After researching 55+ of the best water bottles, we chose the top 16 to test over two months of heavy use. We selected nearly every style from stainless steel (insulated and non-insulated) and plastic models, as well as glass and collapsible options. We even have an option with a built in filter (we LOVED it). After long hikes and bike rides to office work and yoga classes, our testers made some surprising discoveries. Along with comparing how each water bottle handled an active lifestyle, our experts also measured things like how each bottle affected the taste of its contents and how well they kept drinks at their desired temperature. We compared them time and time again to help you select the best one for your lifestyle.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated Fall 2017
This September we added an exciting notable product: the Katadyn BeFree. It's a top pick for portability in our backpacking water filter review. The more we used it, more we felt it also deserved a mention in this review. It's changed how we hike, bike and backpack. We no longer carry a large water bottle or hydration pack with bladder on long excursions. More details below and in our article how to choose a water bottle.
Overall Top Choice
Hydro Flask Wide-Mouth Insulated
The Hydro Flask's durability and overall design impressed us. That, combined with the ease-of-use and cleaning gave it the highest score. Though it is heavier than its plastic counterparts, we like that the Hydro Flask kept our drinks hot on chilly days and cold on hot ones. From carrying around town to long backcountry hikes, we were always happy to take the Hydro Flask. The rim is smooth for sipping from and doesn't get hot when full of hot liquid. The carrying handle is simple and comfortable, and not too bulky. Also, if you want to change out the lid for some reason, Hydro Flask offers a variety of lid options.
Effective insulation for hot and cold beverages
Comfortable carrying handle
Many color options
Minimal flavor retention
Easy to clean
2017 brought the Hydro Flask competition. The 36oz Yeti Rambler came close to rising to the top as the Top Pick for Stainless Steel but fell short only because the it was a bit too heavy to be useful. Check out the full review of the Yeti Rambler if you're looking for an even sturdier version of the Hydro Flask.
Read review: Hydro Flask Wide-Mouth
Budget Friendly Winner
For top value, look no further than the Nalgene Wide-Mouth, which also scores at the top for plastic water bottles. Its simple design has been an iconic staple for a good reason. It's durable, lightweight, and easy to clean, and is a useful measuring tool when you're in the backcountry with the graduations labeled on the side. Also, because Nalgene has been around for so long, many water bottle accessories (i.e. water filters, insulators, and backpack bottle sleeves) have been made to fit the Nalgene's particular mouth size and shape. This award winner deserves its popularity, and if you want to customize, the classic Nalgene comes in a variety of sizes and shapes.
Popular, for good reason
Resists flavor retention
Simple and lightweight
Easy to fill
Too large for most cup holders
Spills if moving while drinking
Read review: Nalgene Wide-Mouth
Top Pick for Lightweight Stainless
Miir Slate 27
A new addition to our fleet for Spring 2017, the Miir Slate 27oz stood out as a new contender in the lightweight stainless steel category. In the past, Klean Kanteen and Hydro Flask have dominated this category, but this contender proved to be tough competition. If a heavy duty, vacuum insulated water bottle is too much, then these lighter weight plastic alternatives are the way to go. This model is lighter and more durable than glass and cleaner than the friendliest BPA free plastic models on the market. It weighs less than the Klean Kanteen Classic and has a unique lid design that makes the bottle easy to carry and the lid easy to remove. It was lightweight, portable, and versatile. Its simple design made the Miir 27oz the one we reached for on our way out the door.
Easy to use lid
Paint Scratches Easily
Top Pick for Collapsible Bottle
In the collapsible category; the Platypus Softbottle won by a landslide. As a lightweight option, the Platypus has it all. It's easy to fill, from a shallow stream to a tiny sink, and it collapses down to the size of an empty plastic bag. Its collapsible features make it a great option for backpacking or climbing, where real estate is precious inside a backpack. The Platypus has trouble standing up on a flat surface, but it is better suited for the dirt and rocks anyway. It's difficult to clean since it has such a narrow mouth, but at only $8, it's hard to expect the Platypus to last that long anyway.
Very packable and lightweight
No frills design
Hard to clean
Read review: Platypus Softbottle
For Long Hikes and Backpacking (Built-in Filter)
When used properly, this water bottle revolutionizes how much weight you hike, backpack or bike with. We take this on any outing of 3+ hours if we know there is a stream or lake. If you know where the water is, "be a camel" and drink a lot at each water source then carry only the amount you need to the next stream. Your daypack can weigh 2-6 pounds less throughout the day - a HUGE bonus. As a bonus, you drink water that is as cold and refreshing as the stream source. In our experience, you load up on water and stay better hydrated than carrying a full activities worth of water from the start and feeling you need to ration. For the ultimate combo, also bring the Softbottle mentioned above and refill the Plus from the BeFree.
Filters waters as you drink
Lightweight and compact
The flip side is that the BeFree might instill overconfidence. If the stream that you're counting on doesn't materialize, you could be in trouble. The cap design is poor for one-handed operation and you really have to close it to prevent leaks. At first, the taste is not great due to the filter - but it quickly gets better. Those few downsides aside, it's hard to overstate how much we love the BeFree. Most products just get a little better. This product might totally change how much water you have to carry and therefore your comfort on the trail.
Read review: Katadyn BeFree
Top Pick for Glass Bottle
Lifefactory Glass Flip Cap
In addition to the Soma Bottle and the tried and tested favorite, the Lifefactory Glass Flip Cap, we also checked out the new BKR bottle. Out of the three, the Lifefactory still proved to be our favorite. It is durable and practical, with different lid options if the flip cap design is not for you. The Lifefactory is small and portable, making it a great lifestyle option. In general, glass water bottles are becoming more and more popular as consumers seek alternatives to plastic since they are considered to be safe from chemical leaching. The LifeFactory's narrow shape is easily carried by hand, or by the carrying handle, and it fits nicely into most cup holders. No other option provides the portability of the Lifefactory while still evoking the feeling of drinking from a glass in the kitchen. Impressively, it also passed our drop tests, due to its silicone sleeve. If cared for properly, it will last.
Nice shape for carrying
Durable silicone casing
Easy to clean
Problematic flip cap
Read review: Lifefactory Glass Flip Cap
Analysis and Test Results
This year, we decided to break down the water bottles into categories based on the material used, except for the collapsible class, which are also plastic but perform a unique function versus your typical plastic option. This left us with four main categories: metal (stainless steel, both insulated and non-insulated in the same category), plastic (all BPA-free models), collapsible, and glass. From there, we chose the top pick in each material category.
When selecting your choice, there are a few things to consider. Do I want metal, glass or plastic? A screw cap or a straw for sipping? Do I need it to regulate the temperature of my drinks for extended amounts of time? The models tested for this review hosted a variety of differences in materials, lid types, volume, insulation, and even rigidity. To help you navigate the increasingly varied world, we've outlined the primary features, advantages, and disadvantages of each major category.
Types of Models
You can categorize water bottles by activity, by size, and by design. However, this review is organized around the materials used in the design of these products. This is especially critical since the materials used to produce such bottles have become a topic of increasing debate. Although plastic bottles can offer advantages in weight, versatility, and price, many consumers prefer metal and glass due to potential health concerns of storing liquids in plastic containers. We've highlighted the pros and cons of each type, as well as dug into the main issue concerning plastic.
We scored all 16 models using the results from five criteria: ease of use, taste, durability, ease of cleaning, and weight. The most important area that we focused on was ease of use because that is what separates one water bottle from the next each time you use it. Besides carrying these bottles around for three months, we put them through various tests indoors. Following the chart below, we summarize how we tested within each criterion. For additional information on differentiating between the different types of bottles, consider reading over our Buying Advice article, which you'll find at the top of the review.
Ease of Use
As hydration is the main purpose, we measured how easy (or difficult) it is to fill up and drink. We also considered the likelihood of spilling when drinking, and we noted any signs of leakage. We also evaluated lid design and the ubiquitous carrying handle.
Overall, we felt that simpler was better when it came to ease of use. We found some of these bottles to have too many features and were difficult to learn how to use effectively. The Nalgene Wide Mouth and the Hydro Flask Vacuum Insulated, both winners in their perspective categories, were our favorites due to their simplicity.
In general, the wider the mouth, the easier to fill, but also the more difficult it was to drink from. Somewhat of a surprise, we really enjoyed drinking from the AVEX Brazos Autoseal Stainless. The AUTOSEAL lid mechanism works very well, allowing users to get a quick and easy gulp without unscrewing any caps; it also passed our leak test. The Klean Kanteen Vacuum Insulated scored well here as well since it was simple and easy to use. The Klean Kanteen Classic scored lower because of the sport cap, which we found to be difficult to drink from. On both Klean Kanteen models, the width of the opening was wide enough for easy filling and ice cubes, but small enough to drink from without spilling.
The CamelBak eddy lost points here because it fails the leak test and provides only a slow flow of water. Although it didn't leak much, it's more than we want to end up on our laptops/phones. The straw design was quick to use but did not allow for satisfactory gulps. It's for sipping, not gulping, which we found annoying when we needed water the most (like during workouts). The Platypus SoftBottle lost points since it's awkward to drink from and easy to knock over, while the Lifefactory Glass lost points because the shape of the spout sent water up our nose if we weren't careful when tipping it back to drink quickly. The carrying handle of the Contigo Thermalock was awkward to use and strangely shaped, discouraging us from using it when carrying the bottle around.
Not only do we want to hydrate, but we also want the water to taste good. Some water bottles imparted flavors on the liquids they contain, a characteristic that we did not appreciate. And if you store liquids like flavored drink mixes and coffee for a day, some bottles retain that taste and pass it on to the next thing you put in, even after washing.
For our taste metric, we combined the results from three separate tests performed on each model. First, we filled each bottle and took a drink to check for any immediate effects on taste. Second, we left them filled with water for 24 hours before taste testing them again. Finally, we filled each one with a flavored sports drink mix, left them sitting for 24 hours, emptied the bottles, and hand washed each bottle with soap and warm water. Then, we filled each with tap water, and taste tests were conducted to see if we could detect any residual flavors from the sports drink.
If your bottle is retaining flavors, soak it in a mixture of 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp vinegar, then fill with water. Let it sit overnight, following up in the morning with a thorough rinsing.
All glass bottles, the Lifefactory, bkr, and the Soma came out with top scores in this category. They did not impart flavors to the water and kept water relatively fresh-tasting, even in our 24-hour test. Furthermore, both bottles proved resistant to retaining flavors from other non-water liquids used to fill the bottle. None scored perfectly in this test, as the drink mix was detectable in each model. However, the effect on taste was very minimal in the glass bottles, and after cleaning them again with baking soda and vinegar, they returned to "like new" tastes.
Two plastic options, the Nalgene and AVEX Brazos, also scored well in this metric. The other plastic bottles did not fare as well here, with the two collapsible bottles, the Platypus SoftBottle and Nomader, retaining strong flavors of sports drink and even soap. The Nomader also left a rubbery taste in the water the first few times we used it. The straw of the CamelBak eddy also imparted a strong rubbery taste to the water, and also retained the flavor of the sports drink rather significantly. The stainless steel models fell in the middle of the pack in these tests, neither soaring nor flailing.
Durability is a major determining factor in value, especially if you're relying on only one vessel as your water source. Going from stream to stream in the backcountry, you need to know that your bottle won't break and leave you without water. Based on years of outdoor experience, the OutdoorGearLab team knows that collapsible models tend to be less durable than their rigid counterparts due to frequent stress on flex points. Meanwhile, the bodies of rigid contenders are usually very durable but often have failure points on the lids. To come up with a score in this category, we considered the type of material used for the bottle and cap. The stainless steel and rigid plastic models scored at the top of the materials test, with glass falling in the middle and collapsible bottles scoring the lowest.
Each bottle got two drop tests. We filled each with water and dropped them 3.5 feet onto a concrete surface, once on the bottom of the bottle and once on the cap. The Platypus Softbottle and Nomander proved that its flexible properties allow them to take a serious hit, walking away almost entirely unscathed. We did have some bottles fail the drop test.
The AVEX Brazos busted when its bottom hit the hard ground, while the Contigo both broke when dropped on its cap. All the other bottles survived with minor cosmetic damages. The biggest surprise in our drop tests was that the bkr and Lifefactory walked away with its integrity intact. The silicone sleeve and plastic cap did a sufficient job of absorbing the impact force, keeping the glass from shattering. The Klean Kanteen Insulated, Nalgene Wide-Mouth, Klean Kanteen Classic, and Yeti Rambler all earned high scores in the durability metric.
Ease of Cleaning
Even the dirtiest outdoor enthusiasts wash their bottles once in a while. At least, we hope they do. In this metric, we used a standard bottle brush and timed how long it took to hand-wash each contender. Although some of these are labeled as dishwasher-safe, we decided to rate with hand-washing times for two reasons: 1) Not everyone has access to a dishwasher, especially in the great outdoors, and 2) As you read above, we do not recommend washing plastic components in the dishwasher. Lastly, we also factored in the number of parts and their complexity.
In general, the wider the mouth of the bottle, the easier it was to clean. The Hydro Flask Insulated, Nalgene, and Yeti bottles scored the highest in this category. They are all simple designs with wide mouths, allowing for quick and easy cleaning.
On the other side of the spectrum were the bottles with complex parts, including the CamelBak eddy and the Citrus Zinger. The Nomader and Platypus Softbottle proved particularly challenging to clean as well. Our bottle brush was too large to fit inside these bottles, and they required many cycles of rinsing to reduce the taste of soap left behind. We also found that dirt and other debris tended to stick to the Nomader more than other bottles due to its rubbery, soft design.
We highly recommend purchasing a bottle brush to make cleaning your bottles quicker and easier (and less frustrating!).
Although less consequential in day-to-day use, the weight of an empty bottle is a major factor when considering which to use on long hikes and multi-day backpacking trips. In this sense, a lighter bottle provides the versatility that a heavier bottle does not. When scoring in this category, we weighed the bottles using our OutdoorGearLab scale and divided by the volume to find out how heavy each bottle is per fluid ounce (oz./fluid oz.).
The Platypus SoftBottle weighs in as the lightest at only 1.2 oz. The other plastic models also scored well in this category, as did the Klean Kanteen Insulated. The insulated stainless steel models fell toward the bottom, but it was the glass bottles that came in last in this category.
We like the combination of a rigid and a collapsible bottle for multi-day backpacking treks. We prefer the rigid bottle as our primary drinking vessel and the collapsible as a backup reservoir.
Hydration Alternatives and Accessories
While we believe a water bottle to be essential to anyone's gear arsenal, it might not be all you need. There are alternatives available that perform better than bottles in certain situations, such as when moving and times when you need both hands-free. For this, there are hydration bladders and hydration packs, some of which are excellent performers for specific activities. Below we've highlighted some of the uses and qualities of these alternatives.
a hydration bladder like the Geigerrig Hydration Engine include hands-free usage and larger volumes. The bladder, a collapsible reservoir ranging from one to several liters in volume, is attached to a hose that you suck on to draw water into your mouth. On long hikes, these are easier to use for hydration than a water bottle that you have to dig out of your pack each time you need a drink. Most backpacks made today come equipped with a hole for the hydration tube, and some even have a special compartment for a bladder. The downside to hydration bladders is that they are less durable, have shorter lifespans, and are harder to clean (than bottles). And in the office, we recommend a bottle over a bladder.
Hydration packs like the CamelBak M.U.L.E. are usually lighter than most backpacks and have proper ventilation, making them more comfortable on long days. They make drinking on the move a breeze, and their convenience helps you to stay fully hydrated. Most also feature pockets for storing additional items such as food, first aid kits, and tools. Like hydration bladders, they also are harder to clean and have shorter life spans than bottles. It's also harder to ration your water with these packs. Lastly, hydration packs cost significantly more than bottles.
Running Hydration Packs
complete running pack review.
Mountain Bike Hydration Packs
We tested many water bottles in many settings and found a big performance gap. There is no "one bottle for all activities". Instead, we lay out the ideal model for each use. Models for long hikes, bike rides, or climbing trips differ from the bottles used at work or taken to the gym. That is why weight and type of material used for the bottle were the most important factors in our tests.
— Jane Jackson
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.