Staying hydrated is key to fitness and overall well-being. And it’s a lot easier when you have a reusable water bottle at the ready. Thankfully, with so many sizes, shapes, colors and materials to choose from, there’s sure to be a perfect vessel for you, no matter your activity. Brush up on the basics of […]
Staying hydrated is key to fitness and overall well-being. And it’s a lot easier when you have a reusable water bottle at the ready. Thankfully, with so many sizes, shapes, colors and materials to choose from, there’s sure to be a perfect vessel for you, no matter your activity.
Brush up on the basics of hydration, and then read on to find your ideal water bottle. We’ve identified our top choices for hiking, running, cycling, everyday use and more.
Best Bottle for Hiking
Since it debuted in 1949, the Nalgene Wide-Mouth has become the trusty take-anywhere trail companion because of its Goldilocks weight, versatility and price. “The Nalgene is truly the last water bottle you’ll ever need,” declares our gear editor, who has been devoted to her first for well over a decade.
At 6.2 ounces, it’s not the lightest in our bunch, but you’ll appreciate the added durability on the trail. Made of sturdy plastic no insulation, the Wide-Mouth can take some serious bangs and drops (though it’s not entirely crackproof). What’s more: The wide cap loop allows for easy carrying and lashing. Clip keys onto it or attach it to a backpack, climbing harness or bear hang. It’s not insulated, though, so don’t expect it to keep drinks icy on hot hikes (plus, it will sweat).
But holding drinking water for outdoor adventures is only one of the Wide-Mouth’s hallmarks. The most multifunctional water bottle in our line-up, it can handle a liter of liquid, hot or cold. Fill it with boiling water and you’ve got a DYI warm compress to snuggle with on frigid nights, or freeze water in it and you’ve got a reusable ice pack for your cooler. Measurements on the side of the bottle also make it indispensable in the camp kitchen. Yet another hack: Insert headlamp in an opaque bottle and, voila, a lantern for instant ambiance. The hardest decision for any new Nalgene owner will be which color or graphic to choose—or how to personalize it with your favorite sticker, or six. Buy here or here.
Best Bottle for Running
Running with a handheld water bottle takes getting used to, but the ergonomic design of the Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite makes it easy to adapt. It’s more comfortable to cradle in your hand than a standard round water bottle thanks to the contoured shape and an insulated sleeve with a convenient thumb hole that allows for a relaxed grip. Compared to hydration vests and backpacks and belts, this bottle wins out for ease of use and simplicity.
The 16-ounce version runs a bit on the smaller side, so it’s ideal for shorter runs (or longer runs where refilling stops are available). And though there’s no room for stashing an iPhone, there’s plenty of space in the zippered pocket for a card, key or gel packet. Buy here.
Best Bottle for Traveling
“These are the duffels of water bottles,” our director of content and media says. “They can take a beating and shapeshift into fully loaded packs.” The superpliable Platypus SoftBottle weighs just 1.2 ounces and fits into the tiniest nooks of larger bags. Deploy it for a quick sip on the go, then as you drink, it gets smaller and smaller and ultimately rolls up into a bundle the size of a candy bar. (Have no fear: The SoftBottle won’t develop creases that could lead to breaks or rips.)
While most collapsible bottles are used as backups, the SoftBottle has a few features that make it a decent Option A. For starters, it’s easy enough to grip and drink from thanks to its hourglass shape. Second, it also has a pleat at the bottom that allows you to stand it up by itself. Buy here.
Best Bottle for Biking
The real mark of a great bike bottle is its ability to get water into your mouth with as little effort as possible. And that’s why our experts laud this one from Co-op Cycles. Open and close the cap easily with your teeth, and an easy squeeze delivers a steady stream. It sits nicely in a bottle cage on both the downtube and seat tube—it does everything you want and nothing you don’t.
Our staffers were able to toss the leakproof bottle into a messenger bag and forget it, knowing the O-ring will keep other belongings dry. The silicon dioxide lining helps prevent stains from drink mixes and resist mold and bacteria, if you avoid scratching or scrubbing it.
While the insulating properties may not be on par with, say, the heavier Hydro Flask in our roundup, the Co-op Cycles Insulated punches above its weight—keeping drinks cold for the duration of most rides while weighing barely 3 ounces. On warm days, pop it in the freezer before a ride, so that it keeps water cold even longer. Buy here.
Best Non-insulated Bottle for Everyday Use
This bottle from Klean Kanteen may be an ideal everyday carry for those looking to ditch plastic. The stainless steel resists odors and residual taste from flavored drinks (a common problem with plastic), and the bottle itself is rugged and durable. “Consider dents well-earned adventure scars,” says one staffer. Slide it into your pack’s bottle holder or lash it with a carabiner via its looped cap.
The Wide-Mouth can handle five cups of liquid—an amount that belies its scant weight. This stainless-steel behemoth weighs just 9 ounces. The trade-off is its single-wall construction; this bottle isn’t insulated. (Scalding bevvies will make the steel too hot to handle.) Still, some hackers have used this bottle as a pot to boil water over an open fire at camp (not recommended), and others include it in their survival kits. Buy here.
Best Insulated Bottle for Everyday Use
Looking for a water bottle that’s eye-catching, minimalist and functional? The Purist Mover Vacuum Water Bottle stands out as the sleekest among our picks with its clean stainless-steel finish. “The grab handle folds into the top and sits flush against the bottle so the whole package is a smooth, torpedo-like tube,” says our gear editor. “It slides neatly into a car cup holder, a backpack pocket or a bike bottle cage.”
The Mover is equally great for cold and hot drinkables. A sliver-thin glass lining—a mere 60 nanometers thick—on the inside of the stainless-steel bottle doesn’t retain odors or other lingering tastes. “For someone who switches between water, coffee and tea on the daily with just a quick rinse between, I have never noticed any residual flavor from yesterday’s bevvie du jour,” says our gear editor, who uses this bottle as her every day carry.
Nice touch: The top is interchangeable. The Mover comes standard with the Element screw top, which has the aforementioned integrated handle, but you swap it out for the Union top with a straw. Buy here.
Best Bottle for Cragging
Built like a tank but easy on the eyes, the Hydro Flask Wide-Mouth Vacuum water bottle is a staple both on trails and at work spaces. It’s durable enough to handle lazy packing or tossing on the ground, and the flexible handle on the top allows for versatile packing or lashing. Hydro Flask claims this bottle keeps cold bevvies cold for 24 hours and hot bevvies hot for 12, and its wide mouth allows for more creative uses. We’ve stored everything from soup to cereal and milk to ice cream in ours. (Though you can go bigger with the 40-ounce version.)
“One of my favorite things about Hydro Flask is that the brand makes really aesthetically pleasing water bottles,” says an REI graphic designer. “And I like that you can buy different tops and the boots in different colors to accessorize.” Another great feature about the Wide-Mouth according to one staffer? The “flip-and-sip” Widemouth Straw Lid. “Hydration doesn’t get any lazier than this,” he says. Buy here.
When choosing a water bottle, consider its material, capacity and features.
Plastic, metal or glass? There are pros and cons to different materials. The right one for you depends on what activity you’re doing and how you’ll use the bottle. Plastic bottles come in hard or soft versions and tend to be lighter and cost less than metal or glass bottles. The plastic bottles in our roundup are the Nalgene Wide-Mouth, Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite, Platypus SoftBottle and Co-op Cycles Insulated.
Metal bottles are made of stainless steel, which is more durable than plastic, but also weighs more. Stainless steel resists odor and residual taste better than plastic. The metal bottles on our list include the Klean Kanteen Wide-Mouth, Purist Mover Vacuum and Hydro Flask Wide-Mouth.
Glass always offers the cleanest taste, but, as you can imagine, isn’t the most practical. There are no glass bottles on our list, but the Purist Mover Vacuum (which is made of stainless steel) has a slight glass layer on the inside.
Find the right size bottle, or capacity, for your activity and drinking needs. Capacity can be measured in either fluid ounces or liters and typically ranges from 16 to 32 ounces (about half a liter to a liter). A 40-ounce bottle like the Klean Kanteen above provides a whopping five cups of water for the very thirsty. Smaller bottles can be lighter and fit in smaller spaces better but require more frequent refilling. Also consider the bottle’s dimensions if you plan to keep it in a cup holder or bottle cage.
Consider other features such as the bottle opening, type of cap and whether it has a built in loop for easy clipping. You may also want to check its compatibility with your water filter if you plan on taking it in the backcountry. If having really cold or hot water is important to you, pick an insulated bottle.
We polled our editorial staff and crew of member-testers for their favorite water bottles on shelves at the co-op. These are their top picks for a range of thirst-quenching situations.