Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Durable, compatible with water filters, lightweight, measured graduations for backcountry cooking
Cons: Awkward to use, spills easily while drinking, top loop is unreliable
Best Uses: Most all backcountry ventures: hiking, backpacking, climbing, camping.
After using and testing all ten bottles over a three month period, it was clear that the Nalgene Wide Mouth 32 is still a top dog in the water bottle market. Given its high performance and affordable price tag, it earned our Best Buy Award! Despite changes in the materials used to manufacture the bottle and cap (making it BPA-free), the basic design of the Nalgene Wide Mouth has remained unchanged. As they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. This 34 ounce bottle is light and durable, making it a great choice for a multitude of outdoor ventures. It's easy to clean and doesn't impart any funky plastic taste on its contents. It can even double as a measuring cup. Although it's not our first choice for around town use, its incredible performance in the great outdoors and its low price led it to a great overall score in our metrics.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The 32 oz Nalgene Wide Mouth is the most versatile plastic bottle we tested. It placed well across the board in our scoring metrics, especially in taste and ease of cleaning. It was also the lightest rigid plastic bottle when factoring in its volume (0.20 ounces per fluid ounce). It has a wide mouth (2.25 inches), which is also great when collecting and filtering water from mountain streams. We found this bottle useful in many ways, and are glad that Nalgene has maintained its low price ($11) over the years. Read on to see how our Best Buy award winner tallied up in the individual metrics.
Ease of Use
This bottle's simple design is a big advantage. It consists of a cylindrical body and a screw cap, with a retaining strap that attaches the two main components, similar to the Hydro Flask Insulated 32. This allows you to take a gulp while hanging off a cliff without having to worry about losing your cap. The retaining strap can be used for clipping onto your pack, but this isn't necessarily recommended.
The Nalgene boasts the widest mouth of all ten bottles tested in our review, which has its pros and cons. The wide mouth does make filling the bottle a breeze, virtually regardless of the water source. If you were really desperate, it would by definition be able to catch the most rainwater over a set amount of time. However, we found that the wide mouth also made it more difficult to drink from without splashing water down our chin, chest, and elsewhere. If you are moving at all, including sitting in a moving vehicle, you can expect to get a mini shower.
Although its large volume reduces the amount of times it needs to be filled, the bottle definitely feels large in hand. We found the other bottles, especially the Klean Kanteen Original 27 and Lifefactory Classic 22, more comfortable to hold onto and drink from. Furthermore, there isn't a cup holder we came across that could accommodate this bottle's wide girth. Since it's more awkward to drink from in day-to-day use, the Nalgene Wide Mouth fell back from the top of the pack this metric.
Leakage is not a problem whatsoever with our Best Buy winner. It passed our leak test with a score of 100%. We gave this bottle our complete confidence, and it did not fail us when being jumbled around inside backpacks while cycling and hiking. We would trust this bottle in a bag laying next to our smart phone, camera, and laptop. It is also reasonably quick to open and close, requiring only one cap revolution to screw/unscrew the cap.
This product scored as well as any other bottle we reviewed in the taste metric. Although we did prefer the taste of drinking out of glass to any other material, the Nalgene Wide Mouth performed just a fraction of a point below the Lifefactory and Contigo Purity. It does not impart any plastic flavoring into its contents. Even after leaving the water to sit in the bottle for 24 hours, we couldn't distinguish any plastic flavor in our water from the Nalgene's body. No, the water didn't taste fresh from the well, but it also lacked any flavors imparted from the body, unlike the CamelBak Eddy .75L, Vapur Element 1L, Platypus PlusBottle] and both Klean Kanteen Classic and Klean Kanteen Insulated 20.
If you plan on using your bottle for liquids other than water, you need not fear the Nalgene. It fared well in our flavor retention test, falling second among the plastic bottles to the AVEX Brazos 32. The margin here was slim, too. Each bottle was filled with a sports drink mix and left for 24 hours. Next, we hand washed each bottle with warm water and dish soap before filling them with water and performing our taste tests.
Our taste testers noted that the Nalgene Wide Mouth 32 retained a faint smell of the sports drink mix used in the test. However, they could not detect any effect on the taste of the water. Following a more hardcore cleaning using baking soda and vinegar, the smell disappeared completely.
The folks at Nalgene proudly say that their bottles resist flavor retention, and our tests verified this claim.
This is a very strong bottle. The plastic body and cap can endure many drops and tumbles and still maintain its integrity. In our drop tests, it only suffered minor scrapes, and actually bounced around like a football before coming to a rest on the ground. Even when dropped on its cap, it showed only small scuff marks. There's a possibility that the cap and (less likely) the bottle may shatter when dropped more than 10 feet. However, through normal use, we expect this bottle to survive much more often than fail. Since it's made of plastic, we didn't score it as high as the Klean Kanteen Classic. However, it should also be considered a bottle that will last you a long time.
Throughout our testing, we did not experience any problems in the durability of the retaining strap. Nonetheless, this is the weakest point of the bottle. During any activity where you depend on this bottle as your sole water source, we don't recommend hanging it by its strap.
Watch our drop tests here:
Ease of Cleaning
This product's wide mouth and simple cylindrical body make it a piece of cake to clean. It only took us one minute and thirteen seconds to clean this puppy by hand. Only the Hydro Flask Insulated was faster in our timed cleaning tests with a five second margin.
For reasons stated in our full review, we recommend that your only hand wash this bottle with warm water, soap, and a bottle brush, as opposed to tossing it in the dishwasher. However, we'll obviously leave that decision up to you.
Taking our own measurements, this one came in as our lightest bottle with a rigid body, while the ultra-light collapsibles, the Vapur Element and Platy PlusBottle, both took the champions belt in this category. The Nalgene Wide Mouth also weighs only 0.20 ounces per fluid ounce. Its light weight and large capacity makes it a common favorite for multi-day trips in the backcountry. It also pairs with several water filters, which we'll discuss below.
The Nalgene Wide Mouth has incredible utility in a wide variety of outdoor sports and recreational activities. It has long been a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts. Other manufacturers have even designed water filters and backpack sleeves to fit the Nalgene's signature wide mouth and size.
Adding to its versatility, we found the Nalgene's combination of a translucent bottle with graduated measurements on the outside to be quite helpful when cooking in the backcountry. It takes the guess work out of pouring 8 ounces of water into your macaroni and cheese or instant mashed potatoes when your measuring cups are still sitting in your kitchen at home.
This is a great choice for multi-day backpacking and camping trips, as well as rock and ice climbing. When the temperatures drop and your sleeping bag isn't cutting it, pouring hot water into a Nalgene and putting it at the bottom of the sleeping bag turns it into a handy heater (however, we do NOT recommend drinking the water after doing this given research surrounding plastic chemical leaching and hot liquids). This bottle is also suitable for canoeing and kayaking, and practically any team or individual sport you can play.
This product is exceptionally valuable, and is our pick for Best Buy of all ten water bottles we reviewed. It's really impressive how much utility you can receive from an $11 bottle. It is the second cheapest bottle we reviewed, and fell behind only the Klean Kanteen Classic in usefulness.
There is clearly a reason that the Nalgene Wide Mouth 32 has been so ubiquitous in the world of outdoor recreation for the past few decades. It delivers a durable bottle that is also lightweight and easy to clean. You can mix sports drinks in the bottle without forever ruining the taste of future water refills. It has a few tricks up its sleeve too that make campsite cooking and cold winter nights a little easier. We feel confident using this bottle in just about any backcountry activity. It isn't our first choice for an everyday bottle, but costing only $11, we feel that there's still money in the bank for a bottle more suited for that. If you enjoy the outdoors, you're going to find lots of uses for this bottle.
Other Versions & Accessories
Nalgene has several cap adaptations and accessories to customize your bottle to your liking. The $3.25 Easy Sipper ais available to make to Nalgene easier to use without spilling. Then there is the Pillid cap attachment, which is a mini-compartment that screws onto the top of the body for storing medication, small keys, or whatever you want to store/hide. Nalgene also offers an insulating sleeve called Cool Stuff for $8.50, with the intention of keeping your liquids colder longer. Show below from left to right is the Easy Sipper, the Pillid and the Cool Stuff.
There is also the Nalgene 16 oz ($9) and the Nalgene 48 oz ($10.20) versions if you are looking for a different volume. Below is a side by side comparison of all the sizes from left to right, 16 oz, 32 oz and 48 oz.
If you want to improve the drinking experience, we recommend Nalgene's narrow mouth bottles, which come in 16 oz and 32 oz.
The MSR Miniworks EX is a compatible water filter that screws on to a Nalgene mouth. $90. Otherwise, the SteriPEN Pre-Filter fits into the mouth of a Nalgene to filter out particulates and debris from water.
— Ross Robinson
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Most recent review: May 20, 2015
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