When it comes to picking a water bottle for daily use, portability, insulating properties, and durability are all important considerations. But different people have differing priorities.
A lot of people like the durability, lightweight, and easy maintenance that come from using a stainless steel bottle. And for anyone looking to stay hydrated outside on a hot summer day, there’s nothing like a double-walled vacuum-insulated bottle for keeping water cold and refreshing — we recommend a Klean Kanteen, but the Wide Mouth Insulated version.
Some people have more sensitive palates than others and hate that drinking out of a steel vessel can impart a metallic flavor to their beverages. So they go with glass instead. But glass bottles are heavy and can break easily. So you might prefer drinking out of a bottle made from plastic instead.
Finally, if portability is your top priority, you’ll want a travel bottle that folds up.
Why get a reusable water bottle?
Because relying on pre-packaged, store-bought water to quench your thirst is a sucker’s game.
According to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, bottled water production in the U.S. alone in 2007 required somewhere between 32 and 54 million barrels of oil. That’s roughly 2,000 times as much as the energy cost of producing tap water.
Bottled water is also up to thousand times more expensive than tap water for consumers, so there’s that, too. 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 pricy, pre-packaged tap water, it becomes difficult to argue with the value of a well-made reusable water bottle.
Choosing the best water bottle for you
No matter what materials it’s made from, a water bottle should be durable, easy to use, and a cinch to clean and maintain. It should be slender enough to fit in a car’s cup holder. That it fits in a cup holder is also a good indicator that it’ll also likely fit comfortably in most people’s hands. A water bottle should be leakproof so that you feel safe tossing it in a bag with your iPad, phone, or other valuables.
It should hold enough water that you’re not constantly looking to refill it. We decided that 25 oz. to 27 oz. was a comfortable range to shoot for—that’s enough water to keep your thirst quenched for hours, but not so much that the bottle becomes uncomfortably heavy for most people or too big to stick in a backpack. In order to maintain a healthy level of hydration that’s in line with what the Mayo Clinic recommends, you’d only need to refill a bottle of this size four times a day.
Admittedly, this might be a little bigger than what some people would like to sip away at while sitting at their desk at work where they have access to a water cooler or tap. So we allowed some leeway for size, with the cutoff being around 17 ounces–the smallest amount we would want for a reusable water bottle. We also favored bottles with a mouth wide enough to drop ice cubes in to.
Our favorite stainless steel bottle
Why drink from stainless steel? Steel bottles don’t suffer from the weight issues associated with glass bottles, and they’re more durable than most of the plastic bottles you’re likely to find. Most steel 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).
Our favorite stainless steel bottle, the $19, 27-ounce Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Bottle with Loop Cap, also happens to be our favorite water bottle out of all of the bottles we looked at. This particular choice is uninsulated, which we’ll discuss further down in this section, but we also have an insulated stainless steel pick if that’s what you’re looking for.
The mouth of the Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel bottle was big enough to accommodate any ice cubes we threw at it.
The Klean Kanteen’s spot-on proportions are its best trait.
Klean Kanteen’s spot-on proportions are its best trait. The 2.75-inch diameter base is wide enough to fit into a standardly sized cup holder without wobbling—a problem we encountered with our otherwise excellent travel mug pick.
Similarly, its 1.75-inch opening is just big enough to fit almost any ice cube you throw at 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 MSR Alpine 1000mL and the ubiquitous Nalgene Wide-Mouth Tritan bottle it’s based on. Another upside to the size of the 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 makes for a strong, steady stream of water with no annoying stops and starts to the flow.
The Klean Kanteen Loop Caps allow for a smoother ride when attached to a carabiner than the Miir’s squared-off design does.
This bottle’s loop cap is another highlight. It screws down watertight so that you can throw it into a book bag, purse, or back seat of a car without worrying that its contents will leak out all over your valuables. The loop part allows you to put it on a carabiner or lanyard so it stays attached to you. This is now a pretty common feature, but the Loop Cap’s rounder shape makes it easier to use without rattling around—an annoyance we had with the square hole found in the MiiR Wedge’s cap.
We think the default cap is great for most people, but if you have different needs or wants, it’s possible to accessorize the Klean Kanteen bottle with a number of optional lids to change its look or functionality. At the time of publication, Klean Kanteen offered seven different caps on their website with features like different colors, all-stainless-steel construction, a non-leakproof silicone sports spout, bamboo highlights, and even a sippy-cup-style cap to give to your kids… or rehydrate with while recovering from a particularly harsh hangover.
The Klean Kanteen is light too, which is great as the additional weight of water in your bag is enough to haul around without having to deal with the added heft of a bulky bottle. While empty, the Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Bottle with Loop Cap only weighs 7.5 ounces. That’s second only to our pick for best plastic bottle, which also holds less water.
Because this bottle is lightweight, it’s also durable. In our drop test, we found that the Klean Kanteen could stand up to falls when full or empty. While its brushed stainless steel exterior suffered some scuffs after surviving a fall, unlike the other single-walled stainless steel bottles we tested, it didn’t sustain any dents or dings. The same could not be said of the aluminum SIGG Traveler, which was invisibly rough shape after just a few drops. Basically, the Klean Kanteen will more than put up with the casual abuse most of us put our belongings through on a regular basis.
Enough water for your thirst
This bottle holds enough water to keep you from looking for a place to refill it on a regular basis. We feel 27 ounces is a good amount of water to quench most people’s thirst. But that might be too much for some people who just want something to drink out of while they’re at work. For them, the Klean Kanteen with Loop Cap also comes in 18-ounce size. And if you’re in need of a larger capacity, say for a day-long backpacking trip, you can also get one that’ll hold 40 ounces.
Amazon shoppers seem to love the Klean Kanteen as well: the Stainless Steel Bottle with Loop Cap version of the hardware has earned a 4.3-star average rating from 2,326 different reviews—1,471 of which awarded the water bottle five stars.
Of course, the Klean Kanteen is not perfect. I found that the surface of the bottle was a little slicker than I’d like it to be. If you’re wearing gloves or using it on a particularly hot day when condensation lines the outside of its surface, you might find it a little hard to hold on to. But that’s a complaint you could make about virtually any stainless steel bottle. And while its mouth is wide enough to comfortably drink from or drop ice cubes into, it’s not really feasible to wash it without a bottle brush.
It’s also worth noting that it’s not insulated, so it won’t keep the liquids you pour into it cold for hours on end or in extreme heat (but we do have an insulated pick if that’s your main priority). Is the fact that it’s not insulated a big deal? For us, the fact that our main stainless steel pick lacks insulation means that it’s lighter and safe to stick in a dishwasher (unlike insulated bottles, which are generally not supposed to be machine washed since the heat may damage the seal).
Granted, this lack of insulation means that the bottle will sweat a little in hotter weather, but not to the point that it’ll endanger any hardware it rides within your bag. Considering the Klean Kanteen’s price, weight, features, and durability, I like this one the best, though our insulated pick is a great option if that’s what you prefer.
SIGG Water Bottles
A number of our readers commented previously on how much they loved their SIGG water bottles. And why not? They come in a number of sizes and colors or with crazy designs on the outside. After carefully considering their catalog, I took the SIGG Traveller for a spin. Unlike the rest of the bottles in this category, the SIGG is an aluminum bottle, which is a softer material than steel.
As such, the bottle dented alarmingly easily during durability testing to the point that I’d worry about its medium-term durability. This, along with the fact that the SIGG’s opening didn’t prove wide enough to let me drink without the water gurgling out of the bottle or to insert ice cubes, forced me to take a pass on the hardware. You could argue that there are SIGG bottles out there that feature wider openings, but as they’re all made from aluminum as well, durability will still be an issue.
Our favorite insulated bottle
An insulated bottle is what you need to keep your water cold on a hot, sunny day. If you’re thinking about getting an insulated water bottle, like it or not, your best option is to buy one made from stainless steel, inside and out. It’s a durable and superior insulating material when it comes to vacuum-sealed bottles. As we explain in our guide to the best travel mug, plastic, glass, and ceramic vessels are inferior insulators and can be fragile as well
Why go with a Klean Kanteen product again? To be honest, all the models we tested were pretty good. They were durable, excelled at keeping drinks cold, and had attractive designs. What set this insulated Klean Kanteen apart was its design. Its eponymous wide mouth made it super easy to plop ice cubes of any size in, and it comes with an insulating vacuum layer sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel to prevent outside heat from warming up the bottle’s contents. In extreme heat, the insulation keeps large amounts of condensation from forming on the outside of the bottle and sweating all over your furniture.
Like its uninsulated brother, the Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Water Bottle with Loop Cap comes in a couple of different sizes and can be paired with a number of different lid options, including a convenient Cafe Cap that does a good job of turning it into a decent (though not leakproof) travel mug for hot drinks or other uses. Sweethome editor Ganda Suthrivarakom, who bought this bottle after doing her own research a while back, uses her Klean Kanteen with the Cafe Cap and straw for keeping smoothies cold during long, hot Los Angeles summer commutes.
In addition to giving you plenty of room for ice cubes, the Klean Kanteen’s wide mouth also made it a cinch to clean without any bottle brushes or other specialized tools. A bunched-up washcloth or normal dish brush worked just fine. For comparison, there’s no way to get at the insides of the otherwise great Hydroflask Insulated Bottle without a bottle brush, even though it has a fairly wide mouth.
This is less of an issue with normal bottles because you’re likely only going to be filling them with water, but insulated bottles don’t tend to be dishwasher safe and lend themselves to being filled with smoothies, milkshakes, or even hot tea and coffee, which means ease of cleaning is much more important.
But more than this, it was a pleasure to drink from as the bottle’s opening allowed water to flow smoothly with no gurgling to interrupt the stream.
The Klean Kanteen’s included Loop Cap proved watertight during our overnight leak test, but it does seal rather tightly (especially if you have hot fluids that have cooled down inside). Having to fully remove the cap every time you want to take a sip can be an annoyance to continuous sippers, though the Cafe Cap is always an option if you don’t plan on putting it in a bag with other things that might be sensitive to water damage.
It did well in our durability/drop test too. After taking a three-and-a-half-foot fall to a concrete floor, the bottle came away without a dent. The only way you’d know that anything happened to it at all was if you looked closely for the few cosmetic scuffs it sustained.