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10 Best Water Bottles for Hiking and Backpacking (2024)

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
Hydro Flask Lightweight Vacuum Bottle32 oz12 ozEveryday, Hiking
Nalgene Bottles32 oz6.25, 3.75 ozEveryday, Hiking, Backpacking
Smartwater Bottles33.8 oz1.2 ozEveryday, Hiking, Backpacking
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. Hydro Flask Lightweight Vaccum Water Bottle (32 oz)

Hydro Flash Lightweight Water Bottle
The Hydro Flask Lightweight Wide-Mouth Vacuum Water Bottle (32 ox) with Flex Cap is an insulated stainless steel bottle designed to replace plastic bottles that have a limited life span. Weighing just 12 oz (25% less than a regular Hydro Flask Bottle), it is sized for hiking and everyday use, fitting into most day hiking packs with ease. The bottle’s unique vacuum insulation keeps contents hot or cold for 12-24 hours. The bottle’s cap is insulated and its handle is strong and convenient, the bottle opening is a reasonable size for drinking from directly, and the bottle and lid are easy to clean. This bottle is also available in a 40 oz size. 

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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. 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. We prefer reusable bottles even though they’re slightly heavier, but these are popular with thru-hikers and many backpackers.

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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 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 camp chores. It also has a gusseted bottom so it will stand up when full. 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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16 comments

  1. I combined Smartwater bottles with an 1L Evernew Water Bag as my dirty water container because the bag is easier to squeeze with the Sawyer. But I just replaced my Evernew Water Bag with a 2L CNOC because the Evernew is difficult to fill unless the water is flowing almost like a spigot.

  2. I’m not a long distance hiker so weight is a lot less important to me than functionality. I find the combination of easy fill and easy clean the big selling point on the CNOC which I use with a platypus quickdraw which I finter into the translucent Nalgene bottles.

    I occasionally carry platypus soft bottles too if I might need to do more significant water carries but they are a PIA to clean and dry.

    • Agree that collapsable bottles are difficult to dry. My solution was a small aquarium pump with a tube to the bottom of the bottle. Still takes a day or two to dry but it’s more of a “set it and forget it” solution.

      For bladders there’s a product called “bone dry” absorbing felt that goes inside….way better than paper towels.

      Peace abs positivity from CA.

  3. My top pick is this one: https://ultraspire.com/products/flask/

    Pros:
    1) One-handed operation, and the squeeze/gush function lets you glug contentedly. While some soft bottles do this, the operation becomes fiddly when they are less than half full.
    2) Soft tip is more pleasant on the teeth than the hard tips on most sport tops.
    3) Smaller size bottle slides into and out of side pockets with less effort/consideration.
    4) More secure in side pockets, relative to taller bottles. Haven’t ever had one pop out, even when bent over tying a shoe.
    5) Fits nicely in a front pocket on pants/shorts, which is occasionally useful, when you put your pack down.
    6) Large screw top opening allows easy addition of drink powders
    7) The bottle will not roll away from you when you set it down on its side
    8) Perfect for an hour at the gym, and runners seem to like them too.

    Cons:
    1) only 550 mL (I pair with a platy of whatever size I need for the trip, and refill it occasionally. This adds a brief hiking stop, admittedly.)
    2) weight per volume is lower than other options. The spec on the site (“0.10 lbs”) appears to be wrong. My scale shows 2.3 ounces.
    3) Small leakage out the nozzle is possible, if the bottle has been used a lot (years), and if you put weight on top of it.
    4) Can’t freeze it, not if its full. The seam in the bottom might spring a leak when the ice expands. Found this out when I left a full one in my truck and it froze overnight. Never had an issue on a hiking trip, though I don’t do winter trips.

  4. There are bottle brushes that’re used by homebrewers and made to fit down the necks of 12 or 24 oz beer bottles. These work great for keeping Smart water bottles and any narrow opening bottles serviceable for years.

  5. CNOC came up with a real winner with the Vecto. I use a 3L CNOC for my dirty water and filter into Smartwater bottles. I keep my 700ml (23.7 oz) Smartwater drinking bottle clipped to one of my shoulder straps with a U-shaped bottle clip. I keep another 1L Smartwater bottle in a sleeve on the other shoulder strap.

    Filtering 3L from the CNOC will handle breakfast oatmeal and ‘go juice’ (coffee) with enough left over to hit the trail. Likewise, filtering 3L will give me enough for supper, a cup of hot tea and enough to stay hydrated enough for the night that I have to make a nocturnal ‘lonely tree’ visit or two.

    For large bulk water storage in a group, the bladders from boxed wine work well. I’ve always said, “Wine in the box beats Jack in the Box any day!” Although boxed wine usually comes in 5L, the bladders will carry 7 to 8L out of the box. They also have a nice spigot. I’ll punch a hole in the excess material at the far end of the bladder and put a grommet in. Between the grommet and the spigot, there are tie points. Getting the spigot out of the bladder the first time is a challenge, but once you get it removed, it’s easy to do in the future.

    My brother puts a couple full bladders under the hood of his Sprinter van conversion and uses that for hot water for his showers. He also puts full bladders on the coals of camp fires to heat up (surprisingly, they don’t melt thru).

    I used some JB Weld Plastic Bonder to attach a small brass tube from a compression fitting to the spigot. That way, I can attach some silicone tubing to to one to make a gravity feed. I put a plastic pinch valve on the tubing for an on/off switch. I drilled a hole in a bottle cap that fits the CNOC Vecto and forced some of the silicone tubing through that to also make a gravity feed for the CNOC. I’m lazy!

    I have a Grand Canyon hike coming up in May. We’ll have to haul and stash water on the Esplanade and I might have to ‘take one for the team’ and finish off a box of wine or two for our bulk water storage… actually, I already have several bladders from the past ready to go but it’s nice to have an excuse to hit some vino.

  6. I really like three notable exclusions from this list. The Hydrapak Flux, for use with a 42mm filter is one. It’s heavier duty (the bag that comes with the Katadyn BeFree developed pin holes after a year for me), and it has a nice bail handle to keep your hands dry for the most part when filling. It also stands up on its own. I hated how my BeFree would get all sorts of debris stuck to it since you have to lay it down on it’s side.

    The second is the CNOC Vesica, which I got in a 42mm size so I can put the hydrapak bite valve on it, using it like a running soft flask. This cap flips open to a large opening, so you can fill it without having to remove the cap, and also add a Nuun tablet without having to break it in half with your teeth (like with a smart water bottle). I found I really like soft flask style bite valves. I don’t really have to remove the bottle from my shoulder strap pocket to use it, and the flow rate is so much better than bite valves connected to hydration bladders via hoses.

    The third item is the 2L Evernew bag. Love this for camp for extra capacity, since it stands up on its own, and packs down to nothing. It’s basically a better version of the Platy bag. I also got a hose adapter for it, so I can use it as a bladder with my summit pack on base camping style trips. Multi function there.

    So many options for hydration – the nice thing about these products is that you can try a ton and find what works for you with not much financial hit….they’re generally $25 or less unless they come with a water filter.

  7. Going to shamelessly plug Vacplus Bottle Cleaning Tablets, I buy 18-pack, to clean the inside of your water bottles. These leave the inside of your water storage pretty darn clean. Not a paid shill, but I do believe these are a good product. Soap and water leave behind soap sometimes, and I don’t want to be ingesting this stuff into my kidneys. Consider.

  8. I had the very same experiences as JCB comments with regards to the Katadyn Be-Free and Hydropak Flux.

    With regards to those common pinholes, thank God for Leukotape to patch them. As such, I relied only on the hydropak bottles and then only used be-free bottles as a desperate backup ir when I needed to carry extra water.

  9. I have CNOC’s bladders and vesicas and I’ll give them credit for ease of filling and empty storage; however, the taste of the water stored in them is enough to gag a maggot! I’ve tried letting lemon juice sit in them overnight and then for a week with no decrease in the godawful taste…tried baking soda and then bleach…same result, which is to say, zip. How can something this noxious not be detrimental to one’s health? If I’m missing something here I’d like to know, because I’d really like to like these things.

  10. A few years ago, I found a big white translucent Nalgene bottle in a thrift store for $1. It holds about 1450 ml/50 fl oz. I didn’t know how I’d use it because I’d switched over to Smartwater bottles to save weight. But an article on here a while back convinced me to carry this behemoth. The Smartwater bottle fits in the bottle holster on my pack shoulder straps. (I have a homemade drinking tube that fits that bottle, allowing me to sip while hiking – another reason to keep using the Smartwater bottle.)

    I use a Cnoc to gather untreated water, and it’s much easier to filter into the Nalgene bottle’s mouth than it is to try to balance everything and filter it directly into the Smartwater bottle. It’s a keepah!

  11. Huh… In my experience, Platys are compatable with Sawyer. Been using Platys for years with the Sawyer Squeeze and the Sawyer blue adapter. Use a CNOC 3L Vecto in Orange as my Dirty water collector.

    I also use a Smartwater Sport Top on my 2L Platy with a silicone tube and a Camelbak bitevalve.

    And I use a Smartwater regular cap on my Platys when not using the Sport Top Hydration setup. I have also used the Vecto Screw top on the Platy.

    They most definately ARE compatable. I have several hundred days of use to prove it- latest being last weekend.

  12. Nice review Phil (as per usual). I’ve used a few of the options you’ve listed and all are pretty good or better. My only concern is the re-usable bottle option (Smart bottles etc.) as the science seems to be pretty solid on the fact that they breakdown quite fast and release microplastics in the process. No good for the environment ad also not good for the user. I’ve carried Smart bottles on many a backpacking trip due to their sturdy design, durability and ultra-light weight, but no more given the now clear scientific evidence of the (very) negative consequences of long-term health issues.

  13. Per WebMD, the average person consumes the equivalent of a credit card in plastic per week.
    https://www.medscape.com/s/viewarticle/983421

    They also define the groups as follows: “Microplastics are defined as fragments ranging from 5 mm to 1 µm, whereas nanoplastics, particles < 1 µm, are measured in billionths of a meter. In contrast to microplastics, nanoplastics are so small that they can traverse the intestines and lungs and move directly into the bloodstream, reaching organs such as the heart or brain or even the fetus via the placenta."
    https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/researchers-uncover-nanoplastics-water-bottles-2024a10001kx

    There's also mounting evidence they get lodged in the walls of arteries, all of which makes stainless a lot more appealing…

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