This year, we continued our quest for the ultimate collapsible water bottle, leading up to an exciting development from Hydrapak — a company we were more familiar with for their large-capacity reservoirs than their smaller bottles. The Hydrapak Stow wowed us with its durable, soft material, easy-to-use lid design, and overall innovative design that felt like a step in the right direction for collapsible bottle technology. Though its material is soft, the one-liter Stow we tested seems built to last, and its lid seemed to outsmart us with its leak-proof design. For performance per dollar, though, the Platypus DuoLock SoftBottle remains our Top Pick among the collapsible models. The competition was close.
Hydrapak Stow Review
Cons: Expensive, lacks versatility, tips over very easily
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Hydrapak Stow is a smart, sleek, and well-designed bottle that ups the ante in the realm of collapsible bottles. We were most excited about the feel of the container and its clever, leak-proof lid.
Ease of Use
Our past grievances with collapsible bottles make up a long list; they are notoriously hard to fill, they lack durability and structure, are tough to clean — we could go on, but we will spare you. These issues we have encountered in the past have made us approach new collapsible bottles with weariness and a particularly critical eye. The Hydrapak Stow impressed us this year, with its smart, simple design that focuses on durability and ease of use. The bottle is a small, square shape — slightly wider, but shorter than the Platypus DuoLock, which has the same capacity. Both bottles are unstable when standing on their own, but the DuoLock does a better job than the Stow. The Stow, however, is more compact both when full and when collapsed, than the Platypus.
We were also pleasantly surprised by the lid on the Stow. Though the cap has a small opening for filling, which is common among collapsible bottles, the sport cap was thoughtfully designed. The cap opens with a few twists. We were worried that this simple twisting cap would open accidentally and leak in our bags, but it's designed with a leak-proof feature that makes the cap act as a one-way valve. Even when open, the sport cap won't leak water! We were impressed. That said, we found the Stow's lid to narrowly fall behind the clever DuoLock technology on the Platypus DuoLock. Lastly, we also like the mL measurements on the side of the bottle. The marks were easy to read and helpful in keeping track of our hydration throughout the day.
The lightweight nature of collapsible bottles makes them prone to failures in this metric. Overall, we found the Stow to do well overall in comparison to other collapsible bottles in durability. The bottle is made of BPA-free Thermoplastic Polyurethane, which creates a soft, malleable bladder that lacks the hard edges that are prone to cracking — like those of the Platypus. The Stow seems to be set up for relative longevity with its soft-sided construction. Instead of folding, like the Platypus DuoLock seemed to do, the Stow rolls up when empty, eliminating creases that can also be prone to wear and tear.
The area where the Stow seemed most prone to failure was around the cap. Since there isn't anything to twist against, we found that we twisted the soft bottle itself to ensure the cap tightened down. This is a minor grievance, and it didn't fail us during the test period, but we do see the potential for future wear in this specific area.
Ease of Cleaning
Like the Platypus SoftBottle and the Platypus Meta, the Hydrapak Stow is not designed to be cleaned easily. The narrow mouth makes it nearly impossible to get a bottle brush in there. On the plus side, the mouth and lid are easy to clean. We found it best to use the Stow for only water, to avoid lingering tastes and to increase the longevity of the bottle. Larger-mouth bottles, like the Nalgene Wide-Mouth or the Simple Modern Summit are much easier to clean. That said, with care, the Stow lasts with a few rinses here and there.
It comes as no surprise that this malleable, soft-bodied bottle retains a bit of flavor. Plastic bottles tend to retain tastes of electrolyte drinks and other drink mixes for most of their lifespan, and the Hydrapak Stow is no different. As we mentioned above, we found it best to use the Stow as a bottle dedicated only to water if flavor retention is a concern. The spout has many places where flavors can linger, and the material seems to trap flavor as well.
Though not as light as the Platypus DuoLock or the SoftBottle, the Hydrapak Stow is still in the front of the pack in terms of weight. The Stow weighs in at 2 ounces — making it a hair heavier than the Platypus models. We liked the added bit of durability we got with the Stow's soft, silicone body and didn't mind the unnoticeable extra weight when using this bottle as our go-to on hikes and airplane travel.
Like the majority of the collapsible bottles in this review, the Stow is best used in an outdoor setting. Though it does stand up on its own, it is not designed to hang out on a desk or table. This bottle is for those on the go; from traveling to hiking to climbing, the Stow is great for times where saving space is key. In any of these situations, this bottle can be rolled up and shoved into a bag when empty to reduce the amount of space it takes up. We especially liked this bottle for travel, where it could be stored in a carry-on until we were through security and able to refill it easily.
With a slightly higher price tag than any of the Platypus bottles in this review, the Stow is a bit more of an investment for a collapsible bottle. It retails for $17, whereas the Platypus SoftBottle and the Platypus DuoLock sell for $9 and $14, respectively.
Overall, we were impressed by the Hydrapak Stow 1L. The soft bladder, leak-proof sport cap, and the bottle's ability to store compactly were the main selling points for us. Though we have been fans of the Platypus collapsible bladders for a long time, the overall feel and durable nature of the Stow is a nice change. We were also impressed with the small touches, like the lid and the clip loop that then secures the bottle when rolled. Though the Stow is a bit pricey for a collapsible bottle, we approve of the overall design and performance of this bottle. In general, we still recommend the Platypus DuoLock to our friends looking for a collapsible bottle. But if you've tried and didn't like the more rigid Platypus models, the Stow might be right up your alley.
— Jane Jackson