After going on several treks and using several different kinds of water bottles, here are my pros and cons for 5 different options of trekking water bottles.
It used to be pretty simple. I used the standard Nalgene wide mouth plastic bottle for years. Then the whole controversy over BPA came out. Suddenly a whole rush of new BPA-free bottles started being advertised. I decided to switch to some BPA-free bottles. At the time Nalgene wasn’t selling any, so I went with a Camelbak plastic bottle and a Klean Kanteen stainless steel one.
Later I picked up a BPA-free Nalgene bottle and then another stainless steel one by Bilt (which is now Innate). Now that I’ve used all 4 of these I’ve developed the following opinions for each of them.
- Nalgene: Pros – fits perfectly with the bottle adapter on the Katadyn Hiker Pro water filter we use, cap is connected to the bottle so doesn’t drop accidentally into the stream you’re filtering water from. Cons – can’t think of any other than it still is plastic and some people might not want whatever chemicals are still used even in a BPA-free verson.
- Camelbak: Pros – like the Nalgene it also fits perfectly with our water filters. Cons – unlike the Nalgene the cap doesn’t have any strap keeping it connected to the bottle. Might seem like no big deal, but if it falls into unclean water while you’re filtering you’ll wish it had been connected.
- Klean Kanteen: Pros – I just like the feel and quality of stainless steel compared to plastic, the sport cap on mine keeps the cap connected to the bottle. Cons – bottle opening doesn’t fit the bottle adapter on our water filters, water inside heats up faster than the plastic bottles if exposed while trekking in bright sunlight, current cap options don’t offer any that keep the cap connected to the bottle. Yes, I know you can buy an insulated sleeve for stainless bottles that would prevent the sun/heat issue, but I like not needing to buy accessories for a water bottle.
- Innate: Pros – quality stainless steel but with a BPA-free plastic rim which is nice for your lips in case your bottle is either really cold or hot. Cons – older version that I have doesn’t fit the Katadyn water filter bottle adapter (this might be different now according to their website), the cap isn’t connected to the bottle, same problem of water heating up in sunlight as the Klean Kanteen.
- Generic bottled water plastic bottle: had to include this one as we’ve had participants forget or lose their more sturdy water bottles and just buy a couple of these from a shop before trekking. The only pro I can think of for these are they can bail you out if you lose your other bottle, but they’re less reusable (= more trash), don’t fit the water filter adapter, and have small caps that can easily be dropped.
As you can see the big thing for me in evaluating water bottles for trekking is how easy are they to use when filtering water. Apart that one thing, all I’m doing with a water bottle the rest of a trek is drinking from it or carrying it and there aren’t much differences there in quality or features.
I like a bottle that one person can easily filter water with by themselves. In my experience, the best way for that is one with a connected cap and an opening that snugly fits our filter’s bottle adapter.
If I were buying new gear for an upcoming trek and didn’t already have any bottles, my choice would be 2 Nalgene wide mouth bottles and then possibly a Klean Kanteen or Innate if I wanted a 3rd bottle just because there is something about the stainless steel that I like better than plastic.