At $40, the Hydro Flask Insulated was one of the most expensive of all 16 bottles we reviewed. However, we still found it had good value. Its vacuum-insulated, 32-fluid-ounce body does a great job at keeping a lot of liquids hot or cold for extended amounts of time, regardless of the external temperature. Considering that you'll likely use your insulated bottle for a wide variety of drinks, this bottle is an excellent choice because it resists retaining flavors from previous fills.
The Hydro Flask, though known for keeping hot beverages hot, proved to be our favorite cragging bottle by keeping water cold all day long in the sun.
Ease of Use
This award winner looks a lot like a classic Nalgene Wide-Mouth, with added insulation. It has a simple design of body and cap connected by a retaining strap. The strap is more sturdy than that on the Nalgene, and can be used to clip it to a pack for storage. However, due to its heavier weight, we still wouldn't recommend relying on the retaining strap when in motion, especially if the bottle is full. Comparatively, the Yeti Rambler has a carrying loop that is integrated into the plastic of the lid, so there is no chance of breaking it off. Also, the Yeti has a wider mouth than the HydroFlask, for even more room when drinking from and filling the bottle.
The vacuum insulated body works very well. When we filled it with ice and left it sitting, the ice did melt just before 24 hours. However, our drink was still very cold well past 24 hours. Additionally, your ice water will not make this bottle sweat, even in the hot yoga studio or in the blazing sun at the crag. With hot liquids, there is a small discrepancy in our tests. Hydro Flask claims to keep hot liquids hot for a period of 12 hours. In our tests, it was only about half that.
When filled with ice water, you can leave this bottle under the sun for hours and still open it up to find chunks of ice and a drink cold enough to give you a brain freeze.
At 12 hours, our coffee was only lukewarm. Six hours was sufficient for most of our needs, however. Filled with hot coffee in the morning, you can still have hot coffee inside after your lunch break. When ice climbing with this bottle in freezing temperatures, it still kept our tea hot for over six hours. And not just a little cup of hot tea, but almost a whole liter! All four of us climbing that day were very thankful that we'd packed this award winner.
The Hydro Flask's insulating qualities make it stand out as the Top Pick for stainless steel, insulated bottles.
This water bottle has some features that, although you might not notice them all immediately, do improve the drinking experience. First is its size. We almost didn't believe that an insulated bottle could hold such a large volume (32 oz) without being the size of a small cooler. It's thinner than the Nalgene and although taller is easier to hold in your hands. Also helping your grip is the matte finish on the body's exterior. It looks great and feels great in your hands, despite being wider than eight of the other bottles reviewed. The matte texture of the bottle is similar to that of the Klean Kanteen Vacuum Insulated and the Contigo Thermalock, and was what gave these bottles such a nice feel in the hand. Lastly, the rim of the mouth is slightly rounded off, providing more comfort to your lips than the Klean Kanteen Insulated.
Filling this bottle from a variety of water sources is easy, due to its wide mouth. This simultaneously means there is a good chance that when moving and drinking, you'll also get a complimentary face wash/chin dribble. Especially if you're drinking a liquid that could stain your clothes, make sure you sit tight for a moment as you take a swig. On the other hand, this bottle definitely will not leak when fully closed, even if oriented upside down. Overall, we enjoyed using and drinking from the Hydro Flask.
From coffee to tea to flavored electrolyte drinks, the Hydro Flask does an impressive job at losing flavors and keeping your drinks tasting just the way you want them to.
The Hydro Flask rocked this category. For some of our testers, it was the first metal bottle they had ever used that did not impart a metallic taste on its contents. That's a huge plus. It also did an incredible job of keeping its contents tasting fresh. In our 24-hour water taste test, the award winner tied with the Nalgene Wide-Mouth in keeping its contents tasting as close to fresh as possible, again imparting no funky tastes from the bottle or cap materials.
This bottle also fared well in our flavor retention test. After filling the bottle with a sports drink mix, hand washing it, refilling it with water, and taste testing it for any residual flavors, the testers could only detect a slight scent of the sports drink. There was no flavor of the sports drink retained. Only the glass Lifefactory Flip Cap bottle scored better in this test.
We think the Hydro Flask is an excellent choice for a variety of hot and cold liquids like coffee, tea, smoothies, and ice water. It doesn't impart metallic taste, and its ability to resist flavor retention — even coffee! — was unmatched.
When filling the insulated bottles with hot flavored liquids like coffee, we found a clear difference between the Hydro Flask Insulated and the Klean Kanteen Insulated. Drinks like coffee tend to leave a stronger taste imprint than cold flavored beverages. The Klean Kanteen retained the taste and smell of coffee, even after a thorough washing with baking soda and vinegar left to soak for 12 hours. Conversely, the Hydro Flask only retained a slight taste and smell of our brew following normal hand washing. Furthermore, after following the same thorough washing method of baking soda and vinegar as its competition, the Hydro Flask no longer retained any coffee flavor. We were happy that no matter what liquid we put into this Editors' Choice winner, we could always return it back to its original taste status.
The wide mouth makes it easy to fill up the Hydro Flask just about anywhere.
When we received this bottle, we expected it to be a very durable product. Being made of stainless steel and feeling substantial in our hands, we thought that it would take its fair share of punches in the ring. The downside to the Hydro Flask's girth is, when it is full of water it is even heavier, and thus impacts the ground with more force. During our drop tests, the Hydro Flask sustained a few dents in the bottom where it hit the floor. Other stainless steel bottles dented in this same way when dropped, both Klean Kanteens and the Avex Brazos Autoseal Stainless, but these dents did little to affect the actual effectiveness of the bottle. Unlike a plastic or glass container, a stainless one will dent, but will not shatter.
In previous years, the cap shattered during the drop test, but it should be noted that we filled out the very user-friendly warranty claim on Hydro Flask's website in all of one minute. Two hours later, we received an email saying that a replacement cap was on its way to us at no charge, with no questions asked (and we didn't mention that we were from a gear review website). That is definitely uncommon customer service that indicates their dedication to their products and consumers. Nice one, Hydro Flask. So, if you do accidentally drop your bottle and it breaks, this company is very forgiving. And with less clumsy hands, this bottle is going to last you a long time.
Watch the drop tests here:
Ease of Cleaning
This award winner was the quickest and easiest to clean in our tests. Having only two simple parts, it only took us an average of one minute and eight seconds to clean by hand with the help of a bottle brush. The manufacturer recommends not washing this bottle in the dishwasher, as it could affect its ability to insulate. Other bottles that compared to the Hydro in terms of cleaning were the Nalgene Wide-Mouth, the CamelBak eddy, the Avex Brazos Autoseal Stainless, and the Contigo Thermalock, all of which have wide mouths. It should be noted that some of these bottles had more intricate lids that added to the difficulty of cleaning, but overall their main bodies were similarly easy to clean because of wide mouths.
Using our own scale, the empty Hydro Flask weighed in just under a pound at 14.8 ounces. We found this to be pretty impressive, considering its size. In comparison to the 20 oz. Klean Kanteen Insulated, the Hydro Flask holds 12 more ounces, but only weighs 1.6 ounces more (when empty). The lightest bottle in all of our tests was the Nalgene Wide-Mouth, Klean Kanteen Classic, and Platypus SoftBottle; however, it's important to note that two of the three previously mentioned bottles are made of plastic.
We found the Hydro Flask to be more versatile than the Klean Kanteen Insulated due to its larger volume. While its insulating abilities make it a perfect choice for hot and cold drinks in the office, its volume is also great enough to last you a full workout without having to constantly refill it. Completely a comfort thing, we also liked that it didn't sweat in hot gyms. Its resistance to carrying over flavors from past fills also makes it a great choice for pretty much any liquid you want to put in it. Just wash it out thoroughly before going from hot chocolate to ice water (or coffee to another brew).
The beauty of the Hydro Flask is its simplicity. Its two parts, lid and body, are easy to clean, simple and sleek. The bottle is heavy, but it makes up for it in all other categories.
Besides its advantages in the urban environment, we also liked taking this bottle on rock and ice climbing day trips, as well as car camping. The contents aren't affected by the external temps, making it equally handy on hot summer days under the sun as well as bitterly cold winter days. Having a big pot of hot coffee/tea to share with your climbing partners can be the difference between hitting another route or calling it a day.
This Editors' Choice award winner is the most expensive bottle that we reviewed, ringing in at $40. If you're just looking for a water bottle to mostly fill with water to keep you hydrated, this probably isn't the bottle for you. The Nalgene Wide-Mouth was our Best Buy Award; for $11, you can take home a bottle that offers excellent quality at a great value. However, if you need a versatile bottle with exceptional insulating properties, this bottle is worth its price tag. For what it matters, we think this bottle has a smooth look, too. We also feel that the warranty policy increases the value of this bottle.
Not only is this bottle impressive in how it insulates, the designers also took the time to make it comfortable and easy to use and clean. We enjoyed drinking liquids x, y, and z at the temperature we put them into the bottle. Its volume didn't limit it to being a travel mug, but rather allowed us to use it to hydrate our workouts in the climbing gym and yoga studio. We found ourselves taking this contender many more places than we expected upon receiving it for this review. It does cost a pretty penny, but it also delivers. The bottle comes in numerous different colors, has a simple design, and it versatile to boot. On top of it all, the company's great customer service and warranty policy shows how much the Hydro Flask team believes in its product and values its customers. For these reasons and then some, the Hydro Flask has earned our Editors' Choice and Top Pick for Stainless Steel Bottles awards.