Because you’re a survival-minded person — and you paid attention in your fourth-grade health class — you know that water is life. It provides not only hydration for our bodies, but also a means to maintain good hygiene and overall cleanliness, as well as fend off disease and other ailments. And we can use it to cook. Whether we’re on a leisurely day hike or scrambling to get out of town for good, it’s clear that water is one of the survival essentials that we must carry with us — but how we carry this precious resource is always up for debate.

Obviously, in normal circumstances, you can grab a glass, mug, or even a used Big Gulp cup and simply fill ‘er up. Voila, water to go. But that’s not the scenario we’re talking about here. We’re looking for a vessel that will give us a means to contain, carry, and drink water while keeping it clean and safe from contamination and spillage during a run or running for our lives.

Navigating the aisles of your local camping, sporting goods, or big-box store, you’ll inevitably find a section that will inundate you with water containers of every conceivable shape, size, color, and material imaginable. With so many variations out there, how do we go about choosing one? For the scope of this article, we’re focusing on reusable bottles that are easily carried and can hold both hot and cold water, as well as other beverages. (Coffee is nearly as essential as water, after all.)

Material Costs & Benefits

Reusable water bottles are made of different materials, the most common of which are plastic and metal. While plastic bottles do a bang-up job on transporting liquids, they don’t tend to keep hot or cold liquids at temperature all that well. They’re lightweight and are easy to clean, but they can shatter when broken. And there’s always the debate about toxins, such as bisphenol A (BPA), found in certain grades of plastics. Even if a plastic is rated BPA-free, it could be just as toxic as, if not worse than, the chemical it’s replacing.

Within the realm of metal bottles, you primarily have two types: stainless steel and aluminum. Food-grade stainless steel is the go-to material for most metal bottles because stainless steel is non-reactive, meaning that it will not leach chemical elements into your drink — whereas reactive materials such as aluminum do. Aluminum bottles are reactive to acidic foods and beverages, so they can give off a metallic taste if not coated. Enamel- or epoxy-coated aluminum bottles are protected from the leaching effect, but one drop or dent of the bottle can damage the inner coating and release bits of it into your drink. Ironically, sometimes those coatings contain BPA.

Stainless Steel

Since bottles made of food-grade stainless steel don’t require any coatings, they are toxin-free and have no known health issues stemming from their usage. They’re inherently durable due to the plain fact that they are made of steel, and insulated types tend to keep both hot and cold liquids at their desired temperature for a lot longer than their plastic counterparts. Besides being strong, they are also easily cleaned and can be lightweight as well.

Aside from the health and strength benefits of going with food-grade stainless steel bottles, there are the practical uses for metal containers too. Because a steel-bodied bottle isn’t coated on the inside, it can still be used if dented. For survivalists, a steel bottle can substitute for a pot to boil water over an open flame without worry of ingesting bits of the inner lining. Using it to create a makeshift water filter device or even as an improvised blunt weapon is a possibility, too.

Stainless bottles aren’t all sunshine and puppy’s kisses, however. One of the drawbacks of using stainless steel bottles is that they aren’t compressible, taking up valuable storage space when not being used. They can also inadvertently heat up your water during hikes in the hot summer sun, making for a not-so-refreshing feeling when you drown your thirst in water that’s warmer than the weather.

With all those factors in mind, we believe that the strengths of stainless-steel bottles far outweigh their shortcomings. Let’s take a look at a few stainless-steel bottles that would be great to rely on while bugging out during an alien invasion or simply hiking the local trails.

What’s a Vacuum Bottle?

Vacuum bottles are actually made up of two separate bottles, one inside a slightly larger one, which are then merged at the neck. The air in the cavity between the two bottles is partially extracted, which creates a vacuum-like state that helps prohibit or drastically slow down the transfer of heat. This makes vacuum bottles ideal for holding hot or cold liquids for extended periods of time.

Temperature Test

stainless-steel-water-bottles-temperature-test

How many times have you craved a piping hot cup of Joe poured directly from your travel mug only to get a mouthful of lukewarm sludge instead° It’s been our experience that the claims of some bottle-makers are more than just slightly exaggerated. For your perusal, we slaved over a hot stove (and freezing icebox) to get you some real-world temperature test results for each of the featured bottles.

Full journalistic disclosure: We did the tests in this writer’s kitchen and not some scientific laboratory, so the results should be taken with a grain of salt. We didn’t see how each one would do at the peak of summer in Death Valley or buried under an avalanche on Mount Everest. And other variables, such as overall fluid capacity, were not taken into consideration. But our testing does give you a ballpark idea of how each of the bottles performed against each other under similar conditions. Your mileage may vary.

Note: Only the insulated bottles were tested, as the non-insulated models aren’t designed to keep beverages hot or cold for extended periods of time.

Avex Brazos AutosealHydro Flask Insulated Water BottleLiquid Hardware SidewinderMiiR Vacuum InsulatedStanley Classic Vacuum Water BottleZojirushi Tuff Sports SJ-SHE
0.7L0.7L0.6L0.7L0.8L0.95L
Hot Water Test
Start195°195°195°195°195°195°
2 hrs155°165°155°170°166°168°
4 hrs128°156°140°150°155°166°
8 hrs111°141°113°132°137°159°
12 hrs92°130°96°120°126°151°
Average Ambient Air Temperature at time of testing: 72 degrees F
Average Humidity: 62%
Cold Water Test
Start36°36°36°36°36°36°
4 hrs48°44°54°46°41°38°
8 hrs60°50°66°54°50°43°
12 hrs68°54°70°58°54°45°
24 hrs72°61°74°64°59°50°
Average Ambient Air Temperature at time of testing: 78 degrees F
Average Humidity: 43% Liquid Temperatures in Fahrenheit

Liquid Temperatures in Fahrenheit

OFFGRID Tech Brief

We used Kestrel DROP 1 Smart Temperature Data Loggers to measure the water temperatures for this test. DROP units connect to your smartphone or tablet through the Kestrel Connect app via Bluetooth. You can record and monitor the conditions of most any environment while accessing and charting real-time data on your smart device. The DROP 1 measures only temperature while its siblings, the DROP 2 and DROP 3 can also monitor much more, such as humidity, heat index, and dew point temperature.

Make & Model – Kestrel DROP 1 Smart Temperature Data Logger
MSRP – $89
URLhttp://www.kestrelmeters.com

kestrel-drop-1-smart-data-display

Stainless-Steel Water Bottles

  • Avex Brazos Autoseal

    Make & Model - Avex Brazos Autoseal
    Colorway - Stainless
    Capacity - 0.7 L (24 fl oz)
    Height x Diameter - 11 X 2.75 in
    Weight (Empty) - 13.5 oz
    MSRP - $30
    URL - http://www.avexsport.com
    Notes - The Brazos Autoseal vacuum-insulated water bottle is engineered to keep drinks cold for up to 20 hours without sweating for improved grip and tidiness. The stainless-steel, BPA-free bottle features a one-touch spill-proof and leak-proof Autoseal lid that automatically seals between sips to eliminate spills and leaks. It also has a spout shield to protect against dirt and an ergonomic clip-on handle that attaches to backpacks and other gear. The lid can be screwed off to reveal a wide mouth for the easy loading of ice and cleaning.

    The Brazos Autoseal vacuum-insulated water bottle is engineered to keep drinks cold for up to 20 hours without sweating for improved grip and tidiness.

  • CamelBak eddy Stainless

    Make & Model - CamelBak eddy Stainless
    Colorway - Stainless
    Capacity - 0.7 L (24 fl oz)
    Height x Diameter - 9.63 X 3 in
    Weight (Empty) - 7.5 oz
    MSRP - $24
    URL - http://www.camelbak.com
    Notes - If you're familiar with the excellent eddy line of plastic bottles from CamelBak, you already know what this bottle is all about — worry-free, one-handed operation with an easy-to-use cap. The cap contains a bite-valve straw that is easy to flip open and drink from. Flip it open, bite on it, and sip. It's that easy to use. Being made of stainless steel, there is no inner liner or any BPA worries. Putting ice into it and cleaning it is a breeze due to its wide mouth opening. This model is not insulated, but an insulated version is available.

    If you're already familiar with the excellent eddy line of plastic bottles from CamelBak, you already know what the eddy Stainless is about!

  • Hydro Flask Insulated Water Bottle (24 oz)

    Make & Model - Hydro Flask Insulated Water Bottle (24 oz)
    Colorway - Orange Zest (shown), Black Butte, Everest Blue, Acai Purple, Lychee Red, Green Zen, Classic Stainless, Arctic White, Pinkadelic
    Capacity - 0.7 L (24 oz)
    Height x Diameter - 11.6 X 2.9 in
    Weight (Empty) - 11.7 oz
    MSRP - $30
    URL - http://www.hydroflask.com
    Notes - The vacuum-insulated Hydro Flask is designed to have a smaller mouth opening for better flow control, resulting in less potential spillage. Hydro Flask claims to keep cold liquids chilled for up to 24 hours and hot liquids hot for up to 12. The double-wall 18/8 stainless steel also means no sweating, keeping your backpack free of condensation and moisture. Hydro Flask's products are BPA-free, 100-percent recyclable, and backed by a lifetime warranty. This bottle is available in multiple sizes and colors.

    The vacuum-insulated Hydro Flask water bottle is designed to have a smaller mouth opening for better flow control, resulting in less potential spillage.

  • Liquid Hardware Outrigger

    Make & Model - Liquid Hardware Outrigger
    Colorway - Electric Green (shown), Blue No. 5, Brushed Stainless, Fire Engine Red, Vista Blue, White Room
    Capacity - 0.8 L (27 fl oz)
    Height x Diameter - 10 X 2.75 in
    Weight (Empty) - 8.4 oz
    MSRP - $24
    URL - http://www.liquidhardware.com
    Notes - The leak-proof Outrigger bottle features a magnet on its lid that can be attached to a magnetic stainless collar, allowing the user to never lose its lid. Made of food-grade stainless steel, the bottle holds no smell or aftertaste, even after being left dirty. Never lose a drop with its trademark no-drip lip. Even when full of water, the bottle sticks to just about any metal surface, which comes in handy if you're out of storage options. OFFGRID readers will also like that its lid becomes an emergency compass when placed in water. (We noticed that the magnet portion points south.)

    The Liquid Hardware Outrigger is a leak-proof bottle that features a magnet on it's lid so that you'll never loose it!

  • Liquid Hardware Sidewinder Vacuum Insulated

    Make & Model - Liquid Hardware Sidewinder Vacuum Insulated
    Colorway - Forest Green (shown), Brushed Stainless, Dark Blue, Black, Pure White, Aqua Blue, Oxide Patina
    Capacity - 0.6 L (20 fl oz)
    Height x Diameter - 10 X 2.75 in
    Weight (Empty) - 11.5 oz
    MSRP - $30 ($40 for Oxide Patina)
    URL - http://www.liquidhardware.com
    Notes - The Sidewinder retains many of the same features as its sister bottle, the non-insulated Outrigger bottle shown earlier, such as the magnet on its lid that can be attached to a magnetic stainless collar, food-grade stainless-steel construction, and its trademark no-drip lip. The big difference is that the Sidewinder is vacuum-insulated, allowing for hot or cold liquids to be maintained at temperature for longer periods of time.

    Check out the Liquid Hardware Sidewinder Vacuum Seal that retains many of the same features of it's sister's bottle, such as the magnet on the lid and magnetic steel collar, but is perfect for keeping drinks hot or cold.

  • MiiR Vacuum Insulated

    Make & Model - MiiR Vacuum Insulated
    Colorway - Stainless (shown), Matte Black
    Capacity - 0.7 L (24 oz)
    Height x Diameter - 9.75 X 2.75 in
    Weight (Empty) - 12 oz
    MSRP - $30
    URL - http://www.miir.com
    Notes - The MiiR Vacuum Insulated bottle is as basic as it gets, but don't let its simple design fool you. The manufacturer promises that this bottle will keep cold things cold for over 24 hours and hot things hot for over 12 hours. Made of 18/8 stainless steel, the bottle comes with a black wedge lid featuring a loop that's wide enough to fit most carabiners. Alternative lids are available on MiiR's website. As a feel-good bonus, the company donates clean water to one person in need for a year with every bottle purchased.

    The MiiR Vaccuum Insulated bottle is as basic as it gets, but don't let its simple design fool you, it will keep drinks cold for 24 hours and hot for 12.

  • MSR Alpine Bottle

    Make & Model - MSR Alpine Bottle
    Colorway - Matte Black (shown), Brushed Stainless, Gloss White
    Capacity - 1 L (33.8 fl oz)
    Height x Diameter - 8.75 X 3.5 in
    Weight (Empty) - 10.4 oz
    MSRP - $35 ($33 in brushed stainless)
    URL - http://www.cascadedesigns.com/MSR
    Notes - Probably the slickest looking of the bunch, the MSR Alpine Bottle is made of BPA-free, 18/8 stainless steel and features a faceted body for better grip. Its Quick-Connect Adapter Lid can be screwed off to allow it to work with all MSR brand water filters. A small drink port on top of the lid features a tethered twist-off cap that makes drinking from it quick and easy. The Alpine Bottle is available in two sizes, 0.75 L and 1 L.

    Probably the slickest looking in the bunch, the MSR Alpine Bottle is made of BPA-free stainless steel and features a faceted body for a better grip.

  • Stanley Classic Vacuum Water Bottle

    Make & Model - Stanley Classic Vacuum Water Bottle
    Colorway - Hammertone Navy (shown), Hammertone Green
    Capacity - 0.8 L (27 oz)
    Height x Diameter - 12.38 X 3.38 in
    Weight (Empty) - 1 lb 3.6 oz
    MSRP - $30
    URL - http://www.stanley-pmi.com
    Notes - When you imagine hot coffee being poured from a vacuum bottle, chances are you picture it flowing out of a classic Stanley bottle. This is the quintessential vacuum bottle that's been around since horses outnumbered cars on city streets. This 21st century interpretation features an 18/8 stainless construction, leak-proof technology, and a fully packable design. Its two-stage lid allows you to completely remove it to reveal a wide mouth opening or just remove the smaller top cap to drink and neatly pour from.

    When you imagine hot coffee being poured from a vacuum bottle, chances are you pictured it flowing out of a Stanley Classic water bottle.

  • Zojirushi Tuff Sports SJ-SHE10

    Make & Model - Zojirushi Tuff Sports SJ-SHE10
    Colorway - Stainless
    Capacity - 0.95 L (32 fl oz)
    Height x Diameter - 10.13 X 4.25 in
    Weight (Empty) - 1 lb 6 oz
    MSRP - $45
    URL - http://www.zojirushi.com
    Notes - Hands down the best performer in our tests, the Tuff Sports SJ-SHE10 features all stainless-steel construction, making it durable while providing superior heat retention. It has two caps covering a wide mouth design that easily accommodates full-size ice cubes. The outer cap doubles as a cup while the inner pour-through cap securely seals in the contents. The insulated cap can be opened or sealed with just one touch. Its body has a collapsible handle attached, and a carrying strap is also included.

    The hands down best performer is the Tuff Sportd SJ-SHE10 which features all stainless-steel construction, making it durable while providing superior heat protection.


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