Ultralite Nalgene Bottles are 40% lighter weight than Transparent Nalgene Bottles which makes them a lot more attractive to use for backpacking. In the one-liter size, a wide-mouth Ultralite Nalgene, such as the one above, weighs 3.75 oz, while a transparent wide-mouth bottle weighs 6.25 oz. That 2.5 oz difference increases if you carry two or three bottles at the same time. The Ultralite Nalgene bottles are made with high-density polyethylene, while the transparent ones are made with much heavier polycarbonate plastic, which explains the weight difference.
While many backpackers and hikers carry 1L Smartwater bottles (1.4 oz) or other PET bottles instead of Nalgenes because they’re lighter weight and compatible with popular water filters, there’s still an argument to be made for carrying these white Ultralite Nalgene Bottles instead. While they do weigh more, they are far superior in terms of functional capabilities, including:
- They have much better durability over the long term (they last for years)
- You can put boiling hot water in them for drinks
- You can put boiling hot water in them to warm a sleeping bag/quilt
- The caps are attached to the bottles and can’t be lost
- The volume measurements printed on the sides are helpful when rehydrating dinners
- The wide mouth is better for scooping water out of ponds and lakes than a narrow-necked bottle
- Wide-mouth bottles don’t freeze as quickly as narrow-necked ones in freezing weather
- Wide-mouth bottles are easy to carry upside down in winter to prevent freezing around the cap
- 1L Nalgene bottles are much harder to tip over in camp
- 1L Nalgene bottles are compatible with all backpack bottle pockets. Smartwater bottles aren’t.
I switched to using the 1L wide-mouth Ultralite Nalgene bottles a few years ago for a different reason, although I do find the reasons above to be compelling too. I kept losing Smartwater bottles stored in the side pockets of my pack on off-trail hikes because the vegetation would rip them out. That stopped when I switched to the shorter and squatter Ultralite Nalgenes and I’ve stuck with them ever since.
Don’t Ditch Your Nalgene Bottles
Many years ago, I wrote an article titled Go Light – Ditch Your Nalgene Bottles, which in hindsight was a little idiotic, because I was over-enthusiastic about dropping my gear weight. It was based on the assumption that all Nalgene bottles weighed 6.25 oz because I didn’t know that these 1L Ultralite Nalgenes weigh 3.75 oz. While I still believe in keeping my gear weight low, I’ve found that I prefer the functionality of these Ultralite Nalgenes over Smartwater bottles and their ilk. Try pouring hot water into a Smartwater bottle sometime and you’ll quickly see why.
I still carry Platypus or CNOC soft bottles with me when I’m hiking so I can carry extra water when necessary or squeeze it through a hollow fiber filter like a Sawyer or a Befree. But carrying these wide-mouth Ultralite Nalgenes is an upgrade over PET bottles and well worth a few ounces of added weight.