Best Water Bottle of 2020
Best Overall Water Bottle
YETI Rambler 26
The Yeti Rambler remains our favorite all-around water bottle this season, despite tough competition from Hydro Flask. The bottle's impressive insulating abilities, wide mouth, and perfect size make it our top recommendation. It's small and portable, yet easy to fill and clean with its wide mouth. It's easy to fill the bottle with ice cubes, eat a smoothie out of it with a spoon, or sip on hot tea without burning your lips on the rim. Also, the mouth is specifically designed so that your nose won't hit the rim. It provides a smooth and pleasant drinking experience no matter what you fill it with.
Though the list of positives is long, we should also mention a few hang-ups we have with this bottle. Like most things Yeti makes, this bottle is far from lightweight. Its durable, bulky design includes significant weight compared to its competitors. Additionally, the Yeti costs a pretty penny. However, we believe it's a good investment because the bottle lasts a long time and works in a wide range of situations. For hot and cold beverage diversity in a bottle, this is the one.
Read review: Yeti Rambler 26
Best Bang for the Buck
If you are looking for a simple, affordable, easy to use bottle, look no further than the Nalgene Wide-Mouth. It's no wonder this classic bottle is ubiquitous in the outdoor world. It is durable, light, easy to use and clean, and together these attributes combine to make it one of the top-ranked plastic models we tested. The mL and ounce measuring markers on the side are an added bonus for backcountry cooking and keeping tabs on your hydration. Because these bottles have dominated the market for so long, many backpacking accessories are designed to fit the Nalgene perfectly — think water filters, insulators, and backpack water bottle pockets. It also comes in an endless variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, so you can choose one to match your style.
Not everyone wants to drink from plastic. If that's you, look elsewhere. However, for those who spend time in the outdoors, it's hard to imagine a more classic piece of gear than the Nalgene. Simply put, it works well.
Read review: Nalgene Wide-Mouth
Great Value for an Insulated Bottle
Simple Modern Summit
Each year, there seem to be more and more choices for insulated stainless steel bottles. Most of them cost a pretty penny, making insulated bottles the most expensive drinking vessels out there. When we came across the Simple Modern Summit, we were thrilled to finally see an affordable option out there. This bottle retails for almost half the price of the name-brand staples. We were excited about the interchangeable lids (a classic screw top or a flip cap for hot beverages) and how useful they were at keeping the bottle clean and flavors separate.
The lower price tag, however, seems to come with a few drawbacks. Though it comes in a variety of color options, we noticed that our test model got chipped and scratched fairly quickly. We also found it challenging to keep track of the two lids, and often didn't have the right one when we wanted it. The flip cap is not confidence-inspiring for tossing the bottle into a backpack and it held onto flavors more than the simple screw top. That said, these flaws are fairly minor, and we have yet to find a better insulated, stainless steel bottle for the price.
Read Review Simple Modern Summit
Best Collapsible Bottle
Platypus DuoLock SoftBottle
Platypus holds it down in the collapsible category, and the DuoLock remained our favorite choice for another year. The DuoLock is still one of the lightest bottles we've tested and its collapsed size is really small, making it our top choice when weight matters and space is limited. The nifty, two-part lid design makes for a secure lid and a narrow spout that eliminates spillage, especially with such a floppy bottle.
The Hydrapak Stow came in a close second to the DuoLock. We loved the Stow's carrying handle and bottle shape. It is much shorter and squatter than the Platypus DuoLock, which felt more compact in our packs when full. Both bottles are difficult to clean with narrow mouths and bag-like bodies. The DuoLock remained our top choice because it is less expensive than its competitor, weighs less, and is better to drink from.
Read review: Platypus DuoLock SoftBottle
Best Glass Bottle
Ello Pure 20
We have a new favorite glass bottle. Say hello to the Ello Pure — an affordable, portable addition to the fleet of glass models we've previously put to the test. Like most glass options out there, the Ello has a plastic cap, a silicone sleeve, and a stylish design. During the testing period, we often found ourselves consistently reaching for the Ello bottle as we headed out of the house — or as we stayed indoors. Its shape made it easy to carry on short hikes when we didn't want to bring a backpack. Best of all, this bottle is one of the least expensive in our whole fleet, bringing affordability to the glass bottle game.
Though the Ello has plenty of features that warrant praise, it is not entirely perfect. Our biggest hang-up with this bottle is how tricky it is to clean by hand, although a trip through the dishwasher does the trick nicely. The lid has two crevices that are challenging to access and the mouth of the bottle is too narrow to fit a brush or sponge into easily. The silicone sleeve is also a bit thinner than others, but it still survived our drop test without any issues. Drinking out of glass feels great and tastes the best, and this bottle fills the niche best at a very reasonable price.
Read review: Ello Pure
Why You Should Trust Us
Everyone drinks water, but not everyone takes it as seriously as our lead bottle tester, Jane Jackson. Jane has spent months of her life assessing the performance of the most popular bottles on the market. First and foremost, Jane is a climber, a hobby that forms the foundation of her life and has led her to cliffs, big walls in Yosemite, and valleys around the world. Most of the testing of these bottles took place at the crag, in boulder fields, on long hikes, or on rest days at cafes and coffee shops around the world. This wide array of situations has provided great opportunities to test the portability, durability, ease of use, and overall performance of the water bottles seen in this review. With nearly all her time spent traveling, Jane rarely takes a drink from a traditional drinking glass in a kitchen, which makes her an expert at drinking on the go.
We also passed these bottles around to our friends and family, making sure we got plenty of varied input. Water bottles are as much about personal preference as they are about holding water. We filled them with flavorful liquids, and then rinsed them to see if any flavor lingered. We left them on their sides wrapped in paper towels overnight to look for any signs of leakage. We even intentionally dropped them all off our desks to test durability. We combined this feedback and field testing with some objective tests to provide you with extensive information to help you make an informed decision about your next water bottle purchase.
Related: How We Tested Water Bottles
Analysis and Test Results
We used four different rating metrics to assess each bottle in this review. Although the type of bottle (i.e., materials used) greatly dictated the bottle's overall performance in each metric, the overall review compares bottles of different types side-by-side. That said, use your discretion when reading this review. Obviously, a stainless-steel bottle is going to be a bit more durable than a glass one, while a collapsible bottle is going to get a higher score in the weight metric than a bulky insulated model. The metrics we used to assess each bottle's performance are as follows: ease of use (which includes ease of cleaning), durability, weight, and taste.
In general, the most popular bottles today seem to be stainless steel bottles, including vacuum insulated and uninsulated. Next, there are the classic plastic bottles, almost all of which are made from BPA-free plastics these days. We also tested collapsible and glass bottles. Each bottle has its intended use(s) — and we discuss which situations work best for which bottles in the individual gear reviews.
Related: Buying Advice for Water Bottles
No matter what your shopping for, you're likely to consider cost alongside performance. We stick solely to performance when we score products, but we are no strangers to a good deal. The range in price for water bottles is becoming shockingly wide these days. Stainless steel and glass bottles, across the board, are typically going to cost you the most. That said, over the past few years, we have seen a growing selection of affordable bottles made from these materials.
The Nalgene is clearly the value choice as it scores incredibly high but is one of the least expensive bottles in the review. It will suffice for pretty much any use, although it might be out of place in a professional setting. Following short behind is our runner-up for a budget option, the Simple Modern Summit. This bottle is by far the most affordable vacuum-insulated option. Another option is the Platypus DuoLock, which is hard to beat in terms of price as well but is limited in its versatility. Our top recommendation for a glass bottle is the Ello Pure, which stands out not only in overall performance but also as a very affordable glass option. This bottle is significantly cheaper than other glass products we've tested in the past and performs just as well.
Ease of Use
Since these bottles end up being our every-day companions, ease of use is fundamental. Subtle details, like a carrying handle or mouth diameter, can end up being a significant factor when using a bottle day after day. So, we took care to assess the ease of drinking from and filling each bottle. The likelihood of spilling when drinking and potential for leakage are also noted in this metric. Additionally, we considered how easy (or difficult) it is to clean each bottle. Wide mouth bottles are often easier to clean than those with narrow openings. Finally, we evaluated the lid design and the carrying handle — factors that also contribute to ease of cleaning in addition to the overall ease of use of a bottle.
Overall, simpler seems to be better when it comes to ease of use. We found some of these bottles to have too many features and it was difficult to learn how to use effectively. The Nalgene Wide Mouth and the Yeti Rambler 26 are a few favorites due to their simplicity. The Simple Modern Summit is also up there in this category, with its simple body design and thoughtful, interchangeable lids.
The Klean Kanteen Classic also got high marks here because of its redesigned sport cap, which is easy to drink from one-handed. In the close competition between the Hydro Flask Standard and the YETI Rambler for the top spot, the Rambler won due to its wide mouth — which made it easy to fill with water or ice and easy to drink from with both hot and cold liquids. Wide-mouthed bottles do require a bit more care when drinking while moving. Carelessness could be a recipe for a wet shirt.
The LifeStraw Go got downgraded here because it is difficult to suck water through the filter. The straw design on this bottle is 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 latest CamelBak eddy+ features a new and improved straw design that our testers noticed flows much better than its predecessor. This is another nice choice for grab-n-gulps, although its straw design is almost impossible to thoroughly clean.
The collapsible bottles lost points since they are awkward to drink from and easy to knock over. The DuoLock has a few features, like its carabiner and flip cap, that pushes it a step past the others. 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 GSI Microlite has a carrying handle that isn't comfortable and a thin rim that feels unpleasant on our lips. The Takeya Actives Insulated bottle has a unique lid consisting of a wide mouth for filling and cleaning and a small spout for drinking. We liked this combination for drinking on the move.
Durability is a major concern for water bottles, especially when you're relying on 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 parched. Based on years of outdoor experience, the GearLab team knows that collapsible models tend to be less durable over time 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 went through 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. All of the bottles we tested survived the drop test with only minor cosmetic damage. The Platypus DuoLock and the Hydrapak Stow both scored high in this metric because their soft bodies came out from our drop tests almost entirely unscathed. The Nalgene Wide-Mouth, Klean Kanteen Classic, and Yeti Rambler all earned high scores in the durability metric, surviving with barely a scratch.
The biggest surprise in our drop tests was that the Lifefactory and Ello Pure glass bottles came away intact. The silicone sleeves and plastic caps did a sufficient job of absorbing the impact force and preventing the glass from shattering. The Purifyou bottle, on the other hand, shattered in our drop test. It should be noted that this can happen to any glass bottle, even if it's inside a silicone sleeve. Remember, these bottles always have a chance of breaking, so if durability is a big factor for you, consider a stainless steel bottle instead.
Stainless steel bottles can handle a beating, but they tend to show it with scratches to their paint. The Yeti Rambler seemed to handle knocks a little better than others, though.
Although less consequential for casual use, the weight of an empty bottle is a major factor when considering which to use on long hikes or multi-day backpacking trips. In this sense, a lighter bottle provides performance benefits 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.). Results are shown in our table of specs at the top of this page.
Both Platypus models we tested weigh in as the lightest, barely tipping the scales at more than a single ounce. This low weight alone is a large part of why they are long-time favorites in the backcountry. The HydraPak Stow is nearly as impressive weight-wise, although its exposed spout lacks a cover like the Platypus models. The other plastic models also scored well in this category, as did the Klean Kanteen Classic.
The insulated stainless-steel and glass models fell to the bottom of the pile in this metric, indicating they're more useful for day, rather than multi-day, use. The backcountry skiers among us, however, like to bring an insulated bottle along on long day tours or overnights. For a hot drink on this type of excursion, the Klean Kanteen TKWide works wonderfully because it's lightweight and small.
It's important to stay hydrated, but you probably also want the water you're drinking to taste good. Some water bottles impart flavors on the liquids they contain, a characteristic that we did not appreciate. And if you store liquids like flavored drink mixes or coffee for a day, some bottles will retain that taste and pass it on to the next thing you put in, even after washing.
To assess 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 and left them to sit for 24 hours. Then. we emptied the bottles and hand washed them with soap and warm water, before filling each with tap water and conducting taste tests to see if we could detect any residual flavors from the sports drink.
Glass bottles typically reign supreme in this category. The Ello, Lifefactory, and Purifyou bottles all received nearly the same scores in this metric. If anything, the Lifefactory runs a higher risk of lingering flavors because of its plastic flip cap. The other two glass models have screw caps, so with them, one only drinks from the glass rim.
On the whole, these glass bottles did not impart flavors to the water and kept water relatively fresh-tasting, even in our 24-hour test. Furthermore, they 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 still 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.
The stainless-steel models fell in the middle of the pack in these tests, neither soaring nor flailing. Insulated bottles are more likely to hold hot liquids like coffee or tea, which are notorious for leaving behind strong flavors. The Yeti and Simple Modern seemed less inclined to retain coffee flavors, but there aren't major differences here. The Klean Kanteen TKWide has a café cap that held onto flavors, but the bottle itself cleans easily — placing this bottle on par with the insulated bottles previously mentioned. A few testers noticed some metallic flavors imparted on the water that was left in the bottles for extended periods, but overall, the water came out tasting pretty good.
The Lifestraw Go also scored well in this metric, with its built-in filter. However, due to this feature, we recommend only filling it with water, so retaining flavors from sports drinks shouldn't be an issue. The Nalgene also surprised us with a stronger performance in this metric than most other plastic bottles.
Most other plastic bottles did not fare as well here, with the collapsible bottles retaining strong flavors of sports drink and even soap. The Hydrapak also left a rubbery taste in the water the first few times we used it. The straw of the CamelBak eddy+ imparted a strong rubbery taste to the water and retained the flavor of the sports drink rather significantly.
We tested many water bottles in many settings over many years. In such a simple category, we found a surprisingly large gap in performance. There is no "one bottle for all activities," unfortunately. Instead, we can help steer you towards 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. We hope this review helps you find the one(s) that best suits your hydration needs.
— Jane Jackson