Every water bottle on the planet is stupid

There comes a time every year during which I endeavor to resolve what I think should be a simple, straightforward predicament that even the most cursory application of intellectual effort would easily resolve. And every year, I leave empty-handed and bitterly disappointed at the trials and tribulations that have once again ruined my whole day. I can’t find a decent water bottle no matter how hard I try.

And it’s not that I don’t try. They’re all just terrible. Searching for a decent water bottle has destroyed my faith in the intellectual capabilities of the human race. We are doomed, I say. Doomed!

My meager water bottle requirements

I don’t think my standards are particularly high. In fact, they are rather few.

  • More or less one-handed operation
  • Locking mechanism to prevent accidental opening
  • Protected mouth piece so it can’t get dirty
  • Large opening for ice cubes
  • Small opening for actual drinking

Let’s see how the industry fails miserably to achieve these goals, shall we? And it’s not just me complaining. I mean, I am complaining, but these are all just objective flaws.

Nalgene Wide-Mouth

Ah, the one that started it all. The one that made carrying around your own water bottle into an eco-friendly fashion statement. Too bad it sucks.

Nalgene wide-mouth bottle
The Nalgene Bottle. It’s like a booby trap of water all over your face.

The deal breakers on this model are numerous; try to take a drink from this thing on a moving bus and you’ll spill water all over your face.

Nalgene’s solution? Make a second version with a small opening. Well okay, that’s not a horrible idea…no wait, yes it is. Now you can’t get ice cubes in there, and it’s still a two-handed process that requires screwing the lid on and off every time you want a sip.

Nalgene’s flip-top styles are pretty awful as well. What should be a simple push-button mechanism is clunkier and more difficult than it needs to be.

And although you can buy accessories that fit into the mouthpiece that drastically improve the spilling problem, the fact that you need them still means the original design is stupid. It’s a little bit like selling a car without a steering wheel and then letting people know you can pay extra to get one. Human Gear’s Capcap isn’t terrible, though.

Camelbak Bottle

This one is super-popular as well, and it’s easy to see why. It has a lot going for it. Unfortunately, it’s not enough.

Camelbak Eddy
The Camelbak Eddy, everyone’s favorite dirt-gathering cesspool.

While the combination of wide-mouth screw top and leak-proof and lockable bite valve make it work rather well, it has some fatal flaws. Firstly, the spout is hard to get open. You have to pull a flexible rubbery thing. They have an improved version with a plastic piece instead, which is far easier to open and close. It’s only available on the kids’ model. Sigh.

Secondly, the spout is permanently exposed. It’s not so bad for casual use or short trips, or if you can clean it regularly, but sooner or later there’s going to be something gross all over and you’ll wish they had come up with a more clever solution than just nothing.

Isn’t there a simple way to make a more easily opened, protected mouthpiece that doesn’t require two hands to get open and won’t get dirty when closed?


Contigo Autospout Bottle

This is the snarky little brother of the Camelbak bottle who refuses to make the same dumb mistakes of his predecessor.

Contigo Autospout Addison Water Bottle
The Contigo Autospout. So close! SO CLOSE!

See that button? It pops the spout right open with a single push, so you can drink with one hand. It’s actually pretty neat. Plus its mouthpiece is covered when closed. There’s a separate plastic piece that automatically opens and closes without you having to do anything.

Sound good? Not so fast. This one has fatal flaws as well. Firstly, the mouthpiece is not a bite valve; it’s just open. This means that when the mouthpiece is exposed, water can just pour right out. But it’ll be closed, right?

Maybe. But since the button that flips the mouthpiece open has no locking mechanism, a single poke in the right direction will open this baby right up. If it only locked, you could throw it in a bag and not worry about it. But nope!

Kleen Kanteen

A lot of people love the Kleen Kanteen, and with good reason. It’s made of metal. Oh wait, that’s the only reason. There’s nothing else good about it.

Kleen Kanteen
The Klean Kanteen. Yeah, you can buy a replacement cap. It’s called BAD DESIGN.

You can find two versions; one with a screw-top cap, and another with the so-called “sport cap.” Both of these are awful. A screw top must be screwed on and off, and you’ll probably drop it down a drain. The sport cap looks like a bicycling water bottle, and is constantly exposed. Plus, it’s not even at the right angle. You’ll poke your nose into the carabiner clip every time you take a drink. They could have put it at 45° and it would have worked better.

You can actually buy a sport cap with an angled mouth piece, but reviewers say it’s defective anyway. Prepare to get soaked. You can also get an add-on protective cap, which, ingeniously, attaches to the bottle and can’t be lost. Once again, they should have designed it right in the first place.

They make yet another version with a sippy spout. Plus a losable cover. Nice job, guys!

Thermos Intak: A potential savior?

Alright, so here we are at something that doesn’t suck. Shouldn’t a water bottle be easy enough that most choices are good, and it’s hard to find one that’s bad? I would think so! But at least this one doesn’t suck.

Thermos Intak
The Thermos Intak. Its only real flaw is ugliness.

This one has a simple push-button mechanism that flips the lid open, and has a locking mechanism that keeps it from opening accidentally. Plus, the mouthpiece is a lot easier to clean than rubbery bite valves like the Camelbak. It’s actually quite nice.

Except it’s incredibly ugly. There, I said it. I know looks shouldn’t matter when it comes to drinking water, but dammit, this thing just looks so damn weird. But if looks don’t matter to you, this one doesn’t suck. The one downside is that the flip-top cap can get in the way if you want to leave it open, but then again, you’ll probably close it whenever you set it back down.

There’s also the Thermos Sipp, which works exactly the same way, but looks downright classy. On the downside, it has no locking mechanism, which is incredibly dumb of them, especially since they already make one.

Clearly I have problems

Okay, so I know it’s not that big a deal, but it’s also not that difficult a problem to solve. It seems deviously simple to make a water bottle that has none of these flaws, yet they are bizarrely rare. And in some cases (I’m looking at you, Nalgene), the standard design is no more functional than a disposable water bottle. Gatorade bottles, for example, have a very rigid structure that’ll last for quite some time, and if you don’t mind the residual taste, you could probably use them for years. Plus they come with Gatorade!

Lifesaver Bottle
The Lifesaver Bottle. The carrying strap is actually a major perk in my opinion.

Oh well. Maybe I’ll walk into the store someday and something flawless will present itself. In the meantime, I’m eyeing the Lifesaver Bottle. If you’re traveling abroad or camping somewhere without easy access to clean drinking water, it’s absolutely spectacular. It’s an all-in-one bottle design that purifies water even down to the microscopic virus level. It’s $150, but as long as you don’t leave it on the plane, it’ll pay for itself by allowing you to skip buying bottled water. Eventually, anyway.

Got any good recommendations? Let us know!

About SnarkyNomad

Eytan is a pretentious English major whose rant-laden sarcastic tirades occasionally include budget travel tips and other international nonsense. You can follow his every narcissistic word on Facebook or Twitter.

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50 Comments on “Every water bottle on the planet is stupid”

  1. Oh man, I feel your pain. I had a Katadyn filter bottle with a sort of a straw that had a built in water tight snap cover (which actually worked pretty well) that I had filled with water prior to a trip. I got on the airplane and the bottle had pressured up so when I popped the top, water just started blasting across the aisle! Lucky there was an empty seat but man If I had I bet they would have thought I was squirting lighter fluid all over the place. I still haven’t found the perfect water bottle :( It’s 2013!!

    1. I had that exact water bottle, and that exact problem when I arrived in Cusco with its high elevation. Had it for a long time, though. It was mostly good. They have a newer version, but it’s still not perfect.

  2. This was hilarious. I totally feel your pain on the Nalgene bottles. While they are great for hiking trips and work, they are not so convenient for traveling – especially while riding in a bus or truck. I also feel your pain with the CamelBak, because mine got completely disgusting in Africa, and so that was the end of that.

    1. It drives me insane. My entire plan with this blog is to build a platform from which I can incessantly complain all day long and the fan base is so voracious that the entire outdoor industry shall be forced to bend to my will. Obey, damn you, OBEY!

  3. None of these bottles would fit on my bike. I would never buy a Nalgene because the shape and the top is just not designed for cyclist. I forgo the brand names and buy the cheapest one in a bike shop.

  4. I agree that finding a water bottle shouldn’t be so complicated! I actually love the Intak bottle. I’ve lost mine several times but I keep buying replacements. I recently tried the water bobble with a built in filter. It was the very worst ever. It leaked constantly, the plastic seemed cheap and easily bendable and the design was the opposite of sleek. I guess for now I’ll stick to the Intak! Any suggestions for the best camel back?

    1. There’s only the one Camelbak as far as I can see, and it is fatally flawed. The Intak seems to have the most efficient design for drinking and cleaning.

      1. We’ve used the Intake for years. They are great until they take a hard tumble. Then the plastic clip for the latch breaks and your left with only the metal clip, which has the tendency to slip off if the bottle is well loved. We have lots of bottles with only 1 functional lid (mine broke last night)

  5. The worst is finding a water bottle that fits into the damn cup holders in a car!! Nothing adds excitement to your to your day like a Nalgene under the break pedal…

  6. Haha, so true! I found one I really like and used for over a year. It’s by Sistema and you can unlock the mouthpiece with a simple twist that you can do with one hand after a little practice. And the opening is big enough for ice cubes.
    Here’s the like (excuse the colour, they have lots of different ones) http://tinyurl.com/p4j7d9j

    You should be careful with using “disposable” water bottles (like Gatorade bottles) for long periods of time. They are not made for this purpose and start leaking nasty chemical after a while, especially when exposed to the sun a lot!

    1. gatorade bottles are made of PET. It will not leak nasty chemicals. The only plastic proven to have that issue is Polycabonate, which can leach some BPA if subjected to high temperatures. Technically there is a finite amount of BPA, so the longer you use it the safer you are, if that makes any sense.

  7. Try Contigo – I found them at Costco and use their stainless mug (one for coffee and one for tea) as well as their plastic, strawless water bottles (BPA free). Also have some for the kids :)

    The lids screw on, they never leak, work one handed, – their AutoSeal feature is the key and is amazing.

    Pretty sure it is what you have been looking for…

    1. I have a Contigo coffee mug at home that I use for hot and cold drinks, and it works really well. The one-handed drinking is great. But on the downside, the mouthpiece is exposed and it can’t lock. I’d be worried about throwing it into a bag with a laptop, and it eventually gets dirty. At home it’s easy to clean, but when you’re traveling and you clean it with potentially unclean sink water, it’s just dirty all over again. At home it works, but otherwise…problems.

  8. My contigo mugs lock… maybe look at the stainless mugs instead of the water bottles. As for cleaning – the mechanism is not complicated – just clean it with some of the water you are putting in it to drink…I have had the mugs locked and unlocked with my phone and camera (upright and secure and padded – with never an issue. Plus the mugs are a thermos so drinks stay hot/cold for hours. Perhaps you could KickStarter the perfect bottle? Cheers :)

  9. Have ypu ever looked at Sigg water bottles? I think they should meet your criteria. The only thing that might bother you could be the opening, I can’t remember if it would be big enough to fit ice cubes, I guess it depends on the size of the cubes…
    For example: http://www.mysigg.com/product/11308#

    1. Nah, they just have a twist-off cap and that’s about it, and the cap isn’t attached to anything. Takes a little work to use, and it has parts that can get lost. On to the next option…

      1. No, they don’t just have wist off caps. They look like this under the cap that flips open: http://www.sport-shop.pl/gallery/big/8110_2.jpg to open you have to twist the inside bit, you can easily do it with your teeth.
        I think you can also buy the cap seperately, it should fit on all their non wide opening bottles. I don’t know why they don’t have a nice picure of it open on the Sigg homepage. A lot of people have these in Switzerland.
        Or with a similar system: http://www.alfi.de/english/collection-alfi-vacuum-flask-isobottle_283/alfi-insulated-drink-bottle-isobottle-active-soccer-05-l_2499.html?sid=A6C2FA97-FBC7-4F7F-9648-87DE70583E97&showsets=3 check out the pdf on the page for details.
        I just know there is a water bottle out there for you ;)

  10. It seems you haven’t ran in Under Armour’s water bottles. Specifically the Beyond 18oz Vaccum Insulated bottle with flip top. It’s pretty much the same as the thermos inlak, and it looks good. It fills all the requirements you listed and adds vacuum insulation to the list. If 18oz is too small they have 24oz ones that aren’t vacuum insulated.

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