The Best Water Bottle
The best water bottle should be functional, convenient, safe, and comfortable to use. To locate bottles that answer to all of the above, we dove into debates on what makes a water bottle great, from material type to nozzle design. We landed on five well-designed bottles that fulfill a variety of needs, while addressing our number-one concern: keeping your water in its purest, healthiest form.
Rugged and versatile, Zoku ($35) improves upon all the best features of your old stainless steel bottle, with a tapered mouth for easy drinking, an attractive and grippable exterior, and a soft accessory cord loop.
MiiR - 23oz Vacuum Insulated Bottle
This easy-to-grab bottle ($30) can keep liquids hot or cold on your way to the office, and its clever asymmetrical handle makes opening easy. Bonus: It's skinny enough to fit in your car cup holder.
Polar Bottle - Color Series
Plastic makes for a lightweight and long-lived bottle, equally perfect for cyclists and weightlifters. The Polar Bottle Color Series gets top marks for its ergonomic silhouette and hazard-free polypropylene material. It’s also reasonable in price — $15.
Made from borosilicate glass and sheathed in silicone, Swig Savvy ($10) is capable of withstanding sharp temperature changes and is sophisticated enough for a conference table. While glass isn't the best option for more active endeavors, it's a solid option you prioritize style above all else.
For adventurers who need to save space and weight, a collapsible jug is a must. When full, the Platypus SoftBottle ($12) holds as much as our other picks but slides into a fraction of the space when empty. A secure latch closure ensures that any remaining water doesn’t hydrate your backpack.
The Best Water Bottle
With a mind-boggling number of water bottles on the market, finding the best can seem overwhelming. Ultimately, it’s the way you plan to use your water bottle that should most influence your decision — unique combinations of materials, lid styles, and handles all confer different benefits for your mountain hike, morning bus ride, or board meeting.
The die-hard outdoorsman will never have to fear dropping the Zoku, even during a rugged climb. In our testing, its dent-resistant exterior held up against a chest-height drop onto hard concrete — the only bottle in our entire stainless steel line-up that didn’t incur injuries. And despite its heft, it’s comfortable enough to carry by hand, either around its attractive exterior or by its supple loop.
Getting hot coffee or ice water from home to work should be the easiest part of your morning. For our Commute pick, we sought out a design that fits just as conveniently in your car cup holder as your backpack pouch. We love the user-friendly MiiR Vacuum Insulated Bottle, with its conveniently angled handle and grippable sides (it reminds us of super-fine sandpaper). It offers both hot and cold insulation as well as substantial capacity in a surprisingly light, compact package.
What's BPA again?The term probably rings a bell: In 2009, research broke that BPA (Bisphenol A), a building block in some plastics, could disrupt hormonal activity, leading to increased risk of breast cancer, miscarriage, and fat deposition. We gave BPA a wide berth in our selection process, but found that bisphenols weren’t the only plastic chemicals to watch out for. Read our Sports pick mini review for more.
The pro-chugging nozzle and durable body of our Sport favorite, the Polar Bottle Color Series, makes it a great gym companion, as does its wide mouth. Dump in heaps of protein powder or amino acid with abandon, no strategic aim necessary. Most importantly — it’s made of 100 percent polypropylene, the only plastic type we found that is not only BPA-free, but is also least likely to leach other harmful chemicals.
Stainless steel and plastic lead the pack when it comes to bottle materials, but there are others that may suit your style. Glass is clean and classy for indoor use, while soft plastic is ideal when you're hoofing it.
Weighing in at over a pound bone dry, the substantial Swig Savvy 20oz Glass Water Bottle is made out of borosilicate glass. This lab-grade glass type can go right from hot to cold without shattering, so morning tea can turn into afternoon ice water post-haste. Its strategic rubber casing also protects against the more typical cause of shattering — a good, old-fashioned drop. We loved the casing’s architectural design, which not only looks great on a desk but offers an excellent grip.
Like to pack light? The clever Platypus Softbottle lets you carry a water bottle only when you need it. Polish off the contents and this pouch curls up like an empty tube of toothpaste. We were impressed to find that it stands up straight and solid when full, and that it doesn’t leak, even after we subjected the cap to an impactful drop. It’s safe, too — though it’s plastic, it’s made of polyethylene, the same flexible material used to make sandwich bags. That material that has never been manufactured using bisphenols.
How We Found the Best Water Bottles
The best water bottle is forged out of safe, durable material and is easy to fill, drink from, clean, and carry. To find the best, we examined water bottle testing results from The Wirecutter and other “best of” lists, scoured customer reviews on Amazon, REI, and Dick’s Sporting Goods, and researched the benefits and drawbacks of various water bottle materials and lid styles. We started by zeroing in on the big names in water bottles, but found ourselves increasingly drawn to newcomer brands. We were keen to stack the newest ergonomic masterpieces against cult classics, like flagship Nalgenes and Klean Kanteens, provided that they met our specific expectations for a range of use cases: Outdoors, Commuting, and Sports, as well as what can be summed up as Desk (glass) and Travel (soft plastic).
We sought out models that fit each use case.
For our Outdoors picks, we had a bias for stainless steel. Glass shatters, plastic cracks, but even full of dents, a stainless steel bottle will last you a lifetime of getting lost in the wild. We sought out culinary-grade 18/8 stainless steel (18 percent chromium, 8 percent nickel), which is virtually unbreakable, a must for trekking and its unavoidable falls. We also looked for a generous capacity, around 25 oz. — enough to keep you hydrated even on the most strenuous hikes. Because of stainless steel’s poundage, we also required a large handle to accommodate both a carabiner and comfortable carrying. As for lid variety, we looked for no-nonsense, easy clean designs: screw tops or sport tops.
Case in point: aluminum. Because aluminum doesn’t play well with acidic substances, it can’t be in direct contact with water. Manufacturers, including the popular Swiss brand Sigg, circumvent this problem by lining aluminum jugs with plastic, and linings are often not bisphenol-free (though it may very well be BPA free). Any damage to the outside of the bottle can result in lining tears, further encouraging chemical seepage. Though aluminum is lightweight, we ultimately decided to avoid it, considering potential hazards.
- Camelbak – Chute
- Healthy Human – Water Bottle
- Hydro Flask – Standard Mouth
- Klean Kanteen – Insulated Classic 20oz
- The Coldest Water Sports Bottle
- Zoku – 25oz Stainless Steel Bottle
- Nathan – Little Shot 750mL Bottle
A Commuting water bottle needs to keep liquid hot or cold for hours on end, fit into a car cupholder (those average about 3.5 inches in diameter) or a backpack pouch, and have a easy-grip, easy-open design that keeps coffee stains at bay. We liked super-tapered mouths that make it hard to spill even while in motion. We aimed for narrow silhouettes and long insulation lifespans, above eight hours.
- MiiR – 23oz Vacuum Insulated
- MIRA – Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle
- Polar Bottle – Thermaluxe
- S’well – 25oz
- Thermo Tank – Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle
- Cayman Fitness – Insulated Stainless Steel
We prioritized quick filling and drinking for our Sports picks: a wide mouth for dumping powders but a targeted nozzle for lots of sips. You need to be able to open it, drink, and close it back up with one hand. For running, cycling, or indoor activities, a lightweight bottle is also a must — and it’s hard to find a better alternative to plastic. However, most plastics are made with chemicals known for their toxic leaching.
The best-known offender: BPA. These days, avoiding BPA in your plastic bottles is a no-brainer. You’d actually be hard-pressed to find a plastic water bottle made by a respectable brand that wasn’t BPA-free. But Dr. Nancy L. Wayne, a neuroendocrinologist at the UCLA School of Medicine, reports that in the aftermath of damning BPA research, manufacturers merely replaced BPA with BPS. In order to steer clear of all bisphenols, no matter what initials they go by, we chose to only bring in hard plastic bottles made of 100 percent bisphenol-free Tritan copolyester or polypropylene.
- Nalgene – On the Fly
- Nike – Hyperfuel Sport Water Bottle
- Pogo – 24oz Plastic
- Polar Bottle – Color Series
- Swig Savvy – Sports Water Bottle
- Thermos – Hydration Bottle with Rotating Intake Meter
Even our alternative bottle materials had their own sets of criteria. For our glass pick, we looked for style above all else, plus a secure grip. We wanted something that would go with a power outfit, look appropriate for a conference table, and wouldn’t disturb the entire office when opened, set down, or dropped. We only looked at models that came encased in some form of protective rubber koozie.
- Contigo – Purity
- Lifefactory – 22oz BPA Free Glass Water Bottle
- Swig Savvy – 20oz Glass Water Bottle
- KOR – One 750 mL
And finally, the water bottle for when you don’t want to carry a water bottle. Squishy plastic options come in many guises: Capri Sun-like pouches, collapsable rubber bottles, and at least one strange, accordion design that crunches down into an inch-tall disc when empty. We looked for ones with securely closing lids and base designs that allow them to stand up when full. And, of course, we sought out BPA-free options, preferably ones made with materials like polyethylene and silicone, which have never used bisphenols.
- Hydrapak – Stash 750 mL
- Nomader – Collapsible Water Bottle
- Platypus – SoftBottle
- Vapur – Element Bottle
With 27 popular 20-25 oz. models that answered to our criteria, it was time to bring them into the office so we could up our hydration game with each one.
Then we tested our finalists for usability: Easy to fill, sip, chug, and carry. Hard to spill.
To find the hardiest, most convenient water bottles of the pack, we put our 26 finalists through a series of tests to mimic the stresses of everyday use.
- Leaks. We filled all the water bottles with pineapple juice (potent flavor plus potent color) and left them on their side overnight. Pointing slightly downhill on a inclined surface helped imitate some of the odd positions your bottle winds up in when jostled around in a backpack. Only one bottle couldn’t hold up; The glass Lifefactory bottle we otherwise liked for its smooth, wide-set handle and 360 degree grippy covering doesn’t have a lid secure enough for anything but an upright stance.
- Wear and tear. We subjected our stainless steel Outdoor picks to a trial by fire. Well, concrete. A drop from chest-height in a cement stairwell left every bottle save the Zoku with a couple of substantial bruises. The ding at the base of the giant Healthy Human bottle even threatened to keep it from standing upright.
- Handling ease. To see how easily we could open and drink from a water bottle even if our hands were full, we tried carrying a heavy backpack in our arms while drinking from each one. We found that too-small handles left fingers crunched, while sleek handle-less models like the S’well made it nearly impossible to get a good grip on the cap. In contrast, we loved the MiiR’s unique angled cap handle, which helped us locate the top by touch and then get easy torque to open.
- Drinkability. For all use cases, we wanted the choice of either a small, measured sip or a big chug of water. We found that overly wide mouths kept us from the first, and too-small nozzles kept us from the second. Tapered, mid-sized openings or generous nozzles generally satisfied both needs.
- Flavor. That pineapple juice we poured in for our leak test served a dual purpose. After around 15 hours of marinating, we dumped out the pineapple juice, rinsed each bottle thoroughly, then refilled them with water. We wanted to test how much the material absorbed flavors — a yucky tendency of which plastic is usually the most guilty. Sure enough, the worst offender turned out to be Nike Hyper Fuel Sports Bottle. This old school plastic design mopped up the pineapple flavor so well that one tester reported the water tasting like pure pineapple juice.
- Temperature hold. For our insulated models, we put advertising claims (24 hours of ice! 12 hours of hot coffee!) to the test. We filled them with ice water and later with piping hot water, testing their mouth temperature after a few hours and then overnight. We found that insulated bottles do much better staying cold (Healthy Human and Klean Kanteen even received a tester’s commendation of “like a glacier spring!”) than staying hot. The best that could be said of the temperature of hot contents after sitting overnight was “above room temp.” That literally lukewarm praise went to ThermoTank.
Our tests brought highlighted many exceptional water bottles, but the ones that earned our top spots succeeded holistically. Not just great insulation, but also packing ease. Not just a convenient cap, but also an easy-sip opening. While every bottle category came with a unique set of priorities, the best of each proved they could handle more than a single use case and make our lives easier in the process.
Our Picks for the Best Water Bottle
Best for Outdoors
We’re just as surprised as you are. In a field dominated by the likes of Klean Kanteen and Hydro Flask, who would’ve thought that an unheard-of brand would take the gold? (If you have heard of Zoku, you’re probably thinking of the company’s innovative popsicle molds.) Nonetheless, the 25 oz. stainless steel Zoku water bottle excelled in every convenience and durability metric important for our Outdoor pick. Its brushed metal exterior is smooth without being slippery, and the grippable rubber cap is easy to open and close up tight. Perhaps most importantly, it hits the sweet spot of carrying a lot of water and not feeling bulky.
In contrast, we found a lot of the large-capacity stainless steel bottles hard to carry, especially when they were full. In addition to their sheer weight, the typical, hard plastic handle requires you to loop three (or crunch four) fingers into the narrow slot — okay for carrying from house to car, but aggravating for longer stretches. Zoku features a soft, flexible accessory cord loop, cleverly threaded through the lid. Most testers could easily fit all four fingers into the loop, which allows your hand to hang in a comfortably loose fist while still keeping a good clasp.
Better get a bottle brush.One drawback of stainless steel: It isn’t dishwasher-safe. The heat and detergent may corrode the metal and tarnish its polish. If convenience is more important to you than looks, you can get away with putting it on the top rack. And while some plastic claims to be dishwasher-safe, we recommend against it. The steam can prompt chemical leaching and up the potential hazard level of even the most harmless plastics.
While stainless steel bottles are infamous for their wide-mouth brim which make drinking on the go near impossible, we found that the Zoku’s tapered, medium-wide opening (about 1.5 inches in diameter) lets us take hearty chugs free of dribbles. And it’s still broad enough to allow for no-fuss cleaning: You can easily see inside to make sure you’re not leaving any residue. A simple screw-on mouth makes washing a snap, even when you’re camping and far from a sink.
Our pinnacle test for Outdoor contenders: a drop onto unforgiving concrete. The old-guard stainless steel models, including those from Klean Kanteen and Hydro Flask, sustained some impactful dents. Only the Zoku came away without a scratch, which manufacturers attribute to the bottle’s double-walled siding.
Those insulating double walls also mean that you can get a cold slurp of water hours into a hot day-hike. After eight hours, the ice water we left in the Zoku was still cold enough to hurt sensitive teeth. Zoku’s advertising claims that the bottle can manage both cold and hot temperatures but, like every other stainless steel model, we were not as impressed with its heat-holding abilities. We aren’t partial to drinking coffee out of a water bottle anyway, and especially not while hiking; If you are, consider going with our Commuting pick, MiiR, which fared a little better in this regard.
Best for Commuting
For rushed mornings, a water bottle that can preserve both hot or cold drinks is a lifesaver. MiiR can do it all. We enjoyed both ice-cold water and piping hot tea a full eight hours after we first filled it up. And with its powder-coated “Hardshell,” MiiR also offers a well-tractioned hold, important for quick grabs while clambering in and out of the car — a noticeable benefit after struggling with the slippery brushed metal exteriors of the S’well, Thermo Tank, and Cayman Fitness. Its ergonomic grip meets you halfway.
Another perk: The angular handle helps generate quick torque. We already liked it for its Scandinavian aesthetic, but fell in love when we found out how easy it made it to locate the bottle in a backpack or purse and open it blind.
Convenience is a top priority for all water bottles, but especially ones that have to serve you on a commute. With its cup-holder-friendly measurements, MiiR’s lean profile slides easily into a backpack, purse, or briefcase, and won’t spill a drop once it’s in there. The super tight closure lets you know nothing is going to escape. And thanks to its thick insulation and hard candy coating, you don’t have to worry about any moisture building up on the exterior: MiiR bottles don’t produce any condensation. Its narrow opening is just about mouth-width, meaning no side dribbles while taking a sip of coffee on a bumpy bus ride.
Miir’s thoughtful design stems from a thoughtful company. Every product from this B Corp funds a trackable, philanthropic project. In fact, 3% of their revenue is earmarked as grant money for nonprofit orgs.
Though the model we tested holds a full 23 oz., it appears a lot more streamlined than most comparably sized bottles. Streamlined is a boon for packing convenience but, that said, sometimes bulky is just what you need. If your vacation plans include turning your commuting route into a road trip, you may want to upgrade from a MiiR water bottle to a growler. They’ve got you covered, from 32 to 64 oz.
Best for Sports
What people love about plastic bottles and what makes plastic bottles unhealthy tend to overlap. Snap-open, bite-valve straws are a breeding ground for bacteria. And hard plastic has likely been manufactured from components that prompt abnormal estrogenic activity.
Bad news first, right? The good news is that Polar Bottles hit a lot of the same convenience marks as popular models from Camelbak and Contigo, plus they’re safe to use (100 percent polypropylene) and easy to keep clean (with a streamlined, squeeze-top nozzle). The Polar Bottle Color Series’ ergonomic silhouette offers an easy-grip waist plus textured sides, making it a fast grab even for sweaty hands. Unscrew the lid for a wide mouth opening, perfect for ice cubes or heaping scoops of powder. Close it to drink out of the generously wide squeeze-top.
Word to the wise: If you’re trying desperately to pluck the squirt nozzle open and it won’t budge, chances are it’s already open. It only shifts a couple millimeters between open and close. Tugging it up and down with your teeth is easy, and that’s a must for one-handed drinking, whether you’re grabbing a sip on the treadmill or yanking the bottle out from your bicycle’s water bottle cage.
This nozzle is also easy to drink from: Either suck on the nozzle for quick sips or squeeze the bottle’s flexible sides for a more substantial flow. Amazingly, no liquid comes out if you don’t encourage it in one of those two ways. You can even tip it upside down and shake it while open without a drop. We love a water bottle that makes it hard to spill, especially when we’re going to throw it into a gym bag or backpack.
All Polar Bottles utilize the same hard plastic loop. Heavier models (like the Thermaluxe, which we considered for Commuting) seem to overtax the loop — not to mention the one finger that you tend to carry it with. However, the Color Series is light enough for this loop to be functional. Another trait the Color Series shares with virtually all Polar Bottle products: insulation. It can’t compare with insulated stainless steel models, but the ice water we left in the Color Series was still refreshingly chilly after a full eight hours.
As we dove into plastic research, we learned to put material safety on par with usability when it came to plastic water bottles. Avoiding BPA and BPS figured into our earliest curation, but interviewing experts and sifting through research showed us that bisphenols are just the tip of the plastic iceberg. Bisphenols all share the same special property: hardening plastic. Their other special property — disrupting normal hormonal function with potentially fatal effects — turns out to not be so unique. Many components that make plastic durable and useful also make it toxic.
According to Dr. George Bittner, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Austin, the number of hormone-disrupting compounds commonly used in plastics add up to several hundred. Dr. Bittner has been on the frontline in this contentious field, battling companies that claim to manufacture safe plastic just because it is bisphenol-free. The debate has been heated, and offending companies like Eastman Tritan have put a lot of effort into proving their plastic’s superiority through extensive testing results. Dr. Bittner and other researchers have produced studies that upend a lot of their safety claims, but Dr. Bittner claims that without the same public outcry that followed the BPA revelation, companies aren’t incentivized to change.
We asked Dr. Bittner what plastic water bottle would be safe to use, and he told us: polypropylene. That plastic type is the least likely of those currently in widespread production to release chemicals.
A Glass Option to Consider
If you’re looking for a water bottle more at home on a conference table than a ski lift, you want one that marries design and function. Enter glass. Manufacturers have taken precautions to make glass bottles less likely to shatter, enclosing them in protective rubber sheaths, but our top pick, Swig Savvy’s 20 oz. model, has gone a step further. It’s the only glass bottle we looked at made with thermal shock-resistant borosilicate glass. Most glass used in kitchenware is vulnerable to shattering from rapid temperature changes. Borosilicate, the same glass that’s used in lab equipment (think: experiments with smoking beakers), ensures your bottle stays in one piece whether you’re filling it with hot or cold.
We appreciated that Swig Savvy’s silicone straps don’t cover so much of the surface that it undermines one of glass’ greatest features — that you can see into it. Testers loved being able to keep an eye on their water consumption and know just where they still needed to clean if they filled it with energy powder. Another plus: It’s large enough that you won’t have to return to the water fountain a million times a day to keep it full.
While Swig Savvy’s look is more stylish than sporty, it still features a handy strap. The silky fabric loop is about the same length as the one on our Outdoors pick, and like that one, you can easily slip your whole hand through it. Just be aware that the strap is attached only to the cap — the makings of a clattering fall if it isn’t screwed on tight.
Our one real qualm with Swig Savvy’s design is that it seems to take forever to unscrew said cap. The bottle itself has the same two threads as practically every other, but the inside of the cap has four. Despite the extra effort of screwing and unscrewing, the additional threads are a plus if you like to make sure your bottle is 100 percent closed before putting it next to electronic devices. Another contender, Lifefactory, has a wonderful easy-open cap, but it was the only model to leak during testing. We also appreciated the relative silence in opening the Swig Savvy, as opposed to the scraping metallic sound of the Contigo.
The best compliment you can pay a water bottle is that you don’t have to go through an internal pro/con list before bringing it with you. Swig Savvy’s good looks and accident-proof design make us want to take it everywhere we go.
A Collapsible Option to Consider
For backpacking adventures or music festival jaunts, you want to carry as little as possible, but you also want to be able to stay hydrated. The struggle is real! But the solution is easy: Drink your water and leave the weight behind, taking with you just a couple ounces of flexible plastic. The Platypus SoftBottle folds up tight enough to fit in a pants pocket, but unfurls to almost an entire liter capacity when full. What’s more, the bottle stands up by itself like any other bottle when filled with water, and it comes equipped with an angled carabiner clip.
The cap itself closes down snugly, but you can also snap a thin metal latch on top for extra assurance. The latch is bonus for packing, though testers found it uncomfortably prodded their chins while drinking. The Vapur Element, the other pouch model we considered, is almost identical to the Platypus, and because the Vapur doesn’t insist on touching your face when you drink from it, we initially thought it was going to take the cake. But during a hefty shake test, the Vapur spurted water everywhere — a minor disaster if you happen to pack it in your bag when not completely empty. Meanwhile, the Platypus (thanks in part to its metal latch) kept securely shut. Not a drop escaped.
Platypus’ bendable, bisphenol-free plastic collapses into an an easily packable size when empty, but you can also latch it onto the outside of a backpack thanks to the attached carabiner. And unlike the forever-crinkly and hard-to-open Hydrapak Stash (our accordion water bottle), it remains a little ballooned up if you don’t squash it flat. By not harboring the creases that make cleaning and drying difficult, the Platypus SoftBottle keep your water sanitary.
If clean water is itself an issue where you roam, check out Platypus’ advanced filtration systems. Capable of filtering out 99.9999 percent of bacteria and 99.9 percent of protozoa (including top threats like E. coli and salmonella), these easy-to-use gravity systems allow you to collect water from a creek, a river, or even a puddle and taste just pure H20. Other, cheaper filtration water bottles are really only good for improving tap water; a nice enough feature so long as you stay indoors. High-grade filtration systems, like the one in Platypus’ product line, run on the pricey side but are mandatory for go-anywhere hydration.
Did You Know?
Sometimes you just have to use plastic. Here’s the code.
The recycling code stamped on the bottom of a “recyclable” bottle of water or any other plastic product tells you a lot about its chemical make-up.
- Plastic #1 or PET is used for disposable objects. Not recommended for repeat use due to the difficulty of sanitizing its porous surface.
- Plastic #3, #6, and #7 all leach harmful substances into water, especially when warm.
- Plastic #2, #4, and #5 are safe for repeat contact with drinking water or other consumables. Unfortunately, they're not very durable and take a beating in dishwashers. You should pay attention to wear and tear on plastic: Every imperfection is a potential hotspot for chemical leaching.
If you forget your reusable bottle and have to reach for the bottled variety, check out the number on the bottom. And then check out our Best Bottled Water review.
Tell your water bottle to think positive.
Dr. Emoto, a Japanese doctor of alternative medicine, developed a theory that positive and negative thinking can affect human health. A small-scale example of this phenomenon, he argued, can be found in frozen water drops. Their crystalline shape reflect ambient human emotions. One of his tests: writing negative and positive words on bottles of purified water and then photographing their frozen crystals. Chaotic crystals formed from negative words, finely detailed symmetrical crystals formed from positive. The scientific community has largely rejected Emoto’s mystical findings, but a Best Desk contender, KOR ONE, seems to have put some of Emoto’s thought into action. They market small “stones” bearing inspirational quotes that you can place inside the lid of your bottle, visible with every drink. Our first reaction was “pure gimmick,” but who knows? Maybe the power of positive thinking really does make your water better for you.