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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.)
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.
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.
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.
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 Autoseal||Hydro Flask Insulated Water Bottle||Liquid Hardware Sidewinder||MiiR Vacuum Insulated||Stanley Classic Vacuum Water Bottle||Zojirushi Tuff Sports SJ-SHE|
|Hot Water Test|
|Average Ambient Air Temperature at time of testing: 72 degrees F|
|Average Humidity: 62%|
|Cold Water Test|
|Average Ambient Air Temperature at time of testing: 78 degrees F|
|Average Humidity: 43% Liquid Temperatures in Fahrenheit|
Liquid Temperatures in Fahrenheit
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
URL – http://www.kestrelmeters.com
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