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Hands-on Gear Review
Nalgene Wide-Mouth Review
Cons: Diameter too big for cup holders, wide mouth makes it difficult to drink from when walking or driving
Bottom line: A tried and tested classic, the Wide Mouth wins again as our Top Pick for Plastic, as well as the Best Bang for your Buck bottle.
The terms "Nalgene" and "water bottle" are often used as synonyms, reflecting on this bottle's continuing popularity over the last decade and more. A time-tested classic, it is as good as plastic gets for most folks getting active in the outdoors. It's simple, durable, inexpensive, and versatile. 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 Wide Mouth has remained unchanged. As they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. This 32-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. It is so light and easy to use, we even found ourselves carrying it around town, though it really shines as an outdoor adventure bottle.
The 32 oz Nalgene 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 in the individual metrics.
RELATED REVIEW: The 16 Best Water Bottles of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The chart below shows how the tried-and-true Nalgene (displayed in blue) stacks up to the rest of the competition.
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 Wide-Mouth Insulated. This allows you to take a gulp while hanging off a cliff without having to worry about losing your cap. We used the retaining strap for clipping onto our pack, but this isn't necessarily recommended.
The Nalgene boasts one of the widest mouth of all 16 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 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 harder 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 number of times we had to fill it, the bottle feels substantial in hand. We found the other bottles, especially the Klean Kanteen Classic and Lifefactory Glass Flip Cap, 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 Wide Mouth fell back from the top of the pack in this metric.
Leakage is not a problem whatsoever with our Best Buy winner. It passed our leak test with a score of 100 percent. We gave this bottle our complete confidence, and it did not fail us when being jumbled around inside backpacks while cycling and hiking. 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 Wide Mouth performed just a fraction of a point below the Lifefactory and Soma Water Bottle. 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 like flavor in our water from the Nalgene's body. It was no fresh springwater, but it also lacked any flavors imparted from the body, unlike the CamelBak eddy, the Platypus SoftBottle, or the Klean Kanteen Vacuum Insulated. If you plan on using your bottle for liquids other than water, you need not fear the Nalgene. 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 Wide Mouth 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. After cleaning with 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 strong bottle. The plastic body and cap can endure many drops and tumbles and still maintain their integrity. In our drop tests, the Nalgene only suffered minor scrapes, and 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 regular use, we expect this bottle to survive much more often than fail. Since it's constructed from 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. Similarly, the CamelBak eddy and CamelBak Chute held up in the drop tests and would be equally durable options.
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 took us a little over a minute to clean this bottle by hand. Only the Hydro Flask Wide-Mouth Insulated was faster in our timed cleaning tests with a five-second margin. Any wide mouth bottle with a simple lid should compare in terms of ease of cleaning. This makes bottles like the Avex Brazos Autoseal or the LifeFactory Flip Cap runners up to the Nalgene and Hydro Flask.
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 leave that decision up to you.
Taking OutdoorGearLab measurements, this one came in as our lightest bottle with a rigid body. After testing, the Wide Mouth was the lightest and easiest to use, even beating out the collapsable bottles that both fell short due to shortcomings in durability, the Platypus SoftBottle, and the ineffective design of the Nomader Collapsible bottle. The Wide Mouth also weighs only 0.20 ounces per fluid ounce. Its light weight and large capacity make it a common favorite for multi-day trips in the backcountry. It also pairs with several water filters, which we'll discuss below.
The 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 eight 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 model is an excellent 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 16 water bottles we reviewed. It's 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.
— Jane Jackson
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