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Go Light – Ditch Your Nalgene Bottles

A 32 ounce Nalgene bottle weighs 6.2 ounces
A one liter Nalgene bottle weighs 6.2 ounces

Whenever I see a backpacker carrying wide-mouth Nalgene bottles, I cringe, because I know that three of them add 15 ounces to the weight of their backpack, that could be easily eliminated. For example, a one liter wide-mouth Nalgene bottle weighs 6.2 ounces, empty. A new bottle like this costs $9.95 and has a recycle designation of #7, which is not accepted by many recycling centers or town pickup programs.

A 1 liter Pepsi bottle weighs 1.2 ounces
A 1 liter Pepsi bottle weighs 1.2 ounces

If you want to save some money and some pack weight, empty soda bottles make equally good water containers for backpacking. This empty liter bottle of Pepsi only weighs 1.2 ounces and cost $0.99 cents at a gas station. It also has a #1 recycle designation, which is accepted by every recycling center on the planet. Granted, soda bottles have to be replaced more frequently than Nalgenes, but you probably buy enough bottled water or soda yourself or know someone who does, to get a regular supply of these bottles whenever you want.

The only real functional limitation of soda bottles is that they’re no good for holding hot water, but if you need that capability switching to a Platypus reservoir is an even more weight efficient alternative.

A 2 liter Platypus bottle weighs 1.2 ounces
A 2 liter Platypus bottle weighs 1.2 ounces

For example, a 2 liter Platypus bottle ($.95) weighs 1.2 ounces and a 3 liter Platypus weighs just 1.5 ounces. Both are safe to use with hot water, stand up by themselves on flat surfaces like regular bottles, but fold up flat when empty. They have a #7 recycle designation like Nalgene bottles, but last for years with proper cleaning and storage.

Whatever you decide, ditch your Nalgene bottles. They’re just not worth the extra pack weight.

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  1. The Platy bags are ridiculously hard to get in and out of the side pouches on my pack. Firm Nalgenes slide in and out much easier.

  2. I like the Powerade quart bottles the best when I need to carry a rigid bottle. They have the same size mouth as the big Gatorades, but they’re lighter and sturdier. Otherwise I carry the collapsible Nalgene wide mouth 48oz cantene to fill in ponds and the 2L Platypus bladder to drink from while hiking.

  3. I use the 24 oz Gatorade bottles carried in front on my shoulder straps, plus a 2 or 3 L Platypus bladder in back to refill the bottles. These bottles are taller than the standard 20 oz Gatorades and harder to find, but have a twist cap, so I don’t have to worry about dropping the cap when drinking. Another benefit is that when you get a replacement bottle it already comes filled with a tasty beverage!

  4. I don’t know much about hiking outside of Norway, but in my experience, Nalgene bottles are way better than regular coke bottles in the sense that the Nalgene bottle is easier to refill in creeks, and you don’t have to bring extra equipment if you want to use it as a hot bottle in your sleeping bag. I have been using regular Coke bottles up until a couple of years ago, but after I bought a Nalgene bottle I have fallen in love with it. For shorter hikes, the Coke bottle is handy in the sense that it is light, but for longer hikes, and especially in a winter expedition in a tent, the Nalgene bottle far exceeds the coke bottles.

    • Norwegian,
      All good points but I have yet to find the narrow opening a problem in the warmer months. If the water is not deep enough for my disposable bottle I have always been able to find a place where the elevation changes the is a pour-over (or if need, I make my own with a leaf). In the winter my kit is completely different, it is Nalgene bottles all the way. If things got really bad I could always use the cap as a scoop. I have done so to top off my bottle a couple times over the years where I can’t fill them all the way up.

  5. I’ve always needed one Nalgene for reasons listed above. And at subzero temp’s hiking when it’s tough to even prevent the Nalgene from completely freezing, the narrow straws and necks of bottles are long before frozen up.

  6. I like the Smartwater bottles. They’re slim and easy to reach around and get back into the pocket. If I need a widemouth, I bring a collapsible Nalgene.

  7. There are studies that show reusing water/soda bottles leak a lot of chemicals (once you open the bottle, the plastic starts degrading), so I would stick to the Nalgene or Platy products instead of reusing the plastic bottles.

  8. I’ve used a Nalgene for every thru hike alongside a 1L Smartwater bottle and a 2L Platypus. In fact I’ve hiked 7,000 miles with a single Nalgene. I like it for carrying booze, doubling as a hot beverage container, the longevity of it and for the simple fact I use it for bumper stickers. I’m not SUPER UL and don’t really care. I’m not 70 years old where I need to carry a 14 pound pack with a 8 pound base weight. I care about the SIZE of my pack and can fit my gear in a 50L pack and keep it between 23-30 pounds depending on the resupply (sometimes you’re stoned and buy too much food). Who cares about 6 oz?

    • Sean, I am completely with you on this one! Being an ounce wienie is not worth it. Nalgene and Platypus combo is simple, effective and flawless in every circumstance that one may encounter.

  9. All of these are full of bisphenol-A which is an estrogen mimicker. Only titanium for me, no slowly turning this guy into a high pitch voice, low testosterone, masculine deficient, androgynous humanoid.

  10. no they don’t contain bpa. they do contain other estrogenic compounds, but then again so does your nalgene: http://www.npr.org/2011/03/02/134196209/study-most-plastics-leach-hormone-like-chemicals

  11. The Only reason i see to take a nalgene over a wide-mouthed soda bottle is the hot water bottle. There’s no reason why a hdpe version couldn’t do this just as well is there?

    I don’t want to be a gram weenie but I don’t see any reason to carry unnecessary weight. Carrying enough of that already.

  12. Actually, they can be used as hot water bot water bottles. But, you cannot fill them with boiling water. Up to 160F is safe enough. Boiling water can pose a leakage and burn threat. You really don’t want to sleep with it. It is too hot. It is easy to burn yourself if filled with boiling water. 160F water might burn you, but not badly. A better solution is to wrap a hot rock in a bandana/hiking shirt or other clothing. It holds heat well and is NOT wet in your bag. Small pebbles can be used in a sock. (Sand makes a mess.)

    • This is a good point. I was just in the Adirondaks last week at -10° and a +15° sleeping bag with an added liner. With all my layers and jacket i was ok, but not as warm as id have liked. I boiled water for a nalgene inside my sleeping bag. I double and triple checked the lid and it still leaked. Boiling water can cause leaky bottles. Only thing worse yhan cold is cold and wet! If i was wearing cotton, id probably be dead. Fortunately i knew enough to wear wool, fleece and synthetics with a downtek fulled bag. I woke up partially wet, but i was wark enough due to the material of clothing. As far as hot rocks, i would typically agree, but in the eastern Adirondaks, fire is not allowed, only small backpack stoves, which would be less than ideal trying to heat rocks. Moral of the story, dont ever wear cotton.

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