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yoonanimous reviews: water bottles

My family has approximately 200 water bottles, and most of them blow. If you’re in the market for one, I’m here to help you narrow the field.

I’ve had a lifelong struggle with water consumption. I know I need 8 cups a day. But I hate drinking liquids. My friend Ryan says that he prefers to drink his calories, in the form of beer. Not me. I prefer to eat my calories, in the form of bratwurst.

While I hate drinking water, I am an eternal optimist when it comes to water consumption. So I have a water tank in my house and fresh water delivered bi-weekly. And in hopes that setting the stage for water consumption will lead to the eventual drinking of water, I buy water bottles. Lots of water bottles.

My ratings are broken down into three categories, and go from a scale of 1-5. Drinkability refers to your ability to actually access the water in the water bottle. Portability refers to the water bottle’s take-it-and-go factor. The Kid Factor measures the bottle’s ability to withstand children, which in my case often depends on the hardiness of the nozzle. My kids are aggressive masticators. Like beavers.

1. The Camelback


Judging by the selection at REI, the Camelback is the water bottle of choice here in Portland. The Camelback Eddy is hardy and indestructible. It is also large, heavy, and unwieldy, so much so that I feel nervous carrying it by its handle. The bite valves might as well be Haribo gummy bears as far as my kids are concerned. They have chewed through two 3-piece replacement packs with feverish intensity.

But let’s get right down to the nitty gritty about the Camelback, which is that you have to suck so hard on the nozzle to get the water out that it makes water-drinking both difficult and lewd. Tom once wiggled his eyebrows at me while watching me suck on the Camelback. I submit that if your water drinking can put your spouse in a romantic mood, you need a new water bottle.

Drinkability: 1; Portability: 2; Kid Factor: 1. Total: 4/15

2. The Sigg


I must enjoy the Sigg because I’ve had one since law school. It has a pleasing shape and the seal on that cap is airtight. The lip has a nice curved shape and the flow of water is neither too fast nor too slow. It’s a bit large but it seems much lighter than the Camelback.

The problem with the Sigg and all other stainless bottles is the mystery about what’s inside. I guess it doesn’t matter because you’re just putting water in it. But if I start to think about it, I am uncomfortable with how dirty the innards of my Sigg might be. So I try not to think about it.

Drinkability: 4; Portability: 4; Kid Factor: 3. Total: 11/15

3. The Lululemon POS


I think this bottle is a knock-off of the Lifefactory bottles that were ubiquitous for a while. It’s made of glass, which feels clean and virtuous, and the glass is encased in a rubber cover so that if you drop it, the bottle, in theory, won’t break. I say “in theory” because I’ve dropped a Lifefactory bottle and it shattered, just like every other glass item I have ever dropped.

I guess if I had to choose one thing that I like about this water bottle, I’d have to say the color. Sigh. I have tried hard to love this water bottle, because my kid gave it to me for Mother’s Day.

And yet, I cannot love this terrible bottle. First, while the cap is presumably airtight if properly sealed, I wouldn’t really know, because I have never properly sealed it, despite taking time out of my schedule one weekday morning to sit down and try to figure out where I was going wrong in my operation of the Lululemon POS.

To compound the problem, if the lid on this sucker isn’t on tight, you’re in for a world of pain, thanks to that wide opening. Which brings me to point number 2: it is impossible to drink water from this bottle without dousing your entire face and possibly your torso. Perhaps I have poor hand-eye coordination. But I have a hard time believing that, because I am very good at ping-pong. Instead, I choose to believe that the design of this bottle is inherently flawed. Also, the bottle is so tall and skinny that it tips over at the slightest hint of wind. Oh, and my kids never, ever choose this water bottle for themselves, because it weighs approximately five pounds. Don’t believe me? Watch.

Drinkability: 0; Portability: 0; Kid Factor: 1. Total: 1/15

4. The Bkr


The Bkr, like the Lululemon POS, is made of glass encased in rubber. Also like the Lululemon POS, the Bkr is a classic example of form over function. For example, the spout is so small that when I drink from it, I can’t help but imagine that I am a tiny hummingbird using its tiny beak to draw (pollen? honey? dew?) from the stamen of a tiny, tiny flower. The tiny opening also makes it impossible to clean, or fill. If I’m trying to fill it from a water tank I actually have to crouch down and look up into the undercarriage of the water tank to ensure that I have placed the tiny opening of the water bottle directly under the spout, because if I don’t, the water just splashes all over. Drinking water is hard enough. I don’t need obstacles.

Drinkability: 1; Portability: 5; Kid Factor: 1. Total: 7/15

5. The Klean Kanteen


The Klean Kanteen is a standby in my house and we have many of them. It’s made of light stainless steel, and has a wider opening than the Sigg, which provides a satisfying but non-threatening flow of water. The width of the opening also allows you to look inside and actually clean the bottle. The lid has a handy loop for your finger. The slim shape fits nicely into a bag but is not so skinny that it will tip over. My only complaint with this bottle is that the lid, not being attached to the bottle, tends to go missing. But that’s not the bottle’s fault.

Drinkability: 4; Portability: 5; Kid Factor: 4. Total: 13/15

6. The Crocodile Creek


I’ve included my wine glass in all these pics to provide scale. As you can see, the Crocodile Creek, being designed for kids, is much smaller than the others. I’ve included it here because it is Tate’s favorite water bottle, and he asks for it by name (“my tiger one”). I think he likes the size of the spout, and that it is easy for him to handle. The small size makes it very portable. It’s very cute to look at. All that aside, if you are older than three, you might be frustrated by the pathetic flow of water, which is akin to what you might experience if someone were to wring a damp washcloth into your mouth. And while your toddler might love it, your older kid will shun it. Finn calls it a baby bottle and says it smells bad. But boy does Tate love it.

Drinkability: 3 (for kids); Portability: 4; Kid Factor: 5. Total: 12/15

7. The Contigo


Ah, the Contigo. Linds has had one for a year, and she carries it everywhere. She drinks more water than anyone I know. I mean, so much water that it can feel alarming for a non-drinker to observe. Eventually I started wondering if it might be her water bottle. So I finally gave in and ordered one.

Now, my kids and I fight over the Contigo. Because it is an amazing water bottle. First, the size of it is like a slimmed-down version of the Camelback, with all the Camelback’s sturdiness. The nozzle is a hard plastic but it’s not gummy or chewy like the one on the Camelback. Instead, the Contigo nozzle facilitates your intake of the most satisying drink of water you’ve ever had. A steady, continuous stream of hydration. Linds described this water bottle best when she said that it actually makes water taste better.

But that’s not all folks. The nozzle, once locked, is leakproof. I have carried it inside my leather bag for a month with nary a drop spilled. The bottle is also entertaining, thanks to the white button that unlocks the nozzle and flings it into ready position. That’s the one complaint I have about the Contigo–when it unlocks, the nozzle flings a small spray of water in your face. But listen, with the Contigo, it’s all so good that even the spray feels intentional. Like it was designed to heighten your enjoyment of the water.

Drinkability: 5; Portability: 5; Kid Factor: 5. Total: 15/15

The Yoonanimous final rankings:

1. The Contigo (15/15)

2. The Klean Kanteen (13/15)

3. The Crocodile Creek (12/15)

4. The Sigg (11/15)

5. The Bkr (7/15)

6. The Camelback (4/15)

7. The Lululemon POS (1/15)

What have I missed? Do you have a water bottle that you love to hate, or one that beats my Contigo? I’m always on the hunt, and want to hear about it.

29 Comments Post a comment
  1. gabrieleneumann #

    Great post! I’m awesome about drinking water when I have plastic bottles to drink from but then I feel like I’m going to singlehandedly kill the planet so I’ve been meaning to get a reusable bottle I will actually use. I’m definitely looking into the Contigo now.

    November 8, 2013
  2. monman6letters #

    wow! this was a great help. I am going to have to order a contigo!

    October 8, 2013
  3. gulgun #

    Great post! I’m hating the Camelback too — I feel like a baby with a bottle sucking from it. I’ve been using it about a year into my hatred because I’m cheap like that. After your awesome advice on kid-lunch-packing-gear, I’ll follow your consumer advice anytime and definitely for a new water bottle.

    October 3, 2013
    • gulgun I bought Finn his own contigo a week ago and he already lost it. I know this is not on point to your comment, but I feel that you might sympathize

      October 6, 2013
  4. Once again, spot on. Thanks for the review of the Contigo. We got one in a swag bag recently and I had it in Goodwill. There are corporate logos all over it and it is not cute. But, now I will keep it and hide it from my loved ones. I too struggle with the water bottle thing and have 1/10 if my kitchen drawers dedicated to something I dont even like. Plus, 1/5 of my kitchen budget. That makes me mad every time I open said drawer. Add on the fact that it is always a mess and there is not way to organize it no matter how many labels I make and how hard I try.
    I may just give up water all together and go back to Tab.

    September 29, 2013
  5. I have two earthlust stainless steel bottles, but i think they might have gone out of business. I like the size and the wide-enough mouth but recently I took one to Europe with me and now the bottom isn’t flat any more, presumably due to pressure differences. Maybe I’ll look into the contigo ones, although I’m leery of plastic bottles. My sone has a kleen kanteen with a sports top and he likes that, but I find it a bit squeaky.

    September 29, 2013
    • I’ve never tried the sports top, my kids would love to chew one to bits

      September 30, 2013
      • monman6letters #

        yeah, they always end up completely mutilated in my house.

        October 8, 2013
  6. Great review! For years we have been devoted Nalgene bottle users, you should see the obscene collection of them in my cupboard, but I became a bit put off by drinking water from a plastic bottle in spite of how safe and toxic free they are said to be. Then I discovered the metal Contigo bottles for coffee, which I use for water. They are basically glorified sippy cups for adults and they are pretty awesome as well. I just wish the part that you drink from that retracts to open were easier to clean.

    September 29, 2013
    • I mean, I don’t think any nozzle is ever getting squeaky clean. Best not to think about it

      September 30, 2013
  7. Joy #

    You’re hilarious. The wine cracks me up. Ben and Alena are lucky to be your friend 🙂

    September 27, 2013
    • Joy #

      Also, since this is about water bottles, I am going to try the aforementioned Hydro Flask. Ice cold water is the only kind I can stand.

      September 27, 2013
      • yes I was shocked to hear you can get a water bottle that doesn’t sweat when there’s ice in the water!!

        September 27, 2013
    • man i love those two

      September 27, 2013
  8. janeannechovy #

    I had an insulated stainless Camelbak, but I had the same problem with slow flow, plus I didn’t like the strain on my jaw from biting while sipping. I just got an insulated stainless Hydro Flask, and I love it. I traded out the standard screw top for a straw flip-top, because I hate having to tilt the whole bottle to drink. I got the 40 oz size, which doesn’t fit in any cupholders, but I finally feel sufficiently hydrated. I love how it keeps my water cold (I put ice in it, and it lasts for hours and hours), and yet doesn’t sweat. I’ll probably eventually end up getting the smaller size so it will fit better in cupholders and purse.

    September 27, 2013
    • Thank you for mentioning how hard it is to bite and suck at the same time. I thought it was a particular failing of mine

      September 27, 2013
  9. Meredith J #

    I’m with you on the Contigo. Also, I’ve gotten them in 3 packs from Costco!

    September 27, 2013
    • I saw them at Costco but thought they looked cheap at the time. How little I knew!

      September 27, 2013
  10. Great post — thank you! Especially great timing with back-to-school… and the mysterious disappearance of our first water bottle of the school year. Should probably buy the Contigo in bulk.

    September 27, 2013
    • Thx monica. They do go missing a lot, don’t they? Hopefully Finn will love his new red contigo so much that he keeps track of it. Sigh

      September 27, 2013
  11. ruthie1985 #

    I absolutely love this post! We are like your family and have a bazillion water bottles and most of them don’t get used because I am extremely picky about drink ability. I hate crocodile creek almost as much as I hate camping….and that’s a lot. My kids suck more air in than they do water and that sound makes me squirm.

    September 27, 2013
    • hey ruthie, are you Josh’s little sister? he talked about you in law school…crocodile creek bottles have their function. they are, for example, the only water bottles that fit comfortably in the side of a toddler backpack. but I’d never drink from one, for sure

      September 27, 2013
  12. Janis Gabriel #

    : 1. I love the wine glass in each photo. 2. We like the camelback and some sort of stainless steel with the large opening.

    September 27, 2013
    • maybe my camelback is just a rotten apple. It’s like the big lumbering bully in our bottle drawer. Difficult to ignore and always in the way

      September 27, 2013
  13. I keep buying stainless Watergeeks from – usually on sale. I throw them in the top level of the dishwasher and pretend that is enough to get/keep them clean inside (theoretically – at least I’m sure the outside is clean!). They are a good size and so long as I pay attention to getting the top well screwed on they seem leakproof enough. Unfortunately I get drawn in by the colors which come off, a few filmy pieces at a time, probably because I keep throwing them in the dishwasher. Lather rinse repeat.

    I learned to avoid water bottles with the spring loaded tops that snap up because I apparently can NOT keep from playing with them until they break. If ballpoint pens were still popular I’d be the person you’d avoid because I’d be clicking that pen tip, In, out, IN, OUT…. I also can’t keep from popping gum. See the trend here? If there is a repetitive motion or incredibly annoying noise involved in a product I am bound by promises to the people I love to simply. walk. away.

    September 27, 2013
    • man do my kids love the spring loaded nozzle. so I get your obsession. The flinging of water prevents me from playing with it too much

      September 27, 2013
  14. I figured the wine glass was there as a hint of what you could hide in the stainless bottles.

    How’s te contigo in terms of cleaning? Dishwasher safe? Do u have to do anything special to clean that little tube? One thing I don’t like about te Sigg is cleaning it out. Pain in the tookis.

    September 27, 2013
    • It’s dishwasher safe, and I just throw all the parts in there. The opening is wide enough that I can pretend that the dishwasher is actually doing its job. I have never washed any part of my sigg but the spout and the outside.

      I really like the sigg for use in locales where the water bottle resides permanently–I have one in my office and one bedside

      September 27, 2013

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