The lightweight, compact Platypus gets stashed in Eric's back pocket after a ride.
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. The flip cap on the DuoLock is significantly easier to drink from than the SoftBottle.
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. 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.
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.
We gave the Hydrapak Stow our highest marks in this metric (in terms of soft-sided bottles) because its soft silicone body seemed more durable than the Platypus model's hard, malleable plastic.
Ease of Cleaning
This contender was pretty difficult to clean. You'll need a specialized brush if you want to really get in there. Without such a brush, it took us an average of three minutes and 30 seconds to hand wash this bottle. Other bottles, with wide mouths especially (the Nalgene Wide-Mouth or CamelBak Eddy+), were much easier to clean. 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 weighs just 1.2 ounces. 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. It is in this category that the bottle really shines. The DuoLock is (almost literally) a hair more weight, but it's a negligible difference. The added weight to the DuoLock makes it easier to use than the original SoftBottle.
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 rigid plastic bottles, like the Nalgene.
The SoftBottle also retained a strong taste of soap after washing it. This is common with plastic bottles, especially soft-sided bottles like the Platypus SoftBottle. The Hyrdapak Stow also had a bit of lingering soapy flavor after washing it initially.
Fortunately, we were able to return both bottles to a neutral taste after filling them 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.
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.
Great for traveling because it packs down to nothing, the Platypus fits pretty much anywhere.
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 SoftBottle is an ideal bottle for backpacking and traveling. The 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.