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10 Best Water Bottles for Hiking and Backpacking

10 best water bottles for hiking and backpacking

Hiking, backpacking, and water bottles go hand in hand because hydration is so important for your comfort, safety, and performance in the backcountry. While you’d think choosing a water bottle for hiking or backpacking would be a simple affair, it’s anything but because there are so many options available and different styles of walking and hiking, from everyday use and day hiking to thru-hiking and traditional backpacking that require different hydration solutions. Hot weather, infrequent water sources, or the need to filter water further complicate the water bottle selection process.

Make / ModelCapacityWeightBest use
Smartwater Bottles33.8 oz1.2 ozEveryday, Hiking, Backpacking
Nalgene Bottles32 oz6.25, 3.75 ozEveryday, Hiking, Backpacking
HydroFlask Standard Mouth24 oz12.8 ozEveryday, Hiking
Owala Freesip Bottle24 oz13.4 ozEveryday, Hiking
Survivor Canteens33 oz1.3 ozHiking, Backpacking
CNOC Vecto 2L Water Container64 oz2.6 ozBackpacking
Platypus Platy 2.0L Bottle70 oz1.3 ozBackpacking
Grayl Geopress Purifier Bottle24 oz15.9 ozEveryday, Hiking
Katadyn BeFree Filter Bottle33.8 oz2.3 ozHiking, Backpacking
HydraPak Seeker Filter Bottle100 oz4.5 ozBackpacking

With all these factors in mind, here are our top picks for hiking and backpacking water bottles. Be sure to read our selection guide below which delves deeply into the issues and needs that drive hiking and backpacking water bottle selection.

1. Smartwater Bottles

Smartwater 1L
Smartwater Bottles are reusable plastic water bottles (available in multiple volumes) popular with hikers and backpackers because they’re lightweight and their top cap threads are compatible \ with the popular Sawyer Squeeze water filter. Tall with a thin diameter, they also fit inside all external backpack pockets from ultralight fast packs and day packs to large multi-day backpacks. While they do get grimy and are hard to keep clean after a month or so of continuous reuse, they’re relatively inexpensive and sold in almost every grocery or convenience store, making them easy to replace.

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2. Nalgene Bottles

Nalgene Bottles
Nalgene bottles, especially in the 32 oz (1 QT) size, have long been a goto water bottle for hikers and backpackers because they’re very difficult to break they’re easy to clean, and last for years. They’re available with a wide or narrow neck, they can hold boiling or cold water, and they have a lid that’s attached to the bottle and can’t be lost. Liquid measurements on the side of the bottle make them ideal for camp cooking and they have a flat bottom, so they stand up by themselves. Hint: The white translucent Nalgene bottles (3.75 oz) are 2.5 oz lighter weight than the transparent ones (6.25 oz) if you’re trying to cut ounces. They’re both thread compatible with many MSR Water Filters including the MSR Guardian and the popular Katadyn Hiker.

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3. Hydroflask Standard Mouth 24 oz Vaccum Bottle

Hydro Flask Standard-Mouth Vacuum Water Bottle with Flex Cap - 24 fl. oz.
The Hydroflask Standard Mouth 24 oz Vaccum Bottle (with Flex Cap) is an insulated stainless steel bottle designed to replace plastic bottles that have a limited life span. Sized for hiking and everyday use, the Standard bottle can fit into most day hiking packs with ease. The bottle’s unique double wall vacuum insulation keep contents hot or cold for hours. The bottle’s cap is insulated and its handle is strong and convenient while the bottle opening is a reasonable size for drinking from directly and the bottle and lid are easy to clean.

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4. Owala FreeSip Vaccum Water Bottle 24 oz

Owala Freesip water bottle
The Owala Freesip is a triple-layer, vacuum-insulated stainless-steel bottle that keeps drinks cold for up to 24 hrs but is not suitable for hot liquids. The Freesip spout makes it possible to drink in two different ways: you can hold it upright to sip through the built-in straw or tilt it back to chug through the wide-mouth opening. It has a patented locking push-button lid that flips open for drinking or closed to keep the spout clean with a convenient carry loop that doubles as a lock. The bottle has a wide opening for easy cleaning and adding ice. The base of the bottle is cup holder-friendly with most cars, including Subarus. The 24 oz size works well with all day-hiking packs and backpacks, even those with narrow pockets.

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5. Survivor 2L Collapsible Water Canteens

Survivor 1L Canteens
Sold as a 2-Pack, these 1L (33 oz) Survivor Collapsible Water Canteens are BPA-free soft bottles that are compatible with 28 mm water filters including the Sawyer Squeeze. They’re foldable when empty, freezable, and reusable. Each bottle comes with a push-pull cap to make them easy to drink from. The bottles have a bottom gusset so they stand up on their own and a handle to make them easy to pull out of the side pockets of your backpack. A small carabiner is included so you can clip them empties to your pack when not in use. When ordering, be sure to click on the “12 x 1.5 x 6.5” option on Amazon to get the 1L bottles as multiple sizes are available.

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6. CNOC Vecto 2L Water Container

CNOC Vecto 2L
The CNOC Vecto 2L is a dual-opening soft bottle that allows you to easily collect, store, and treat water, using your filter of choice making it a good water bottle for long day hikes and backpacking. Made with TPU, it’s BPA, BPS, and BPF-free and rolls up tight when empty. Its 28 mm tethered screw top (so you can’t lose it) is compatible with many popular water filters including the Sawyer Squeeze, Sawyer Mini, the LifeStraw Flex, and the HydroBlu Versa Flow. The rear slide opening, also tethered, makes it easy to fill with water from ponds as well as clean.

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7. Platypus Platy 2.0L Soft Bottle

Platypus Platy 2.0L Soft Bottle
The Platypus Platy 2.0L soft bottle is a 1.3 oz durable soft bottle that folds flat for easy transport when is not needed. With 70 oz of capacity, it’s not intended to be used as a drinking bottle on the go, but as a bottle that you fill when you need to carry extra, for long water carries to a dry camp, or for use in cooking and for camp chores. It also has a gusseted bottom so it will stand up when full or partially. The Platy 2.0L Bottle is a BPA-free, BPS-free, and phthalate-free food-grade polyethylene lining that does not taste like plastic or retain flavors. Its only drawback is that it’s not thread compatible with the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter, although it can be used with all Platypus water filters, like the QuickDraw.

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8. Grayl GeoPress Water Filter and Purifier Bottle

 
The Grayl GeoPress Water Purifier is a bottle-based water filter that removes bacteria, viruses, and protozoa from contaminated backcountry and international water sources. It’s easy to use, portable, and safe to use by individuals for day hiking, fishing, or international travel when you don’t want to mess around with a more complicated hose, bladder, or pump-based water purifier. It’s capable of carrying 24 oz of filtered and purified water between water sources and has a twist-off cap so you can pour purified water into a second water bottle if you want to carry more. It can filter 24 oz of water in 8 seconds, which is astoundingly fast compared to other water filter or purifier systems.

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9. Katadyn BeFree 1L Water Filter Bottle 33.8 oz

Katadyn Befree 1L water filter bottle
The Katadyn BeFree 1L Water Filter Bottle is a 33.8 oz BPA-free soft bottle that comes with the Katadyn Befree Water Filter which removes protozoa and bacteria so you can refill your water from natural water sources on the go. It can also be used as the squeeze bottle and filtering component in a multi-bottle system for backpacking where you transfer filtered water to other containers. The 1L bottle has a wide mouth which makes it easier to refill in ponds or streams and is collapsible when empty so it can pack into very tight spaces in your pack or clothing. The bottle comes with a cap to keep the drinking spout clean and leak-free when not in use, although it’s not permanently attached to a lanyard.

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10. HydraPak Seeker 3L Collapsible Bottle with Water Filter Cap

Hydropak seeker 3L
This HydraPak Seeker 3L includes a transparent 100 oz collapsible water bottle with graduated volume markings and a 42 mm hollow fiber filter capable of removing waterborne bacteria, protozoa, and microplastics. The 100% BPA and PVC-free Seeker bottle is made of durable TPU with RF-welded seams and has a wide working temperature range, so it can be frozen or filled with hot water. The bottle has a low-profile handle along the side that allows for easy filling, pouring, or hanging. If you’ve ever tried carrying a wet 3L soft bottle the value of that handle will be quickly apparent. The water container lid securely locks into place over the filter preventing leaks and spillage. The included squeeze-style filter can process 1,500 liters of fresh water at a rate of 1 liter per minute. A Seeker 3L Bottle is also available without the filter. Both are thread compatible with Katadyn BeFree water filters.

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Hiking and Backpacking Water Bottle Guide

There is a wide range of water bottles that can be used for hiking and backpacking ranging from soda and bottled water bottles and insulated stainless steel bottles to soft bottles and those that incorporate a water filter or water purifier element. While you probably just want to carry one bottle for everyday or day-hiking use, many backpackers carry multiple bottle types at the same time to fill different functions such as filtering water or for carrying larger amounts of water across dry stretches of trail where water is scarce.

Here are many of the factors that you should consider when choosing water bottles for hiking use.

Reusable Bottles

Reusable bottles are preferable over disposable bottles from an environmental perspective. However, many so-called disposable bottles, such as plastic soda or bottled water bottles can be used repeatedly for quite some time before they get too hard to clean and much be replaced. The lightest-weight reusable bottles are soft bottles that can be rolled up when not in use. Stainless steel bottles are also reusable but are more appropriate for everyday or day hiking use where gear weight is less of an issue and the option of using an insulated bottle may be more appealing.

Volume

For everyday use and day hiking, you generally need to carry a bottle with less volume than for backpacking over longer distances where water may be scarce and you need to carry more so you don’t run out. When using a water filter, you can use a lower-capacity squeeze bottle if you transfer the water to a large bottle for storage. Consideration should also be given to the size of your backpack pockets, since day hiking packs tend to have smaller and narrower pockets than backpacking packs which can hold higher-capacity bottles. For example, a 24 oz hard-sided bottle will fit in most smaller daypack pockets, while a 32 oz bottle may not.

Material

Plastic water bottles are usually much lighter weight than stainless steel bottles, but their less durable and not insulated. When choosing among plastic bottles, make sure that they are BPA-free and PFC-free and do not hold tastes or smells. Soft bottles have the advantage over hard-sided bottles because they pack up very small when not in use.

Weight

The weight of plastic bottles is usually insignificant but stainless steel bottles can be quite heavy. This is less of a concern for everyday use or day hiking when gear weights are low overall, but can impose significant hardship if you were to carry multiple steel bottles at a time on a backpacking trip. When comparing plastic and soft bottle weights, be sure to take into account the weight of the filter element. Also filter bottles tend to be heavier in use when wet because the filters retain water between uses.

Mouth Opening

The size of a bottle’s mouth opening determines its filter compatibility, the ease in which you can fill it from natural water sources that have still water like ponds, and whether it is large enough to accept ice cubes in the case of an insulated bottle. Most water bottles with 28mm openings are compatible with the popular Sawyer squeeze water filter, which is the most popular filter used by backpackers. Those with 42mm openings are compatible with Katadyn BeFree filter which is also popular because it has such a high flow rate. If you use one of these squeeze filters, you’ll need a bottle that can be squeezed for water through it.

Insulated Bottles

If you want to carry cold drinks or hot liquids, you’ll be looking at insulated Stainless Steel bottles. In the case of hot liquids, check to see what the maximum liquid temperature is that they can be safely used with.

Bootle Lids and Caps

When choosing bottles for backpacking, those with tethered caps are preferable to those without to prevent accidental loss. If you want a bottle with a straw or a push-pull spout for sipping, be sure to find one that has a cap that keeps them clean and is leakproof.

Soft vs Hard Bottles

Soft bottles are much easier to pack when not in use than hard-sided bottles, which can take up significant backpack volume even when they’re empty. Some soft bottles have the ability to stand up when full, which is convenient in camp when cooking.

Cleaning

You will need to clean your bottles sooner or later and the number and size of the bottle’s openings play a big part in how easy they are to clean. For example, bottles with small necks or sipping straws can pose cleaning challenges while a bottle with a wide mouth or slide opening will be much easier to sanitize. If you plan to clean your bottles or their caps in a dishwasher, make sure that they are also dishwasher safe.

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22 comments

  1. Thanks Philip! My only note is that the transparent Nalgene bottles are polycarbonate, and I have seen more than one of these shatter from being set down on a rock or in cold conditions. The translucent ones are polyethylene, and I have never broken one of those.

  2. Any experience with that new Hydrapak Filter Cap yet? I’ve been wondering how it compares with the BeFree as it looks very similar. I like that it has a permanently attached cap, and I’ve had a lot of trouble with BeFree’s clogging. Interested in trying out the Hydrapak Filter combined with their 1L Flux bottle. 3L is too much for me.

  3. I suspect that the filter element is a katadyn befree, but it’s difficult to verify that. I actually love the way the cap on the new seeker works – it locks down tight every time. I love that 3L size. Perfect for dry camping and water carries.

    I’ve never had problems with clogging in a BeFree and it’s something I tested for an entire season of hard use to try and replicate. Then again, maybe our water is so much cleaner than yours.

    • Yeah, I think the first couple times I used my BeFree I did not follow the long term storage instructions, which was a big problem. It then clogged after filtering water from a pond in the ADK’s Giant Mountain Wilderness. Literally could not squeeze anything through. I did free it up with a bleached water soaking when I got home (I could see green residue on the filter medium), but it really hasn’t been the same since, only making it through a few liters each time in the field before slowing significantly. I got a replacement cartridge recently and have had much better results so far with it. Will definitely be more cafeful about the quality of water I put through it this time. Still want to try the Hydrapak setup though.

    • I was disappointed in the durability of the befree bag. Mine developed pinholes after about 7 days of light and careful use. I don’t expect it to be as durable as a hard bottle, but this was disappointing.

      Befree will redirect you to hydrapak for warranty replacement, hydrapak replaced it no questions asked, but shipping was slow which might matter for someone on a long trail.

  4. Survivor 2L Collapsible Water Canteens look very interesting but How do you actually clean them? Nagelene may be heavy but as noted they last for years.

  5. My new personal favorite is the classic Gatorade squeeze water bottle. They cost about $5, and you only need one hand to pull it out of your pack and squeeze!

    The only problem is that my kids have discovered how convenient these bottles are, so they often take them, and then they’re never seen again (the water bottles, not the kids…)

  6. An additional consideration is delivery, by which I mean squeeze/sip/gulp…if you don’t like drinking from your container you are more likely to dehydrate. Also I carry a container, Smartwater, in which I mix watermelon limeade at meals and snack breaks as a change from just water.

  7. Threw out my Vecto 2L bags. Bad taste never went away. If you you just fill and immediately squeeze filter you will not notice it but if you store water the bad taste comes through

  8. Interesting you didn’t mention BPA which leeches into water if the sun touches the plastic, and leeches a xenoestrogen into the drink pussyfying men. What the heck do you think is wrong with your country my friend? Now smart water bottles are BPA free but … very easy to search sperm counts dropping due to plastics. And then there’s the sodium fluoride in your toothpaste lowering IQs and it even says poison right on the tube. And it lowers the IQs of Americans to the point that they don’t question it being in their tap water. And people wonder what the hell is wrong with the United states. Plastics are some of the most toxic thing out there. Only number two and number five in the triangle on the bottom of the bottle is safe to use. And only if you don’t lay the bottle in the Sun or put it in a stupid microwave.

    • Actually, I do. “When choosing among plastic bottles, make sure that they are BPA-free and PFC-free and do not hold tastes or smells.”

      • Thanks for article and a shout out to Dr. Marcos ! On my day hikes I carry 2 knock-off nalgene type bottles ( one for me and one for my dog ) that I got at Walmart. Just checked the bottom No.7 I must have ingested too much BPAs over my my lifetime. One would think if you sell a water bottle that it would be safe to use as a water bottle. My fault. These are in the recycle bin NOW!

        • P.S When I bought these I checked them out and it had BPA free stamped on the bottom but the No.7 is one to stay clear of

        • I don’t know why you say #7 is bad. I’ve been using platypus bottles for 15 years and they are exceptionally durable and high quality. You can’t go wrong with a platypus bottle or reservoir. They’re my number #1 personal soft bottle.

    • I’m still using Nalgene at times but I am coming around to titanium. I have one Vargo titanium water bottle and considering purchasing another. Expensive as heck. Can use on a fire. Cannot hold if you fill with very hot water (foot of sleeping bag, tea etc.). No known detrimental health effects. Fits in an Instant Pot for medical grade sterilization if that’s your thing.

      I’ll toss in S2S ‘X’ water reservoir, multiple sizes available. Has really served me well. Cleans with a sodium percarbonate tablet, so no soap in your drinking water. Tough and secure.

  9. El Diablo Amarillo

    Cant overlook a stainless single wall bottle. You can boil water to purify directly in an open fire or stove if needed. Lighter than a double wall bottle. Hard to puncture and if you get one with a metal lid all but impossible to break if dropped

  10. I use Smartwater, translucent Nalgene, the Katadyn BeFree and the 40 Below bottles (winter). The Katadyn and Smarwater bottles connect to my Source (Tactical) hydration bladder via a “UTA” converter.

  11. I’ve been a fan on the Nalgene from before they were available to the public and we had to “liberate” them from chem lab. The cap retaining loop is a desirable feature: no chasing dropped caps. I see people using the loop to attach the bottle to a carabiner on their pack. But it is NOT strong enough to support a full 32 ounces of water for long. On the other hand, you can buy a replacement cap and loop on line or at REI and similar stores. That can add service life to the Nalgene bottle.

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