OUTDOORS

Best Hiking Water Bottle: Stay Hydrated on the Trail

Best hiking water bottle
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

Experienced hikers and other adventure sports enthusiasts are likely familiar with the rule of three: three weeks without food, three days without water and three minutes without oxygen. These are the time limits for depriving your body of its three essential resources.

Of course, this represents an extreme situation and putting your body through this test is not only downright unpleasant but so dangerous that it only becomes a factor when things become life and death.

However, this rule does give you an idea as to how the body prioritizes nutrients and you should always keep this in mind when you are hiking.

We all know water is essential, but there is a little more to it than just chugging gallons of water whenever you’re thirsty. You need to manage your water intake and pay attention to your hydration levels to be able to maintain alertness and to ward off fatigue.

When hiking, you will often find yourself far away from reliable drinking sources and will likely need to carry most if not all of your liquids with you. Making sure you have the best hiking water bottle is key to ensuring you don’t get depleted, which can ruin your trip at best or put your body in danger at worst.

A water bottle might seem like such a simple thing, but there are quite a bit of variation and knowing which type is best for you is an important step to properly equipping yourself for your next trip out into the wilderness.

Water bottles

We are going to look at some general hydration tips, important features of water bottles and then review some top options that are on the market so that you are well informed and prepared for your next trip.

General Hydration Tips

Thirsty? Drink water. It’s as simple as that, right? This is actually a bit of a myth and when people don’t pay attention to how they are hydrating themselves, they run the risk of depriving their body of the energy it needs, which can lead to fatigue or injury.

We’ve come up with a short list of some common things to remember when you’re out on the trail so that you can stay topped up and full of energy the entire time.

Balance

It’s a common misconception that you should only drink water when you’re thirsty. This is a good way to throw off your body’s hydration and to get yourself into trouble. Even on cooler days, when you are physically active, you are constantly sweating and losing water.

Person drinking water bottle

Make sure that you are stopping and sipping some water every 15 minutes or so, or more if it’s really hot. It is a lot harder to recover once you are depleted so take the necessary steps to prevent this from happening.

Pace yourself

You’re probably used to hearing this when talking about drinking alcohol or other beverages, but it applies to water as well. It is really bad for your body to not drink water for a long time and then to chug a half a liter of it all at once. It puts your body into shock and confuses it since you will feel full but won’t really be getting any nutrients.

To prevent this, follow the tip from above about balance and if you do find yourself dehydrated, take a break and drink slowly to allow your body the chance to catch up.

Drink more than water

Anyone who has had some sweat drip down their face and into their mouth (gross, but it’s happened to all of us) knows that it’s salty. What this tells us is that when your body is sweating it is releasing not just water but other nutrients as well. So, it only makes sense that when you replenish your body you do so with more than just water.

Drinks that have a little sugar, salt and other electrolytes in them go a long way to restoring your body and allowing you to continue. However, this is only necessary when you are going to be very active and you should still be drinking primarily water, but mixing in other things is definitely recommended.

Pay attention to water sources

Before you head out for any long distance hike, make sure you do some research about the availability of water. On more established trails you might find spickets or fountains where you can refill, but on less traveled ones you may need to bring everything with you or refill from a stream or river. If this is the case you will need to be prepared to treat the water.

This is often preferable to carrying everything with you because full water bottles can be heavy. Inquire with park rangers, friends, Internet forums, etc. to find out what will be available to you out on the trail.

Take breaks

In warm or cool climates, hiking puts stress on your body and you need to respect this. Taking breaks every hour or more depending on the conditions to drink some water and let your body rest is a great way to conserve yourself for a longer trip. Sometimes we get excited in the beginning and start off quickly, but if we don’t make a conscious effort to slow ourselves down, we can run out of gas quickly.

Hikers taking a break

Planning to take breaks is a great way to keep your body hydrated and to pace yourself for a longer hike, which in the end will make it far more enjoyable.

How to Find the Best Water Bottle for Hiking

You might be thinking that water bottles are a pretty straightforward piece of equipment and that any option you pick up at your local sports store will suffice. Well, this isn’t quite true. There are a lot of different products out there that are designed for specific people and purposes.

Water bottles

Knowing what the different features are in water bottles will help you find the best one for you and will make your hiking experience more rewarding. Let’s take a look at the specifics to keep in mind as you search.

Material

The first thing you will want to decide when choosing a water bottle is the material. In general you will have two main options:

Plastic

This is great because of how durable it is. It might get a bit scuffed up here and there, but in general, you won’t have to worry about it cracking or denting. One thing to be very careful for is whether or not the plastic contains BPA. This is a chemical used in a lot of cheap plastics that can be harmful to your body when the material is warmed.

Plastic water bottle

Bottles that have BPA in them are not safe for the dishwasher or for carrying warm liquids. To get the most out of a plastic water bottle make sure to look for one that does not contain this substance.

Stainless steel

Most water bottles not made of plastic will be made of this allow largely because it doesn’t rust. Makes sense, no? It will be constantly in contact with water so rusting really isn’t an option. These bottles tend to be very lightweight and are very sleek looking. The one downside is they tend to be sensitive to denting. Dropping this bottle on the ground will likely damage it.

The bottle will still work fine, but it won’t have that pristine stainless look that many people want out of this type of bottle. Also, stainless steel bottles tend to be a bit more expensive than their plastic counterparts.

Size

This mainly refers to the amount of liquid that the bottle can carry. Bottles range from 500 ml to 2 liters. The most important thing to remember here, though, is that bigger is not always better. One liter (one quart) of water weighs 1 kilogram or approximately 2.3 pounds. The more water you can put in your bottle, the heavier it will be when it is full. This weight will then be attached to your bag and carried around with you wherever you go.

Water bottles with different sizes

In this scenario, a 2 liter water bottle probably doesn’t look so good. The most common size is 1 liter, but this really depends on you and how much you want to carry. If you constantly hike in areas where there is access to water, you could opt for something smaller to save a little effort out on the trail.

Opening size

Another thing to keep an eye out for is the type of opening the bottle has. The three most common openings are:

Wide mouth

These are the big bottles that have an opening of about 1.5 inches. These are great because you can fit full size ice cubes inside and can also fill them up really easily and quickly. However, they can be a bit of a pain if you are trying to drink while walking.

Wide mouth open

The big opening causes water to slosh up against you and you can end up spilling a lot of water. This can be avoided by purchasing an insert that channels the flow of water or by buying a bottle with a smaller mouth.

Bottle mouth

This opening is exactly what it sounds like. It is the size of a traditional plastic water bottle opening. You can find these on all types of bottles; often times the bigger bottles will be designed to taper up to a smaller opening.

These are great for drinking while you are walking, but the small opening means standard ice cubes won’t fit inside. If you’re not too worried about ice, this is probably a solid option for you.

Sport

As a combination of the two options listed above, this is a pretty popular style. It usually comes with a detachable top that you can remove to have a wide mouth bottle or leave on to have a straw of another sport nozzle that makes water flow easier. These are great for being on the run since they usually spill proof.

The only real downside is that these bottles feature small pieces of plastic and rubber and these can collect dirt and are difficult to clean. If you are going to be out on the trail for a few days, this collection of bacteria could become a bit dangerous so be sure to rinse it out and prevent dirt build up.

Insulation

The last main feature you should look out for is whether or not the bottle is insulated. It could be vacuumed sealed (most expensive) or closed off with rubber seals and latches. This is something most important for people that will be hiking in cold temperatures. You might want to heat some water before leaving camp or your house to be able to have tea or coffee on the trail.

Water bottle

Some bottles are so well insulated that they can keep water hot for 24 hours. These bottles can also do the same thing for cold water, but this is often of less importance. If you like to hike in the winter, consider finding a bottle that will keep water warm for a period of time.

What’s out there

Now that we have had the chance to go over the basics, it’s time to turn our eyes to the market and see what the different options are that are out there. Keep in mind where you will be hiking, how long you will be out for and the availability of water.

Hopefully, these short reviews will help you get a better idea as to what is best for you and will make your decision much easier to make.

Water Bottle Reviews

Polar Insulated Bottle

Polar Bottle Insulated Water Bottle

Dimensions: 11 x 2.75 x 2.75 inches

Weight: .3 pounds

Capacity: 24 ounces

Material: Plastic

Opening: Sport

Insulated: No

Best use: Short trips, cool weather

What makes Polar Insulated Bottle stand out is its design. It is clearly meant to be a hip, sporty water bottle. It offers over 15 different designs that feature a variety of colors and images.

From a practical standpoint, this is a good bottle for shorter trips in cool or moderate temperatures. It is made of BPA free plastic and features a sport top. It is not insulated but could hold hot liquids since it is BPA free.

It is a bit smaller, less than a liter, and the sport top makes it difficult to clean so it probably isn’t the best for multiple day trips, but in general this is a nice bottle that will keep you hydrated for day excursions.

Check the price on Amazon

Klean Kanteen Wide Bottle

Klean Kanteen Wide Insulated Stainless Steel Bottle

Dimensions: 8.75 x 2.94 x 2.94 inches

Weight: .64 pounds

Capacity: 20 oz.

Material: Stainless steel

Opening: Wide mouth

Insulated: No

Best use: Short trips, moderate temperatures

Klean Kanteen Wide Bottle is a very sleek looking water bottle, which is what many of us expect from the Klean Kanteen brand. The stainless steel design does not impart any flavors so you can protect the purity of the water you are drinking and it won’t rust.

It is a bit small; it only holds 20 ounces, which is less than 750 ml, so it probably won’t be a great option for longer trips or warm weather hikes.

Nonetheless, its simple design draws the eye and makes this a great option. Also, the wide mouth means that filling and cleaning should be no issue no matter where you are.

Check the price on Amazon

Nalgene Tritan Wide Mouth

Nalgene Tritan Wide Mouth BPA-Free Water Bottle

Dimensions: 13 x 8 x 4 inches

Weight: 22 pounds

Capacity: 32 ounces (1 liter)

Material: Plastic

Opening: Widemouth

Insulated: No

Best use: Any

The Nalgene Wide Mouth is a classic. The simple wide mouth design is well recognized and has been proven to be durable in a variety of situations.

The plastic is BPA free so this bottle is fully safe for microwave and dishwasher use and can also store hot or cold liquids. The wide mouth makes for easy cleaning and refilling, but it will cause spills if you try to drink while on the move. It is also very lightweight meaning you will barely notice the bottle both when it is empty and full.

Another thing to point out is the strength of the bottle. Nalgene claims it is unbreakable, which is basically true (you could probably find a way). It will scratch and scuff, but this isn’t a bit problem. With many different colors to choose from you also have the chance to give this bottle a personal touch. All in all, this is a classic option and a great choice for almost any situation.

Check the price on Amazon

Stanley Classic Vacuum Bottle

Stanley Classic Vacuum Bottle

Dimensions: 3.6 x 4.5 x 14.3 inches

Weight: 1.8 pounds

Capacity: 1 liter

Material: Stainless steel

Opening: Wide mouth

Insulated: Yes-vacuum sealed

Best use: Cold weather hiking

The Stanley Classic Vacuum Bottle is a great bottle to have if you are going to be venturing out into cold weather and want to have access to hot water.

The vacuum seal provided by this bottle will keep drinks both hot and cold for 24 hours and will keep iced liquids cold for 120 hours.

This type if insulation is unbeatable and is a great thing to have if you are going to be going out for a winter hike. The top of the bottle doubles as a cup where you can make tea or coffee, which helps save space in your bag. The downside for this type of bottle is weight.

The extra material needed for insulation causes it to weigh almost 2 pounds, but this is normal for this type of product and the benefits it provides make it well worth the extra weight.

Check the price on Amazon

CamelBak eddy .75L Bottle

CamelBak eddy .75L Water Bottle

Dimensions: 3 x 3 x 10 inches

Weight: 34 pounds

Capacity: 750 ml

Material: Plastic

Opening: Sport

Insulated: No

Best use: Any

The CamelBak eddy .75L Bottle brings a new twist to this product’s design in that it features a straw and a suction nozzle that doesn’t leak. This makes it very easy to drink from whether you are sitting still or on the go. This top can also be removed to fill the bottle or to put ice inside.

It is made from BPA plastic and therefore has all the benefits that go along with this material. One thing to point out, though, is that the suction top can get very dirty. To use it you need to bite down on it to open the hole and this tight seal can trap dirt and bacteria and get pretty nasty if you don’t pay attention.

Because of this, this bottle might not be the best idea for longer trips, but since you can remove the top and use it as a wide mouth, there is a way around this. In general, this is a very nice option that offers a rather unique design.

Check the price on Amazon

NALGENE Tritan 1-Quart Bottle

NALGENE Tritan 1-Quart Narrow Mouth BPA-Free Water Bottle

Dimensions: 9.06 x 3.54 x 3.54 inches

Weight: 37 pounds

Capacity: 1 liter

Material: Plastic

Opening: Narrow Mouth

Insulated: No

Best use: Any

The NALGENE Tritan 1-Quart is the cousin of the other Nalgene bottle reviewed on this list.

It has all the same features, indestructible BPA free plastic, 1 litercapacity, lots of color options, except for the opening. This bottle features the narrow mouth opening.

This makes drinking while walking much easier, but makes using ice not an option.

Also, filling the narrow mouth bottle can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. However, this is still a great bottle and can be used for almost any purpose. If you like Nalgene bottles but don’t like the wide mouth design, this is the bottle for you.

Check the price on Amazon

Thermos Stainless Steel Bottle

Thermos Stainless Steel King 40 Ounce Beverage Bottle

Dimensions: 3.7 x 4.4 x 12.1 inches

Weight: 1.6 pounds

Capacity: 40 ounces (1 liter +)

Material: Stainless steel

Opening: Wide mouth

Insulated: Yes, vacuum sealed

Best use: Cold weather hiking

Thermos has become such a well known brand that this type of insulated bottle is often referred to as a Thermos even if made by another manufacturer. Because of this, you know you will be getting a top-quality product.

What is nice about the Thermos Stainless Steel Bottle is that it is rather larger, more than a liter, and it features a unique pouring mechanism that allows you to access its contents without having to open the bottle, which can cause heat to escape. It keeps beverages hot or cold for 24 hours so it is great to have in cold weather conditions.

Also, it is relatively light compared to similar products considering its capacity. In general, you will not go wrong if you purchase this water bottle. The brand name may cause you to pay a little more, but you are sure to be satisfied.

Check the price on Amazon

Klean Kanteen Classic Bottle

Klean Kanteen Insulated Water Bottle

Dimensions: 10.9 x 9.3 x 4.8 inches

Weight: 32 ounces

Capacity: 18 ounces

Material: Stainless steel

Opening: Sport

Insulated: Yes, single wall

Best use: Short hikes in cool temperatures

The Klean Kanteen Classic Bottle is a good bottle if you are going to be heading out for a short hike on a cool day. It is insulated, but only with a single wall, and with a capacity of only 18 oz it is also rather small.

The combination of a sport top and insulation means this bottle will most likely be used to take tea or coffee with you to drink on the trail, but don’t expect the liquid to stay warm for long. In terms of other uses, this bottle isn’t super practical mostly because of its size.

However, the sleek stainless steel look does make it attractive and it is quite a bit lighter than most insulated bottle.  All in all it is a decent bottle designed for a very specific purpose.

Check the price on Amazon

Let’s bottle this one up

So as you can see, purchasing a water bottle is a little more complicated than maybe you would have thought at first glance. Each one has a specific purpose and each one will help you satisfy your thirst for water in different ways. Before making a purchase, think about how you will be using the bottle and then try to find one that best matches your lifestyle.

What do you think? Which bottle do you use and why? We know people can become attached t the type of bottle they use so we’d be very curious to hear why you chose the one you have and why you think it’s the best. And, as always, let us know if there is anything we missed. But for now, drink up and get out there!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dennis Owens
Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.

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