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 has to be replaced more frequently than Nalgenes, but you probably buy enough bottled 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 ($12.95) weighs 1.2 ounces and 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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57 Responses to Go Light – Ditch Your Nalgene Bottles

  1. Chris November 7, 2011 at 11:49 pm #

    then again, a wide-mouth has its advantages.

  2. markswalkingblog November 8, 2011 at 1:13 am #

    Philip, simple advice but so correct. The only time I have an issue with a Platypus is when I am trying to fill from a lake or a pond I can only fill it half full as the sides tend to stick together. Small issue, but not a big enough reason to use a Nalgene or similar bottle design.

  3. Blitzo November 8, 2011 at 2:27 am #

    I started using the Platypus's in the early 90's when I first saw them, and recently switched to the 1 liter water bottles when side pockets became the norm. I use a small Platypus for fuel (alcohol) and carry a 2 or 3 L in the pack for dry areas where 2L is not enough.

    I used a Nalgene only once in the 80's and quickly got rid of it when I found it was hard to drink from it without spilling water all over myself. Back then the Nalgene was lighter than a Mirro, but I went back to the venerable Mirro since I could drink out of it easier. I still have all my Mirros, but I'm not sure why….

  4. Maz November 8, 2011 at 3:59 am #

    In the Alps I was using whichever bottle (usually 1.5 litres) happened to contain the bottled water we were forced to buy up in the huts. Light and collapsable generally. They would be stowed in side webbing pockets. It made me re-think and I got a Source Liquitainer (largely the same as the Platypus you show) but a nicer construction. In fact, I have one of the old Platypus bottles which standup and have the neck at the corner and are intended as a bladder too. That's also light.

    A note on the Liquitainer – the "sports cap" is appalling. To open, you must twist, but the direction of the twist is also the direction to unscrew the cap. Turn too far and you take the cap off. Add gloves and tiredness into this equation and frustration ensues. Get a normal cap and forget the "sports cap".

  5. Diane November 8, 2011 at 4:22 am #

    the disposables are great, but wide mouth are easier to open when cold/freezing weather. We store the water upside down in the backs so if it starts to freeze, it will be frozen at the bottom, not the top. That said, I've been grabbing Gatorade bottles lately, but haven't weighed one.

  6. mike November 8, 2011 at 5:08 am #

    Agreed, however my MSR water filter doesn't plug into these other bottles so easily and the pump is hard to use without screwing it onto the bottle! I carry them but wish for a wide-mouthed platty model.

  7. ken h November 8, 2011 at 5:09 am #

    1L Smart Water bottles ,with a Platypus pull top are my favorite. They fit well into my side pockets and I can get them in and out without taking off the pack.

  8. ken h November 8, 2011 at 5:14 am #

    My Nalgene bottle is now a "P" bottle. Clearly marked!

  9. Craig White November 8, 2011 at 5:26 am #

    Smart Water bottles are a favorite of mine, too (for water stored inside the pack). But, for the exterior pockets (2), it's unlikely that I'll ever give up on easy to operate/indestructible stainless steel bottles- even if they do weigh in like an automotive transmission.

  10. Joe Newton November 8, 2011 at 5:53 am #

    No need to ditch your Nalgenes at all, just use them in the right season. I use two 500ml wide mouth Nalgenes in winter. They don't freeze up as easily as narrow mouth water bottles, double duty as my hot drink mug, triple duty as my hot water bottles at night (I cuddle one and the other one sits down by my feet) and quad-duty as my ski boot warmers in the morning, freshly filled with warm blueberry drink, defrosting my frozen boots before I slide my toes back in them. Also, try dangling a Playtpus from the end of your ski pole to refill from the only open hole in an otherwise frozen stream…

    My back up supply of melted snow for the rest of the day sits in a wide mouth soft sided Nalgene canteen wrapped in my insulated parka inside my pack.

  11. Stephen November 8, 2011 at 6:03 am #

    Nalgene haters beware. Yes the platypus bottles are great, but to add to what Mike said my MSR filter works in conjunction with the widemouth bottle too easily to leave it behind. The convenience when filtering a boggy water source is worth it on some trips to me. And on that note i just saw these the other day. Solves the problem if the widemouth lid with a lighterweight bottle. Yes they are following a trend but its a good one.

    http://thekeytosurvival.com/storetitles/Watertrea

  12. Earlylite November 8, 2011 at 6:07 am #

    Diane – good catch. You really do want a wide mouth bottle to prevent freezing in winter, but the rest of the year non-Nalgenes are the way to go.

    Ken makes an excellent point – Nalgenes are also good pee bottle in winter. That wide mouth is very useful in a tent in the dark!

    Mark – Jason Klass provided me with an excellent trick for filling platypus bottles that I use all of the time. Take an old playpus and cut it in half. Bring it along as a scoop to pour water into your intact platypus and fill it to the top. Works like a charm. I've even used it to catch rain water running down rocks on the trail (that looked clean) to fill my platy.

    Joe/Diane – You may want to try to 40 below Hunnersdorf wide mouth water bottles. They are lighter than nalgenes and have a different cap that doesn't require taking off a glove to open them.

  13. Misti November 8, 2011 at 6:10 am #

    I think this is definitely the trend on the AT! I rarely saw anyone using a Nalgene. wash the soda bottles though or switch them out every few weeks because a few people didn't and they got quite moldy!

  14. Earlylite November 8, 2011 at 6:10 am #

    Wide mouth Nalgenes have been around forever, actually. They are also a viable alternative.

  15. SunshineHiker November 8, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    I love my Platypus bottles! My favorite feature is that I also have a Platypus Gravity Water Filter. It only weighs 12 oz, fits on the end of all other Platy products, and all I have to do is stand there and watch it filter itself, not to mention the dirty bag has a really big opening for easy scooping of water. Platypus does a really great job of making all their products mix and matcheable which is great for going light!

  16. Ralph Alcorn November 8, 2011 at 7:54 am #

    I used the soda bottles for a number of years, but eventually switched to the 2+L platys, as they took less space when empty.

    However, I am now at least temporarily also carrying a 1L Nalgene. I need a rigid wide mouthed bottle to use the SteriPen. Haven't found a wide mouthed equivalent of the soda bottle.

    For the scooping water from shallow sources problem, I carry the cutoff bottom of about a 12 oz soda bottle. It used to fit around the filter in the gravity filter that I used before the Steripen. Now I just pack it somewhere where it will not be totally crushed.

  17. Scott Buhlinger November 8, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Ditto to Joe – On cold weather hikes I use the wide-mouth Nalgene as a hot water bottle (not sure I trust my platy with boiling water). Fill her up and toss into my bag about 10 minutes before climbing in, keeps me toasty all night long. Also use it to hold soup I can eat on the trail. When it's really cold, once out of the bag I like to keep moving, and eating soup along the trail is perfect combination (until I trip and face plant.)

  18. jarra November 8, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    The best of both worlds is the Nalgene Cantene, which what you get if you mate a Nalgene and a Platypus. The 1 liter weighs 60 g and the very handy 3 liter only 82 g.

    I will say that I've been happy on occasion to have a nice polycarbonate Nalgene when it's slipped out of my hands and bounced off a sharp rock rather than burst.

  19. Dave November 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    I also like the Wide Mouth 32oz Nalgene canteen.

    Wide enough to use with a Steri-Pen, easy to fill up, and collapsible.

    Only downside was when a Marmot decided he liked the taste of the plastic!

    Luckily, I always carry two.

  20. Earlylite November 8, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

    I've seen plenty of people using wide mouth Gatorade bottles with Steripens. Just saying.

    So, how do you know if the water on the threads of the Nalgene (or any bottle) has been sterilized by the Steripen? It doesn't appear to be a fool proof system. I've always wondered about this.

  21. Dave November 8, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    If using the collapsible Nalgene, I just squeeze the base of the bottle a few times during the sterilization process, causing the water to overflow onto the threads.

    When the sterilization light goes out, I squeeze it one more time, then pour some of the water from the canteen over the threads of the cap before sealing it up.

    If using a rigid bottle, I swirl the water up and over the mouth of the bottle onto the threads.

    Not perfect, but no problems so far.

  22. Mike November 8, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    There's something about steripens – just don't trust 'em. I mean – I get the science and everything – but nothing beats the feel of pushing water through a ceramic and carbon filter.

    Actually – and even the first time I had to use a water filter (last year) I realized as I was pumping, that I really didn't trust it.

    Maybe that all goes away with experience.

  23. Tim Laurence November 8, 2011 at 7:48 pm #

    markswalkingblog,

    I know the problem you are talking about, having trouble filling a soft sided container like a platty. Here is how I have solved that problem very successfully (never had a problem filling with 300+ days of travel).

    First choice is a steady drip from a facet, mossy overhang, etc.

    Next if I can find a river or creek I find the steepest spot in it. If I lucky water is coming off a rock in a pout-over. The platty will then fill up to the level of the pour-over. This doesn't need to be high because the platty is very flat and can be stretched out the the opening lifted just a bit.

    After that I can construct a pout over. Find a large leaf and fold it into a V. Place one end in the slow flow of water near a drop-off. If you are lucky you will end up diverting enough water to make a pour-over.

    If you have a large pool of water (lake, pond, deep river, etc) just force the water in. Do this by squeezing all the air out of the platty. Next while holding th eneck push the puch through and under he water with a firm motion. This motion will scoop the water into the pouch. Pull it out an you will find it is partially full. Repeat squeezing the air out before every "scoop". The water cannot push air out, it will only help bellow out the pouch as it is filing it.

    Finally you can bring a small scoup like a cut off bottle or use your pot. I haven't had to do that in about 8 years since I learned the scooping trick.

  24. miska November 9, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    Agreed, lightweight disposables are the way to go. My favorites are 1.5L poland spring bottles. You get the extra .5L height but still thin enough to fit into the side mesh pockets on a pack. Also they collapse well when empty, just crush them and then inflate with your mouth later when time to refill.

    That said, I still take one nalgene for various utility purposes – the wide mouth comes in handy when collecting water from puddles, it's boiling water proof, etc.

    I tried bladders, but never could get into them. To fussy to fill in shallow streams, PITA to clean, and hate that half the time I squeeze the thing trying to take a drink and spill water all over myself. Plastic disposable bottles weigh basically the same with only a little less collapsibility.

  25. Grandpa November 9, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    Last winter, as I backpacked with my grandson on the South Rim trail in Big Bend, both of our water bladders leaked (I know–it sounds like a personal problem) and we were faced with ending our hike early since we had no reliable water carrying system left for the quantities we'd need. I panhandled a few 1.5L Ozarka bottles of water from people coming down the mountain back to the trailhead and I've kept the bottles. They are very light, reasonably durable, have nice capacity, and fit into side pockets or hang from a shoulder strap. I use a couple 1.5L for bulk and a 1.0L and a two .7L bottles for ongoing use. When refilling the Ozarka bottles from a pool on Boot Creek, I turned the empty bottle upside down, plunged it about halfway down into the pool, righted it and the air bubbled out as the water flowed in. The water in the middle of the pool was much clearer than that on the surface or near the bottom.

    A 1L Gatorade type bottle is useful, although it weighs quite a bit more than the Ozarka bottle.

  26. Rich November 10, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    I can;t get on board with the reuse of disposable bottles, they're just too unreliable with respect to leaks in the bottle or reliability of the cap. This is becoming more and more of a problem as manufacturers are (rightly) using less and less materials in their packaging. I've also had hydration bladers leak at the seams (after years of use). That's why I always take at least one Nalgene with me. They're practically indestructible and I can trust them 100%, which is what I need for something as vital as hydration.

  27. Jon Fong November 10, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

    I use the original PE (not polycarb) Nalgene bottles and have had a pair for ~20 years. I have had about 5 platy bottle and have gotten leaks in about 50% of them. I use the Nalgenes and carry the extra weight. I feel better about it than using all of those disposable bottles because disposable bottles (to me) seem to viloate the LNT concept. My 2 cents.

  28. mike November 11, 2011 at 4:36 am #

    Jon –

    Have to agree with the LNT aspects of using the Nalgene. I also avoid generating as much trash as possible day-to-day, so tend to avoid buying bottled water, gatorade (buy the powered stuff instead and make it half-strength) and use the Nalgene bottles every day – hiking, work, gym.

    I wonder if the collapsible bottles are strong enough to withstand daily use in multiple environments?

    This is also the problem I have with regard to buying a stove for camping. I really like the ISO stoves, but I hate the idea of creating more garbage (even recyclable) than I need too. I suppose that means I'll end up going with a white gas stove – just haven't committed yet.

    And Philip, have to agree with another commenter – your blog is a service to many of us. Without your writing I would be completely lost. As a newbie hiker, this is my first stop and most frequently read hiking blog.

  29. Earlylite November 11, 2011 at 5:14 am #

    Thanks Mike – I like writing about skills and hope I make sense to newer hikers who are still climbing the learn curve. You never really can "master" these skills – there's always something new to learn and I find that writing about them and trying to explain them helps me understand them more.

    Anyway – if you ever have any questions, feel free to send them to me. I'll write a post about them or reply by email.

  30. TinCanFury November 13, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    they used to make "wide mouth" soda bottles, the opening being about twice as wide as the standard soda bottle cap. dunno if they stopped making them (I don't drink soda), but if you find them perhaps time to stock up?

  31. GitRDone November 15, 2011 at 6:58 am #

    Have been carrying the Platypus bottles for a few years now…last a long time, and fold up when not being used.

  32. SouthMark November 15, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    In 33 years I have never carried a Nalgene bottle. 33 years ago I carried Aunt Jemima syrup bottles with the squeeze top. This day in time a carry soda botles, gatorade bottles, etc. and a dry bag (food bag) for camp water.

  33. Phil November 15, 2011 at 7:11 am #

    Also been carrying Platypus and repurposed disposable water bottles for at least 10 years. Lessons learned are that flexible bottles (Platy and Nalgene) don't last forever. They have to be replaced when they start to crack. Holes in the field are easily patched but the seams will eventually fail. Disposable water bottles work very well too.

  34. Mtn Man Mike November 18, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    While not as light as a soft drink bottle, the HDPE Nalgene bottles are both cheaper ($6.95) and lighter (3.8oz), than the regular clear plastic Naglene bottles. They are also quite a bit more rugged than a soda bottle. Note: For reference my clear Nalgene bottle weighed 6.3 oz.

  35. Brian Russo December 8, 2011 at 6:01 am #

    Have fun wasting more resources.. My oldest Nalgene is probably 10 years old. Good for another 10 easily. I have some platypuses I've had just as long though admittedly they will probably give out before the Nalgenes.

    Not really opposed to soda bottles per se. After all anyone hiking is probably having a heck of a lot less impact than your average person. Still, I don't see why we should throw out what we have. Everything can have a purpose. I think it's better to say "think twice before buying a Nalgene". Most people pick them as a default without thinking.

  36. Earlylite December 8, 2011 at 6:03 am #

    An excellent point! No need to buy something you don't need to. The problem is that people buy things without thinking. The story of REI's business (member) model, I guess.

  37. Chris July 25, 2012 at 1:51 am #

    Why does no one bring up the durability of the nalgene? What happens when your lightweight plastics get punctured? You have no way of carrying water.

    • Earlylite July 25, 2012 at 7:42 am #

      Never happened to me in thousands of miles of hiking and backpacking. This is really not an issue – using recycled plastic coke bottles is a standard thru-hiker trick to reduce pack weight. If an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker can’t destroy something, it can’t be destroyed!

      • Tim Laurence August 18, 2012 at 9:44 am #

        I have never busted a disposable bottle (I usually use the 1L ones that held fizzy mineral water or a GatorAid bottle) but the caps are a different story. I find it fairly easy for them to crak when dropped. Now that I say(type) that out loud I realize the solution is to carry a spare cap. That still is lighter and cheaper than a Nalgene.

        I have cap failure several times but it has never been a issue since I always carry a platty as well.

  38. Ellen September 12, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    One other solution for those who worry is to carry one standard Nalgene, and replace the others with the light weight alternatives.

    • Clare McD. September 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

      Ellen: That’s exactly what I do. Can’t quite give up the Nalgene just yet.

  39. Paul Buck September 12, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    hmm.. but the wide mouth nalgene is easier to pee in! :)

  40. Steve September 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    Wide mouth Nalgene comes in handy in the winter. it is easier to chip the ice out of the wider mouth.

    • Earlylite September 12, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

      Store it upside down and the lid won’t freeze on.

      • Glenn September 12, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

        Genius!

  41. Lisa September 12, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    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.

    • Earlylite September 12, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

      All a matter of choice. Use whatever makes you happy.

  42. Bill September 12, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    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.

  43. RevLee September 13, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    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!

  44. Norwegian hiker December 7, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    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.

    • Tim Laurence December 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

      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.

  45. Karl December 21, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    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.

  46. gramgeek July 9, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    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.

  47. JoAnna November 19, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    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.

    • Eva June 13, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

      I’m gonna second this comment. Its really not that good of an idea to reuse PET bottles – they’re not intended for that.

  48. Sean January 16, 2014 at 4:35 am #

    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?

    • Ed January 28, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

      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.

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