Ask A Gear Guru: What’s The Best Water Bottle?

Water, water, everywhere, but not a disposable water bottle to drink—a shortage of bottled water should be the perfect time to rethink your H20 delivery method.

Though triathletes are way ahead of the curve when it comes to drinking from reusable water bottles, apparently the rest of the country didn’t get the memo, as panic shopping gone wild has led to widespread shortages of bottled water and the near-decimation of our country’s precious Toilet Paper Reserves. Forget the energy crisis of the ‘70s, this one gets at our comfort, our comfort! Regardless of your shopping stance at the moment—be it patient and optimistic or militant and prepper-y—every single triathlete should own a reusable water bottle, and because we use them so often, it should really be the best water bottle you can find. The next time I see someone riding a $10,000 bike with a $2 bottle spewing electrolyte-slime-turning-cement, I may need to hold a spontaneous intervention.

The good news is that a good water bottle doesn’t need to be expensive—particularly in the scope of other tri gear—it just needs to be the right bottle for the job. Sure, you could argue that an old-school, regular bike water bottle is good enough for carrying around to the office, but you shouldn’t use the top of a screwdriver handle to hammer in a nail when a hammer would do a better job. Splurge a little bit, especially right now when we should all be carrying around our own water bottles to keep hydrated and healthy. Below we’ll talk a little bit about what makes a water bottle the best water bottle, and then launch into some picks.

The Best Water Bottle Is The One You Can Use

This seems like nonsense, but you’d be surprised how many people get a cool-looking water bottle that is totally impractical. Are you going to be using this water bottle for race day on the bike? If you can’t reach it safely and quickly, you’re either guaranteed to crash yourself out (or someone else), or never take as much as a sip. It took me years to realize that if I tucked a water bottle behind my saddle, there was almost no way I’d drink enough to keep hydrated—no matter how aerodynamic I thought it was (yes, we now know it’s not-so-aero in most cases, but it was different times). Same goes for running: If you know you need water while you’re out doing a long run, but you’re afraid of wearing a hydration bladder-style pack because you’re not an ultrarunner or a trail geek with a trucker hat, get over it, it’s just better.

The Best Water Bottle Can Be Cleaned Well

For sure you might have a hard-to-clean bike water bottle that’s super aero and you only use for race day and a few practice sessions per month, but for your everyday bottle, be sure you can really get into it for a good cleaning session. Also remember that the more natural and wholesome and raw and great your hydration/nutrition/recovery liquid is, the more funky it can get quickly. The best water bottles can break down into their component parts and so you can get to the little nooks and crannies where bacteria hides. Better yet, get something dishwasher safe, but know that if it doesn’t break down into bits with big surfaces, icky stuff can still sneak away.

The Best Water Bottle Makes You Want To Drink

No, not like the kind that you do to celebrate your first Ironman, the kind that could actually get you to the finish line in the first place. There’s something to be said for having a daily water bottle that looks nice and encourages you to drink. Think: something well-made and/or cool-looking that maybe helps keep cold things cold so you want to actually ingest its contents? I know The Internet will probably make fun of me (“I drink water directly out of a paper bag I got at the grocery store 25 years ago! You don’t need some fancypants shiny water bottle to hydrate,” The Internet will say.), but I know from experience that sometimes drinking water is annoying and boring and inconvenient. And when that happens, you don’t do it. I’m not advocating for a $200 gold water bottle, but the reality is that proper hydration is a million times more important than if you have ceramic derailleur pulleys, and I’ll see people skimp on the former while focusing on the latter. That said, ceramic derailleur pulleys are pretty cool.

Without further ado, a few picks:

Best Everyday Carry Water Bottle

Nathan Hammerhead Steel Insulated Bottle

$30, 18 oz. (530 ml), also available in 24- and 48-ounce versions

Best Water Bottle

The Hammerhead was a very specific and timely choice for the best everyday carry bottle—with the current situation, people are being very careful when it comes to protecting anything that comes into contact with their food and water. This bottle has a ton of fantastic features: double-walled construction to keep fluids cold for 35 hours, easy to clean, non-slip pad (rare on these types of bottles), and a portion of sales go to Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Initiative. But the big winner here for our current health climate is the attached protective cap that keeps germy germs out of your drinking zone. Of course, you should still be smart and use hand sanitizer and soap, but this helps.

Best Water Bottle For Travel

Bübi Bottle

$25, 22 oz. (650 ml), also available in 14- and 35-ounce versions

Best Water Bottle

Ok, bear with us on this one. Yes, the name is probably the only downside to this bottle, but otherwise it’s perfect for travel: The Bübi holds just enough shape to be handy, but rolls down into a little ball inside the attached carabiner for storing. Better yet, this bottle is incredibly airtight and can double as a little pillow when you fly. Each part of the Bübi disassembles into dishwasher-friendly components, and the makers even say it can withstand FIRE and temperatures up to 500 degrees F (which we can’t verify because we don’t want to hurt our precious Bübi).

Best Water Bottle For Full Connected-ness

Hidrate Spark 3

$60, 20 oz (592 ml)

Best Water Bottle

For sure this is the pick that’ll get heat from The Internet, but this is a great one for people who hate to hydrate/who are terrible at it. Using built-in Bluetooth tech that connects to a smartphone app, the Spark not only measures how much you drink throughout the day, but also blinks to remind you to drink (so you’re not just pounding water at once) and rewards you with a fun light show when you do hit your target. The app’s features also do a reasonably good job setting up hydration goals based on activity level—which even change automatically based on local humidity and temperature.  

Best Water Bottle For Front Hydration On The Bike

Torhans Aeroz

$70 (without mounting system, add $25), 22 oz. (650 ml)

While there are roughly three or four excellent front-mounted hydration systems, this one hits the mark for aerodynamic cred, ease of use, ease of cleaning, and its ability to help you get to every drop of liquid with its unique gravity-fed design. The bite valve is excellent, and the hose is magnetically attached, so expect to be drinking more, more often, and without anything getting in the way while you ride. 

Best Hydration Pack On The Run

Salomon Active Skin 8 Set

$110, 1L soft flasks included, up to 3L with bladder (not included, add $35-40)

By using a wrapping “vest” system, Salomon has done a great job of solving the biggest hurdle facing runners who want to use a hydration pack on the go: fit. The Active Skin 8 Set is highly recommended by women’s runners (says Women’s Running editor-in-chief Jen Ator), and does a great job of cinching down to prevent bouncing without being uncomfortably restrictive. Runners can either use the two included 500 ml flasks that live on the front or purchase a bladder for rear use—depending on which you prefer. Either way, you’ll be vastly more hydrated than usual on even the longest runs.