Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Durable, compatible with water filters, light, can be used as hot water bottle
Cons: Holds tastes, top loop is unreliable
Best Uses: Any activity where a lighter water bottle is helpful: hiking, backpacking, climbing
The Nalgene is the ubiquitous outdoorsman's water bottle. It's light, durable, and great for any application where weight is an issue. And because it has been a fixture in the outdoor community for so long, water filters, water bottle cozies, and other niche products are all sized to fit the Nalgene. For daily use, we preferred the Klean Kanteen. But for a lot of activities, the Nalgene was simply more practical.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Or favorite bottle, plastic or otherwise, was the Nalgene. This high-performing bottle proved, through intense testing, that it is just as good as it ever was. This bottle is an iconic staple of the outdoor world, and as such most (nearly all) water-bottle accessories developed to fit the nalgene, from water filters to the bottle sleeves on backpacks.
But it's the standard for good reason. The Nalgene is durable, light and simple. It's the perfect bottle, nothing but a non-leaking cap and body. No sippers, moving parts or breakable bits. And it makes a killer sleeping-bag warmer. The nalgene is an ideal bottle for any adventure.
Nalgenes are known for their durability. An empty Nalgene can survive anything. But fill one with water, and drop it four feet onto rock, and you have an excellent chance of cracking it open. I've seen three broken this way. (And it turns out that you can't send in a broken Nalgene for a free replacement.) All of them were the new formula plastic, which seems to be much brittler than its BPA-containing counterpart.
While we may have made that sound like a significant drawback, please be assured that it is not. Brittle or no, the nalgene still dominates this category. The Nalgene stands up to the rigors of daily outdoor use like a champ. One tester has used the same nalgene nearly every day for four years. Their bottle has significant cosmetic damage, but it is otherwise fully functional. The Nalgene's design is perfect in its simplicity. In this instance, the Nalgene's reputation stands on firm ground.
On cold nights, you can fill a Nalgene with hot water and keep it in your sleeping bag. Doing the same with the Klean Kanteen can be dangerous. The plastic does a much better job of insulating liquids. Because the Nalgene was the dominant water bottle for so long, a number of products were developed to be compatible with the mouth size. Most water filters are sized to fit Nalgene lids, and companies like BCA and Guyot Designs, design products specifically for the Nalgene. The wide-mouth size has become standard. While other companies replicate the Nalgene's size and threading pattern, the Nalgene is still the most reliable companion for these products.
Ease of Use
The Nalgene's design is as simple as they come. The bottle is composed of the plastic body, the cap, and a retaining strap, which attaches the two. The strap is very useful, and has prevented more than a few lids from floating out to sea. Because the loop is offset from the bottle itself, it's much more comfortable to carry clipped to a harness or backpack than the Klean Kanteen. That being said, clipping it directly to anything, particularly a climbing harness, is a bad idea with potentially disastrous consequences, because the connection from the lid to the loop is unreliable.
In other news, a Nalgene will not fit in a standard sized cupholder.
The Nalgene is watertight. Unquestionably. We have never had a problem with any iteration of the classic Nalgene leaking. The o-ring is so deeply buried in the lid that we would have trouble removing it if we tried.
The Nalgene's value can only be described as exceptional. This bottle is the most useful, best-performing of those tested, but also one of the cheapest. This is an instance where quality is not directly correlated with price, and we suggest that you take advantage of it.
The nalgene is always useful. Anytime or anywhere you need water, the nalgene should be there as well. The nalgene is our preferred plastic alternative for nearly every outdoor adventure.
Backpacking: Nalgene. The Klean Kanteen is just too heavy to justify, and the narrow top version is not compatible with water filters.
Ski touring/Winter Camping: Nalgene. Who doesn't love a warm Nalgene to cuddle through a cold night? That alone is a selling point-not to mention that most insulating sleeves are designed for Nalgenes.
Climbing: Nalgene. Again, weight is an issue. Just don't clip it to your harness.
The Nalgene On-The-Go bottle retails for $10.20 is a Tritan bottle that will fit in your bike cage and most cup holders. This 24 oz bottle can be flipped open with one hand, but is not 100% leakproof.
The Tritan Wide Mouth, 48 oz, $10.20, is a wide-mouth water bottle that holds 48 oz, while the Tritan Narrow, 32 oz, $11, has a narrow mouth and holds 32 oz.
The MSR Miniworks EX is a compatable water filter that screws on to a Nalgene mouth. $90.
The Guyot Splash Guard, $5.50, is made from silicone and fits most wide-mouth bottles, preventing spills.
The Nalgene Wide-Mouth Loop-Top Lid is a replacement lid for $4. This lid fits wide mouth water bottles.
— Atherton Phleger
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: September 17, 2013
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