We’ve conducted almost 70 hours of research into water bottles over the last four years and have now tested a total of 79 in all shapes and sizes. But because different people have different priorities, we couldn’t pick just one, so we’ve chosen our favorites across a broad range of materials and styles that include steel, insulated, plastic, glass, and collapsible bottles. (If you want a bottle to keep hot drinks hot, check out our guide to the best travel mug; and if you’re looking for something that holds a lot more water for outdoor sports, head over to our hydration packs guide.)
The 27-ounce Klean Kanteen Classic Stainless Steel Bottle has been at the top of our list for four years. It’s easy to fill, easy to drink from, and ready to be tossed into the dishwasher at the end of the day. Most important, it’s leakproof and almost as light as a plastic bottle. You can also fit the Classic with any of a half-dozen cap styles if you’re looking for something different.
With its spring-loaded top, easy-to-sip-from spout, and handy meter for keeping track of how much you’ve drunk during the day, the 24-ounce Thermos Intak Hydration Bottle is our choice two years running for the best plastic bottle. With its slim profile and contoured, grippy body, it’s easy to hold while wet with condensation or perspiration, making it perfect for the gym.
We’ve chosen the 22-ounce Lifefactory Glass Bottle with Classic Cap and Silicone Sleeve as our glass pick for a third year because it offers a simple but elegant design, an easy-to-screw-off top, and (for a glass bottle) surprising resilience against casual abuse.
The Hydro Flask 24-Ounce Standard Mouth is a leakproof, easy-to-open bottle designed to keep your drink cool. It does so by sandwiching an insulating vacuum layer between two layers of stainless steel to prevent outside heat from warming up the interior. Unlike most of the other insulated bottles, the coating and rubber lid make it easy to grip during opening. The mouth is wide enough to make plopping ice cubes into the opening easy, but not so wide as to spill water on yourself while guzzling on a hot day. It’s a pleasure to drink from, as it allows water to flow smoothly into your mouth with no gurgling to interrupt the stream.
The dual-purpose Platypus Meta Bottle can be converted into a cup or collapsed when space is limited. This squishable, leakproof silicone bottle offers a drinking experience that’s as close to that of a hard-sided bottle as we’ve been able to find in a collapsible vessel. Once it’s empty, you can roll it up and stash it away. Its wide mouth and shallow design make it the easiest bottle we tested to use an UV water purifier for when you travel to places where the water isn’t potable.
Why you should get a reusable water bottle
Relying on prepackaged, store-bought water to quench your thirst is a last minute recourse. According to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters (PDF), bottled water production in the US alone in 2007 required somewhere between 32 million and 54 million barrels of oil. That’s roughly 2,000 times as much as the energy cost of producing tap water.
For shoppers, bottled water is also a thousand times more expensive than tap water. When you add this to the fact that in 2009 nearly half of all bottled water sold in the United States was found to be nothing more than pricey, prepackaged tap water (PDF), it becomes difficult to argue with the value of a well-made reusable water bottle.
At work, you could just use an open glass or mug. But when you’re drinking and computing, the risk can be high. We talked with a four-year veteran of the Genius Bar at Apple flagship stores in SoHo and LA: “Every day, I would get someone come in with liquid damage.” They learned from their mistakes: “I don’t even work at my desk with an open container anymore.” While using water bottles may seem unrelated to protecting your electronics, we were warned that “a whole bottle of water may kill your motherboard, up to a $900-$1,300 repair. This is just another form of insurance. A water bottle is a minimal investment versus the cost of a $1,200 computer repair. It’s like backing up your computer. You do everything you can do prevent catastrophic damage.”
Dr. Martha Kaplan, Professor of Anthropology at Vassar College, writes in “Lonely Drinking Fountains and Comforting Coolers: Paradoxes of Water Value and Ironies of Water Use” that water bottles are a reflection of health and the self. By carrying around a water bottle instead of, say, a soda bottle, you’re signaling to others that you care about your body and are on-top-of-it enough to bring a reusable bottle with you and fill it up ahead of time unlike the less responsible folk who have to buy beverages along the way. Bottles become a traveling billboard of values; for those without a car, like city dwellers and college students, it becomes a venue for bumper stickers—a new arena to express personal identity. That is one reason why we review different kinds of bottles—to help find the one that best fits your needs, personality, and style for different circumstances.
The best steel bottle
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald
The 27-ounce Klean Kanteen Classic is our favorite water bottle for most people. Why drink from stainless steel? Such bottles don’t suffer from the weight issues associated with glass bottles or insulated metal bottles. Many people find they look fancier than plastic bottles. They aren’t see-through, so you can carry beverages other than water without others knowing. Most metal bottles these days, including our pick, come with electropolished interiors to help keep the bottles from taking on the smells or tastes of the liquids you put in them (and vice versa).
The Klean Kanteen’s spot-on proportions are its best trait. The 2¾-inch-diameter base is wide enough to fit into a standard-size cup holder without wobbling. Similarly, its 1¾-inch mouth is just big enough to fit almost any ice cube you throw into it, but not so wide that you’ll spill water everywhere if you try to sip on the go. That was a major problem with both the 1-liter MSR Alpine, which we tested for the first version of this guide, and the ubiquitous Nalgene Wide-Mouth Tritan bottle it’s based on. Another upside to the size of the Klean Kanteen Classic’s opening is that it allows air to flow into the vessel while water flows out of it as you tip it back to drink. This design makes for a strong, steady stream of water with no annoying stops and starts to the flow.
The Sport Cap 3.0 on the Klean Kanteen Classic was designed to eliminate the “chirping” that some people would hear when using previous versions. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.
You can accessorize the Klean Kanteen Classic with a number of optional lids to change its look or functionality. At the time of this writing, Klean Kanteen offered six caps on its website: an all-stainless-steel construction option, a non-leakproof silicone sports spout, bamboo highlights, a growler-style swing lock, and even a sippy-cup style for handing the bottle to kids (or for rehydrating while recovering from a particularly harsh hangover).
How much you enjoy the Klean Kanteen Classic depends on which cap you use. Several Wirecutter staffers reported that after a year of use, they found the standard Loop Cap to be difficult to open, especially when driving from one elevation to another. The slightly pricier Bamboo Cap was not only stylish but much easier to open. Testers who had arthritis also found it easier to open. The Bamboo Cap has a metal hook that was easier for our testers to grip and yank on when opening than the Sport Cap or standard lid.
Our testers also preferred the Sport Cap to the standard bottle’s Loop Cap. Like the Bamboo Cap, both caps screw down watertight, so you can throw your bottle into a book bag, a shoulder bag, or the backseat of a car without worrying that its contents will leak out all over your valuables. Both lids offer a loop, which allows you to put the bottle on a carabiner or lanyard so that it stays attached to you. This is now a pretty common feature, but the Loop Cap’s rounder shape makes the Classic easier to use without having it rattling around—an annoyance we encountered with the square-holed cap on the similarly priced MiiR Wedge, which we tested in 2014. The Sport Cap has a thin, drinkable spout that retracts, making sipping easy—even in situations where you don’t have two hands available to open a cap (like when you’re holding onto a climbing hold with one hand…or driving).
The Klean Kanteen Classic is light, too, which is great since the additional weight of water in your bag is enough to haul around without your having to deal with the added heft of a bulky bottle. While empty, the 27-ounce Klean Kanteen Classic with Loop Cap weighs only 7.5 ounces, coming in second only to our pick for the best plastic bottle.
In our drop test, the Klean Kanteen Classic stood up to a beating whether it was full or empty. While its brushed stainless-steel exterior suffered some scuffs after it survived a fall to the cement floor of our test area, unlike the other single-walled stainless steel bottles we tested, it didn’t sustain any dents or dings. So it should be able to withstand any of the casual abuse most people put their belongings through on a regular basis.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
We found that the surface of the bottle was a little slicker than we’d like it to be. If you’re wearing gloves or using the bottle on a particularly hot day when condensation coats its surface, you might find it hard to hold on to. But that’s a complaint you could make about virtually any stainless steel bottle. (A while back, one of our readers suggested that wrapping a few rubber bands around the bottle eliminates this issue; the trick works great.) And while its mouth is wide enough to comfortably drink from and drop ice cubes into, it’s too narrow for you to be able to wash the container without a bottle brush.
Additionally, it can be difficult to push down the spout on the Sport Cap enough so it doesn’t leak. If done properly, it can withstand 12 hours on its side without a drop. But if not closed down properly (and, sometimes, it’s hard to tell if the spout is completely closed), it will most likely leak when not upright.
The best plastic bottle
If you prefer to sip throughout the day from a plastic vessel, we think you’d do well to look at the 24-ounce Thermos Intak Hydration Bottle, our favorite plastic water bottle for the past two years. It’s proven comfortable to hold, easy to clean, leakproof, and more pleasant to use than the 18 other plastic bottles we’ve tested it against.
The Intak is made from Eastman Tritan BPA-free plastic, so it’s durable enough to handle being dropped as well as to survive most of the other casual abuse you might put it through. And at 6.6 ounces, it’s so light that when it’s empty you won’t even notice it’s in your bag.
If you’re worried about the safety of drinking water out of plastic bottles, don’t be. Recent research says that the risks have been overstated, and that plastic—even plastic with BPA—is just fine to drink out of.
What sets the Intak apart the most is its usability: The bottle’s textured, contoured design makes it easy to hold. Its screw-off wide mouth allows you to drop in ice cubes easily. After screwing the lid on, the well-designed narrower spout regulates flow while drinking without causing a splash as you guzzle. It’s a winning combination.
The Intak’s textured sides help prevent the bottle’s slipping in sweaty hands. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald
You’ll find a lot of little things to like about this bottle, most of them in its lid. We found it to be leakproof, leaving our test bed dry as a bone after we left the bottle there lying on its side overnight. To ensure that no water escapes while it’s banging around in your backpack or on the rear seat of a car, it comes equipped with the most durable and easy-to-use two-step locking mechanism we tested.
While two-step systems are becoming more popular in plastic and insulated bottles, the Intak’s differs from the others by having an “overlid” that works like a hood that clamps down firmly until you’re ready to take a drink. Compared to the similarly modeled Nalgene on the Fly, we liked the thicker metal on the Intak’s two-step system versus the thin metal on the Nalgene’s lid, which looked like it could be bent out of shape if it got banged around in a bag. Most notably, the hinge connecting the flip top to the lid is more than twice as wide as the hinge on the Nalgene and is reinforced with plastic. The Intak lid has fewer crannies than the Nalgene, making it easier to clean.
The Intak’s cap features a sealed silicone gasket that’s mated to the plastic of the lid, so nothing can get underneath it. Just toss the cap into some soapy water and scrub it with a bottle brush or throw it into the top rack of a dishwasher along with the Intak’s plastic body. Finally, the lid boasts a metered dial that you can use to track how many refills you’ve gone through in a day—sure, it’s a goofy concept, but if you’re into that sort of thing, the feature is well-implemented.
The Intak has a textured and angled body design, making it easier to hold and to open than almost any other bottle we tested. As a result, our testers with arthritis considered it one of the most usable bottles they tried. The Embrava, which has a similar two-step cap and design, has instead a smooth and slightly thicker body, which gets slippery when wet and is too wide to comfortably hold even when dry.
The Intak performed well during our durability test. After being dropped on a cement floor from a height of 3½ feet, it showed no scuffs, scrapes, or cracks. Even its transparent plastic lid (which we assumed would be its Achilles heel due to the hinge and the seemingly thin material) performed well, surpassing our expectations. Two years after we originally tested it, the Intak is still going strong, albeit with a few scuffs that it has sustained along the way. Nonetheless, the Amazon reviewers who were not happy with this bottle said they have had the plastic hinge fail after dropping the bottle. We still feel that the plastic hinge on the lid is the strongest of all those on bottles that have the handy dual-hinge design.
Given how well this bottle performs as well as how massively popular it is on Amazon(it currently has a rating of 4.3 stars out of five across more than 2,800 reviews), we were surprised to find that no trusted editorial outlets have bothered to review the Intak recently. We were able to find a review from Good Housekeeping dating back to 2009, but the bottle has gone through a couple of incremental changes since then, so that review is no longer relevant.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
After two years of near-constant use, we don’t have a lot of criticism to throw at the Thermos Intak. Perhaps the only request we could make of Thermos would be for the company to sell it in a few different sizes.
Unlike any other lid design, the Intak’s cap has a small silicone suction cup to keep water from spilling out of the spout when the bottle is on its side. We removed the suction cup when cleaning, and learned it is very important to replace the suction cup from the bottom of the lid up. It will also fit the hole from above the lid, but this causes major leaking (trust us). In the future, we’d appreciate a slightly more intuitive design.
The Intak doesn’t come in a size larger than 24 ounces, so if you’re looking for something bigger, we recommend the CamelBak Chute, which comes in 25-, 32-, and 50-ounce versions. With a wide opening similar in size to that of our former high-capacity pick, the Nalgene Tritan Wide Mouth Water Bottle, the Chute is easy to fill with water, ice cubes, or your favorite drink crystals. But unlike the Nalgene, this bottle comes with a small spout that’s comfortable to drink from without the risk of spilling, even when you’re on the move. It has a twist-off cap that keeps the spout hygienic, but we didn’t find this cap as satisfying to open as the Intak’s, which pops open at the push of a button. The cap takes two hands to open compared to the Intak, which can be opened with one hand if the metal safety isn’t on. We appreciated how the Chute’s cap is on a lanyard, which makes it impossible to lose. We also liked how easy it is to clean. If the Thermos Intak has too many moving parts for your preference, or if you just need to carry more water, the Chute is a good option.
The Design for Living 16-Ounce Stackable Bottle is easier to open and to hold than any other bottle we’ve tested. The threadless lid works a bit like popping a cork. You only give it a quarter twist and it’s locked. There’s no pulling, yanking, or worrying that you aren’t on the right thread. Most importantly—there’s no leaking.
The bottle also comes with hand-sized grooves to help you grip better and prevent slippage. These grooves also improve your ability to open it and carry it around. It doesn’t come in a size larger than 16 ounces, but two of our testers who have arthritis told us that anything bigger than 16 ounces would be too heavy for them to lug.
The narrow mouth on the Design for Living is a pleasure to drink from, but it makes putting in ice cubes difficult. The bottle is fairly squat, making it easy to wash with a brush; it is also dishwasher-safe.
The best glass bottle
Glass water bottles aren’t for everyone—they’re often pricier, heavier, and more fragile than their steel or plastic counterparts. But if you’re looking for a bottle that absolutely cannot impart extra flavors to the water, the 22-ounce Lifefactory Glass Bottle with Classic Cap and Silicone Sleeve is the one we’d buy. After researching and testing 10 of the top-rated bottles in this category, we found that this model was the best, offering solid, relatively safe construction as well as a watertight lid and a pleasant drinking experience. It was also among the highest scoring in our arthritis tests and, surprisingly, was among the easiest bottles to open that we tested.
We can think of a number of reasons to dig the Lifefactory bottle, starting with the fact that, despite being made primarily from glass, it proved to be surprisingly resilient in our tests. Like the Aquasana bottle that we tested—and destroyed—in 2014, or the Kanrel bottle our tester broke when it fell out of his backpack during a commute in 2017, the 22-ounce Lifefactory bottle comes sheathed in a silicone sleeve that, in addition to making the bottle easier to grip, also is also meant to provide it with a small measure of protection from bumps, drops, and other casual abuse. (By the way, think twice before bringing a glass bottle to the gym or the yoga studio; many fitness facilities, fearful of breakage, have banned such products.)
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald
Aside from being tough, it’s also well-designed. It has a large mouth, which makes it easy to drink from no matter whether you feel the need to gulp your drink down or sip at it. And when you’re not in the mood for either, the Lifefactory bottle has a leakproof, screw-top lid; two plastic protrusions stick out of the sides of the lid, allowing you to get a solid grip so that you can seal it up tight and then just as easily open it back up.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Due to its silicone sheath, it doesn’t slip as smoothly into water bottle pockets on backpacks as do bottles with less textured bodies. This was a problem across the board with glass bottles sheathed in silicone. And then there’s the weight—glass ain’t light. Empty, the Lifefactory bottle weighs just over a pound (meaning a filled Lifefactory bottle weighs nearly 2.5 pounds—approaching your typical laptop…or your typical lapdog, such as an average-sized chihuahua.)
The main reason to dislike the Lifefactory bottle is that it’s made of a material that could crack or shatter at any time. But such a drawback isn’t unique to this particular glass container, so it’s hard to fault Lifefactory for that. We did interview someone who had broken a Lifefactory. But it’s so well-designed, we understand why she went back and bought the same bottle again.
The best insulated bottle
If you want to ensure that you always have a cold drink ready to quench your thirst on a hot, sunny day, an insulated bottle is just the thing. In extreme heat, insulation can reduce condensation from forming on the outside of your bottle and sweating all over the electronics that the bottle shares space with in your backpack.
For vacuum-sealed bottles, stainless steel is a durable and superior insulating material. As we explain in our guide to the best travel mug, plastic, glass, and ceramic vessels are inferior insulators and can be fragile. After considering and testing 20 new bottles this year and five bottles for the previous iteration of this guide (as well as the urging of a number of readers), we concluded that the Hydro Flask is the one we’d buy.
The Hydro Flask 24-Ounce Standard Mouth with BPA Free Flex Cap is built with an insulating vacuum layer sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel to prevent outside heat from warming up the bottle’s contents. Our testers—arthritic and not—found the rubber on the lid and the handle made it the easiest insulated bottle to hold and open. It has a rubber O-ring inside that helps with loosening the lid. Our testers noted that the Hydro Flask Flex Cap is easier to open than the Klean Kanteen Bamboo lid, itself the easiest of the Klean Kanteen caps to open. The paint on the outside of the Hydro Flask—which is available in many colors—is textured, enhancing the grip compared to the similarly shaped Klean Kanteen and the Fifty/Fifty bottle. The handle on the rubber lid was also softer and easier to carry than the lid on the Klean Kanteen.
In insulation testing, the Hydro Flask was among the bottles that kept drinks the coolest over a 10-hour period and a 24-hour period. At 13.9 ounces when empty, it weighs 0.15 ounces more than last year’s pick, the Klean Kanteen Insulated Wide Mouth. The mouth is also narrower than the mouth of last year’s pick, but our testers found that they were still able to plop in ice cubes with no problem.
When we ran tests on last year’s pick, the Klean Kanteen Insulated Wide Mouth, we were surprised to find that the lids leaked when left overnight on their sides. We tested the Klean Kanteen Insulated Standard Mouth 24-Ounce with the Bamboo Cap and the Klean Kanteen Insulated Wide Mouth with the Cafe Cap 2.0, and both had minor leaking. That was unexpected, so we ran the test again just to be sure, and the Klean Kanteens were fine for the second round. That said, intermittent leaking is a problem mentioned by a small group of the product’s Amazon reviewers (nine of 144 reviewers reported leaking with the sippy-cup like 2.0 cap, which was specifically designed to replace the very leaky original Cafe Cap; five of 96 reviewers reported leaking with the bamboo cap/narrow mouth combo). Another problem with the Cafe Cap 2.0 is that flow is occasionally restricted; the seals that generally prevent leaks mean that the bottle can only dribble out water in certain situations, like when it is filled with ice. Though the Cafe Cap 2.0 is a vast improvement over its earlier ancestor, and it remains a fine product for folks who don’t want to remove the lid entirely in order to take a sip, we feel more assured going with the Hydro Flask (with zero reports of leaking in 370 reviews) this time around, which was completely liquid-tight and easy to drink from in all our tests.
The best collapsible bottle
If you’re tired of paying $4 for a bottle of water every time you take a plane trip, try a lightweight, collapsible water bottle that you can stuff into your bag and then refill once you get past airport security. After testing a total of 14 collapsible bottles over the past three years, we found that the 0.75-liter (25-ounce) Platypus Meta Bottle is the best folding bottle for most people. This leakproof, shatterproof bottle holds a reasonable amount of water, and compared with all of the other collapsible bottles we tested, it provides a drinking experience that feels closest to sipping from a rigid bottle.
Weighing 5.85 ounces, the Meta Bottle is a silicone bottle with a rigid plastic mid section just big enough for you to wrap your fingers around while you’re carrying the bottle or drinking from it. The bottle screws apart in this wide, rigid midsection, allowing you to turn it into two drinking vessels: a mug and a cup. It’s even wide enough to use as a bowl for oatmeal (the bottle can take hot or cold water). The two parts screw together at the widest opening we’ve seen on any bottle—making it easy to add ice cubes, attach a filter, or use a UV purifying pen. The wide opening also makes it a breeze to clean by hand, though the bottle is also dishwasher-safe.
Whereas other folding and collapsible bottles get floppy as you drain them, the Platypus’s rigid midsection ensures that this bottle’s structure won’t collapse in your hand as you’re drinking from it— whether it’s in cup, mug, or bottle form.
In addition to providing a drinking experience that feels close to what you get while drinking from a rigid water bottle, the bottle largely holds its shape as you empty it, which means that you’ll be less likely to spill the liquid you’re drinking.
With the Meta Bottle, you have three options for fill-up: at the midsection, straight through the smaller spout where you drink, or at the lid. Once you’ve screwed the lid back on, a smaller screw-top keeps things watertight between sips. And when you aren’t using the Meta Bottle, you can collapse it and stow it away until the next time you need it.
The new Meta Bottle has several benefits over last year’s pick, the Nomader Collapsible Bottle. It’s lighter in weight; the lid is attached via a lanyard, unlike the Nomader’s lid, which is easier to lose; the Platypus also has fewer breakable moving parts. While the Nomader’s sleeve, which adds rigidity, is a clever idea, it seems odd for a water bottle to have an extra non-attached part that can be lost or broken. The hinge for the Nomader’s top is also thin and made of plastic, compared to the sturdier lid system on the Platypus.
We love that the Platypus can be converted into three types of drinking vessels—cup, mug, or bottle—making it well suited for sharing with families while traveling. The lid has fewer nooks than the lid on the Nomader, so it’s easier to clean. Lastly, it comes in two sizes, 0.75 L and 1 L—another leg up over the one-sized Nomader.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Because of its firm midsection, the Meta Bottle doesn’t collapse as nicely as our alternative pick, the Platypus SoftBottle, does. It also doesn’t collapse as well as last year’s pick, the Nomader, which came with a handy lanyard for rolling it up. The bottom of the Meta Bottle will roll to half its size, but it’s up to you to find a big rubber band or lanyard to achieve that goal. The Meta Bottle is made with silicone and plastic, which means it weighs more than the Platypus SoftBottle, too—5.4 ounces versus the SoftBottle’s 1 ounce. But we think the drinking experience it offers makes its extra weight worthwhile.
Additionally, if you are in a hurry and not thinking (or get the bottle not knowing about its convertible abilities), it’s easy to unscrew this bottle at the wrong spot. Liz discovered this at the beginning of a cross-country flight. While she thought she was unscrewing the mouthpiece for a drink, she was actually releasing the cup-and-mug portion of the bottle. The result was five hours sitting in a wet plane seat and wearing a soaked silk scarf. Despite this mishap, we have concluded the design of this bottle is too creative and too useful to pass up.
Should you need a bottle that folds down even more, we suggest the 34-ounce Platypus Duolock SoftBottle. Although it’s more awkward to drink out of than the Meta Bottle, the Duolock SoftBottle weighs less and collapses more. Compared to other minimalist-style bottles, the Duolock system provides extra insurance to keep the bottle watertight. And since it weighs less than 1 ounce when empty, you’ll hardly even notice that you’re carrying it.
Once empty, the SoftBottle can roll up small enough for you to slip it into the hip pocket of a pair of pants (so long as they’re not skinny jeans). We found its screw-on cap to be watertight, and unlike with some of the other foldable bottles we’ve tested over the years, its seams refused to leak, no matter how we bent or twisted the SoftBottle while it was full of water. Just in case the lid wants to come off on its own, the bottle has a metal lock over the mouthpiece.
The Duolock SoftBottle has two legs up on last year’s pick, the regular SoftBottle. First, it has a built-in carabiner that you can use as a handle for carrying or to attach to a backpack. Second, you don’t need to completely remove the lid to drink from it. Its lid is attached with a lanyard, which means you’re less likely to lose it or see it roll off a cliff. The drinking spout is protected by a hygienic cover, but the entire mouthpiece-plus-lid combo detaches for cleaning or refilling. The Duolock is dishwasher-safe, and the bottle is one of few we tested made in the USA.
Unlike the Meta Bottle, this one takes some skill to get ice cubes into. But it is an improvement over the even narrower original SoftBottle. We also weren’t completely sold on how well the metal second lock on this bottle worked. It seemed like if you didn’t have fingernails or dexterity, getting the metal lock off would be a bummer. But if you value capacity and a compact design, that’s a small matter. Additionally, as with our previous pick, the SoftBottle, the Duolock version has no structure; you can expect it to flop around as you drink from it. This softness can lead to your slopping water all over yourself if you’re not careful, but using two hands to stabilize the bladder as it drains will remedy the problem.
One last note: We were initially troubled by the consistently low ratings we saw for this bottle on Amazon and multiple reviews that mentioned leaking. However, after hearing from Platypus that the bottle’s design had been revamped in early 2017 to address this problem, we ordered five new bottles (in five separate orders, so the bottles wouldn’t necessarily all come from one batch) and distributed them among staff members, who spent a weekend filling, refilling, drinking from, crumpling, carrying, and stepping on the bottles. None of the bottles sprung a leak, so we feel comfortable recommending them.
How we picked and tested
No matter what materials a water bottle is made from, it should be durable, easy to open and use, a cinch to maintain, and leakproof, so that you feel safe tossing it into a bag with your iPad, phone, or other valuables.
Any bottle you buy should hold enough water that you’re not constantly looking to refill it. We decided that 25 ounces to 27 ounces was a comfortable range to shoot for; that’s enough liquid to keep your thirst quenched for hours, but not so much that the bottle becomes uncomfortably heavy to carry or too big to stick in a backpack. To maintain a healthy level of hydration that’s in line with what the Institute of Medicine recommends (although hydration basically boils down to having light enough pee), you’d need to refill a bottle of this size only four to five times in a day. Because of their material weight, glass bottles typically come in smaller sizes than those made out of steel or plastic. As such, with our glass choices we allowed for some leeway in size, with the cutoff being around 17 ounces—the smallest amount we would want for a reusable water bottle. And because drinking warm water sucks, we also favored bottles with a mouth wide enough to accommodate ice cubes.
Choosing which bottles to test wasn’t easy, but our decision to look at more than 60 bottles when we put together the first version of this guide in 2014 definitely made the task less painful this time around. This year, we tested 19 additional bottles against last year’s picks.
We started by examining a number of guides put together by trusted editorial sources such as Gear Patrol, OutdoorGearLab, and Outside Online. We also looked to Amazon to see what was popular. And we listened to the opinions of The Wirecutter’s readers—we had a number of great suggestions in the comments section of the last iteration of this guide.
After dismissing the bottles we’d previously tested and rejected, we set about looking for new ones to test. Any bottles we found online that showed a pattern of user complaints about build quality, usability, or leakage were dropped from the list of possible test candidates. We also eliminated any bottles made by companies that appeared to have a weak supply chain or no online presence outside of an Amazon listing. If we recommend a product, wherever possible we want to make sure that you won’t have a problem finding one to buy. And if the product is defective, you should be able to contact the manufacturer so that the company can make it right.
Through this process of elimination, we reduced our pool of close to 50 candidates to a more manageable collection of 35 bottles. Upon receiving the bottles, we eliminated another 13 of them for suffering from build-quality issues, having a mouth too narrow to receive ice cubes, being uncomfortable to use or hold, or being too difficult to thoroughly wash.
Since a lot of people like to stash their water bottle in the same pack or bag as they do their tablet, laptop, or work clothes while they commute, we subjected all of the remaining bottles to a leak test. We filled each one with a mix of water and food coloring and then left it resting on its side on a bed of paper towels overnight. Any bottle with even a hint of colored water underneath it the next morning was disqualified.
Leaking aside, some lids are better for sipping than others. The mouth needs to be wide enough to fit a standard ice cube (1 inch by 1.75 inches) but not so wide that it spills water while you’re sipping on the go. As you drink, air should flow into the vessel while water flows out of it as you tip it back to drink. This allows for a strong, steady flow. Preference went to bottles that don’t require removing the lid to drink—after all, if you have to remove it, you may be tempted to leave it off entirely while computing, putting your laptop at as much risk as if you were drinking from a cup.
We tested the bottles for durability by dropping each one from a height of 3½ feet to see how easily it would dent, crack, or, in the case of the glass bottles, shatter. Our goal wasn’t to see what it takes to break a bottle but to determine whether each one could stand up to the casual abuse it might be subjected to on a daily basis.
Because not everyone is blessed with hands muscular enough to open a pickle jar, we tasked two women in their sixties diagnosed with arthritis to open our bottles with the stock lids and add-on lids. They told us which bottles were difficult to open and what features they appreciated when opening a bottle that the rest of us may have no trouble with.
A key component of usability is how well the bottle works with everyday life: will it fit into car cup holders or your backpack’s water bottle pockets? We weighed the bottles to compare how annoying they are to lug around. We also greased up our hands and tried gripping the bottles to determine how slippery the surfaces would be.
The Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated was our pick last year, when it was neck-and-neck with the Klean Kanteen Standard Insulated. This year, we noticed both bottles leaked when put on their side overnight. They were also harder to open than our pick because they lack a textured body and rubber lid. They still are the lightest insulated bottles we found and the best at insulating. We just didn’t have enough faith that they wouldn’t leak to choose them again this year.
We feel strongly about being able to ice a drink on a hot summer’s day. As such, almost all of the bottles we called in that had openings too small to accept a reasonably sized ice cube were automatically kicked to the curb (the exception being the Design for Living, which was so easy to open, we forgave its one flaw). This group includes the Liberty BottleWorks Straight Up, the Laken Classic Wide Mouth Bottle, the S’well Insulated Bottle, the MIU Color Glass Water Bottle, the MiiR Insulated Bottle, the Ello Syndicate BPA-Free Glass Water Bottle with Flip Lid, the Takeya Classic Glass Water Bottle with Silicone Sleeve, the Kanrel Glass Drinking Water Bottle 20-Ounce, the Purify You Premium Glass WaterBottle with Silicone Sleeve, and the CamelBak Stainless Eddy (which has been discontinued in the time since we called it in for testing).
In that group, we found other things we weren’t crazy about, as well. The MIU bottle’s zippered, insulating sleeve refused to zip up all the way and failed to prevent the bottle from cracking during drop testing. The Takeya Classic Glass Water Bottle’s protective silicone sleeve was floppy, thin, and cheap feeling. The Kanrel Glass Drinking Water Bottle’s silicone sleeve wasn’t robust enough to protect it in a fall from a backpack.
The Fifty/Fifty Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel 25-Ounce has a similar body shape, design, and weight to our pick, the Hydro Flask. It also costs less. But our tests show that it doesn’t insulate quite as well. More importantly, our arthritic testers found the lid more difficult to open than the rubberized Hydro Flask Flex lid. Its body also wasn’t as textured for gripping as the Hydro Flask’s.
We liked the easy-to-use locking mechanism of the lid on the Contigo Autospout Ashland Chill, but we found the lid itself too difficult to clean thoroughly. This is a design problem that we’ve encountered many times in the past with Contigo offerings. The company’s 24-ounce Autospout Addison Water Bottle suffers from the same issue. To make matters worse, the Addison comes with a push-button lid but no way to lock it closed—a problem shared by Contigo’s Jackson Water Bottle. Not being able to lock a push-button lid puts everything else riding with the bottle in your gym bag or shoulder bag at risk of getting soaked.
The SIGG WMB Sports Touch Water Bottle looks like a plastic squeeze bottle but actually consists of aluminum and a BPS-free plastic liner. It dented terribly in our drop test. Additionally, the bottle’s paint rubbed off on a number of the other bottles we were testing while they were in transit. We’re not okay with that. While we were thrilled by the tea-friendly design of SIGG’s Thermo Classic with Tea Filter, it didn’t provide enough liquid (it holds only 0.3 L) to keep us hydrated, and it lost 13 degrees over an eight-hour period during our temperature test.
Many vacuum-insulated water bottles seemed unnecessarily heavy. The Yeti Ramblerkept our drinks cool over a long period but only held 18 ounces and weighed almost as much as the 40-ounce Fifty/Fifty vacuum-insulated bottle. The 40-ouncer is too heavy for everyday use. The same is true for the 32-ounce Hydro Flask, which our testers found too heavy to justify its weight, and, more annoyingly, too wide to fit in a backpack’s water bottle pocket.
The Camelbak Chute Vacuum Insulated Stainless 20-Ounce insulated well, but was too small (20 ounces). It’s a good option if you don’t want to remove the whole lid to drink, as it has a cap over a smaller spout. Ultimately, though, because of the cap system, we thought the lid had too many nooks and was hard to clean. The cap is on a lanyard, which prevents you from losing it, but also dangles weirdly when you want to sip frequently without recapping. The vacuum-insulated Chute is easy to open and the bottom part of the bottle is painted so it’s easier to grip.
We liked the rugged good looks of Takeya’s 24-ounce ThermoFlask Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle. But in our heat-retention test, its performance was mediocre—the temperature of the water inside rose by 9.9 degrees over an eight-hour period.
The 25-ounce CamelBak Podium Big Chill Insulated Water Bottle did little to insulate the water inside. Its internal temperature rose by 20.8 degrees over eight hours.
The Stanley Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle that we tested held 25 ounces of water and had a great vintage aesthetic. But with its allowing a 9.3-degree increase during our thermal-retention testing, we can’t recommend it. Plus, it weighs just over a pound empty, making it the heaviest water bottle we looked at this year.
The 24-ounce Polar Bottle Zipstream Breakaway Sports Bottle claimed to be insulated, and just like the CamelBak Podium Big Chill, it’s made of plastic. It proved terrible at keeping water cold, allowing the liquid to heat up by 20.9 degrees during our testing.
In our temperature testing, the 25-ounce Laken Thermo Classic Wide Mouth did poorly. the temperature of the water inside rose by 20.1 degrees over an eight-hour period, making this bottle almost as ineffective as the Polar Bottle and the CamelBak Podium Big Chill were.
The 50 Strong Insulated Bottle leaked during testing and was therefore disqualified.
Like our pick for plastic bottles, the Intak, the Nalgene On The Fly Water Bottle comes with a locking flip-top lid. But when unlocked, the lid wouldn’t pop open when we pushed the release button. Closing it back up again with one hand was difficult too. The Nalgene also had a thin metal hook to secure the lid that looked like it could be bent out of shape if it got banged around in a bag. Most notably, the hinge connecting the flip top to the lid is a little more than half as wide as our pick’s, and unlike our pick, it is not reinforced with plastic. Its lid also has more crannies than the one on the our pick, making it harder to clean.
The Embrava bottle also comes with a locking flip-top lid. It would be a good choice if the Intak were not available or if you needed more water, but the bottle was wider, making it awkward for even bigger hands to hold. It also has a smooth body, which becomes slick when wet.
The Laken Tritan Sports Bottle With Jannu Straw Cap has a design similar to CamelBak’s Eddy line of water bottles. Unfortunately, its push-button spout release lacks a locking mechanism. One of our editors reported that the kid-size version of the bottle (with the same lid, straw, and locking mechanism—just a smaller capacity) popped open in his son’s school backpack, resulting in drenched homework. Given this, we don’t feel comfortable recommending it.
The Glasstic Glass Water Bottle comes with a locking flip lid and a ring for clipping the container to a carabiner. Sadly, its plastic lid, base, and body all suffered from extensive scuffing during our durability testing. This result, as well as the fact that it can hold only 16 ounces of water and costs almost as much as our glass-bottle pick, were the final nails in its coffin.
The Beckly Collapsible Roll Up Sports Water Bottle leaked under the pressure of a 2-pound weight in testing and was disqualified.
The Hydrapak Stash Water Bottle survived our leak test as well as the twisting and torquing we put it through. However, the material of the bottle’s bladder felt flimsy next to the other folding bottles we tested. Additionally, the top and bottom of the bottle are designed to be snapped together when you’re not using it; this design sounds cool, but in practice the two halves were difficult to put together and pull apart.
The MSR Alpine 1000 ml Stainless Steel Bottle holds just over 33 ounces and looks as if Darth Vader should be drinking out of it. But it failed our overnight leak test. We can safely say that the Force was not strong with this one.
Every time we took the top off the GoodLife Stainless Steel, the rubber gasket popped off. That’s very annoying over the course of regular use, so we gave this bottle the boot.
The 27-ounce Klean Kanteen Reflect is almost identical to the Klean Kanteen Classic with Loop Cap, save the fact that it has a stainless steel and bamboo cap plus another kind of finish—differences too minor to justify its higher price.
The cap of the EcoVessel Boulder triple-insulated stainless steel water bottle proved a pain to thread on correctly, and the plastic tang that connects the cap to the bottle was inflexibly stiff and constantly caught on other items in our bag.
The 18-ounce, stainless steel Thermos Vacuum Insulated Hydration Bottle insulated cool water against warm environmental temperatures better than the Klean Kanteen Insulated Wide with Loop Cap did. But it offers an inferior drinking experience: Seamus’s upper lip was drenched and in need of wiping after every drink—a problem we think could be attributed to the awkward design of this bottle’s spout.
The 24-ounce Thermos Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Hydration Bottle has a screw-off top that makes loading it with liquids a cinch. But removing its spout and silicone seal to properly clean underneath is a nightmare.
We took the SIGG Traveller for a spin. Unlike the rest of the metal bottles we looked at, the Traveller is made of aluminum, which is a softer material than steel. As such, this bottle dented easily during our durability testing. Also, its mouth is too small to accommodate ice cubes.
The MiiR Bottle with a wedge lid costs more than the Klean Kanteen Classic with Loop Cap but has a lower capacity. (It’s available in larger sizes, but it’s more expensive at every given capacity.) It also has a smaller opening than the Klean Kanteen design does. While we found it comfortable to drink from, the mouth made for a bit of a tight fit when it came to putting ice into the bottle.
The Polar Bottle Insulated Water Bottle kept its contents only half a Fahrenheit degree cooler than the non-insulated Thermos Intak. The fact that it requires you to squeeze it to drink from it makes it a poor choice for casual sipping. It might be fine for use on a sports field or a bike ride, but it feels out of place in just about any other situation.
The locking lid of the BPA-free KOR Delta Water Bottle doesn’t spring open like other similar bottle lids do. Furthermore, this bottle is over-engineered with heavy plastic reinforced sidewalls; as they’re made of the same tough Eastman Tritan plastic as the Thermos Intak, they make the bottle heavier than it needs to be.
The Contigo Autoseal comes with a clever lid that allows water to escape from the bottle only when you push a button and tilt your head back to drink. But the bottle’s lid mechanism is difficult to clean, as you can’t take it apart. Being unable to thoroughly clean a drinking vessel on a regular basis can lead to the buildup of mold and bacteria within. The same can be said for the Autoseal Chill, which also appears to have some quality control issues. It also was among the worst performers in our insulation tests, though it is significantly less expensive than the competition.
The same can be said for the 25-ounce CamelBak Eddy. This model comes with a bite valve that allows you to drink from it without tipping back your head. But the valve assembly can be difficult to clean and to keep clear of mold and other gross stuff.
We received a number of requests to test the OXO Good Grips Water Bottle. The biggest selling point, in addition to the wide mouth, is that the bottle allows you to unscrew it into two halves for easy cleaning. It’s a great idea, but a disaster in practice: Mis-threading the two halves is extremely easy, making for a potential mess every time you fill the bottle.
The Aquasana Glass Bottle with Sleeve came out of our drop test without so much as a scratch thanks to its protective silicone sleeve. But it can hold only 18 ounces of water, and the mouth isn’t wide enough to allow you to put ice cubes in or to clean it without the aid of a bottle brush.
The 20-ounce Ello Pure water bottle is made from hard-to-break borosilicate glass and comes with a patented Safe-Shell coating designed to keep the vessel’s glass safely contained, should it ever crack or break. But during our drop testing, a fall to a concrete floor caused a gash in the bottle’s Safe-Shell layer. I also wasn’t crazy about its lid, which relies on a latch with two small silicone nubs to keep water from escaping.
The Aquaovo Therm-O is a double-walled glass vacuum-insulated bottle. But by the end of our temperature test, it kept liquids only 0.8 degrees cooler than the water inside the Lifefactory bottle. Also, it exploded like a hand grenade during our durability testing.
Two years ago we picked the 1 L Vapur Eclipse over the Platypus SoftBottle because its wider filling opening, its flip-top cap, and its built-in carabiner made it more enjoyable to drink out of and easier to store. However, CNET’s Tim Stevens brought to our attention a design flaw in the cap that causes it to leak when lateral torsion is applied. We were able to replicate the issue independently using a brand-new bottle. As such, we no longer feel confident recommending it.
Last year’s pick, the Platypus SoftBottle with Push-Pull Cap or the similar Platypus SoftBottle with Closure Cap, are still good options. But ultimately, we like the lid design and the carabiner of the DuoLock version of the SoftBottles better.
The Camelbak Insulated Quick Stow may be a good handheld option for runners, but it maintained no sense of rigidity, even when filled fully. We couldn’t see it being practical for most travelers. There’s also no protective cap over the bite valve, making it less hygienic than other options.
The accordion-like Ohyo bottle leaked when we drank from it, so we eliminated it early on.
In 2014, the Platypus PlusBottle was our pick for the best collapsible bottle. But after testing both, we think that the company’s SoftBottle, which comes with a twist-off cap, is a smarter buy, as its top is more secure.
Last time’s pick for best collapsible bottle, the Nomader Collapsible Bottle, is heavier and has more moving parts than our new collapsible water pick. We also found the drinking spout to be less sturdy than the lid on our new pick.
A number of our readers asked we look at the SIGG Thermo water bottle. Unfortunately, it performed poorly on our insulation tests. It also only held 10.1 ounces, far too little to make carrying the bottle worthwhile.
Bottle care and maintenance
If you’re drinking anything besides water, gunk will build up in your bottle over time, so you’ll need to clean your bottle on occasion. The best way to do that is to use a bottle brush and some baking soda or vinegar.
After several hours of research, we found that the best bottle cleaning set out there is the OXO Good Grips Water Bottle Cleaning Set. This dishwasher-safe kit offers a large bottle brush, a skinny straw brush, and a looped detail-cleaning brush all kept together on a handy ring so you won’t lose any of the parts. We bought a couple of sets to confirm their quality, and they are as good as we thought they would be.
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