By Eve O’neill from Wirecutter.com
The 7 Best Water Bottles
With plastic water bottles (along with plastic bags and plastic straws) occupying the top tier of socially unacceptable single-use accessories, reusable water bottles that are both good-looking and functional feel like a necessity in this modern, hydration-obsessed world. Finding the right one to match your own personal taste depends on what you’re looking for amidst a riot of colors, shapes, and features.
After putting in more than 120 hours of research—and testing over 100 bottles since 2014—we’ve chosen the seven best water bottles in a number of materials and styles, from our most versatile pick, which has elbowed its way past more well-known competition, to an inexpensive bottle with a straw, beloved for its functionality in any driving scenario. Whether you’re looking for a bottle to drink from while driving, a glass bottle (if you’re averse to plastic), or a plastic bottle (if you’re averse to high prices), each of our favorite water bottles offers a little extra to anyone who has been annoyed by imperfect hydration.
Why you should trust us
Since we first created this guide in 2014, the Wirecutter hive mind has tested more than 100 different bottles, over many hundreds of hours in our day-to-day lives.
With the increased popularity of metal water bottles, we wanted to get some insight into how that double-walled insulation works. So we called NASA, the best experts on thermodynamics we could think of. Via email, we interviewed Wesley Johnson, a cryogenics research engineer at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
We also spoke to urban planner Josselyn Ivanov, who wrote her masters thesis for MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning on the decline of publicly available water, aka drinking fountains. “In the absence of investment and maintenance [in drinking fountains], many people fill the void by hauling around their own personalized infrastructure,” she told us.
And between three different writers and nine years of testing, we’ve seen over 100 iterations of the same object. These things all do the same thing, from the hard-plastic Nalgene that steamrolled college campuses in the 2000s to this $5,000 Chanel bottle that looks freshly looted from Blackbeard’s treasure chest. When you’ve used water bottles with triple-digit price tags as well as different, less expensive versions that do the same basic thing, you know which one works best.
Who this is for
The cultural juggernaut that is the modern water bottle continues its slow and steady human takeover, and we have found evidence that this could be a good thing. Pretty much everyone can benefit from having a water bottle they love.
Carrying a reusable water bottle is better for the environment and more cost effective than buying pre-bottled water. 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. Since then, bottled water sales in the US have grown from 33 billion liters to 52 billion liters in 2017, surpassing sodas and soft drinks.
For shoppers, bottled water is also a thousand times more expensive than tap water. Add the fact that in 2009 nearly half of all bottled water sold in the United States was nothing more than pricey, prepackaged tap water (PDF), and it becomes difficult to argue with the value of a well-made reusable water bottle.
Great for the car
A bottle with a straw lets you drink without tilting your head back, the easiest way to drink water while keeping your focus on the road.
Our favorite bottle for the car: Camelbak Eddy+ (25 ounces)
Color options: 11
Size options: 20, 25, and 32 ounces
Lids available: straw lid (included), Chute Mag, Carry Cap
Dishwasher safe: yes
Get this if: You want something easy to sip from while driving, or you want something that helps you drink water throughout the day (our unscientific findings lead us to believe straws make it easier to slurp down).
Why it’s great: This bottle has an integrated straw in the lid that features a plastic bite valve to keep it sealed, something anyone who has owned a CamelBak hydration pack will be familiar with. Just bite down to open the straw, and release to seal it shut. That leak-free lid makes it an ideal driving companion—it fits in a cup holder and is easy to sip from while you’re keeping your eyes on the road. And if you want to transfer it to a bag, the bite valve folds down into the lid, shielding it from too much contact with the world.
Also, if you have daily hydration goals, there’s something about a straw that makes it easy to mindlessly consume the 20, 30, or 40 ounces of daily intake you may have ahead of you. If that sounds like you, the Eddy+ comes in a 32-ounce size that would be easy to fill once, plop next to your laptop, and hit your goal for the day.
The straw lid twists off to reveal a wide mouth that’s easy to add ice to—handy if you want to keep your water cold. However, this is a plastic bottle, so adding ice could make it sweaty. If you want to avoid that, the insulated version should prevent moisture from gathering on the outside of the bottle.
You can swap out lids on this bottle with two others that CamelBak makes: the Carry Cap and the Chute Mag, a spout lid we’ve tested and liked because of how easy it is to drink from, similar to our top pick.
The Eddy+ is an updated model, and with this redesign CamelBak has addressed reports of the bite valve leaking or not functioning properly. The one we tested worked great, and neither the lid nor the valve leaked in our tests. This bottle is BPA-free, and all pieces, including the cap, lid, and straw, can go through the dishwasher. CamelBak offers a Lifetime Guarantee against defects in the manufacturing and materials, and it will replace them if they’re defective.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: You do have to bite down on this straw and hold it while you drink to get the water flowing, which may not appeal to some. But overall we didn’t find it cumbersome, and we soon forgot all about it.
A lightweight squeezie
This squeeze bottle is leakproof, light enough to throw into a carry-on for a flight, and cheap enough that if the TSA forces you to ditch it, the loss won’t break your heart.
An ideal air travel companion: CamelBak Podium (21 ounces)
Color options: seven
Size options: 21 and 24 ounces
Lids available: squeeze lid
Dishwasher safe: yes
Get this if: You want a travel bottle. This bottle was invented for a bike cage, but a regular ol’ squeeze bottle is useful for so many things, specifically airport travel. I personally own (and use) just two types of water bottles, and this is one of them.
Why it’s great: Basic, lightweight, and cheap, a bike squeeze bottle makes a great travel companion, and we like the CamelBak Podium in particular. It has a twist lock that provides extra assurance that it’s closed tight when you toss it in a bag—plus, it’s dishwasher safe.
For years, we looked for a reliable collapsible travel bottle, but we’ve been disappointed so many times: The HydraPak flops, the Hydaway tastes plasticky, the Vapur and the Platypus collapse (in a bad way), the Nomader doesn’t pack down very small. And the implied way to carry a travel bottle correctly—clipped to a backpack or belt loop—always leaves them swinging around haphazardly in our experience. We’ve recommended all of these bottles in the past, but we’ve always been left wishing there was a better way.
A bike squeeze bottle is now our sincere recommendation for airport travel. In addition to its being light and relatively compact, if the TSA takes it, you’ve lost only a few dollars instead of your investment in an expensive insulated bottle. You could also take the Thermos Hydration Bottle we recommend, but this CamelBak bottle has fewer moving parts if you don’t want to fuss with the lid or flip lock on the Thermos. Our other recommendation would be to buy a plastic bottle in the airport that you then use for the rest of the trip.
Two types of Podium are available: the original and the Podium Chill, which has a reflective material in the lining meant to help keep water cold. We haven’t found that this lining makes any difference. In our tests, the liquid in insulated squeeze bottles warmed 17 degrees over six hours, the same as in a glass or unlined plastic bottle. For that reason, we wouldn’t bother with the lined version and instead recommend the original.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The lid on this bottle is not covered, so if you dislike the idea of this bottle swimming around in a bag with the drinking surface exposed, you may like the Thermos better.
In addition, this bottle’s squeeze valve does not push in and out, as on other models; instead, the mouthpiece is static, and the plastic piece inside releases water when you apply pressure to the bottle. So if you are using this bottle for cycling, and you have a ton of dust and dirt on your ride, some may get stuck in that mouthpiece.