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Hands-on Gear Review
Platypus SoftBottle Review
Cons: Not very durable, difficult to clean, retains flavors
Bottom line: With its unmatched lightweight design and packability, this contender is our Top Pick for Collapsible Bottles.
Compact and lightweight, this is the best of the collapsible models we found on the market. Carrying water without the extra weight of a bottle is a huge advantage when backpacking for multiple days, as well during single-day activities that involve transporting water over long distances. Upon finishing your liquids, it packs up as small as a candy bar for easy stowing in your pack or even pocket. It was brought along on long backpacking expeditions without question. Many of the features that make it great in the backcountry, however, are drawbacks when using it as a lifestyle bottle. It's awkward to drink from, slow to clean, and retains flavors.
The SoftBottle is the bottle you want in your pack when going on long hikes and multi-day expeditions. Being awkward to drink from and hard to clean, though, this is not the bottle of choice for work and play in the urban environment. But, out of the two collapsible bottles we tested, this contender is by far the winner. It fulfills the purpose of a collapsible bottle with ease — it is portable, simple, and easy to fill and collapse.
RELATED REVIEW: The 16 Best Water Bottles of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The chart below combines the scores from the individual performance metrics to give an overall view of how the SoftBottle (shown in blue) compared to its competitors.
Ease of Use
The SoftBottle has a collapsible plastic body and screw-on cap. It has a simple design and only two parts, making it easy to operate. The lid is small and opaque, which definitely runs the risk of becoming misplaced, but as we found out during testing, if you do lose the lid, it is easy to order a replacement online for only a few extra bucks. Another plus for this contender is that it forms to the space available in your pack for easy stowing. The flexible body is also helpful when filling the bottle in shallow streams in the backcountry. It is leak-proof beyond any doubt, and easily rolls up and fits into your pocket when empty.
On the downside, drinking from this collapsible bottle requires a learned skill, and requires two hands. Its soft flexibility makes it flop around when trying to grab a drink, which will lead to spills if you're not careful. This is not a one-handed drinking bottle, but if you're using this bottle, hopefully you are in the backcountry or on some kind of adventure where you will have time to use both hands to hydrate yourself! The bottle tied with the Soma Bottle as the easiest to tip over. This is yet another factor that makes the Softbottle better suited for the great outdoors versus as your work or commute companion.
This contender also has one of the smallest mouths of all bottles we tested, making it hard to fill up from faucets with large or powerful water streams. Only the *bkr had a more narrow mouth and gave us just as much trouble as the Platypus when filling. On this note, if you are planning on purifying your water, the Softbottle requires a different bottle for purification with a filter or a Steri-Pen**, which should be noted if you're planning on taking this bottle into the backcountry. It works well as a back-up but needs another bottle for filling and purification.
Drinking from this water bottle tasted fine at first. However, if you store your water in this bottle for over 24 hours, expect it to have a plastic-y taste. It also retained the taste of the flavored sports drink in subsequent fills. We recommend filling the SoftBottle only with water. This is the downside of the bottle being plastic, and collapsible as the mailable plastic seems to impart its flavor on the liquid more than solid plastic bottles, like the Nalgene or CamelBak eddy bottles.
The SoftBottle also retained a strong taste of soap after washing it. We experienced the same problem with the Nomader BPA Free Collapsible bottle. Fortunately, we were able to return the bottle to a neutral taste after filling it with baking soda and vinegar for 12 hours and rinsing. The best way to use these malleable plastic bottles is to simply use them for drinking water and try not to get other flavors imparted into their plastic walls. For a bottle that does not retain taste, we recommend checking out the Hydro Flask Wide-Mouth, our Editors' Choice winner or the Lifefactory Glass or Soma Water Bottle; all three scored a 9 out of 10 in terms of not having a plastic taste or holding flavors.
The SoftBottle can easily handle your average tumble onto hard surfaces. It breezed through our drop tests, barely suffering a scratch (a minute scratch on the cap was all). However, you can't expect a collapsible bottle to last forever. It held up fine in our three-month review, but in personal experience, we haven't had a collapsible bottle that held up much more than a year. For this reason, we recommend always having another water container as a backup. If you fold the bottle up for storage frequently, the bottle will wear more quickly along the fold lines and could risk having a hole form on the seam.
Even so, the Softbottle is more durable than the Nomader because of its simple design; only two parts (lid and body) make up the Platypus. The Nomader may be more durable in its body, but its lid has so many plastic parts that it seems that the bottle will wear out much faster than the Softbottle, with its simple design.
Ease of Cleaning
This contender was pretty difficult to clean. You'll need a specialized, expensive brush if you want to really get in there. Without such a brush, it took us an average three minutes and 30 seconds to hand wash this bottle. Other bottles, with wide mouths especially (the Nalgene Wide-Mouth, Hydro Flask Wide-Mouth Insulated, or CamelBak eddy), were much easier to clean, but lacked the probability of the Softbottle. That being said, you probably won't be filling this bottle up with coffee or flavorful teas, and a light rinse is enough to get it clean in the backcountry, so it cleans well enough for the settings it is most comfortable in.
The SoftBottle was the weight weenie champion in this metric at 1.3 ounces, weighing the least of the bottles we reviewed. That works out to being only four hundredths of an ounce per fluid ounce. You'll notice the water in your backpack, but not the bottle. There are no bottles that came close in comparison to this contender in terms of weight. It is in this category that the bottle really shines. Other lightweight bottle options are the Nalgene Wide-Mouth or the CamelBak eddy, both of which weight in at around 6 oz, making them light, but still nearly 5 oz heavier than the Softbottle.
The SoftBottle will serve you best in the backcountry. It stows neatly, it's very light, and can handle rugged treatment. This product makes a great backup reservoir and even better primary vessel when equipped with an auxiliary drinking tube. You can even fold it up and fit it in your back pocket, making it the most portable bottle we tested.
At $9, the SoftBottle is a great value bottle for those of us who frequently go on multi-day trips. It is packable and light, and easy to fill from streams. That being said, the value of this bottle significantly drops when using it in the office as your primary bottle. It doesn't stand up well on its own, much like the Soma Bottle, one of our glass contenders. The Platypus is by far the most inexpensive bottle on the list, but the runners-up are the Nalgene Wide Mouth, the Citrus Zinger, and the CamelBak eddy. These all ring in at around $16, but are far more durable and substantial than the Softbottle for use around town.
The Platypus SoftBottle is an ideal bottle for backpacking and traveling. Its lightweight design that makes it nearly perfect for these uses also adds to the drawbacks of the SoftBottle in use around town. The flexible body can collapse into the size of a plastic bag and stows away easily. On the downside, the bottle has trouble standing up on its own on a table and is nearly impossible to drink from using only one hand. For only $9, though, this water bottle is an inexpensive, ideal bottle for those planning on spending lots of time in the backcountry or on hiking trips where pack space and weight are concerns.
— Jane Jackson
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