Choosing the Right Water Bottle for Hiking

Choosing the Right Water Bottle for Hiking

Nothing is more essential to keeping our bodies healthy and functioning normal than staying hydrated. Water is life, especially for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy sports, running, or hiking. Whether you live an active or sedentary lifestyle, all of us can benefit by carrying a water bottle around to remind us to stay hydrated throughout the day.

Most of us sadly don’t pay much attention to the water bottle we choose, but when it comes to outdoor recreation like hiking, choosing the right bottle is paramount. We are all realizing the importance of ditching single-use plastic bottled water and opting to use reusable bottles instead in order to keep billions of single-use water bottles out of the world’s landfills.

So what makes a good reusable water bottle for hiking? When it comes to choosing a bottle that’s right for you, you need to consider factors such as size, shape, material, and the mouth of the bottle. There are now countless varieties of hiking water bottles on the market which come in all kinds of shapes, colors, and sizes. They even have smart bottles which use smartphone apps to track your daily hydration.

Filtering Your Water

Before we get into what makes a great water bottle, we first need to discuss the importance of drinking clean water. What goes in your water bottle after all is just as important as the bottle itself. Many of us are blessed to have clean drinking water come straight from our taps at home, but water sourced from natural sources can be contaminated and harbor nasty water-borne illnesses such as dysentery, giardia, salmonella, E.coli, and cholera.

While water may look clear and clean to drink, it is important to always make certain the water you are drinking has been treated and is safe. City drinking water is treated and continually checked for contaminants. If you’re a hiker planning to collect water from natural sources, you’ll need to have a method of purifying the water to ensure it is safe to drink.

There are several different water purification methods available including devices that utilize UV light, water treatment drops or tablets, straw filters, and gravity filters. One of the easiest and most efficient water purification methods are gravity filter systems. As their name suggests, these systems use gravity to filter dirty water into clean drinkable water. They require very little effort on your part, thanks to gravity doing all the hard work, and can filter large volumes of water in a short amount of time.

Water Bottle Size and Weight

The first step to finding the right bottle is getting one that offers the capacity you will require and one that won’t weigh you down. You definitely don’t want to run out of water during a hike, but don’t want to carry any unnecessary weight if you don’t have to.

Most bottles fall in the range of 16 to 32 ounce capacity. Health experts state that men should aim to drink at least 100 ounces per day and women at least 75 ounces. Hiking itself usually requires you to drink about 17 ounces of water per hour so if you keep your hikes around an hour or less you can stick with a smaller bottle. If you prefer longer treks, you will then want to seek out a larger capacity bottle unless you will have the ability to refill your bottle with safe drinking water along the way.

Keep in mind that a larger 32 ounce bottle filled with water will weigh over 2 pounds (bottle + water) and a smaller 16 ounce bottle will weigh over 1 pound (bottle + water).

Water Bottle Shape

Another thing to consider is the shape of your water bottle. No longer do water bottles solely come in standard cylinder styles. Some bottles have square bottoms and some come in futuristic crazy shapes. While some of the unique and stylish bottles may be enticing, you want to consider the practicality of the bottle. You will want to make sure your bottle can fit into your backpack’s water bottle holder as well as your vehicle’s cup holders during the drive out to a trailhead and back.

While you can simply place large or oddly-shaped bottles inside your bag, it’s always better to keep them upright to ensure they won’t leak. An alternative option may be to attach a carabiner to the bottle which can then hook onto the outside of your pack.  

Water Bottle Material

Single-use water bottles are not only bad for the environment, they’re also quite weak. Reusable water bottles on the other hand are durable and rugged enough to take with you hiking no matter where your feet take you. You generally find reusable water bottles being made out of hard plastic, metal, or glass. Obviously a glass bottle is not recommended for hiking, but let’s discuss the pros and cons of metal vs. plastic bottles.

Rugged reusable plastic water bottles are often made with high-density polyethylene, copolyester, or polypropylene. Each is lighter in weight than metal bottle varieties but don’t provide the insulating properties that metal bottles can. One of the biggest benefits of hard plastic reusable bottles is the fact they are low cost when compared to metal bottles. And while plastic bottles in the distant past were known to leach chemicals into your water, almost all plastic bottles made by reputable companies today are BPA-free which means they are safe. They will often be labeled as BPA-free to put your mind at ease.

Metal water bottles may be made from aluminum or stainless steel. Benefits of metal bottles include not retaining nearly as much odor and previous flavors as plastic bottles do. Double-walled insulated stainless steel bottles allow you to keep cold liquids cold and hot liquids hot for much longer periods than plastic or single-walled stainless steel bottles will. You can also handle double-walled bottles without burning or freezing your hands.

When seeking out a metal bottle, it’s best to look for bottles crafted from food-grade stainless steel as they won’t provide as much of a metallic taste. Some also contain an epoxy liner which should nowadays also be BPA-free.

Convenient Water Storage Solutions

If you’re tight on space or simply don’t want to carry around a large water bottle for the entire duration of your hike, they also make collapsible water bottles made from highly-flexible low-density polyethylene. They are extremely lightweight and won’t take up much space in your pack. They are, however, more prone to punctures.

Another type of unique and convenient water carrier is a hydration bladder which you can wear on your back and drink from at any time via a hose and nozzle. They are capable of carrying a lot more water than your typical water bottle and that weight is better distributed on your body to relieve strain. Hydration bladders are perfect for hikers that don’t like to stop for breaks or for when you want to engage in activities like running, cycling, or rock climbing where you don’t have time to stop and look for your water bottle.

Mouth and Spout of Water Bottle

One thing often overlooked by people selecting a water bottle is the mouth and spout of the bottle. Water bottles fall into two categories when it comes to mouths, wide-mouth and narrow mouth. Bottles with a narrow-mouth are generally easier to drink from but can be a pain to refill and restrict what you can put inside the bottle.

Wide-mouth bottles allow you to easily place ice inside with your water to help keep it cool or flavor pouches if you want to jazz up your water. You can also pour thicker drinks such as smoothies or shakes in this type of bottle much more easily. Another major benefit of wide-mouth bottles is that they are much easier to clean.

Avoid bottles that force you to completely unscrew a cap every time you wish to drink, as you can easily drop or lose the cap while hiking. Flip-tops are much better, especially ones that can be opened with one hand, and some bottles feature an angled spout or straw attachment that allows you to drink without having to tilt the bottle. Just remember, the more fancy and intricate your bottle’s spout and opening mechanism is, the more possibility of parts breaking after extended use.

Water Bottle Cleaning and Maintenance

Both hard plastic and stainless steel water bottles are usually dishwasher safe, but hand-washing is usually the better way to go. Washing water bottles in the dishwasher can damage them over time and food particles from dishes and utensils can make their way into your bottles which can lead to the growth of bacteria.

If you have a bottle with a narrow-mouth, you can get a bottle brush to help you clean out the inside or use the “rice trick” in which you place a tablespoon of raw rice in the bottle along with water and detergent and then shake. The hard rice will help to dislodge stuck on particles that may be present after using your bottle for shakes or smoothies. If your bottle has a reusable straw attachment, you will want to get a straw cleaner.

If you are solely using your bottle for water, a gentle rinse with water is enough to keep your bottle clean most of the time. You may want to use detergent or vinegar which is a natural disinfectant once a week if you use your bottle frequently. They also make special water bottle cleaning tablets. The key after any wash is to leave the cap off and make sure to completely dry out your bottle so it does not become a breeding ground for germs which love moisture.

We hope we have been able to shed some light on how to choose the best water bottle. Staying hydrated plays such a pivotal role in our health that it pays to devote a bit of extra time and care when selecting your next hiking water bottle.

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Author: Michael Jerrard

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