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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 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 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. 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 reservoir  bottle 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.

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

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  1. Drugs…drugs are bad, m’kay?…

  2. 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.

    • you know very little. The dose determines the poison. FDA has strict requirements. Just because your detect trace chemicals after an extraction experiment doesn’t mean there are enough chemicals to cause concern. GCMS is very very sensitive.

    • Was that a problem for you? Did switching to titanium bring your masculinity back, or are you still seeking it?

  3. Not sure how simply opening a bottle will cause it to start degrading. Sounds like scare tactics to me.

  4. no they don’t contain bpa. they do contain other estrogenic compounds, but then again so does your nalgene:

  5. I agree. I hear what everyone said but punctures are a real thing on a any trail. I do not not want to leave my safe hydration to something My own knife could go through. Water is the second to me , right after shelter. On a hike water is NUMBER ONE. My Nalgene has been so useful for all kind of reasons, and is only full on the last trip back from getting water. I use it for my steri pen. I have a filter down to 1 micron but I like to be on the safe side as to what I worry about IS one micron. So. filter, pour to Nalgene, steri then into bladder. Everything is full on last trip but all ready to drink except last bit after nalgene is emptied. I never ran out of water and never felt bad from water. Water weighs a lot so I try to manage only what I can add to my full pack weight Just in case the Most water I can find for a bit is at the beginning. I am currently using GRayl as my filtration. easy to use and dependable.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. I always carry large Smartwater bottles. One good thing about wide mouth bottles though, is when you plan to use a SteriPen.

  9. When backpacking with my boy scouts, I insist that one of the bottles they are carrying is a nalgene like this. All of the others can be as light as possible. Reason? They can’t destroy or poke a hole in the nalgene.

    • If everyone has a lightweight bottle and one gets destroyed, there are still plenty to go around… unless they had a “lets all splatter a full water bottle and see who wins!” contest… which I wouldn’t put past some goups (not Scouts) that I’ve encountered in the past.

  10. I hate to be a stickler but 3 Nalgene bottles at 6.2 ounces each is a total of 18.6 ounces, or more than a pound just for the bottles alone.

  11. I’m with Philip. While Nalgenes and bladders have their uses my regular 3 season kit is 2 (20 oz./591 ml) Smart Water bottles and the 2L Platypus. Light, cheap, tough and the caps are interchangeable. As for potential punctures, who isn’t packing duct tape, urethane or equivalent?

    • duct tape leaks. Besides, if you’re all about saving weight it doesn’t make sense to ditch the nalgene to save a few ounces then pack tape for when your alternative bottle leaks.

      • I pack duct tape not just for leak repairs but for its versatility in any number of situations. The tape I pack is not the cheap silver stuff but an industrial grade that I also use in my line of work. I fixed a bladder with it and there was no leak at that knife hole until I retired the bladder a few years later. It depends on the quality of the duct tape.

  12. Actually I’d rather carry the extra weight than support an industry (plastic water and soda bottles) that does so much harm to the environment.

  13. Thanks for sharing, Phil! To your point, Nalgene does make a soft bottle called the Cantene if you like the convenience of the wider openings and connected cap. Although a tad heavier, these puppies weigh in at 2.1 ounces. Their other HDOE bottle weighs in at 3.7 oz., still ‘way’ better than their heavyweight.

  14. Excuse? But I want the Wide Mouth bottle. Answer,…. Hydrapak Flexible Bottles. PACKS SMALL when not in use. Small to WIDE!!!! Mouth choices.

  15. GatorAde or Powerade bottles have wide openings and are stable and almost as light as water bottles. I prefer Powerade bottles and White Cherry flavor didn’t leave any oder. I only wish their caps were not black. I’ve had issues with GatorAde bottles smelling forever but maybe I didn’t find the right flavors.

  16. Meh to soda bottles. Brittle, thin plastic. Drop a full one on some rocks and see what happens.

    Amongst the options to the Nalgene polystyrene: Polyethylene Nalgene quarts are 3.8 oz. And now they make various Cantene collapsable containers which are a durable, softer plastic. And there’s also the Hydrapak collapsable bottle. Even with those options, i still carry at least one wide-mouth Nalgene to use for mixing powdered electrolyte replacement drinks. (Current favorite combination is Vitalyte with some dehydrated coconut water.) These are easier to mix in wide-mouth bottles, and wide-mouth bottles are easier to clean well.

    No cringing needed on my account.

    • No cringing on my account either!

      It’s disappointing to read such judgy nonsense. There are many different ways to do things, and it shouldn’t matter to anyone else if I choose to carry a Nalgene (not sure why the assumption was made that everyone carries three?). ‘Hike your own hike!’

      P.S. I do use a 300 ml ex-orange juice bottle, but only as a container for methylated spirits … never drinking water.

  17. If you ever do winter camping or hiking or snow sports, the benefits of a wide mouth of a nalgene should be familiar.

    Why buy a different bottle for different seasons?

    If it were me, I’d get a wide mouth stainless – can scoop snow, can be used to heat and melt it and it works in any season.

    Leave the used soda bottles full and unpurchased at the store where you found them.

    If you are complaining about a few ounces of weight in your pack – hit the gym.

    • Agree, 100%!

      The standard plastic Nalgene is excellent and well worth the trivial extra weight relative to a Smart water bottle. And its stainless (Guyot) brother has the extra benefit of being able to be placed in a fire: so you can boil water without needing a pot.

  18. Philip,

    For us winter hikers & climbers, what type of bottle coozie do you use with the Platypus bottles to help prolong freezing? I’ve been wanting to do this, but haven’t found a coozie (40 Below, OR) that the Platypus fits in efficiently enough.

    • Prolong freezing? No sure I follow you.

    • Gotta use Nalgene only when using winter bottle cozies to keep them from freezing. I agree with the hiker that said if you’re squibbling over a few ounces, hit the gym. I love my Nalgene bottles and will not switch to smart water bottles. I started my hiking career in the southern cal desert and making sure the water makes it up the mountain safely is the num 1 priority. I do volunteer trail work with folks here in New England who still use an old kelts tioga pack from the 80s, an Optimus 99 stove and carry their wine in glass bottles when we camp out.

  19. Nalgene:

    – BPA free: keep your hormones in order by not putting toxic plastic in your body
    – absolutely no leakage: you won’t find any water bottle with a better cap, Nalgene are the best
    – can be used to heat a sleeping back with hot water
    – takes water filters
    – fits into handle mugs to save space
    – can be used as a shaker, for oatmeal etc.
    – long lasting
    – durable

    I’d rather carry a bit more weight and have all these advantages while at the same time saving money long AND the environment. ;) I even got me the stainless steel edition from Nalgene that weighs even more – and can be used to BOIL WATER in the bottle (sans cap) over a fire.

  20. I am with the Nalgene or reusable group. Personally what you do to your own body is your business. But ths disposable bottle problem as a whole is way more of a problem than most people realize. Grow some muscles and carry a little more anx be selfish a little less. My 100 pound daughter regularly carries 35ibs of camp and climbing gear up 2700 ft elevations with a bunch of other 100 l. climbers every weekend

  21. I’m disappointed to see so many backpackers opting for single-use plastics. Considering their environmental impact, I would expect this particular group to be more concerned. I understand the weight savings but reusable options are much more responsible.

    • Don’t follow you. We reuse them over and over.

      • Some types of lightweight plastic water bottles are considered unsafe to refill because they leach chemicals and are difficult to sanitize with sufficiently hot, soapy water. They are intended to be disposable. Personally I re-use Smart Water and similar bottles anyway, due to their light weight, convenient “sport” top, and compatibility with a Sawyer filter, but only for backpacking, not for daily use. An Internet search shows a lot of debate about how bad the chemical leaching problem is, and I’m not a chemist.

    • 100% right ^^^

  22. Grizzly Adams- Nalgene while BPA free still leaches estrogenic activity chemicals into the water.

    Safest best is uncoated aluminum bottles .

  23. The way I see it, the choice of options such as Nalgene vs Platypus vs reused disposable bottles will likely come down to your use for the bottle. Lightweight options like Platypus are probably better for strenuous day hikes than backpacking. If you are doing something like dayhiking up Mount Whitney, you want something lightweight with a high capacity that you can carry up a high mountain. Platypus fits the bill REALLY well here. The fact that the bottle can collapse with use comes in handy as well, since they compact down with use. And because you are less likely to carry such things as utensils on a dayhike, punctures are less likely.

    On the other hand, when backpacking, a reliable water bottle is more important. This shifts things in favor of a Nalgene (despite the weight difference). Another option here is to carry both a Nalgene and something like a Platypus so that you have the benefits of both: the Nalgene for durability and the Platypus for extra water when needed.

    There is, of course, another possible option. You can actually get HDPE bottles from Nalgene. They are not nearly as light as something like the Platypus. But these bottles weigh just a little more than half of what an ordinary Nalgene weighs. They are also FAR more durable than something like the Platypus and less likely to shatter than an ordinary Nalgene. They are certainly worth considering.

  24. There is actually a place for a nalgene in ultralight hiking. I hike ultralight (7.5lb base weight), but I usually actually carry one Nalgene, only because I go stoveless most of the time and it doubles as a reliable cold soak container. I used to use a peanut butter container, but it was a little small, and the lid failed one time and dumped cold ramen all over my pack. One failure is enough for me, and nalgene closures are rock solid. So, because I don’t have to carry a stove, pot, or fuel, a Nalgene is a light option for me. My other bottle is a 1 liter smart bottle. It’s all about situation.

  25. Not everyone carrying a Nalgene bottle is as ignorant as assumed by this review. Sure, weight for no reason is bad, but Nalgene bottles are great for more than just carrying water: they can be great to mix food and beverages – thus eliminating a cup/mug. They have wide mouths and really – who says you have to carry three? One + a bladder or two is a great combo. I’m strong and willing to carrying that extra 5oz. So please don’t cringe or worry about me. I don’t mind shouldering a bit of weight for the convenience it brings. Many have drunk the ultra-lite koolaid. Some of us have came back to our senses when we realized the whole point of a hike is enjoyment. Heck – some people I know even carry a 12oz chair, bear canister and still manage to keep up with the group without difficulty.

  26. I had this very same idea, Philip. I buy the 78 cents 1 liter soda water bottles at Walmart. Then I bought some Platypus push pull caps. These bottles are squeezable! Try that with a Nalgene bottle. Another bonus is to carry the unopened Pepsi bottle etc. and drink it as a treat on you first day/night before refilling with water! After reading these replies, I’ve learned that Nalgene bottle users are a pissy bunch. Nalgene can pound sand. LOL!

  27. You guys have it all wrong. Water bottles are CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP, which means that you hardly have to limit yourself to one type. Buy a few different types of bottles so that you can have the right bottle for the job. Going peak bagging? NOTHING is better than a flexible bottle such as the Platypus or Hydrolok. These can allow you to carry decent amounts of water without your containers weighing a significant fraction of the weight of the water itself. They may not be the most durable types of containers. But they are fine for a day or two climbing a peak. And they are cheaply replaced if having a new one makes you feel better.

    For longer backpacking trips, you might appreciate the durability of a Nalgene. Here, the weight is not as much of a liability as when you are climbing a steep mountainside up to 14000ft. But you can also carry a Platypus or two for either extra storage or peak bagging side trips. Again, none of this is expensive.

    If you are stuck on the idea of only ONE type of bottle and want better durability than a Platypus, a good compromise would be an HDPE Nalgene. These still weigh more than a Platypus. But they are only about HALF the weight of a standard Nalgene.
    They are maybe a little more delicate than a standard Nalgene. But they are still FAR more substantial than a Platypus.

  28. I think you should carry one Nalgene. They are strong and trustworthy. But I would not carry more than one because you are right, there are a little on the heavy side.

  29. The ultralight cult strikes again, “bro ditch your Nalgene to save some ounces, I just found some plastic bottles in the alley, the weight savings are necessary bro. Judges every person they come on across on the trail, giving unsolicited advice on why you should be “ultralight”. Seriously this community is as bad as vegans, in the words of the great Andrew Skurka, don’t be stupid light.

    • Actually, I’ve worked as a guide for Andrew and I can assure you, he doesn’t carry a 32 oz Nalgene. When he uses the term stupid light, he’s really referring to instances where someone brought an insufficient piece of gear because it was lighter weight, not one that is overkill.

      As for the point of this article. On the one hand, it is a little idiotic (on purpose). But a lot of people have never weighed their gear or made a conscious decision about the containers they carry their water in. My intention behind writing this wasn’t to be a dick, but to get people to think.

  30. Stumbled on this late, and…wow! Lot of hard-line defending of positions here. So, to take a swing at a few…

    1. Ye, ditch the Nalgene Lexan bottles. Not for BPA, which Nalge got rid of, but for their brittle Lexan plastic. A Tucson shop called the Summit Hut did a drop test decades ago showing that Lexan failed the impact test at much low forces than LDPE.You want your water to survive dropping? No Lexan! Nalgene make a nice LDPE wide-mouth bottle; one of mine started leaking at the threads after about 20 years of all-season use, the other is still going strong.

    2. If you’re serious about winter outings, the Hunnerdorf LDPE bottles are the best. Boiling water hardly fazes them for winter use, the threads are extra-positive, and the big fins on the lid make it easy to open and close with gloves on. Plus, they don’t leak….

    3. I’m old enough to remember when the first Platypus soft bottles turned up in the gear shop where I worked, back in the early ’90s. I filled one 3/4 full with water, froze it to slush, then threw it hard against a wall 4 or 5 times. No rips, no leaks. These things don’t look tough, but they are. The narrow mouth is annoying, but Nalgene make a similar soft bottle series (Cantene I think). I’ve used one of these since 2010. No punctures, no leaks.

    4. If you’re looking down on those using cast-off water or soda bottles, remember that the people using them found them as CAST OFF. Instead of using a purpose-bought item, these people are using what otherwise would be trash (or the components of my next fleece sweater if they’re lucky). If you’re worried about fragility, choose carefully among your cast-offs, and put a wrap or two of duct tape or package tape around the bottle to improve the toughness.

    Them my thoughts. Convince me I’m wrong ;-)

  31. I recently switched to disposable bottles for a pct section hike and they worked great. I think that you are right and a lot of people aren’t thinking about the weight until they get into hiking a bit more. I do still prefer a Nalgene for winter mountain hikes so that I can loop some shock cord around the lid. It has saved a handful of water bottles from a very long slide on the snow (some irretrievably). Bladder tubes always freeze when it’s really cold. Nalgene bottles freeze too, but don’t clog with ice for quite a while. I’m sure there are alternatives, but I have some Nalgenes on hand and they work for me.

  32. I loved reading this post as well as all of the comments. I dumped the nalgene a while ago. I use smartwater bottles. I resuse them and clean them out really well.

    I read a review on a hyperlight backpack that gave me a chuckle. The reviewer said, “If you are still using Nalgene bottles, this is not the pack for you.” Had to laugh at that. A couple empty Nalgene bottles weigh almost as much as some of these state of the art hyperlight packs!

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