There’s no need for us to tell you the value in staying hydrated, no matter what your day has in store. But for advice on which reusable water bottle to choose? That’s something we can help with. Below you’ll find our top water bottle picks for 2020, which include a range of styles, from classic hard-sided plastic or stainless steel bottles that work well for everyday use to premium insulated models that are equally great for hot and cold beverages. Weight-conscious hikers, backpackers, runners, and climbers may want to consider a lightweight, soft-sided collapsible bottle instead. To help guide you to the best option, see our water bottle comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
Best Insulated Bottle for Keeping Water Cold
Material: Stainless steel
Capacities: 18, 21, 24 fl. oz.
What we like: Excellent insulating capabiilties and premium build.
What we don’t: Harder to clean than a wide-mouth bottle.
Since its start in 2009, Hydro Flask has established itself as a class leader in insulated water bottles. From their lineup, the Standard Mouth earns our top billing for 2020 by combining excellent insulating performance, high-quality construction, and a cup holder-friendly design into an easily grippable and tough package. Its most impressive feature—and the reason it costs a pricey $35—is the insulated double-wall build that keeps your water cold and coffee hot. In fact, the bottle is rated to keep drinks hot for 12 hours and cold for a whopping 24 hours, and we’ve had ice cubes live a full day in our Hydro Flask without melting.
The Standard Mouth has jumped above its Wide Mouth sibling this year, and the primary reason is convenience. The smaller opening makes it much easier to drink on the go, and the narrower body fits better into a car cup holder or side pocket of a daypack. That said, this also makes the bottle a bit more difficult to clean and is a tight squeeze for multiple ice cubes. For many people including commuters, the tipping point is the cup holder compatibility, but you really can’t go wrong with either.
See the Hydro Flask Standard Mouth
Best Lightweight Water Bottle for Hiking
Capacities: 32, 48 oz.
What we like: Incredibly light and cheap.
What we don’t: Not as durable as the heavier options on this list; minimal insulation.
Nalgene’s Wide Mouth arguably is the most ubiquitous water bottle on the market, and the Ultralite version takes those classic looks and trims crucial weight for hiking and backpacking. At a feathery 3.5 ounces, the Ultralite is the lightest hard-sided option on our list (the Platypus SoftBottle weighs less but doesn’t hold its shape well), which makes it ideal for stuffing into the side pocket of a pack and carrying into the backcountry. The design is unapologetically simplistic, but most people who use Nalgenes aren’t overly concerned about features.
What do you sacrifice by going with such a lightweight water bottle? As with other types of outdoor gear, durability is scarified to shave weight, and the Nalgene Ultralite is thinner and less robust than many of the plastic and stainless steel options on this list. The other major downside is that it doesn’t insulate. But in the end, the Ultralite should meet the needs of most outdoor-goers for whom weight is an important consideration. And for a small penalty (6.25 oz.) but a noticeable boost in toughness, check out the standard 32-ounce Nalgene Wide Mouth.
See the Nalgene Ultralite Wide Mouth
Best Water Bottle with a Straw
Material: Stainless steel
Capacities: 18, 32, 40, 64 fl. oz.
What we like: Same impressive insulating power and build as the Standard Mouth but with an easy-to-use straw.
What we don’t: Expensive, doesn’t fit in most cup holders, and straw lid isn’t leakproof.
We’ll start by noting that the Hydro Flask Wide Mouth has drinkability issues—the large opening can make on-the-go hydration almost impossible without spilling. However, by adding Hydro Flask’s straw lid, our problems were solved. The low-profile, easy-to-use lid doesn’t require any tilting or biting, which makes it our favorite straw design on the market. Throw in the same superior build quality, stainless steel interior, impressive range of color options, and slightly textured feel, and you have one heckuva water bottle that should last for years.
Keep in mind that the 32-ounce Wide Mouth does not fit in most standard cup holders—for that, you’ll have to size down to 18 ounces or go with the Standard Mouth. Additionally, the straw lid is not leakproof and isn’t intended for hot liquids, which could be a deal breaker for many commuters thinking about morning coffee. Finally, there are the inherent downsides of a straw, which include difficulty cleaning and a bit of added weight. All that said, we love the Hydro Flask for work, use around town, and throwing in a pack for a short hike or snowshoe. People rave about Hydro Flask bottles and for good reason.
See the Hydro Flask Wide Mouth w/ Straw Lid
Best Filter/Purifier Bottle for Travel
Capacity: 16 fl. oz.
What we like: Filtration and purification in a portable design.
What we don’t: Requires consistent access to a water source; replacement cartridges are pricey.
For globetrotters and hikers traveling internationally, it’s hard to beat the convenience of the Grayl Ultralight Purifier. While the Brita bottle below filters out protozoa and bacteria, the Grayl takes it a step further by adding purification to the mix. This includes viruses too small for most filters like Hepatitis A, Rotavirus, and Norovirus, to name a few. The process is simple: fill the outer shell up to the line from any water source, replace the inner unit that holds the cartridge, and use your body weight to press down. In about 15 seconds, you’ll have 16 ounces of purified and filtered water.
There’s one very obvious downside to this low-capacity system: travelers will need consistent access to a water source to stay hydrated. Further, like the Brita Premium Filtering Bottle below, the Grayl requires a new cartridge after about 40 gallons, but replacements are pricier at $25 a pop. However, it’s worth mentioning that most purifiers don’t filter sediment, while the filter-and-purifier combo of the Ultralight does restrict particles like silt and sand from seeping in. In the end, we think the Grayl is a great alternative to disposable plastic bottles for frequent travelers and those headed abroad, but its practicality is limited for uses like backpacking trips.
See the Grayl Ultralight Purifier
Best Water Bottle for Running
Category: Outdoor (running)
Capacity: 18 fl. oz.
What we like: Nicely secures around your hand; squeeze method is very intuitive.
What we don’t: Limited appeal for non-runners.
Designed for easy on-the-go hydration, the Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Flask is a well-liked bottle among trail runners. Despite its relatively small size and capacity, the bottle is packed with useful features. The SpeedDraw’s ergonomic shape mimics a natural grip, requiring almost no effort to hold, and the adjustable strap effectively secures it around your hand (it’s generously sized, so fit shouldn’t be an issue). In addition, the race cap makes it easy to drink without slowing down or stopping—just tip the bottle back and squeeze—and the zippered pouch is extremely convenient for stowing essentials like keys or an ID. It’s a bit of a stretch for larger smartphones, but we made it work.
The SpeedDraw Plus falls lower on our list because it’s the most performance-oriented option here and won’t serve your everyday needs at the office or gym. And as far as performance goes, we had a couple on-trail issues that are worth noting. On one run in particular, we failed to line up the treads perfectly when filling up, which led to a lot of water being lost on the first sip. The bottle can also be a little finicky when it’s not filled all the way—it requires tilting at an exact angle to squeeze water out. In the end, the SpeedDraw’s feathery feel and convenient shape make it great for short to medium runs, but we won’t be ditching our trusty hydration vest anytime soon.
See the Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Flask
Best Glass Water Bottle
Capacities: 12, 16, 22 fl. oz.
What we like: Clean, pure-tasting water.
What we don't: Smaller capacity, heavy, glass is vulnerable to breaking.
Plastic bottles are known to have a lingering smell that is tough to completely eradicate, and even stainless steel will leave a slightly metallic taste. So where do you turn for a taste-free, scent-free, BPA-free, and PVC-free bottle? Glass. There’s no better option for the discerning water drinker, and our favorite glass bottle is the Lifefactory 22-Ounce with Active Cap. The bottle’s cap requires little to no effort to toggle and drink from, the rotating carrying handle is convenient, and the silicone cover makes the bottle very easy to grip (and stylish, in our humble opinion).
Now, let’s state the obvious: even with a silicone cover, the Lifefactory is not all that durable. Drop the bottle from a good height (say, chest level) and you’ll more than likely have some shattered glass to clean up. That said, these bottles are becoming more and more popular for the simple reason that the water tastes better. It’s no mistake we drink water from a glass at home, but does the risk of breaking make it worth it for daily use? That’s for you to decide.
See the Lifefactory Glass 22-Ounce
Trendiest/Best-Looking Water Bottle
Material: Stainless steel
Capacities: 9, 17, 25 fl. oz.
What we like: Stylish designs and good overall performance.
What we don’t: Heavy for outdoor use; expensive for the capacity.
If style points are your objective, S’well bottles are sure to earn you plenty. This New York-based company makes everything from lidless tumblers to large-capacity pitchers, but their Bottle collection is by far the most popular of their offerings, and we can see why. The triple-wall stainless steel build is rated to keep beverages cold for 24 hours and hot for 12, the bottle’s narrow body is cup-holder compatible, and S’well offers the Bottle in an extensive array of fun colors and patterns including metallic, wood, watercolor, and nature-inspired designs. Of all the water bottles on the market in 2020, S’well arguably are best-looking out there.
Why didn’t we rank the S’well Bottle higher? At 16 ounces and $45 for the 25-ounce version, it’s expensive compared to the larger-capacity insulated options above and heavy for outdoor activities. In addition, the Bottle has one of the narrowest openings of any on our list, which makes stuffing ice inside very tedious. Finally, we wish S’well offered a larger 32-ounce model for minimizing fill-ups. However, the S’well nevertheless is a nice choice for those looking for a trendy everyday bottle to show off at work and the gym, and the company is now a certified B Corp to boot.
See the S'well Bottle
Best Water Bottle for Kids
Material: Stainless steel
Capacity: 12 fl. oz.
What we like: Perfect size for small hands.
What we don’t: Pricey, and like the 32-ounce adult version above, the kids’ bottle isn’t leakproof.
Kids need to stay hydrated too, and our favorite for that is Hydro Flask’s 12-ounce Wide Mouth. Like the 32-ounce version above, the kids’ model features a double-wall build that keeps drinks cold for a claimed 24 hours, Hydro Flask’s signature powder coating for easy gripping, and a durable stainless steel construction. The most obvious differences are reduced capacity (the 12-ounce bottle is ideal for small hands) and the addition of a silicone cup called the Flex Boot along the bottle’s base, which adds traction and protection for less-than-gentle use. If you’re looking for a bottle that will can withstand recesses, after-school activities, camping, and everything in between, the Hydro Flask is a nice choice.
One major consideration for kids’ bottles is general is leakproofing, and unfortunately the Wide Mouth’s straw lid lacks that (for a more foolproof design, check out the CamelBak Eddy Kids below). To be sure, tucking the straw into the cap does at adequate job of preventing spills, but some liquid is likely to seep through if you’re not careful—which children often aren’t. If that’s not a deal breaker, the Hydro Flask is a cool and good-looking bottle that ticks all our other boxes. Three of our top six picks are Hydro Flasks, which just goes to show how well-built and impressively capable water bottles are from this brand.
See the Hydro Flask 12 oz. Kids Wide Mouth
Best of the Rest
Capacities: 17, 34 fl. oz.
What we like: Super light and compact, surprisingly durable, and cheap.
What we don’t: Flexible shape often requires two hands for drinking and pouring.
If weight, packability, and cost are paramount to you, it’s hard to beat Platypus’ SoftBottle. This soft-sided 1-liter bottle tips the scales at an impressively low 1.2 ounces, can be rolled up to a size that fits easily in your hand, and comes in at under $10. Platypus offers the SoftBottle in both twist- and push-pull cap versions, but we prefer the on-the-go convenience of the latter. In addition, durability is quite good considering the thickness of the plastic: our Platypus bottles have tagged along on numerous camping and backpacking trips over the years and most have come out puncture-free.
What you give up in a superlight design like the SoftBottle is a rigid structure. The soft plastic doesn’t hold its shape very well—and it gets worse when the bottle is only partly full—which can make pouring water or even drinking from the bottle a job that requires two hands. Further, the bottle doesn’t fit easily into a cup holder or side pocket of a backpack, and you often have to maneuver it in. For hauling water, climbing, or as a backup that remains empty most of the time, it’s hard to beat the low weight of the SoftBottle, but it’s not a practical option for everyday use.
See the Platypus SoftBottle
Capacity: 26 fl. oz.
What we like: Light, low-profile, and easy to use for a filtering bottle.
What we don’t: Doesn’t protect against viruses like the Grayl Ultralight above.
Brita is synonymous with faucet and pitcher filters, so it’s no surprise that their Premium Filtering Bottle is a standout in on-the-go filtering. The Brita bottle works just like many other water filters we take into the backcountry: a cartridge inside the straw system contains microscopic pores that strain out harmful microorganisms like protozoa (such as Giardia) and bacteria (like E. Coli and Salmonella). In terms of lifespan, the Premium Filtering Bottle can replace 300 water bottles with a single filter, which translates to about 40 gallons or a couple months of everyday use before it’ll need replacing.
Although the Premium Filtering Bottle has its appeal for those concerned about their tap water quality or day hikers in the United States and Canada, its utility unfortunately ends there. It doesn’t protect against viruses like the Grayl Ultralight bottle above (which is necessary is less-developed countries) and has limited capacity for backpacking trips (you’ll probably need a larger system to fill up multiple bottles). And although a replacement cartridge is relatively cheap at $7, that cost can quickly add up if this is your primary bottle. But for everyday use and the ability to clean tap water, we like the Brita for its ease and low-profile design.
See the Brita Premium Filtering Bottle
Capacities: 12, 22, 32 fl. oz.
What we like: Finger-sized carry loop is very convenient.
What we don’t: Harder to drink from than the Lifefactory bottle above.
To all but the most discerning shopper, the Purifyou Premium Glass might appear nearly identical to the Lifefactory Glass bottle above. Its patterned silicon sleeve adds durability and provides an easy grip, it’s available in a fun array of colors, and glass is the ultimate taste- and scent-free water bottle option. The major difference is cap style, and we really like the convenient finger-sized carry loop and leakproof build of the Premium Glass’ traditional screw-on cap. In addition, Purifyou makes the bottle in a larger 32-ounce option (the Lifefactory Glass maxes out at 22 ounces), although we prefer the smaller 12-ounce bottle listed here for its cup-holder compatibility.
Why do we have the Lifefactory Glass ranked higher? For starters, the spout on the Lifefactory’s flip cap is a little easier to drink from than the opening on the Purifyou. Further, its wider mouth (with the cap removed) is better for ice cubes—it’s nearly impossible to stuff them inside the narrow Purifyou. And finally, the Lifefactory bottle is a better value at $25 for the 22-ounce vs. $30 for the 12-ounce Purifyou. Both are quality glass bottles for those who want to stay away from plastic and stainless steel, but we think the Lifefactory above is the slightly more versatile option.
See the Purifyou Premium Glass
Material: Stainless steel
Capacities: 20, 30 fl. oz.
What we like: Great build quality and fits in most cup holders.
What we don’t: Lid isn’t leakproof.
Yeti is best known for their premium and good-looking coolers, but they bring that same expertise to water bottles. From their lineup, we like the 30-ounce Rambler Tumbler best: it has a stout stainless steel build, magnetic lid for smooth opening and closing (the magnet can be removed for cleaning), and—not surprisingly—fantastic insulating performance. And despite its wide-mouthed upper half and generous capacity, the bottle’s tapered shape allows it to fit in most cup holders. That’s something we can’t say for similar designs on our list, including the Hydro Flask Wide Mouth and Nalgene Ultralite above.
What pushes the Rambler Tumbler down to a mid-pack finish is its non-leakproof lid—even tipping the bottle sideways and keeping it there likely will result in some spillage. For the same price, the 24-ounce Hydro Flask Standard Mouth above is a close match in terms of performance and durability but its sealable flex cap is more reliable. In addition, not everyone likes the magnetic design, which can fail over time. In the end, the Yeti has its appeal for those who like to alternate between piping-hot coffee and ice-cold water throughout the workday, but the lid is limiting for most uses where the tumbler can tip.
See the Yeti Rambler 30 oz. Tumbler
Material: Stainless steel
Capacities: 18, 27, 40, 64 fl. oz.
What we like: Quality build and good looking.
What we don’t: Narrow opening isn’t as ideal for refilling,
If you don’t like the idea of plastic but also don’t want to spend a small fortune on a water bottle, Klean Kanteen makes quality single-wall stainless steel bottles that look great. The 27-ounce Classic comes in at a reasonable 7.5 ounces, and its sport cap makes the bottle both easy to carry and drink from without spilling. And even though the Classic is not insulated, water seems to stay cooler a little longer than with other see-through plastic options on this list.
What are the downsides? Klean Kanteens are heavier than plastic bottles and can dent if you drop them (this can be an issue if you dent the bottom of the bottle and it no longer balances upright). But that's a relatively small complaint, and we like that the company has made a strong commitment to being environmentally friendly (Klean Kanteen bottles can be recycled). Thanks to the long-lasting build, it may be a while before you consider getting rid of it.
See the Klean Kanteen Classic Stainless Steel
Material: Stainless steel
Capacities: 14, 18, 24, 32, 40, 60 fl. oz.
What we like: One of our favorite lid designs; rubber bumper minimizes dents.
What we don’t: Doesn’t stand out in any other way.
Takeya might not be a household name like Hydro Flask, but their Actives Insulated Water Bottle bears a strong resemblance to the Standard and Wide Mouth bottles above. What sets the Takeya apart is its unique spout lid that combines the convenience of a wide-mouth bottle (with the cap removed) and the easy drinkability of a narrow opening. In essence, it blends two of our favorite designs into one. Other notable features include a removable rubber bumper for combatting dents and damage, and a low-profile, rotating handle that’s connected to the cap for easy portability.
Unfortunately, the Actives Insulated Water Bottle doesn’t stand out in any other way. Like the Hydro Flask Wide Mouth above, the Actives is heavy for outdoor use, and the 32-ounce version doesn’t fit in cup holders. However, we heavily prefer the spout lid for activities like working out—it minimizes spillage and allows much better flow control when you’re moving. If that’s your intended use, we think the Actives is a good alternative to the Hydro Flask for $10 cheaper.
See the Takeya Actives Insulated
Category: Outdoor (biking)
Capacities: 21, 24 fl. oz.
What we like: One of the cheapest insulated designs on the market.
What we don’t: Bike-specific design isn’t as versatile as the bottles above.
Most of the water bottles on the list are great for everyday or general outdoor use, but the CamelBak Podium Chill is made specifically with cyclists in mind. Its collared body allows it to slide snugly into most water bottle cages, its squeezable cap makes it easy to drink from on the go, and its double-wall construction keeps water colder than any other plastic bottle on the list. And despite its bike-specific build, we think the Podium Chill doubles as a passable everyday water bottle too.
What’s not to like about the Podium Chill? To start, not everyone likes the squeeze cap—you can’t get as much water in one sip as you can with a wide-mouthed bottle like the Hydro Flask or Nalgene Ultralite above. And while the Podium Chill comes apart for easy cleaning, this also means there are more areas where leaks can develop over time. All that said, for cyclists looking for an affordable bottle that they can use both on and off the bike, the CamelBak has its place.
See the CamelBak Podium Chill
Capacities: 20, 34 fl. oz.
What we like: Very lightweight and compact.
What we don’t: Less of an everyday bottle than the Brita above.
Like the Brita Premium Filtering Bottle above, the Katadyn BeFree is both water bottle and filtration system in one. Instead of using a straw, you simply squeeze the filtered water into your mouth after filling up and the bottle does the rest. In addition, the Katadyn is more packable, easier to clean, much lighter at just 2 ounces, and has a significantly longer lifespan (around 260 gallons compared to the Brita’s 40-gallon recommendation). For weight-conscious day hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers who plan to have access to water along their route, the BeFree’s weight, compressibility, and convenience are hard to match.
What do you sacrifice with the BeFree? Like the Platypus SoftBottle, the soft-sided Katadyn lacks the stiff build of the stainless steel and glass models above and requires two hands for drinking and filling. Its rounded body does stuff more easily into the side pocket of a pack, but it’s still a bit of a hassle for hydrating on the trail when you don’t have both hands free. Finally, we definitely noticed a slight plastic taste when using the bottle. All things considered, the BeFree is a good option for short outdoor outings but lacks the overall versatility of many of the bottles above.
See the Katadyn BeFree System
Capacity: 12 fl. oz.
What we like: Lots of fun, kid-friendly designs; same easy drinking as the adult Eddy.
What we don’t: Very difficult to clean.
If you’re concerned about spending $30 on a bottle that might be lost or destroyed by the end of the week, the CamelBak Eddy Kids is worth a look. Unlike the Hydro Flask 12-ounce above, the Eddy is uninsulated and won’t keep water cold for long. However, the CamelBak bottle is spill-proof when the stray is deployed—a major plus, in our experience—and has one of the easiest-to-use designs with a simple bite-and-drink system that just works. At less than half the cost of the Hydro Flask, we think the Eddy Kids is a solid value, and we like that CamelBak outfitted the Eddy with fun artwork options including space, sports, and animal themes, among others.
Why do we have the Hydro Flask ranked higher? Other than the lack of insulation, the CamelBak Eddy Kids is also hard to clean. Specifically, the bite valve and straw are difficult to access and completely dry out, and as a result are prone to collecting mold. If you’re diligent about maintenance, it’s a good system. But the mold issue is enough for us to push this popular kids’ bottle toward the bottom of the pack.
See the CamelBak Eddy Kids
Capacities: 24, 32, 40 fl. oz.
What we like: Well-thought-out feature set.
What we don’t: Cheap build quality.
Contigo is making a big push into the world of water bottles, and our current favorite in their lineup is the Autospout Straw Ashland. In terms of features, you get an easy-to-use straw cap and carabiner-style clip for attaching to a pack, a locking mechanism on the spout to prevent accidental spillage, and a straw cover overtop to seal out dirt and debris. Contigo also designed the straw to run diagonally (instead of straight down) into the edge of the bottle so that you can always get that last sip—a nice, subtle touch, if you ask us.
What pushes the Contigo down our list is its subpar craftsmanship. After less than a day of use, the bottle began leaking each time we deployed the pop-up straw, and this spray-bottle-like effect has continued each time we take a sip. Many users also report mold easily accumulating around the upper portion of the straw (taking apart and cleaning the bottle thoroughly isn’t an easy task). If you’re set on a straw design, we think it’s worth spending up for a more reliable Hydro Flask and straw lid or checking out the CamelBak Eddy. But in this price range, it’s important to set realistic expectations, and the Contigo is a cheap but serviceable option.
See the Contigo Autospout Straw Ashland
Material: Stainless steel
Capacities: 32, 64 fl. oz.
What we like: Our favorite design for keeping beer cold.
What we don’t: Limited overall utility.
If you’re less worried about staying hydrated and more concerned with keeping your beer cold (we can’t really blame you), a growler makes a lot of sense. Unlike the options above, Stanley’s Classic Easy-Pour Growler is purpose-built for brews with a convenient pour handle, lockable and leakproof lid, and full stainless steel interior (Stanley specifies that your beer won’t come into contact with any of the bottle’s plastic components). All told, the Easy-Pour is a nice choice whether you’re headed to a local brewery after work or schlepping your favorite beer to your campsite.
At $55 and 2 pounds 3.2 ounces for the 64-ounce version, the Easy-Pour is expensive, heavy, and big, limiting its usefulness for everyday users whose main goal is hydration. Stanley does, however, note that the growler works well for storing soup, which we think is a great idea if you’re planning a backcountry hut trip or winter camping outing (provided you won’t be walking far). In the end, the Easy-Pour’s lack of versatility bumps it down to last place on our list, but we still like it for those on a mission to keep their beer cold and fresh.
See the Stanley Classic Easy-Pour Growler
|Hydro Flask Standard||$35||Everyday/outdoor||Stainless steel||Yes||13.2 oz.||18, 21, 24|
|Nalgene UL Wide Mouth||$7||Outdoor/everyday||Plastic||No||3.5 oz.||32, 48|
|Hydro Flask Wide Mouth||$50||Everyday/outdoor||Stainless steel||Yes||15.5 oz.||18, 32, 40, 64|
|Grayl Ultralight Purifier||$70||Filter/outdoor||Plastic||No||10.9 oz.||16|
|Nathan SpeedDraw Plus||$37||Outdoor (running)||Plastic||Yes||3.9 oz.||18|
|Lifefactory Glass||$25||Everyday||Glass||No||19 oz.||12, 16, 22|
|S'well Bottle||$45||Everyday||Stainless steel||Yes||16 oz.||9, 17, 25|
|Hydro Flask 12 oz. Kids||$30||Kids||Stainless steel||Yes||9.6 oz.||12|
|Platypus SoftBottle||$9||Outdoor||Plastic||No||1.2 oz.||17, 34|
|Brita Premium Filtering||$20||Filter/everyday||Plastic||No||8.8 oz.||26|
|Purifyou Premium Glass||$30||Everyday||Glass||No||21 oz.||12, 22, 32|
|Yeti Rambler Tumbler||$35||Everyday||Stainless steel||Yes||16 oz.||20, 30|
|Klean Kanteen Classic||$20||Everyday/outdoor||Stainless steel||No||7.5 oz.||18, 27, 40, 64|
|Takeya Actives||$35||Everyday/outdoor||Stainless steel||Yes||17.6 oz.||14, 18, 24, 32, 40, 60|
|CamelBak Podium Chill||$16||Outdoor (biking)||Plastic||Yes||4.3 oz.||21, 24|
|Katadyn BeFree||$45||Outdoor||Plastic||No||2 oz.||20, 34|
|CamelBak Eddy Kids||$13||Kids||Plastic||No||5 oz.||12|
|Contigo Autospout||$13||Everyday/outdoor||Plastic||No||6.4 oz.||24, 32, 40|
|Stanley Classic Growler||$55||Everyday||Stainless steel||Yes||35.2 oz.||32, 64|
*Editor's Note: Capacities listed are in fluid ounces.
- Reusable vs. Disposable Water Bottles
- Water Bottle Categories: Everyday, Outdoor, Filter, and Kids
- Materials: Plastic, Stainless Steel, or Glass
- Insulated vs. Non Insulated
- Hard-Sided vs. Soft-Sided Water Bottles
- Mouth Opening: Narrow, Standard, and Wide
- Sippers and Straws
- BPA Free
- Hiking with Water: Water Bottle or Hydration Reservoir?
- Cup-Holder Compatibility
- Water Bottle Cap Types
- Cleaning Your Water Bottle
There are many obvious benefits to switching to a reusable water bottle over disposable, and the most obvious is reducing waste. By some estimates, over 50 billion disposable plastic bottles are produced each year—that’s a lot of plastic that can end up along the sides of roads, in bodies of water, along trails, and in parks. But even if we table the environmental concerns, there are many other great reasons to make the switch to reusable bottles.
While the choices above range in price from less than $10 to over $50, bottled water can easily run you that same cost in just a month or two (for reference, a 24-count of Glaceau Smartwater costs around $35). Depending on the build quality and material (and how well you take care of it), a reusable bottle should last for years and years. However, it’s worth noting that some disposable bottles—Smartwater specifically—are popular among thru-hikers for their feathery weight, easy-to-drink-from flip cap, and narrow, long shape that can be quickly secured with a pack strap. But if you’re not hitting the PCT anytime soon, we think the cost is well worth it. Disposable water bottles might be the convenient grab-and-go option, but investing in a reusable bottle will pay off quickly. Plus, some of the options above are downright stylish, which certainly isn’t a bad thing.
The most common use for a water bottle is to stay hydrated in daily life: commuting, at work, and around town. In general, everyday bottles need to be durable enough to withstand the occasional drop, although there are a growing number of relatively delicate glass designs available (some have silicone cages to prevent breakage). Considerations like weight are less important here, and while it’s often nice to have a spout that’s easy to drink out of while on the go, both wide mouth and narrow mouth bottles are popular options. Nearly every water bottle that made our list excels in everyday life, and your own priorities will push you toward a specific material type and whether or not you need insulation.
Bottles built for the outdoors have a tough construction to handle drops and rough use. Non-insulated models like the Nalgene Ultralite Wide Mouth are a classic choice, and if you’ll be outside in extreme temperatures and don’t need to worry about carrying a little extra weight on your back, a burly insulated model can be a great option. Hydro Flask and Yeti bottles are popular among campers, rafters, and motorized backcountry explorers for their sturdy builds and ability to keep beverages cold or hot for hours at a time. We've also included a couple specialized options on our list, including the Nathan SpeedDraw Plus and CamelBak Podium Chill, which have unique features sets that are purpose-built for biking and running, respectively.
For hikers, runners, and travelers that desire an all-in-one water bottle and filter/purifier, there are a growing number of options that fit the bill. Bottles like the Grayl Ultralight Purifier and Katadyn BeFree work by integrating a filter or purifier into the bottle’s cap or straw. Generally, filter systems are best for clearing out murky water thanks to a hollow frame filter that protects against protozoan cysts and bacteria. They do have limitations, and most are not able to get rid of viruses, which is what purifiers are for. Because purifiers neutralize viruses, they are the go-to choice for international travelers.
Is it worth getting an integrated system? For most hiking and backpacking trips, we prefer the traditional separate filter or purifier. You’ll get a higher output and capacity from those systems as well as more flexibility to fill up multiple bottles. For travel, however, a built-in system can make a lot of sense. Being able to quickly treat or filter your water just about anywhere is a beautiful thing while on the go. And always having the purifier with you means you don’t have to worry about tracking down bottled water in remote areas. To see a full breakdown of options, see our article on the best backpacking water filters and purifiers.
Kids' bottles are generally smaller in capacity than adult models but otherwise share mostly identical builds. On the list above, we've included two kids' bottles: the insulated Hydro Flask 12 oz. Kids and non-insulated CamelBak Eddy Kids. In both instances, there are larger variations available for adults, but the kids versions sport helpful features like easy-to-drink-from straw lids. The Hydro Flask even boasts a silicone base, which adds a nice boost in traction and protection.
Across all of the categories above, the most common type of water bottle is made with plastic. The BPA scare from old Nalgene bottles (they’re now all BPA free) has done little to dent enthusiasm for the material: it’s affordable, in most cases pretty durable (although less so than most stainless steel), and lightweight. Downsides of a plastic bottle are that they can develop a plasticky smell if you don’t consistently clean them or leave water inside for a long time, and they do not offer any insulation.
For those that don’t like the occasional taste or smell of plastic in their water bottles, stainless steel bottles like the Hydro Flasks or Klean Kanteens above are extremely popular. While it’s true that these bottles can have a bit of a metallic taste, they are the more agreeable option of the two for most people. Stainless steel bottles are also known to be very tough, and are more likely to dent rather than crack or puncture like a plastic or glass bottle. More, they are fairly easy to clean and get rid of lingering tastes, even if you switch between coffee and water during the day. Finally, for those wanting an insulated bottle, a double-wall stainless steel design is the way to go.
Glass bottles are an interesting option for daily use, particularly if you won’t be traveling very much with it (leaving it at a desk is one example). The biggest appeal is the lack of a plastic or metallic taste that you can get with the other two material types. On the other hand, the biggest downside—and reason why only two glass bottles made our list—is the lack of durability. Just like with your glasses at home, it’s easy to ruin a glass bottle by dropping it. Even the silicone sleeves that are wrapped around many glass bottles do not keep them from being the least durable option.
Double-wall insulated bottles are a fantastic invention—they can keep beverages hot or cold for hours at a time, even in pretty extreme temperatures. For daily use, an insulated bottle like the Hydro Flask Standard Mouth is our preferred choice because it covers all our water and coffee drinking needs. But quality insulated designs are about three to four times more expensive than a comparable non-insulated bottle and add quite a bit of weight. As a result, even though we would love to carry a Hydro Flask while backpacking in the heat, it’s just not a practical solution. Our take is if you want to invest in a nice water bottle and don’t care too much about weight, you’ll most likely be very happy with an insulated bottle.
Just about every water bottle we have included above is offered in a range of sizes, which we’ve listed in our specifications. On the small side are bottles around 16 to 18 ounces, which are good for those that value the compact size, but you’ll find yourself filling up your bottle quite a few more times throughout the day. Our preference is to size up to the 24- to 32-ounce range to minimize fill ups without being too bulky to carry around. Some models are offered in up to 64-ounce capacities, which are great for water storage (particularly the insulated models for places like remote construction sites), but those are too large for most people to haul around. A final consideration is for folks that put their water bottle in the side pocket of a backpacking pack or daypack. Often, a 32-ounce wide mouth design will be stretching the side holster to the max.
A further consideration is whether you want a hard-sided or soft-sided bottle. In most cases, hard-sided is the preferred option: it has a solid structure that fits easily into a cup holder or backpack side pocket, and is the easier option to drink out of with one hand. Hard-sided bottles come in a variety of styles, including insulated and non-insulated stainless steel, plastic, or glass, and all but the glass bottles are known for their durability.
Soft-sided bottles, on the other hand, trade durability for compressibility and weight. Ultralight bottles like the Platypus SoftBottle pack down really small and weigh less than 2 ounces for storing water inside a bag or hauling on a multi-pitch climbing route. But they aren’t very convenient as daily pieces because the flexible shape has a tendency to bend when tilting to drink or pour water. Unless the weight and packability are important to you, we recommend going with a hard-sided bottle.
The weight of a water bottle can vary widely—a look at our table above shows our picks range from around 1 ounce to well over 1 pound (and 2+ lbs. for the Stanley Growler). And depending on your intended use, this can either matter a lot or not at all. Travelers, backpackers, climbers, and others that need to carry a bottle for long stretches are most inclined to take weight into consideration. In those cases, it’s hard to beat the Nalgene Ultralite, which combines backcountry durability and ease of use at only 3.5 ounces in weight. But for daily use, or when the benefits of an insulated bottle take precedence, it’s perfectly reasonable to carry a 20-ounce (or more) bottle. For reference, 16 ounces of water adds about a pound of weight (1.04 lbs. to be exact).
As the term indicates, the mouth opening refers to the diameter of the bottle with the top removed. There aren’t standardized measurements for what qualifies as narrow, standard, or wide, but some general characteristics apply. Logically, a narrow bottle will be the most difficult to fill (and some may require you to shrink down ice cubes to fit inside). Standard openings, like the Hydro Flask Standard Mouth above, often are a little larger than a narrow mouth bottle, but still only just wide enough to fit one or two ice cubes vertically at a time. Wide mouth bottles are the most versatile and easiest to clean, but they’re also prone to spilling while taking a sip. An easy solution, however, is to get the wide mouth style with a smaller cap and spout.
For most, a simple screw-on or pop-top lid is sufficient for drinking water. However, as seen with the hugely successful CamelBak Eddy, a user-friendly integrated straw has its appeals. The straw makes quick sipping a breeze while reducing the risk of accidental spills. Other straw designs on our list include the Contigo Autospout Straw Ashland and Brita Premium Filtering Bottle. You can also often add a straw cap to a traditional water bottle if you’d like both options, as we did with our #3 pick, the Hydro Flask Wide Mouth.
All that said, straws do add some complexity and weight, which isn't great for hikers. Additionally, straw systems are another thing to clean, can collect mold easily, and many are not very easy or even capable of being taken apart. The additional parts and pieces also create more places where leaks can develop. As seen with the generally lower rankings of bottles with straw lids (the Hydro Flask Wide Mouth is one exception), we aren't as smitten with them as more traditional bottles, but realistically, the straw question is one of personal preference. If you're diligent about cleaning it and like the design, it could very well be your ideal water bottle design.
Remember the BPA-free craze a number of years ago? Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in hard plastics that until fairly recently was present in many water bottles. There is a fair amount of debate as to the effects of BPA on humans, but the risk is that this potentially harmful chemical can leach from containers into your beverages. We aren't scientists here at Switchback Travel, but the good news is that BPA has all but disappeared from the water bottle industry (although it’s still found in other plastics).
If you’re concerned about the chemical, look for clear labeling. You'll often see prominent stickers that say "BPA free" on the front and all bottles on this list meet that criteria. If you don’t see this designation, keep in mind that many plastics are marked with recycling codes, and codes 3 and 7 are often made with BPA. It’s also important to remember that the chemical is only used in plastics, so it’s not found in aluminum, glass, or steel water bottles, which make up a decent chunk of the market and a good portion of our list.
A common alternative for hiking and backpacking is a water reservoir. These consist of a main bladder or reservoir that holds the water and a drink tube with a bite valve at the end of it. With the tube placed along your backpack shoulder straps, you always have quick access to hydration, which means you’re more inclined to drink water—always a good thing on the trail. Weight and capacity are two additional reasons to go with a water reservoir. We’ve had great luck using both the CamelBak Crux and the Platypus Big Zip for anything from mountain biking to backpacking. Finally, most hydration sleeves are in the center of the pack, which also helps with weight distribution—water bottles on either side pocket can shift weight as you drink from one or the other.
Generally, backpacks are built to accommodate both bottles and reservoirs, with side pockets for storing a bottle and sleeves built into the interior of the pack to slide in a bladder. However, we never rely on reservoirs as our sole water carrier, and particularly when heading out to more remote places. Why’s that? The connection between the reservoir and tube is a source of occasional failure, which can cause leakage inside a pack. This is something we experienced on a trip in Utah, and we unfortunately didn’t identify the leak very quickly, resulting in some wet clothing and gear. Another downside for hydration systems is their storage sleeve is most often deep inside the main compartment of your pack, while a bottle can quickly be grabbed and filled up. In the end, we always recommend bringing along a water bottle or two as a backup.
Cup-holder compatibility is a deal breaker for commuters, in particular. Having a water bottle that’s too big to fit in a cup holder causes all sorts of issues—we once had our 32-ounce Hydro Flask Wide Mouth soak our passenger seat because the screw-on cap wasn’t fully twisted on (we didn’t make that mistake again). This can also translate to backpack compatibility: wide-bodied bottles that don’t fit into cup holders are often also too big or awkward to stuff into the side pocket of a pack when you go for a hike.
How can you tell whether or not a water bottle will fit in your cup holder before buying? As a general rule, most wide-bodied, larger-capacity bottles (32+ ounces) will be too big. On the list above, this includes the Hydro Flask Wide Mouth, Nalgene Ultralite Wide Mouth, Takeya Actives Insulated, and Purifyou Premium Glass. The Yeti Rambler Tumbler is an exception to this rule as its tapered shape allows it to hold more liquid without sacrificing cup-holder compatibility. Many soft-sided, collapsible bottles (like the Platypus SoftBottle) also will pose an issue, but it depends on the shape. You can usually find the dimensions on the product page for any given water bottle or reach out to the manufacturer directly, but sizing down to the 24-ounce version of a bottle or less oftentimes will work.
Traditional caps and straws/sippers aside, there are a number of other options when it comes to water bottle cap types. For example, the Yeti Rambler Tumbler features a magnetic lid design that makes it more ideal for coffee than for water. Performance-oriented bottles like the Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Flask and CamelBak Podium Chill have small nozzles that release water when you squeeze the bottle, which is good for athletes like cyclists and runners who need on-the-go hydration. Another unique design is the Lifefactory Glass: toggling the silicone cover allows you to block the spout when it’s not in use, but the downside is that it’s not entirely leakproof.
In the end, the decision comes down to personal preference and how you’ll most often be using the bottle. For everyday use, we prefer the ultimate versatility of traditional, tried-and-true screw-on designs like the Hydro Flask Standard Mouth. We’ve found they’re also the most foolproof when it comes to combatting leaks that develop in other types of caps. All that said, other lid styles have their place, especially for specific activities and uses.
No matter what type of water bottle you choose, regular cleaning will ensure better tasting beverages, a longer lifespan, and improved safety for yourself. In most cases, the best way to clean a bottle is with hot, soapy water. And a number of plastic bottles, such as the CamelBak Eddy, are designed to go on the top rack of a dishwasher. Either way, verifying you’ve cleaned out the bottom as well as the crevices and threads in the lid are important. Additionally, letting each part completely dry will reduce the chances of any mold or bacteria build up. If more intense cleaning is required, mixing a teaspoon of bleach with water is the recommended method from most manufacturers.
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