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Updated May 31, 2022 9:23 AM

We get it — even the best water bottle reviews can get monotonous. If it’s water-tight and has a lid, what more is there to say? That approach might be good enough for some people, but we actually give a shit about your paycheck and want to make sure the gear you buy on our word is worth the cost. 

Instead of being dazzled by social media marketing campaigns and flashy colors, we dug deeper to find water bottles that actually add value. After all, the best camping water bottle and the best cycling water bottle are two very different things. There are times and places for stainless steel and plastic, so we included both. Part of the reasoning behind buying a reusable water bottle is to reduce our environmental impact, so we prioritized companies that take that responsibility seriously.

A fair amount of market research went into this gear guide, but the top picks went to products I’ve personally used and trust with my health. You can be sure that every water bottle you see here is one I’d trust during a field exercise, extended backcountry trip, or day on the trails.

Our methodology

In many cases, our recommendations are based on personal experience. The picks for best water bottle overall, best value, and honorable mention are all products I’ve personally used extensively. My Nalgene has been in use for more than a decade. For the rest, I turned to the expertise of people I know and crowdsourced some wisdom from the online community of real-world owners. All the products here are BPA-free, durable enough for hard use in the field, and a hell of a lot better than using disposable water bottles.

LifeStraw has been one of the best water filter manufacturers in the outdoor space for a while. Now, the company is coming after the water bottle market hard. This LifeStraw Go combines several of my favorite features to create a clear winner.

Stainless steel makes the inside of this bottle easy to keep clean, and it doesn’t affect the water’s flavor the way plastic bottles sometimes do. A vacuum layer between the inner and outer walls keeps drinks cold for up to 24 hours. The exterior is protected by a durable protective finish that’s up for whatever the field throws at you. Inside, your first line of defense is a 0.2-micron membrane microfilter that removes bacteria, parasites, and microplastics from 1,000 gallons of water. After that, your water passes through an activated carbon filter that removes harmful chemicals and unpleasant tastes from 26 gallons of water. The end result is clean, cool drinking water every time.

This bottle isn’t cheap ($60 at press time), so it’s probably unnecessary for people who just want to have water handy around the office or at home. As for field exercises, outdoor activities, and emergency preparedness, this is an excellent choice.

Specs
  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Size: 24 ounces
  • Cap style: Straw
PROS

Two layers of stainless steel create efficient vacuum insulation

Built-in filter removes most bacteria, parasites, and contaminants

Refill in seconds from a tap or natural source

CONS

Not to be used for boiling water

Water filter reduces capacity

I’m sure you recognize Nalgene because this is probably the most widely-used water bottle in production. It’s famously tough, affordable, and big enough to keep you well-hydrated on the go.

In the 1960s, Nalgene bottles started appearing on the hiking trails of the northeast. The durable Tritan material led Nalgene to grow in popularity until it became the standard for plastic water bottles. Today, Tritan is still used to make some of the best water bottles you can buy. It’s an impact-resistant, BPA-free plastic that’s earned a loyal following by taking merciless abuse on trails around the world. I’ve owned mine for more than a decade, and plenty of Nalgene bottles have lasted longer than that.

These days, Nalgene bottles are made from 50 percent recycled waste plastics. The bottle’s wide mouth makes it easy to reach inside and scrub it clean. It’s also big enough for lemon or orange wedges and full-size ice cubes. I picked up a cap with a solar-powered light that can turn my Nalgene into a lantern, so take a look at aftermarket support while you’re at it. The fact that these things last forever makes them a good value from the start. A low price is icing on the cake.

Specs
  • Material: Tritan
  • Size: 32 ounces
  • Cap style: Open-top
PROS

Tritan is famously durable and looks better with battle scars

Wide mouth makes it easy to add ice and wash

Probably the most widely-used water bottle to date

CONS

All plastic water bottles will eventually smell bad

Not to be used to boil water

Honorable Mention

I’ll admit to being a Yeti skeptic not that long ago. I felt like coolers and water bottles weren’t that complicated and couldn’t possibly warrant the kind of prices Yeti was asking — maybe you can relate. Then I received an 18-ounce Rambler at a Ford press event. Boy, that sure changed my mind.

Out in the blazing Nevada sun, the rambler was able to keep spring water cold all day long. The lid unscrews to reveal a small mouth that feels just like drinking from a beer bottle (home, sweet home). The clear mouth can also be unscrewed to leave the entire top open for easy filling and adding ice. It’s an unconventional design that seemed unnecessary at first, but I’ve since grown to love it. The relatively compact bottle fits easily in cup holders that are too small for most water bottles.

The stainless steel and powder coating held up great during several months of use, including a few drops from my pack and bicycle. Unlike Yeti’s coolers, the Rambler is relatively inexpensive. Sure, most water bottles cost a lot less, but this one has become my go-to and it’ll probably be the same for you.

Specs
  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Size: 18 ounces
  • Cap style: Open-top
PROS

Vacuum-insulated and built from stainless steel

Powder coating is extremely durable

Dishwasher-safe and easy to clean by hand

CONS

Limited capacity (larger Ramblers are available)

One of the most expensive water bottles here

It makes sense to give a nod to outstanding environmental stewardship in a gear guide centered around reducing our reliance on disposable water bottles, and Klean Kanteen is our eco-friendly pick.

Klean Kanteen is Climate Neutral Certified because of its focus on managing carbon emissions. It’s also a Certified B Corp that reports to an independent body that oversees environmental impact with the same scrutiny shareholders evaluate financial performance. The company also maintains partnerships with Leave No Trace and 5 Gyres to keep our favorite outdoor spaces clean and free of trash.

Of course, this is also a great product in its own right. The stainless steel construction is built to last and holds 64 ounces — more than any other bottle on this list. It isn’t insulated, but the single-walled design makes this the only bottle here that can be used to boil water. That makes this our pick for long-term survival situations and emergency preparedness. There are definitely times when being able to purify and carry large amounts of water takes priority over keeping your drinks cold.

Specs
  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Size: 40 ounces
  • Cap style: Open-top
PROS

Single-walled stainless steel bottle can be used to boil water

Capable of holding 40 ounces of water Ideal for

long-term survival and emergency preparedness

CONS

Too large for casual hiking or daily use

Fairly expensive for a non-insulated water bottle

When it comes to running, hydration packs get all the glory. They’re fantastic pieces of gear, but sometimes strapping on a CamelBak is more weight than it’s worth. How much water do you really need? For most runs, something like this Amphipod running water bottle is a better choice.

Instead of hauling around the standard three liters (read: 6.6 pounds) you’d put in a hydration bladder, carry just enough to get you through a normal run. One of these Amphipod bottles holds 16 ounces and is shaped to fit comfortably in your hand. The strap helps keep the bottle secure so you don’t have to waste energy gripping it, and has elastic keepers for small items like packs of energy gel or a compact EDC flashlight.

If you haven’t used a water bottle like this before, keeping it in your hand the whole time can seem strange at first. I’ve run with some experienced long-distance runners who swear by this style, though, so give it a try. It might be your new favorite water bottle for running.

Specs
  • Material: Plastic
  • Size: 16 ounces
  • Cap style: Jett-Lock pop-up nozzle
PROS

Lightweight and ergonomic with a strap for handheld use

Squeezable for quick sips

More compact and affordable than a hydration bladder

CONS

A hydration bladder is still better for endurance training

Occupies one hand for the entire run

Cyclists can afford to be a lot less picky about their water bottles than runners. A few are die-hard hydration pack users, but most are pretty content to stick a basic water bottle in their bike’s cage and be on their way. If that sounds like you, this Polar Bottle insulated water bottle might be worth spending a few extra bucks on.

This 20-ounce bottle is a standard size and should fit in all mainstream bottle holders and bicycle frames. It uses the same kind of pop-up nozzle and squeezable body that you’re probably used to and can deliver a quick blast of water without requiring you to take your eyes off the road.

Unlike the run-of-the-mill cycling water bottles it replaces, this one uses reflective foil, insulating foam, and a pocket of air to keep your water cold for hours. The real selling point for me, though, is the removable valve that can actually be cleaned. Let’s be honest, we’ve all been guilty of washing our bottles and letting the caps get nasty as hell. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Specs
  • Material: Plastic
  • Size: 20 ounces
  • Cap style: Pop-up nozzle
PROS

Fits standard bottle cages

Insulated to keep your water cool during long rides

Easy to use one-handed

CONS

Probably more expensive than your average cycling bottle

Might be oversized for shorter rides

In my experience, one of the best water bottles for travel is a collapsible one like this Platypus DuoLock SoftBottle. It’s light, compact, and holds enough water for a day of sightseeing. The price isn’t bad, either.

There never seems to be enough room in a suitcase or carry-on, and the last thing you need to pack is a bulky water bottle that’s going to send the TSA into a frenzy — as if you’re the first person to drink water since 2001. This SoftBottle provides a liter of drinking water when you need it, but rolls up into a compact, portable package when you don’t. The built-in carabiner and locking flip-top are nice upgrades that most collapsible water bottles don’t have.

I recommend picking one of these up if you travel a lot. The rest of the time, leave this unrolled, clean, and dry. Even the best collapsible water bottles show more wear than traditional ones, so the less you subject this material to folding and bending, the better.

Specs
  • Material: Plastic
  • Size: 1 liter
  • Cap style: Flip-top
PROS

Super portable and great for travel

Integrated carabiner for hands-free carry

Locking cap can be removed for easy filling

CONS

Collapsible water bottles don’t last as long as traditional ones

Not compatible with common screw-on filters

Our verdict on water bottles

In the vast majority of circumstances, the LifeStraw Go is as good as it gets. It’s made from durable stainless steel, is vacuum-insulated to stay cold, and it filters out harmful bacteria as you drink. It also costs several times more than the other option on this list. If you want to save money, you’ll be in good hands with the tried and true Nalgene bottle. 

Is there something we missed? Share the wealth and leave your favorite water bottle in the comments section.

What to consider when buying a water bottle

Manufacturers have gone deep down the rabbit hole of making specialized water bottles. Even though that would have sounded crazy a few years ago, the reality is that you can genuinely get water bottles that are great at different things. What a time to be alive.

Types of water bottles

Plastic water bottles vs. stainless steel water bottles

Your first decision should be based on the material your next water bottle is made from. Old-school plastic bottles still have their place, although the chemical composition has been improved to eliminate harmful chemicals. Thin, pliable plastic water bottles are great for running and cycling because they can be squeezed to deliver a large volume of water through a small nozzle in a controlled manner. More advanced options, like those from Nalgene, use Tritan to achieve tremendous durability without adding weight.

If you want the strongest water bottle possible, stainless steel is for you. This metal is famously easy to sterilize, so you can get fresh drinking water every time. If you do choose to fill your stainless steel water bottle with coffee or juice, it’s unlikely to absorb the flavor and pass it on to your next drink. Stainless steel can also be exposed to extreme heat safely (as long as it’s a single-wall, non-insulated design), so it’s a great option for people who may need to boil water to remove dangerous parasites and bacteria. The downside of stainless steel water bottles is extra weight and cost, though the pros generally outweigh the cons.

Insulated water bottles

An insulated water bottle is one of the biggest upgrades you can make to your gear. The good news is that insulating a water bottle isn’t overly expensive, so you can keep your water at just the right temperature without breaking the bank. 

Air is the best insulation, so the best insulated water bottles use an inner and outer barrier instead of physical insulation. Inexpensive plastic water bottles keep water in an internal pouch that can keep temperatures down for a few hours. Stainless steel insulated water bottles use a sealed vacuum to create longer-lasting temperature control.

Filtered water bottles

Unfiltered water bottles are fine for the daily grind when you have unlimited access to clean drinking water. Field exercises, deployments, camping trips, and survival scenarios call for something better.

Filtered water bottles take the risk out of staying hydrated by cleaning water as you drink it, rather than purifying it as it’s collected like a camping water filter. They eliminate the need to spend precious time filling a gravity-fed water filtration system or calories expended operating a pump. They’re also easier to fill than a hydration bladder, although hydration bladders are more convenient to drink from on the go. The best filters can purify huge amounts of water, so they don’t need to be replaced very often. Just remember to sterilize your bottle if you plan on using it without a filter.  

Water bottle pricing 

Most of the water bottles we found cost between $10 and $15. Some of the more premium offerings from brands like Yeti and Lifestraw cost more because of advanced features like vacuum insulation and water filtration. The most expensive pick on this list, the stainless steel and filtered LifeStraw Go, costs $60.

FAQs about water bottles

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q: What is the healthiest water bottle to use?

A: The healthiest water bottle is a clean one. If you’re really concerned about contaminants in your water, a stainless steel bottle with a clean, high-quality filter is your best bet.

Q: Are stainless steel bottles better than plastic?

A: Stainless steel water bottles are easier to clean and almost always more durable than plastic ones. They do tend to be heavier, though.  

Q: How long do metal water bottles last?

A: A stainless steel water bottle should last as long as you’re willing to take care of it. They’re extremely durable.

Q: Can you refrigerate stainless steel water bottles?

A: Sure, just remember that insulated stainless steel water bottles will work against you if you’re trying to cool your drink down by putting it in the fridge. In that case, use another container or leave the lid open.

Q: Can you boil water in a water bottle?

A: Even though some plastic water bottles can hold boiling water, they shouldn’t be exposed to heat long enough to bring it to a boil. Dual-walled stainless steel water bottles will act as a barrier to heat and may explode. Only single-walled stainless steel bottles are safe for boiling water.  

Q: How often should you change your water bottle?

A: Regular cleaning goes a long way, but even that can’t keep some water bottles in good shape forever. A good sniff will tell you when it’s time to say goodbye to your water bottle.

Q: Is it OK to put lemon in a stainless steel water bottle?

A: Sure, live your dream. Stainless steel does a great job of storing various flavors without absorbing them and passing them on.

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