Water bottles have risen up to be one of the travel essentials in recent years. And not only if you are a traveler who is conscious about the environment. But how do you choose among the hundreds of options that are available nowadays? Water bottles come in various shapes, materials and sizes. Yet, in my point of view, there is no one water bottle fits all. The best water bottles are actually different for each (travel) occasion!
Over the last couple years, I had the chance to try various different water bottles for myself. To help you on your quest to find your own best water bottle, I have collected a list of my favorites down below. You will also find a general review about the type of material, and a recommendation which bottle is best for which kind of travel. For instance, while I love glass bottles, they are simply not the best option to take on most of your trips. The fact that they are quite heavy and easily breakable might mean that the best trip ends with enormous backpains.
But Why Bother with a Reusable Water Bottle at All?
There is a reason that water bottles will always show up in tips on how to reduce (plastic) pollution or waste. To demonstrate the effect a reusable water bottle can have on our environment, I will just leave you with one number: 500 billion. That’s how many plastic bottles are used worldwide every year. Just think of the impact on our plastic consumption, if each person decided to switch to a reusable water bottle instead. In the US alone, every day 60 million water bottles are thrown away.
The ways how plastic bottles have taken over is just absolutely mind-blowing. Especially considering that tap water would be considered safe to drink in most parts of the US. Even just looking at the monetary aspect, there is just simply so much money we can save by investing in a reusable bottle. I used to think 20€ to 30€ ($22 to $33), is a lot of money for a water bottle. It only seems like a lot of money if you directly compare it to the price of a disposable bottle though. Yes, you could buy about 30 single-use bottles for the same amount of money. However, if you used the reusable water bottle for just one year, that would be over 365€ ($406) for your drinking water in disposable bottles. Try comparing that to the initial investment now!
So without any further ado, this is my list of favorite materials and occasions for each water bottle. With the following options, there is almost no reason not to buy one!
Glass Water Bottles
I have been using reusable water bottles for a couple years now, and I have to say glass bottles are all the way up on my favorite’s list. The thing I love the most about glass water bottles is actually that they do not smell. Ever. I used several plastic bottles and they all started smelling a bit weird after a couple months. I never had that issue with glass bottles. The whole point of using a reusable water bottle is to use it for a long time. So if you end up throwing your water bottle out because it smells, the purpose is defeated after just a couple months.
Glass is also a great substitute to plastic as it is made from natural and renewable resources. This article explores the four most common alternatives to plastic. Check it out if you want to learn more about the sustainability aspect of glass, aluminum, paper and bamboo.
Unfortunately, glass bottles have two downsides. They are not only quite heavy, but also break
relatively easily. One of my first glass bottles that I had bought actually broke, full of water, right during one of my lectures. The noise and mess it made was quite embarrassing, to be honest. I was pretty bummed out about my new ‘investment’ that almost literally went down the drain. So I started using an old wine bottle as a water bottle for a while afterwards. You can only imagine the looks my professor gave me while sipping water during lectures. Luckily, there are a number of glass bottles that now come with sleeves to protect the water bottle.
One of the water bottles I like the most is definitely my bottle from Soul Bottles. It looks great, is very sturdy so I am not afraid it will break easily and has a fun lid which makes opening the bottle very entertaining! One of my favorite parts: By buying a Soul Bottle, I support a startup form Berlin that produces their bottles sustainably, fair, and free of plastic and toxins. I have this 600ml water bottle that my sister gave me for Christmas one year, and have been using it ever since.
The fact that glass bottles are a bit heavier than most water bottles make them a bit unpractical for traveling. Personally, I use glass bottles at home or at the workplace. They are great to keep on the table or nightstand. I have taken my glass bottle with me occasionally, but soon regretted the extra weight. Thus my recommendation would be to refrain from getting glass bottles for traveling. However, glass water bottles will always be my first choice for at home or at work!
Plastic Water Bottles
While we want to get away from single-use plastic, plastic does not have to generally bad if used multiple times. Buying a reusable water bottle made from plastic still means that we don’t buy a new water bottle every time we are thirsty. According to Dopper, just one person switching to a reusable water bottle for a year has amazing consequences. It means that 5kg of plastic don’t end up in the ocean, 200 disposable bottles are never bought and 16 dolphins saved.
Plastic is an incredibly durable and sturdy material. In contrast to glass bottles, plastic water bottles are unlikely to break and might therefore last you for a long time. They are also a lot lighter than glass bottles and thus better for traveling. If bought with the intention to be used for a couple years at least, plastic water bottles offer a great alternative to disposable plastic bottles.
However, my personal experience with plastic water bottles was that all of them started smelling a bit after a while. While it would stop smelling for a little bit after I gave the bottle a very thorough wash, it always returned at some point. This was the major reason why I decided to eventually switch to water bottles made from other materials.
If you do buy a plastic water bottle, do make sure it is made from BPA-free plastic. BPA is known to leak into the water and potentially cause harm to children and adults drinking the contaminated water. There are many options available nowadays that are labeled BPA-free, so just stick with those.
My recommendation for a reusable plastic bottle would definitely be a Dopper. While I was studying sustainability in the Netherlands, they started to get very big and literally everybody had one. They are BPA and toxin-free, cradle-to-cradle certified, and probably as sustainably produced as it gets for a plastic bottle. The Dopper bottles are produced climate neutral and fully recyclable. Dopper also supports the general fight against disposable plastic by organizing educational programs and supporting charitable organizations. Best of all, their bottle doubles as a cup if you unscrew the lid. You’re never gonna be unprepared for a spontaneous party ever again!
Since plastic bottles are so durable and almost unbreakable even, I would recommend them for your next camping trip. You can throw them around, run over them with your bike, nothing will happen to them. If you get one of the Dopper bottles, you will also always have a cup with you in case you spontaneously decided to get a bottle of wine to enjoy that beautiful sunset. I was definitely in that situation before and luckily my sister carried her Dopper water bottle with her to save the day. Funnily enough, she ended up classy, sipping the wine from her Dopper cup while I had to make do with the entire bottle as my ‘wine glass’.
Metal Water Bottles
In my quest to find a bottle that is both lightweight (not glass) and does not start smelling funny after a while (not plastic), I found metal bottles. They seem to fulfill all the requirements I had for water bottles: They are durable, lightweight, come in various sizes and are toxin-free. Aluminum is a material that is quite sustainable, as it can be recycled (check out this post for all benefits of aluminum). Stainless steel, another metal often used for metal water bottles, is also 100% recyclable and even uses scrap metal as its primary raw material. So all in all, a good alternative to glass or plastic water bottles.
Unfortunately, the production of aluminum is quite energy intensive and potentially environmentally destructive. The raw material is actually sourced from mines all around the world. Mines are normally rather intrusive for the environment, potentially causing water contamination, habitat loss for animals as well as increased erosion.
Stainless steel, consisting mainly of iron, is also a metal that needs to be mined. Environmental impacts from its production are air emissions, wastewater contaminants, and hazardous and solid wastes.
Using metal bottles for a while, I also found that some of them are prone to leaking water when not closed tightly. Because of the nature of the material, the bottles and caps are very stiff and need to be closed very well for them to hold all the water inside. As a result, my water bottles were super hard to open and taking a quick sip of water became quite a challenge.
While I haven’t tried them myself, friends recommended me the stainless steel bottles from Klean Kanteen. To avoid plastic completely, I especially like their ‘Reflect’ series. The bottles are made from only three ingredients (bamboo, food-grade silicone and stainless steel) and have a simple yet beautiful design. I also love that they have bottles in almost every size, ranging from small kids bottles (355ml) to ones carrying almost 2 liters (64 ounces). You can even choose different bottle caps for different purposes (e.g. sports) or made from different materials (e.g. steel, bamboo).
The durable and lightweight qualities of metal bottles perfectly equip them for your next hiking or adventure trip! They can be found in lots of different sizes, so getting one with more capacity for those long trips should be no problem. They also will not break, even if you go rock-climbing or white water rafting and accidently hit a rock.
Silicon Water Bottles
The foldable silicon bottle is the last water bottle I tried. If I didn’t believe in love at first sight, well now I do. The first thing I noticed was how incredibly light the bottle is. Holding an empty bottle is almost like holding nothing at all, that’s how little the bottle weighs. The second great quality of silicone water bottles are the fact that they are foldable. In practice, it looks more like you are rolling the bottle up. Once you’ve secured the bottom part to the top, the bottle is super small and fits even into the smallest bags. A light and tiny water bottle. What more do you want?
In my opinion, the only disadvantage of silicone water bottles is their size. I am guessing larger bottles make it hard to keep the bottle stable which is why most of them are rather small. I have not found any water bottles that exceed 600 to 700ml unfortunately. The one I own holds 600ml. While this size is great for a day in the city, it does not give me enough water to go on a big hike, for example.
One thing to watch out while shopping silicone water bottles is the type of silicone it is made from. You would want to choose one made from food grade silicone. This kind of silicone is made without any toxic materials, is very resistant to extreme temperatures and odorless. Is it better than plastic? In most senses, yes. It is produced from an abundant natural resource and 100% recyclable at selected stations. Food grade silicone also does not contain any BPA or other toxins that have been associated with cancer, infertility or immune disorders.
Researching foldable water bottles, I found a couple of different options. In my opinion, most of them were more practical than aesthetic solutions. Since I do not want to miss out on having a beautiful water bottle just because I want it to roll up, I chose this bottle from Mountop. I think it actually looks like a cute little milk container from back in the days. I love the blue color and the fact that it’s incredibly light and fits in all my bags. It’s also super fun to squeeze and the material feels very nice and smooth. It’s a bit wobbly when full, so you have to be just a bit careful to hold it at the top while drinking. Also, since it’s my preferred water bottle, I wished it was a bit larger so I can use it on more occasions. Other than that, it’s my absolute favorite water bottle at the moment!
My advice is to get a foldable silicone water bottle for your city trips. I have used mine for day activities, hikes and trips to the beach. I did think it was a bit small for the hikes, so I would rather take a bigger bottle for the long hikes. The silicone bottles are great for city trips though! The fact that you can roll it up after it’s empty means that you have room for all your souvenirs. It’s also so lightweight to carry that it won’t give you backpain while you’re walking 10k from cathedrals to museums and back again.
I hope my reviews gave you a little overview about the different options available for you. Researching the best water bottle for your own situation can be very time intensive just because there are so many options nowadays. Every bottle that you buy and use multiple times will have a positive impact on the environment. However, the better your choice is from the beginning, the fewer bottles you potentially have to buy. And the fewer bottles you buy, the smaller your environmental footprint. Every action counts!