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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!