Why Do Hikers Use Nalgene Bottles (6 Alternatives)

If you’re an avid hiker then you should know the most important thing you need to have on you at all times is a sufficient supply of water. Keeping yourself hydrated on a hike will help regulate your temperature and keep your joints lubricated. While staying hydrated is all well and good, there are numerous water bottles and even camel packs you can use to store water. If you’re hiking your favorite trail and come across some hikers on your journey, there’s a good chance that they are storing their water in Nalgene bottles. But why are Nalgene bottles so popular with hikers?

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Nalgene bottles are arguably the most popular water bottle among hikers, backpackers, and mountaineers for several reasons. First, Nalgene bottles are a cheap way to carry a large quantity of water, costing around $13 to $15 for the most basic wide-mouth bottle. These bottles carry up to 32 ounces of water in a thick plastic bottle durable enough to endure scrapes, scratches, and drops. 

Furthermore, wide-mouth Nalgene bottles are fantastic for long hikes that span multiple days. The wide mouth allows you to quickly fill up the bottle at a stream, river, or any other water source while also allowing you to quickly pour its contents into a cooking pot when you’re ready to eat. Finally, their mostly uniform shape and ability to store a large quantity of water prevents all of the water from freezing overnight if you’re hiking through frigid regions. 

While Nalgene bottles are amazing for hiking, they’re not the end-all-be-all of the water bottles. Like we’ve said before, the popularity of Nalgene bottles comes from their durability and ability to store a large amount of water while also being very inexpensive. However, this does not mean Nalgene bottles are the best bottle for every hiker. Here’s a list of alternatives that you might want to consider if you want to try something different:

  • Hydro Flask
  • CamelBak Eddy +
  • Yeti Rambler
  • Klean Kanteen Classic
  • CamelBak Crux
  • Any Bicycle Water Bottle

As you continue to read this article, we’ll discuss the different types of water bottles and their best uses. We’ll also go in-depth about Nalgene bottles and their popularity. Finally, we’ll cover the alternatives we’ve provided in our list to help you find the best water bottle for you.

What are the Different Types of Reusable Water Bottles

There are two types of reusable water bottles: plastic and stainless steel. However, within those two types of water bottles are several options. In this section, we’ll talk about all of them, which will help you find the perfect one for you.

Plastic Water Bottles

Plastic water bottles are the most common type of reusable water bottle. They’re affordable, lightweight, and in most cases, reasonably durable. The lightweight feature of plastic bottles is the main selling point for most hikers. After all, the less weight you have to carry, the further you can hike. The most significant downside to these is they can cause the water stored in them to have a funky taste or smell. This is caused by BPA (or Bisphenol A), which is a chemical used to produce most plastic bottles.

Stainless Steel Water Bottles

Stainless steel bottles are tough and durable and more likely to dent than puncture or crack like plastic bottles. While water stored in these types of bottles can have a slightly metallic taste, the metallic taste is often preferred over the plastic taste caused by plastic water bottles. They’re also easy to clean and rid of residual tastes. So, if you drink coffee in the morning and switch to water in the afternoon, a quick rinse in hot water will eliminate any coffee residue. The downside to stainless steel bottles is their weight. They weigh significantly more than plastic ones, however, stainless steel is better insulated than plastic.

Non-Insulated vs. Insulated Water Bottles

Double-walled insulated water bottles are fantastic at keeping your drinks hot or cold for hours, even in blistering heat or freezing cold weather. They’re fantastic for daily use as they can keep your coffee nice and hot or keep your water ice cold. Double-walled insulated water bottles come in both plastic and stainless steel.

However, there are two downsides to insulated water bottles. The first downside is their increased cost. If you’re looking for an insulated water bottle, you should expect to pay double or even triple the amount of a non-insulated water bottle. The second downside to insulated water bottles is their increased weight. The double-wall feature of insulated bottles adds quite a bit of extra weight. However, if you don’t mind paying extra or carrying a bit of extra weight, then you’ll be very happy with an insulated water bottle.

Soft-Sided vs. Hard-Sided Water Bottles

Hard-sided water bottles are by far the most common type of water bottle. They’re best for daily use and can easily fit in any backpack pouch or cup holder. They come in both plastic and stainless steel variants and are well known for their durability.

However, if you’re someone who wants to hike with the least amount of weight possible, then a soft-sided water bottle is your best bet. Soft-sided water bottles are the lightest type of water bottle you can get, with some of them weighing less than 2 ounces when empty. They’re fantastic if you don’t have much space in your backpack because they can easily squeeze into tight spaces. The downside to soft-sided water bottles is they are very flimsy, even when full of water. They can also only come in plastic, which is a deal breaker for some.

Why are Nalgene Water Bottles So Popular Among Hikers?

The Nalge company was founded in 1949 by a chemist named Emanuel Goldberg. This company would go on to produce high-grade polyethylene laboratory equipment like beakers, centrifuge bottles, test tubes, and many other containers. Polyethylene containers were lighter and more durable than the glass containers they were competing against. In addition, their near indestructible nature made them ideal for all kinds of chemistry work.

Fast forward a few years, and Nalge scientists were taking their polyethylene equipment home and using them for outdoor activities and other everyday needs. Then, in the late 1950s, Nalge picked up on the opportunity to produce high-end outdoor products, and thus the Nalgene bottles were born.

This long history of being a very reliable source of cheap yet high-grade products makes Nalgene bottles a tough competitor to compete with when it comes to water bottles. But that’s not all. Nalgene bottles have a long list of benefits that makes them so popular for hiking and other outdoor activities. Some of the benefits Nalgene bottles provide include:

  • Superb Durability: The Nalgene bottles produced today are made from a material called Tritan. Tritan is an extremely strong polycarbonate plastic that’s comparable to the material used to make some bulletproof glass. The enhanced durability has been proven time and time again. We’ve heard some stories of hikers dropping their bottles off the side of a mountain and being run over by a car and not braking.
  • Nalgene Bottles are BPA-Free: BPA (or Bisphenol A) is a chemical used to produce most polycarbonate plastics like your run-of-the-mill disposable plastic water bottles. Have you ever left a water bottle in your car while you went to work and drank it once you got back into your car? The water had a slightly funny taste to it, right? That was the BPA slowly leaking into the water thanks to the heat it was exposed to. BPA is a toxic chemical and can harm you in more ways than one, but only when ingested in large amounts. The Nalgene bottles of today are 100% BPA-free, so your water won’t have that funny taste. Furthermore, thanks to the Tritan material Nalgene bottles are made from, you can pour boiling water into them, and they won’t warp or become misshapen.
  • Nalgene Bottles Have a Wide-Mouth: The wide-mouth that you’ll find on the most common Nalgene bottles makes them easy to use while giving you the flexibility to do more with your bottle than hold liquid. With a wide mouth, you can quickly fill up your water bottle at a stream or other water source, toss in a chlorine or iodine tablet, and you’re good to go. Nalgene bottles are also waterproof, and thanks to their wide mouth, you can store other items in a Nalgene bottle like a first-aid kit, your phone, or even some of your snacks. However, some people find the wide mouth of a Nalgene bottle challenging to drink from, causing them to spill some of their water while they drink.
  • Nalgene Bottles are Environmentally Friendly: Nalgene bottles are reusable, eliminating all potential waste you could produce if you were using disposable water bottles. The twist-on cap for Nalgene bottles is connected by a plastic tether made from the same material as the bottle. So, unless you lose your entire bottle, you’re producing less waste than those who don’t reuse bottles.
  • Nalgene Bottles Come in a Wide Array of Colors: There are tons of different colors to choose from with Nalgene bottles. They also produce bottles that have logos on them, so you can find a Nalgene bottle with your favorite sports team, superhero, cartoon character, and video game logos.
  • Nalgene Bottles are Dishwasher Safe: Thanks to the Tritan material Nalgene bottles are made from, they can withstand high temperatures and be placed in your dishwasher for a thorough cleaning. This is especially helpful if you fill your Nalgene bottles with liquids other than water.
  • Nalgene Bottles are Customizable: There are plenty of third-party accessories you can purchase to customize your Nalgene bottle. Splash guards will help keep your water from spilling if you drink while moving. There are insulated carrying cases to keep your water cool or warm, and you can find water filters that will screw onto the mouth of the bottle.
  • Lifetime Guarantee: Nalgene offers a lifetime guarantee on their bottles. If you somehow break your near indestructible bottle, Nalgene will send you a new one free of charge.
  • Nalgene Bottles are Super Cheap: One of the best selling points for Nalgene bottles is their price. You’ll find most Nalgene bottles with a price tag of around $13 to $15, and they can cost less than $10 if you find them on sale. No wonder Nalgene bottles are so popular for outdoor activities with all of these benefits in one cheap package.

What are Some Good Water Bottle Alternatives for Hiking?

Nalgene water bottles are fantastic but not the best choice for everyone. Nalgene only makes plastic water bottles, so if you want a stainless steel bottle, you’ll have to look elsewhere. While Nalgene bottles are the most popular water bottles for hikers, there are still tons of good alternatives. Check them out:

  • Hydro Flask

Hydro Flasks are trendy insulated water bottles for daily use. Hydro Flask first started in early 2009 and has boomed in popularity since then. They’re built with durability and insulation as their primary features. The insulation on a Hydro Flask is top-notch and can keep your water nice and cool for 24 hours or your coffee hot for up to 12 hours.

As we mentioned, insulated water bottles are heavier, and ounces can build up quickly if you’re hiking long distances. However, Hydro Flasks are still an excellent choice for short and long distance hiking. Also, Hydro Flask has an impressive array of colors and designs for you to choose from.

  • CamelBak Eddy +

CamelBak is another leading competitor to Nalgene water bottles as they are lightweight, BPA-free, and leakproof. Our favorite water bottle from CamelBak Is their Eddy + which sports a spill-proof straw that makes drinking a breeze. In addition, the Eddy + has a low profile and easy-to-use lid that hides a wide-mouth underneath. CamelBak also provides a wide range of colors and designs for the Eddy +, and offers a line of recycled plastic water bottles.

  • Yeti Rambler

Yeti is well-known for its line of outdoor equipment like coolers, chairs, and apparel that boast bright and good-looking colors. However, Yeti also produces numerous drinkware like tumblers, mugs, and water bottles. We like the Rambler the best because its good insulation gives Hydro Flask a run for its money. It also comes in a wide range of sizes, from 12 to 64 ounces. Yeti also produces several drinkware accessories that are guaranteed to fit all of their water bottles. The Yeti Rambler’s best feature in our eyes is the two-part leakproof cap. The top consists of a sturdy handle that twists off to reveal a shatter-proof spout that you can remove to fill the bottle and for cleaning.

  • Klean Kanteen

If you’re looking for a stainless steel water bottle that doesn’t cost a small fortune, then Klean has you covered with its Kanteen Classic. This 27-ounce stainless steel water bottle is surprisingly lightweight, weighing only 7.5 ounces when empty. We also love that the Kanteen Classic comes with a sports cap similar to any cycling water bottle, making drinking a breeze while preventing spills. While this water bottle is not insulated, it’ll still keep your water cool longer than any non-insulated plastic water bottle.

  • CamelBak Crux

The CamelBak Crux isn’t a water bottle but a water bladder that you can store in your backpack while hiking. The Crux is perfect for hiking trips that will span the entire day for several reasons. First off, the Crux can hold over 3 liters of water, which is more than enough for any hiking trip. The Crux sports a long tube that will hang over your shoulder as you hike, providing easy access to water at a moment’s notice. Finally, the CamelBak Crux will easily fit into any backpack, and you won’t have to worry about your stuff getting wet because the Crux is leakproof and puncture resistant.

While having a ton of water is fantastic, there are a few drawbacks to the Crux. Carrying three liters of water equates to roughly six and a half pounds of weight, which might not seem like a lot, but the longer your hike, the heavier it will feel. It will also take up quite a bit of space in your backpack. Unless you only plan on bringing the bare essentials and don’t plan on going on a multi-day hike, then the Crux will be perfect.

  • Any Bicycle Water Bottle

If you like to ride your bicycle, the odds are you already have a great water bottle for hiking. Cycling water bottles are pretty durable, lightweight, and have a sports top that’s easy to drink from. These types of water bottles will work just as well as Nalgene bottles, however, cycling water bottles are not as durable, and some are not leakproof. These types of water bottles are soft and easy to squeeze, which can spell disaster for your gear if you store it in your backpack. So, if you decide to bring your cycling water bottle, be sure to keep it in the pouch on the side of your backpack.

Final Thoughts

Nalgene water bottles are a fantastic choice for any hiker to take along on their adventures. Nalgene bottles come with a surprisingly long list of benefits for a water bottle that only costs about $13. However, while Nalgene water bottles are one of the best, they are not the best choice for everyone. With that said, if you don’t think a Nalgene bottle is best for you, we hope that our list of water bottle alternatives has helped you find the water bottle that will suit you best.

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