Just like there is no limit to data underscoring the importance of proper hydration, there is also no shortage of information online about the unnecessary waste produced by drinking bottled water. In an effort to help you make a wiser, greener choice, and help keep empties out of landfills, the following is a review of 9 different hydration bottles for hot or cold drinks. Included are bottles for biking, hiking, or even daily use at the gym or office. All the bottles are BPA-free, in either stainless or plastic. Some allow one-handed operation, others require two-fisted drinking. The group photo at the bottom shows them left to right, in order of the review. I lugged them around (not all at once) for anywhere from a few weeks to more than two months in a backpack, with only one leak, which I attributed to user error.
Each description includes some facts as supplied by the manufacturer, then my comments and observations. While there are certainly no losers in the bunch, this should help you weigh their pros and cons to find one that suits you best. Prices are not listed as they vary so much between retailers, but the least expensive bottles listed are under $10, and the most expensive doesn’t even top out at $30.
The order of review is single walled bottles, then double walled/insulated. Participants include:
Stanley Nineteen13 – Stainless steel, 24oz capacity. One handed hydration, hot or cold. Bike cage and car cup compatible. Replaceable lid, lifetime warranty.
The one hand feature is great, with a handy button easily depressed to open the 360 degree spout. Between that and the gasket on the inside of the lid, this one’s leak-proof. While the lid’s opening is wide enough to fit even the biggest ice cubes, the bottle is single wall, so iced drinks make it very cold to the touch. The rubberized hook is handy for attaching it to a backpack or messenger bag. Speaking of which, based on Stanley’s Youtube video featuring this bottle, it’s aimed squarely at the tattooed, single speed riding artist type who also enjoys taking his girl to the beach. It even features PBR in the clip. All kidding aside, if you’re looking for a durable bottle that offers a few extra style points and mostly prefer your beverages at room temps, (or don’t mind your bottle being hot or cold to touch) this one’s for you.
Polar Half Twist Stainless 28oz – Thick 18/8 single wall stainless. Dishwasher safe. The easy to fill and clean wide mouth bottle features their Innovative Half Twist™ cap.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was skeptical of the Half Twist™ cap at first. Even after taking it apart and fiddling with it, it still confounds me. But it works. The silicone seal in the cap mates to the plastic of the bottle’s mouth, and when tightened all the way down, is leak free. Back it off half a twist, and you can drink out of the either side easily. Maybe it’s magic. Either way, it makes it easy to use and easy to store your drink without worrying about a backpack full of water. Due to the design, I wouldn’t use this bottle for hot drinks though. They offer some different graphics, from plain stainless with the small Polar Bottle bear logo in various colors, to the cool wood grain one pictured. While it’s clearly just a high quality decal, strangers couldn’t help but comment favorably on it.
Polar Half Twist Light 24oz – Single wall plastic, this bottle is basically a lightweight HDPE version of the Half Twist Stainless.
Other than the material and capacity, this bottle is not terribly different than their stainless bottle. The main feature is impact-resistance. Drop it, and it should bounce. At the very least, it will hide its battle wounds better than the stainless version will. The other noteworthy feature is the subtle graphics embossed on the sides. This takes a step out of the production process, while eliminating the need to worry about sourcing an ink that is both durable and environmentally friendly. One side shows the remaining contents in ounces, and the other in milliliters for those who prefer the metric system. It’s available in a variety of colors, and once it’s outlived its usefulness, it can be recycled.
Clean Bottle – No more moldy bottles! 10% of profits donated to eco-friendly charities. The wide mouth cap unscrews, the base unscrews, and both are replaceable. 22oz capacity. Easy to clean, and dishwasher safe (top rack).
Oh no, did I really use the word “Balls” in my original post about Dave running alongside riders in the Tour de France? At first glance, this bottle doesn’t look much different than the ones cyclists have been using for years. The shape itself is an improvement though, as it’s much easier to grab and hold, even for smaller hands. A nice large valve is easy to open and close while riding, which is a plus, even though it’s pretty basic. Of course, the big selling point is that it’s easy to clean, with gaskets in the lid and base preventing leaks. This one is strictly for cold drinks. If you mix a lot of energy or electrolyte powders in with your water, look no further.
CamelBak Groove 20oz – Flip & Sip Big Bite valve with a filter built into the straw, so tap water always tastes fresh and clean. Dishwasher safe. Replaceable filters and bite valves, and it’s even offered in stainless.
This one is for the gym, the office, or anywhere you want to enjoy filtered water. Mrs. Outsider has claimed this as her favorite, with good reason. The straw contains a replaceable carbon filter produced from burned coconut, which reduces chlorine – the source of bad smells and unpleasant taste in tap water. Note that it only works with tap water, it won’t kill harmful bacteria or anything else. While it’s possible to use with hot drinks, we didn’t test it, as drinking coffee or tea through a straw has little appeal. Refilling it 3-4 times per day, the filter should last about three months, keeping approximately 300 disposable bottles out of landfills, and saving a considerable amount of money. Top pick if you don’t like the taste of tap water, and don’t have access to filtered water at work or school.
Hydro Flask – Double walled, vacuum insulated 18/8 stainless steel. Features: Food grade powder coating, soy based inks for logos. Claims: hot for 12 hours, cold for 24. Available in a variety of sizes from 12 to 24oz and up. Yes, a 33oz and a 64! Accessories include a variety of caps, an ice stick tray, and filter options coming soon.
This double wall stainless drink vessel is tough and good looking. My morning coffee gets poured at 5:40AM, and on one busy day where I didn’t finish it until noon, it was still plenty hot. While I didn’t test it for the full twelve hours, I have no doubt that if you pre-warm the bottle with hot water before adding your beverage, it will still be hot at the twelve hour mark. Ice water stays deliciously cold, with no noticeable taste issues. If you need to carry a large amount of hot or cold liquids, this would be a great choice, as the double wall design not only maintains the temperature, but the outside is always safe to touch, and it doesn’t sweat. As a bonus, 5% of the gross cost of your water bottle gets donated to the charity of your choice, via their fivepercentback.org program.
Stanley Classic 16oz – Double walled and vacuum insulated, liquids stay hot or cold for 15 hours. Insulated lid doubles as an 8oz cup. Lifetime warranty, and all parts are replaceable.
Since 1913, an enduring way to keep liquids at a desired temperature. It’s cool in a retro way, yet still modern. Your grandpa probably had one. Maybe he gave it to your dad. It’s not uncommon for these to get handed down, since they last virtually forever. I’ve filled one with coffee the night before a fishing trip, and it was still scalding hot the next day. The gasket in the lid prevents leaks, and the big 8oz cup is a huge plus. While it’s great for keeping liquids cold, this is the one you want for coffee, tea, cocoa, or soup. Note that it’s the only one in this review that includes a cup.
CamelBak Podium Big Chill – 25oz, also available as the Podium Chill in a 21oz size. Insulated. Jet Valve. Lock it shut for zero leaks.
Fits your bike, but you’ll want to take it everywhere. The wide mouth makes it easy to add ice, and the insulation keeps your water cold right up to the last drop. Its narrow midsection makes it easier to grip and squeeze, which you’ll have to do to get water through the self-sealing Jet Valve. There’s a lockout on the valve (you just turn it) and the seal prevents water from coming out, even in the open position, until you give it a squeeze. While there’s no gasket in the lid, I couldn’t get it to leak. This was my go-to cold water bottle after throat surgery. An excellent choice for those that like their cold water to stay cold all day, and are wary of leaky valves. I’d trust it to share backpack space with my laptop.
Polar – 24oz (shown) and 20oz varieties. The original insulated bottle, since 1994. Double wall construction, wide mouth, and a removable carrying strap. Dishwasher and freezer safe. Cold tastes better.
Don’t need the fancy Jet Valve of CamelBak’s Big Chill? Check out the Polar bottles. I had one of these long before I tried the CamelBak – it works as advertised, and at a price point only slightly higher than an uninsulated bottle. It has a very clever ergonomic shape that fits both small and large hands well. For smaller hands, that can be a real plus, since most bottles are an otherwise fairly constant diameter. The carrying strap seems to be either a love it or hate it feature, but it comes in handy for hanging your bottle off a backpack when you’re off the bike. At least once cyclist I know combines this bottle with the Big Chill’s lid, as they are both 63mm.
Bamboo Bottle – too late to be included in this review, but worth a look.
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