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Hiking Water Bottles

Hiking water bottles: when did it all get so complicated?

I logged onto an outdoor gear website recently, and just for fun, typed in "water bottle".

  • Up popped 10 pages, each containing 20 items.

I have to admit, I'm puzzled.

The basic issue here is hydration for the trillions of cells in your hard working hiking body.

So why so much fuss over how to get water from a containment unit to your lips??

Let's take a look at some of the hidden issues in choosing the perfect hiking water bottle for your hiking style.

Beware of BPA

Plastic water bottles have been around for a long time.

In fact, as demonstrated by my small Internet search above, there are plastic water bottles galore.

However, you want them to be free of a chemical called bisphenol (BPA).

Why is BPA free important? That link explains.

Long story short: Current research suggests it can cause a lot of trouble.

So go BPA-free with your water bottles.

Your options in water bottles

Plastic water bottles used on a hiking trail were the only choice when I began hiking several decades ago. (true story)

Hiking water bottles today can also be made of stainless steel or aluminum - inert, but a little heavier.

Strong points of metal bottles:

  • Inert, so won't react with your electrolytes or lemonade to produce a weird, possibly hazardous, taste.
  • Nearly indestructible.


  • A bit heavier. When weight is your top consideration, go with plastic.
  • They can be dented when dropped. On the other hand, you can't accidentally slice them open on a sharp rock, as with plastic bottles.

When shopping for lightweight plastic water bottles, you have options beyond bottles!

All of these choices are available in every color under the sun, plus lots of creative designs.

So I guess that explains the pages of options on just one hiking gear website.

Best hiking water bottles

Which begs the question: which are the best hiking water bottles?

Best for what? and for whom?

It depends upon the hiker.

But I'll put in my 2 cents worth here, and welcome any debate on the matter.

I carry stainless steel Kleen Kanteen bottles, and I don't begrudge the slightly heavier but sturdier (compared with plastic) design.

Why did I switch from my Nalgene bottles?

They were over 2 decades old, scratched and battered. And when I read about the BPA scare, that motivated me to make the switch.

  • Nalgene has reformulated their water bottles, but if you're still carrying around old ones, toss them in the recycle bin.

So after a little research, I bought the metal bottles,  and have not regretted my decision.

Check them out here:

Klean Kanteen 40oz Kanteen Classic

Here's the newest kid on the block: HydroFlasks.

These bottles have some advantages over the Kleen Kanteens, while sharing many of their strengths for hiking hydration.

Specifically, they are double walled, so there's no condensation when temperature extremes occur in one day.

And they come in some mighty attractive colors!

Check them out here.

And note that you can use the larger ones for car camping.

When to use plastic hiking bottles

Frankly, plastic spooks me.

We are exposed to so much of it, in our living environment, our food supply, our health care. Time for a break!

Stainless steel is inert, it's durable, and it's standing up to all of the punishment I throw at it on the trail.

Sure, there are drawbacks.

  • On cold winter days it's a bit unpleasant to bring an ice cold metal water bottle up to my lips.
  • Yes, I've put a few dents & scratches into the bottles accidentally.
  • The duct tape I wind around each bottle (part of my "be prepared" ten essentials strategy) sometimes gets tightly stuck to the metal, especially if it has gone through temperature extremes.

But I'm not going back to copolyester, polyethylene, polypropylene -  unless there's a good reason to do so.

Hiking backpack and hiking water bottles

Clean water only, please!

Not to be too basic, but be sure the water you're drinking is safe before you fill up your hiking water bottles!

UPDATE: I'm an old fashioned girl, but I've made room for powdered electrolytes in my hiking water recently.

They are non-reactive with both my plastic and metal bottles, and not only replace the ions I'm losing in sweat (sodium, etc.) but they taste great, too.

What kind of hiking water bottles do you use?

I'd love to hear what you carry on your hikes, and why.

And what's in your water transport devices?

Maybe water bottles are not your cup of tea (or choice for water transport).

Instead, you could check out hiking hydration backpacks.

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