How To Choose a Hiking Water Bottle

Water Bottle

One of the most crucial elements of hiking is having enough water with you. A hiking water bottle makes it simple to stay hydrated while out on the trail. Even a brief outdoor adventure can leave you thirsty, so it’s a good idea to bring a drink with you. On a longer adventure, you’ll need it even more. The value of having a high-quality hiking water bottle in your outdoor gear cannot be overstated.

In order to assist you in making the best decision for your needs, we will walk you through several criteria you should take into account when choosing a water bottle.

Water Bottle Types

Reusable vs. Disposable Water Bottles

The most obvious advantage of switching from disposable to reusable water bottles is a reduction in waste. Some estimates place the annual production of disposable plastic bottles at over 50 billion; that’s a lot of plastic that could wind up on the sides of roads, in lakes and rivers, along hiking trails, and in parks.

While the prices of reusable water bottles range from under $10 to over $50, the cost of bottled water can easily reach that level in just a few months. A reusable bottle should last for many years, depending on the material, the build quality, and how well you care for it.

Lightweight but durable bottles designed for hiking and other outdoor activities range in weight from about 1 to 10 ounces and are made to withstand drops and rough handling that are typical of the outdoors. With a low weight and durable plastic construction, non-insulated models are a classic option. Options that roll down incredibly small and fit easily into a pack’s crevice should be considered if storage is a concern. A robust, insulated model can also be an option if you’ll be outdoors in extremely cold weather and don’t mind carrying a little extra weight on your back.

Things To Consider When Choosing A Water Bottle

Insulated vs. Non-Insulated Water Bottles

Double-wall insulated bottles are an amazing invention because they can keep liquids hot or cold for extended periods of time, even in conditions that are quite extreme.  Quality insulated designs, however, add significantly to the weight of a bottle and are typically three to four times as expensive. Our opinion is that if you want to spend money on a nice water bottle and aren’t too concerned with weight, an insulated bottle will probably make you happy.


Most of the water bottles designed for hiking are built using one of three materials: plastic, stainless steel, or aluminum. The lack of plastic or metallic taste makes glass bottles a popular alternative for daily use, but their obvious drawback is that they are easily broken or shattered, and thus they are less suitable for outdoor activities.


Plastic is the most common material used across all of the aforementioned categories of water bottles. The old Nalgene BPA scare hasn’t dampened interest in the material much. Plastic bottles are inexpensive, generally fairly durable (though not as much as most stainless steel), and lightweight. The drawbacks of plastic bottles are that they typically don’t provide any insulation and can develop a plasticky smell if you don’t regularly clean them or leave water inside of them for an extended period of time.

Until recently, many water bottles contained the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), which is used in hard plastics. There is some disagreement over whether BPA has any negative effects on humans, but there is a chance that it could seep into your beverages from containers. The good news is that BPA has almost completely disappeared from the water bottle industry.

Look for clear labeling if BPA is a concern for you.  If you don’t see this label, remember that many plastics have recycling codes on them, and that codes 3 and 7 are frequently made with BPA. Additionally, keep in mind that stainless steel water bottles, which account for a sizable portion of the market, do not contain this chemical.

Stainless Steel

Water bottles made of stainless steel from manufacturers like Hydro Flask, Klean Kanteen, and Yeti are very well-liked by people who don’t like the occasional taste or smell of plastic in their water bottles. Despite the fact that these bottles sometimes taste a little metallic, most people find them to be the better choice. Additionally, stainless steel bottles are known to be extremely durable and are more likely to dent than crack or puncture, unlike plastic bottles. Even if you alternate between coffee and water throughout the day, they are also fairly simple to clean and get rid of lingering tastes. Last but not least, a double-wall stainless steel design is the way to go if you want an insulated bottle.


You can choose an aluminum water bottle if you’re hesitant to use a plastic one for environmental reasons.  Water bottles made of aluminum are very durable and have one major advantage: they can be recycled.

Hard-Sided vs. Soft-Sided Water Bottles

You should also think about whether you want a soft-sided or hard-sided bottle. For regular use, hard-sided is the best choice because it has a sturdy construction, is simple to store in a cup holder or side pocket of a backpack, and is much easier to drink from. In addition to insulated and non-insulated stainless steel or plastic bottles, which are both renowned for their durability, hard-sided bottles are available in a variety of designs.

On the other hand, soft-sided bottles sacrifice durability for weight and compressibility. Weighting less than 2 ounces, ultralight bottles are incredibly portable. These are excellent choices if you don’t have a lot of room—we love them for trail running, fastpacking, and multi-pitch climbing—or if you want the extra water storage at camp without having to carry heavy bottles on the trail. The flexible shape of these items tends to bend when tilted to drink or pour water, so they aren’t very practical as daily items. We advise choosing a hard-sided bottle unless weight and packability are crucial factors for you.

The Capacity of the Water Bottle

The majority of water bottles come in a variety of sizes. On the small side, you will find bottles that hold 16 to 18 ounces. These are good for people who value portability. The downside is that you will have to refill your bottle more frequently throughout the day. To reduce fill-ups while still being portable, we prefer to size up to the 24- to 32-ounce range. Some models come in up to 64-ounce capacities, which are great for storing water (especially the insulated models for locations like remote construction sites), but those are too big for most people to carry around. People who store their water bottle in the side pocket of a daypack or backpack should take one more thing into account. A 32-ounce wide-mouth design will frequently put the side holster to its absolute limit.

Related Article: How Much Water Should I Bring When Hiking?


There are more and more options available for those who want a water bottle and a filter in one. There are designs that incorporate a filter into the cap or straw, and options that go one step further by incorporating virus-neutralizing purification. This makes it the better option for international travelers, though the majority of hikers in the backcountry will be perfectly fine using the first option to ward off bacteria and protozoan cysts.

We advise however bringing a separate filter or purifier. With those systems, you’ll get more output as well as greater flexibility to fill up multiple bottles.


A water bottle’s weight can vary significantly.  Travelers, backpackers, climbers, and other adventurers who must carry a bottle for extended periods of time are most likely to consider weight. In those circumstances, the traditional Nalgene is tough to beat because it combines backcountry durability and usability while weighing only 6.3 ounces. However, carrying a 20-ounce (or larger) bottle is perfectly reasonable for daily use or when the advantages of an insulated bottle take precedence.

Mouth Opening

The mouth opening refers to the bottle’s diameter when the top has been removed. There are some general characteristics that apply, but there are no standardized measurements for what counts as narrow, standard, or wide. It makes sense that a narrow bottle would be the most challenging to fill. Standard openings are frequently slightly wider than a narrow mouth bottle, but they are rarely wide enough to accommodate more than one or two ice cubes standing vertically at once. Wide-mouth bottles are the most flexible and straightforward to clean, but they also have a higher risk of spilling while being sipped from. However, purchasing the wide-mouth style with a smaller cap and spout is a simple fix.

Water Bottle Cap Types

Screw top

Quick opening

Instant top

Straw top

Water pouch straw

Sippers and Straws

For the majority, a straightforward screw-on or pop-top lid will do for drinking water. A user-friendly integrated straw does have advantages, such as allowing for mobile drinking while lowering the likelihood of spills. If you want the adaptability of both choices, you can frequently attach a compatible straw cap to a conventional water bottle. 

Straws do, however, add some complexity and weight to the bottle, which is not ideal for hikers. Straw systems also require additional cleaning, are susceptible to mold growth, and many cannot even be easily disassembled. And lastly, the additional components multiply the potential locations for leaks.   Although generally speaking we aren’t as fond of them as more conventional bottles, the straw question comes down to personal preference. It might be your ideal water bottle design if you’re careful to keep it clean and like the style.

Cleaning Your Water Bottle

Most of the time, it is best to clean a water bottle by hand in hot and soapy water. Besides this, a lot of plastic bottles are dishwasher compatible and are made to fit on the top rack. It is essential to allow each component to dry completely. This will lessen the possibility of mold or bacterial growth. Mos of the water bottle manufacturers advise using a teaspoon of bleach and some water to clean the bottles more thoroughly.

Water Bottle vs Hydration Bladder?

A water reservoir bladder is a popular substitution for water bottles. These are made up of a main bladder or reservoir that stores the water and a drink tube with an attached bite valve. You have easier access to hydration as the tube is positioned along your backpack’s shoulder straps. This makes you more likely to drink water which is always a good idea on the trail. The weight and capacity of a water reservoir are two additional benefits. Last but not least, the majority of hydration sleeves are located in the middle of the pack, which aids in weight distribution. Water bottles in either side pocket can cause weight to shift as you drink from one or the other.

Backpacks typically have side pockets for bottles and sleeves built into the interior of the pack for bladders, so they can hold both bottles and reservoirs. We never, however, use reservoirs as our only source of water, especially when traveling to farther-flung locations. The connection between the reservoir and tube can occasionally fail, leading to leaks inside packs. Another drawback of hydration systems is that a bottle can be easily retrieved and filled while a hydration system’s storage sleeve is frequently hidden deep inside the main compartment of your pack.

Related Article: The Best Way To Carry Water While Hiking