Single-use plastic bottles are terrible for the environment, so how do you go about finding an alternative for when you're on your travels? Allow us to help...
For over 50 years, this US company has been making wide-mouth bottles, forcing (or so they claim) rucksack designers to make wand pockets large enough to fit them. The jury’s still out on that, but it’s durable, BPA-free and has measurement markers for keeping track of your intake and cooking. But drinking from it when half full can be tricky due to the wide mouth, and despite its 500ml capacity, it’s the seventh lightest (179g) on test.
Verdict: Great for measuring water, harder to drink from.
Find out more: cotswoldoutdoor.com
The sell for this BPA-free model – despite being handily clear, so you can see your intake – is its opening. Using just one finger, you can push a button to reveal a pouring spout that’s claimed to be leak-proof. The whole thing comes off for easy cleaning, and it certainly feels light compared to similar models, all at a good price. But with its heavier lid, it may not be as durable as others and is top heavy when not full. A finger loop for easy carrying is nice, though, and at 198g for 800ml, it’s the eighth lightest.
Verdict: Cheap, cheerful but unbalanced when not full.
Find out more: burton-mccall.co.uk
A pound more than the Aladdin and you get a BPA-free rigid bottle with a handy finger holder/clip loop and an even niftier lid. This one also totally unscrews, revealing a wide opening for easy filling and cleaning. Handily, the screw cover to the spout is magnetic, meaning when you flip it off the top, you won’t lose it or hit yourself in the face with it when taking a swig. It also claims to be leak-proof, but anything with a screw top is not immune to user error. At 172g for one litre, it is the sixth lightest on test.
Verdict: A great price for a well-designed rigid bottle.
Find out more: burton-mccall.co.uk
Made from (crucially) a single piece of supremely durable but lightweight aluminium, this bottle is BPA-free, food grade and probably bomb-proof. Durability is excellent, with each ding a memory of an adventure – Sigg owners keep them like a badge of honour. It can take hot and cold liquid, and is transferable (I used it as a hot-water bottle). Its screw top is good but can get cross-threaded over time (so leaks are possible). A narrow opening hinders cleaning but at just 154g for one litre, it’s the third lightest on test.
Verdict: Great for outdoorsy types but a pain to clean.
Find out more: sigg.com
Weighing only 51g (though for just 500ml), this collapsible water bottle is the lightest here. It also features a handle that’s great for carrying and, of course, the advantage here is that as you drink, the bottle shrinks. There’s a twist-lock cap, with a bite valve to stop leaks, and the top unscrews to help offer a wide mouth for cleaning or for ice to be added. It can be frozen and is BPA-free, though it’ll need refilling more often than some.
Verdict: A great just-in-case bottle to throw in the bag, but it has a small capacity compared to many.
Find out more: hydrapak.com
If headed somewhere with a more questionable water supply, then you may decide to opt for something like this BPA-free 750ml bottle with a built-in filter. It’s easy to use and filters as you drink through the pull-up opening. Flow rate is not as good, which is to be expected with this kind of system, but you can at least remove the whole lid for easy cleaning. You will need to replace the filter every three months (or 200L), though, and a clear version is only available at 500ml. At 160g it’s the fourth lightest on test.
Verdict: Cheap for an in-built filter but costly in the long run.
Find out more: watertogo.eu
For unbeatable taste, then a glass bottle is the way to go, but how practical is it? In the case of this specimen, the glass inner container is ‘suspended’ within durable, BPA-free plastic and supported by rubber. It’s shatter- and leak-proof and has a screw top that seals well. An easy carry cord makes it handy to transport and it takes hot and cold drinks. The cleaner taste is good, but at 340g (for 16oz/473ml) it is the second heaviest on test.
Verdict: Purists will love the taste, but the weight and risk of damage to the glass mean it may not be worth it.
Find out more: burton-mccall.co.uk
For a little more cash, you move on to insulated models that boast the ability to keep your liquids hot or cold for a varying amount of hours. This one claims 24 hours for cold and up to 12 for hot – and it did keep ice cubes for close to that. It is food grade and made of a durable, BPA-free stainless steel. The wide screw top fits well, but my main issue was not being able to drink from it easily once half-full (common with this size opening), though you can buy a sports cap to help with this. Weight wise, all that insulation did take its toll, and at 350g (for just over 600ml) it’s the heaviest here.
Verdict: Secure and well-insulated, but weighty.
Find out more: uk.hydroflask.com
This smaller, squatter insulated bottle is suited to coffee drinkers. Its stats are impressive – claiming to keep hot drinks warm for up to ten hours and cold drinks chilled for up to 30. The food-grade, BPA-free stainless steel has a pure taste and the wide opening makes it easy to fill and clean. The spout is accessed by a twist of the plastic on the lid, which works well for drinking – the container is chip resistant. Weight is on the heavier side at 313g (for just under 0.5L), third heaviest on test.
Verdict: Good for tea/coffee drinkers but, compared to others here, it’s not much capacity for the weight.
Find out more: whitbyandco.co.uk
You may be wondering why you pay a little more for this insulated bottle, given that it boasts a nine-hour heating capability and 22-hour cooling (no more than other, cheaper bottles here). Well, it’s all in the lid. At the mere touch of a button, the top flies open, revealing an easy-to-drink-from spout design. It, too, is made from a durable, food-grade and BPA-free stainless steel, but unlike the other two here, it is slimmer, lighter (303g) and larger (720ml), making it the fourth heaviest on test, but offering a decent amount of liquid.
Verdict: A nifty lid and both impressive design and hot/cooling stats – but you do pay for it…
Find out more: gsioutdoors.com
For something slicker than a push-button opening, this comes equipped with a Lifestraw – a filter that protects you from protozoa and bacteria (viruses will require treatment tabs) – meaning you can fill it up from anywhere. A classic, durable and BPA-free design, its filter has a 4,000L lifespan and also removes controversial microplastics, so you’re virtually guaranteed a plastic-free trip. The mouthpiece is straw-style; there’s no need to tip, just bite to activate. It also screws off to allow cleaning. Its 650ml capacity hits the scales at 168g, making it, impressively, the fifth lightest on test.
Verdict: A good weight for a rigid bottle and a great filter lifespan makes this an ideal travel companion.
Find out more: lifestraw.com
At the top end, this collapsible, BPA-free bottle is a travel-friendly size (you can screw it up and put it in your pocket) and has the bonus of an in-built filter – lasting up to 1,000L of water – that removes bacteria and protozoa (tablets are needed for viruses). Its top unscrews to reveal a wide mouth, which fills easily, and a click-open and shut sucking device (with added lid); squeeze to drink. Larger bottles are available, but you could use it to filter water into a bigger receptacle. At just 56g (second lightest here) you’ll forget you’re even carrying it.
Verdict: Expensive but ideal for travel, being packable and able to filter water on the go.
Find out more: katadyn.com/en/de
Manufacturers were asked to submit water bottles they felt were a good option for travellers. Our editor-at-large, Phoebe Smith, took them out on the road to see how they stood up to the test.
While most people will be familiar with reusable hard plastic or metal bottles, it may be worth noting that completely foldable bottles are available, too. They are great to scrunch down in your hand luggage, to take through security (then refill before you get on your plane), or as a just-in-case option. Bear in mind, though, that they probably won’t stand up well once you’ve drunk some water from the bottle, and do have a habit of springing leaks at the seams following extensive use.
No matter how careful you are, you will always end up dropping your bottle at some point, so look for a rugged build that will withstand this.
There are lots of options out there. If going for plastic, make sure it's BPA-free – a potentially toxic chemical called Bisphenol A, which is used in the manufacture of many rigid transparent plastics and is actually banned in some products in the US and Canada.
Stainless steel and aluminium are tough and light, and great if you want to carry hot or cold liquids. This temperature is transferable (the metal conducts the heat or cold), which is perfect if you want a makeshift hot water bottle or cooling bottle – or a curse if you hate third-degree burns, freezing hands and condensation building up in your bag. Insulated versions can combat this. Also make sure your bottle is food-grade safe, to ensure you don’t get any nasty aftertastes. Glass is great for a clean taste, though it is a heavier, more fragile option.
Some bottles will come with water filters built in, which can be great if you’re travelling somewhere with questionable water. As a rule, they tend to protect from parasites and bacteria (viruses will usually require use of purification tablets). Also remember that the filters will need replacing regularly and do add weight.
Often the most overlooked aspect to a bottle. A wide mouth is great for filling and allowing access inside for cleaning, but tricky to drink from without tipping water over your face. Traditional screw tops are effective but are easy to cross-thread if you’re in a rush/not careful, which means leaks. Spouts are good for tipping if they are the right size. Nozzles or straw-type openings, which click up and require you to suck/bite to activate, can be good to stop leaks but are frustratingly slow to dispense if very thirsty.
Water is heavy. This is worth remembering when picking your bottle, as a heavy, empty container will become an even heavier full one…
Ideally, you want a bottle large enough that you don’t need to be constantly filling it up, but small enough that it’s not too cumbersome. One litre is usually a good compromise.
Top tip: Non-insulated bottles conduct the heat from hot liquids, meaning they can double as handy hot-water bottles at night.
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