles fell toward the bottom, but it was the glass bottles that came in last in this category.
We like the combination of a rigid and a collapsible bottle for multi-day backpacking treks. We prefer the rigid bottle as our primary drinking vessel, and the collapsible as a backup reservoir.
Hydration Alternatives and Accessories
While we believe a water bottle to be essential to anyone's gear arsenal, it might not be all you need. There are alternatives available that perform better than bottles in certain situations, such as when moving and times when you need both hands-free. For this, there are hydration bladders and hydration packs, some of which are excellent performers for specific activities. Below we've highlighted some of the uses and qualities of these alternatives.
a hydration bladder like the Geigerrig Hydration Engine include hands-free usage and larger volumes. The bladder, a collapsible reservoir ranging from one to several liters in volume, is attached to a hose that you suck on to draw water into your mouth. On long hikes, these are easier to use for hydration than a bottle that you have to dig out of your pack each time you need a drink. Most backpacks made today come equipped with a hole for the hydration tube, and some even have a special compartment for a bladder. The downside to hydration bladders is that they are less durable, have shorter life spans, and are harder to clean than water bottles. And in the office, we recommend a bottle over a bladder. See our full Best Hydration Bladder Review.
Hydration packs like the CamelBak M.U.L.E. are usually lighter than most backpacks and have good ventilation, making them more comfortable on long days. They make drinking on the move a breeze, and their convenience helps you to stay fully hydrated. Most also feature pockets for storing additional items such as food, first aid kits, and tools. Like hydration bladders, they also are harder to clean and have shorter life spans than water bottles. It's also harder to ration your water with these packs. Lastly, hydration packs cost significantly more than water bottles. See our full Best Hydration Pack Review.
Running Hydration Packs
Mountain Bike Hydration Packs
We tested a wide range of water bottles in many different settings and found, of course, that some bottles perform better than others. Where the product is used is a major factor in judging the quality of one bottle over the other, and that should be considered when buying a bottle. Bottles built for long hikes, bike rides, or climbing trips differ from the bottles used at work or taken to the gym. That is why weight and type of material were the most important factors in our tests. Check out our Buying Advice for more information on choosing the right bottle for you!
— Jane Jackson
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