The Best Water Bottles of 2024: Staff Picks

Stay hydrated with our favorite water bottles for hiking, camping, fitness, travel and more.

Kelly Bastone|Updated July 15, 2024

22 reviews with an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars

The best adventure sidekick is a water bottle. When you’re scaling a mountain, pedaling a bike path, road-tripping to the campsite or sweating through a gym workout, staying hydrated is non-negotiable. We’d even say it unlocks an elevated outlook (should you notice your hiking partner getting grumpy, try offering them a sip of water). A good old H2O holder deserves an invitation on every outing, and the best water bottles make it easy to tote and sip what you need. 

Reusable water bottles are better for the environment than single-use plastic and offer an array of appealing features. Many vessels are constructed of double-walled insulation to keep beverages cold, for example, and some come with built-in straws that facilitate slosh-less sipping. REI Co-op staffers weigh these qualities and more when determining the best water bottles for every use—here’s what they recommend, available at the co-op. 

Staff Picks

Scan our top picks here or scroll down for detailed reviews of each:

Appealingly versatile, the FreeSip from Owala offers two drinking options: Hold the bottle upright to sip from the tuckaway straw, or tip it back to take big gulps from the wide, high-flow cap. The base fits neatly into many car cupholders and bags, making it a solid choice for road trips, hikes and more. "Its slim fit slides into my backpack or easily attaches to the outside of my pack with a carabiner," says Brittany Matassa, an REI merchandising support rep. "From bike rides to airports, my water stays cold, is easy to grab and access, and the mouthpiece stays clean." Because it holds 32 ounces of drink, the FreeSip is ideal for longer forays when refill options are limited. And because it weighs less than some other insulated bottles, the FreeSip is also light enough to carry on day hikes and trips to the crag.  

“My Owala FreeSip is my go-to, everyday water bottle,” adds Marissa Stieritz, department manager at the REI store in Manhattan Beach, California. She likes the high-flow, low-resistance design of the straw, which quenches thirst fast. The locking, push-button lid keeps the spout clean when stored and reliably prevents leaks. “I've never had an accidental spill in my bag,” says Stieritz. And its triple-layer vacuum-walled construction keeps drinks cold. “It has great ice retention,” she attests (plus, the bottle’s opening is wide enough to easily add cubes). Buy here. 

Here’s an ultralight version of the classic vacuum-walled bottle, designed by Hydro Flask with clever construction updates that shave ounces but not insulating power. The result is a rugged, leakproof 32-ounce bottle that day hikers can count on to keep drinks cold or hot on the trail. “I love the weight savings of this bottle versus the traditional Hydro Flask bottles,” says Steph Sellinger, an editor of product copy at REI.

The Hydro Flask Lightweight Wide-Mouth Vacuum Water Bottle features walls that are thinner near the cap to save weight, but thicker at the bottom to maintain durability—so you can park it on a rock without damage. Even the cap is lighter with honeycomb insulation inside to maintain drink temperatures. The screw-top design still achieves a tight seal to prevent water from leaking onto other items in a backpack or tote. (Bonus: The bottle is also compatible with the brand's straw and other lids).

The insulated design has proven to be equally good for cold and hot beverages. “It's light enough to carry with me on cold-weather hikes and backpacking trips where keeping water from freezing is imperative,” says Sellinger. “And it's great at keeping a celebratory drink like cocoa at the perfect temperature.” Buy here.

Durable and easy to clean, the 26-ounce Rambler bottle with Chug Cap from YETI wins our experts’ nod for camping, rafting and other rough-and-tumble environments. That’s because the tough construction—including puncture- and rust-resistant stainless steel, plus double-wall vacuum insulation—gives this bottle extra-long life. Yes, it weighs more than some vacuum-walled bottles, but the payoff as you're kicking back at camp is reliability: The screw-top cap is leakproof, and ice retention is excellent. 

The stacking, two-in-one Chug Cap has become a staff favorite because of its comfort and versatility. The broad handle doesn’t dig into fingers when carried by hand, and it makes the bottle easy to retrieve from the bottom of a backpack, notes Adam Thomas, training and standards coordinator at the REI Distribution Center, who’s used his Rambler for years. Unscrewing that handle exposes a bottle-sized spout that’s easy to clean, he attests (indeed, the bottle and cap are both dishwasher-safe).  

That spout can also be removed from the bottle to drink from the rim or add ice cubes. “The top lid always unscrews first, so I’ve never had issues with the large opening coming off with the top cap—which was my initial concern,” says Thomas. Plus, “I enjoy being able to feel as if I’m drinking from a cup, compared to a straw or other narrow-opening bottle.” Buy here.  

The Nalgene Wide-Mouth has become a trusty take-anywhere backpacking companion thanks to of its Goldilocks weight, versatility and price. And the latest Nalgene Sustain uses Tritan Renew, a BPA-free material derived from 50% recycled content.

At 6.25 ounces, it's not the lightest in our bunch, but you'll appreciate the added durability on the trail. Made of sturdy dishwasher-safe material free of BPA and phthalates, the Wide-Mouth can take some serious bangs and drops (though it's not entirely crackproof). What's more: The wide cap loop allows for easy carrying and lashing. Clip keys onto it or attach it to a backpack, climbing harness or bear hang. It's not insulated, though, so don't expect it to keep drinks icy on hot hikes (plus, it will sweat).

But holding drinking water for backpacking adventures is only one of the hallmarks. The most multifunctional water bottle in our line-up, it can handle a liter of liquid, hot or cold. Fill it with boiling water and you've got a DIY warm compress to snuggle with on a frigid night. Or freeze water in it for a reusable ice pack for your cooler. Measurements on the side of the bottle also make it indispensable in the camp kitchen. Yet another hack: Insert headlamp in an opaque bottle and, voila, a lantern for instant ambiance. The hardest decision: which color or graphic to choose—or how to personalize it with your favorite sticker, or six. Buy here or here.

Excelling at weight savings rather than insulating powers, this grippable bottle won fans among runners and ultralight hikers who want to cover miles without feeling burdened by a clunky bottle. The soft-sided, 14-ounce bottle from REI Co-op is encased by a fabric sleeve made of 86% recycled polyester and spandex with two elastic straps that fit over the hand to keep the bottle snug. Its small, stretch-mesh accessory pocket even secures a car key, and our experts prefer this streamlined storage option to the pocket of their running shorts, where items bounce.  

Indeed, the bottle’s ability to reduce annoying sloshing is its most winning feature: The sleeve’s pull tabs let users snug up the straps as the water level decreases to achieve a stable feel. Runners on our staff report that the angled position of the straps hold the bottle in a position that feels comfortable and natural while swinging their arms. And the straps keep the bottle secure enough that their hands didn’t tire or cramp. (The configuration equally supports right- or left-handed carry.) And the drink spout proved leakproof until runners sought a sip: Biting the spout releases the water only when you want it. Buy here.  

The real mark of a great bike water bottle is its ability to get liquid into your mouth with as little effort as possible. And that's why our experts laud this one from Co-op Cycles. Open and close the cap easily with your teeth, and a simple squeeze delivers a steady stream of drink. It also fits nicely in a bottle cage on both the downtube and seat tube.

Our staffers were able to toss the leakproof water bottle into a messenger bag and forget it, knowing the O-ring would keep other belongings dry. The silicon dioxide lining helps prevent stains from drink mixes and resist mold and bacteria if you avoid scratching or scrubbing it.

While the insulating properties may not be on par with, say, heavier stainless-steel water bottles in our roundup, the Co-op Cycles Insulated punches above its weight—keeping drinks cold for the duration of most rides while weighing barely 3 ounces. On warm days, pop it in the freezer before a ride, so that it keeps water cold even longer. Buy here.

Insulated Water Bottle - 23 fl. oz.

With its high volume and driver-friendly touches, here’s a bottle from Hydro Flask made to ride shotgun on your next road trip. Its narrower base slides easily into vehicles’ variously-sized cupholders, and the generous, 40-ounce capacity requires fewer refills—a nice benefit when you’re trying to cover ground. Plus, the huge, easy-grab handle lets drivers keep their eyes on the road while they reach for a sip.  

Soft plastic fittings on the lid and straw form a tight seal to prevent liquid from splashing out when bumped or tipped (though it’s not fully leakproof, so it should be stored upright and not on its side in a tote or backpack). The straw lid can be swapped with other Hydro Flask accessories, such as the Large Closeable Press-In Lid, making this bottle versatile enough for different beverages like coffee and hot chocolate. (Don’t worry: The stainless steel interior is less likely to retain flavors than other materials.) Back at home, it’s appealingly easy to clean because all parts are dishwasher safe. Buy here.  

 

The IceFlow Straw Tumbler from Stanley is no featherweight, but several qualities make it the winner for indoor workouts. First, the narrower base of this tapered bottle fits into cupholders on treadmills and other cardio machines, so you can park it nearby while you sweat. The cap’s broad top handle is easy to grab with sweaty fingers and relocate between exercise stations. Finally, the straw is deployed by pushing on a plastic tab at its base, so fingers never touch the BPA-free plastic drink spout—a plus for anyone who handles lots of public surfaces while working out and wants to minimize germs on their drinkware. 

“I've had my tumbler for about a year and a half now and I use it every single day,” says Ale Castillo, social media specialist. Castillo confirms that the double-wall stainless steel construction excels at keeping water cold all day—meaning the insulation lasts long after the workout ends. She also likes to carry this bottle on short walks, because the handle fits comfortably in her hand. And the cherry on top? All parts are dishwasher safe. Buy here.  

 

"These are the duffels of water bottles," our director of content and media says. "They can take a beating and shapeshift into fully loaded packs." The super pliable Platypus SoftBottle weighs just 1.2 ounces and fits into nooks of larger bags. Deploy it for a quick sip on the go, then as you drink, it gets smaller and smaller and ultimately rolls up into a bundle the size of a candy bar. (Have no fear: The SoftBottle won't develop creases that could lead to breaks or rips.)

Although most collapsible bottles are used as backups, the SoftBottle has a few features that make it a decent Option A. For starters, it's easy enough to grip and drink from thanks to its hourglass shape. Second, it also has a pleat at the bottom that allows you to stand it up by itself. Buy here.

Looking for a water bottle that's eye-catching, minimalist and functional? The Purist Mover Vacuum Water Bottle stands out as the sleekest among our picks with its clean stainless-steel finish. "The grab handle folds into the top and sits flush against the bottle so the whole package is a smooth, torpedo-like tube," says our gear editor. "It slides neatly into a car cup holder, a backpack pocket or a bike bottle cage."

The Mover is equally great for cold and hot drinkables. A sliver-thin glass lining—a mere 60 nanometers thick—on the inside of the stainless-steel bottle doesn't retain odors or other lingering tastes. "For someone who switches between water, coffee and tea on the daily with just a quick rinse between, I have never noticed any residual flavor from yesterday's bevvie du jour," says our gear editor, who uses this bottle as her everyday carry.

Nice touch: The top is interchangeable. The Mover comes standard with the Element screw top, which has the aforementioned integrated handle, but you swap it out for the Union top with a straw. Buy here.

Mover Vacuum Water Bottle with Element Top - 18 fl. oz.

Buying Advice

When choosing a water bottle, consider its material, capacity and features.

Material

Plastic, metal or glass? There are pros and cons to different materials. The right one for you depends on what activity you're doing and how you'll use the bottle.

Plastic water bottles come in hard or soft versions and tend to be lighter and cost less than metal or glass bottles. Some plastics have been found to leach health-harming chemicals into liquids, but all of our recommended bottles are free of BPA (the most prevalent toxin). The plastic bottles in our roundup are the Nalgene Sustain Wide-Mouth Water Bottle, Co-op Swiftland Handheld Water Bottle and Co-op Cycles Insulated Bike Water Bottle

Stainless steel water bottles are more durable than plastic but also weighs more. Stainless steel resists odor and residual taste better than plastic. It also lends itself to double-walled vacuum construction (the airless space between layers of steel delivers impressive insulating powers with scant bulk). The metal bottles on our list include the Owala FreeSip Vacuum Water Bottle, Hydro Flask Lightweight and All Around, Stanley IceFlow Straw Tumbler and YETI Rambler Vacuum Bottle

Glass water bottles typically offers the cleanest taste, but, as you can imagine, isn't the most practical. There are no glass bottles on our list, but the Purist Mover Vacuum (which is made of stainless steel) has a slight glass layer on the inside.

Capacity

Find the right size bottle, or capacity, for your activity and drinking needs. Capacity can be measured in either fluid ounces or liters and typically ranges from 16 to 32 ounces (about half a liter to a liter). A 40-ounce water bottle like the Hydro Flask All Around provides a whopping five cups of water for the very thirsty. Smaller water bottles, such as the Swiftland Handheld, can be lighter and fit in smaller spaces better but require more frequent refilling. Also, consider the bottle's dimensions if you plan to keep it in a cup holder or bike bottle cage. 

Features

Consider other features such as the bottle opening, insulation, type of cap or whether the vessel has a built-in loop for easy clipping or can fit easily into a standard car cupholder. Many water bottles come with straws that tuck away like the Owala Free Sip or the Stanley IceFlow Straw Tumber, or have straw lids like the Hydro Flask All Around Travel that make it easy to grab and sip quickly. You may also want to check the bottle's compatibility with your water filter if you plan on taking it in the backcountry. If having really cold or hot water is important to you, pick an insulated bottle like many of the stainless steel options in our lineup.

Our Process

We polled our editorial staff and crew of member-testers for their favorite water bottles on shelves at the co-op. These are their top picks for a range of thirst-quenching situations. 

Jenni Gritters contributed to this report.

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