I’ve lived through plenty of water-toting trends, starting in the early 80s when Smurfs looked on from a Thermos that accompanied school lunches, and continuing on to high school, when Evian water was chic and my friend and I would tote around the same plastic bottle all week, refilling it when needed because, you know, it was a look.
As an adult, I’ve learned that toting water is about a lot more than image: People who are dehydrated “aren’t reaping the full benefits of what their body is capable of,” says Blanca Lizaola-Mayo, MD, a hepatologist and co-founder of SOS Hydration, a company that makes electrolyte replacement drinks and mixes. “When we start to feel thirsty, we’re already dehydrated. There are many signs of dehydration, including fatigue, headaches, grouchiness, dry mouth, and nausea. In fact, dehydration is the number one cause of daytime fatigue.”
If you’re going to attempt a big workout, Lizaola-Mayo says it’s a good idea to hydrate before and after. That’s because you can lose up to 2 liters of fluids per hour of exercise depending on the intensity of the workout, the outdoor temperature, and your sweat rate.
What Features Should a Good Exercise Water Bottle Have?
Erin Nitschke, MD, who’s on the exercise science faculty at Laramie County Community College and is a fitness, nutrition, and therapeutic exercise specialist for the American Council on Exercise, says that features vary widely, but some to look for are visible measurements to track intake, a comfortable grip, a built-in filter, a straw (be sure to purchase a straw brush to clean it if one isn’t included), and a carry handle on the lid.
“For me, I love a bottle that is BPA-free, dishwasher-safe, and indicates ounces on the side,” Nitschke says. “Monitoring my intake is a daily goal.” She says that if drinking water is a challenge, consider purchasing a light-up reminder that fits around a water bottle. “Many blink about every 15 to 20 minutes to remind you to take that sip!”
“If you live in a warm place like Arizona, having an insulated water bottle to keep your water cold all day is a winner,” Lizaola-Mayo adds.
I looked at five popular water bottle brands and evaluated them for sturdiness, how easy it is to drink from them, and more. Each of the picks below fits into a standard car cup holder and can be safely tossed around because none leaked when closed properly. Read on for more insight into these popular bottles.
Editor’s Choice: Sundried Water Bottle (26 oz.)
Price paid: $6
Where to buy: Amazon
Empty weight: 4.4 ounces
Capacity: 26 ounces
Materials: Toxin-free Tritan co-polyester plastic with a silicone mouthpiece.
I have to admit that I judged this book by its cover. It has a fancy logo and twist top that had me thinking it must be some kind of froufrou expensive brand I’ve never heard of. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Available for just $6.10 on Amazon, you’d struggle to find a bottle this good for this price.
I fell in love with a few things about the Sundried bottle during a 45-minute high-intensity workout. First and foremost: the awesome mouthpiece. It’s made of silicone and is really a pleasure to drink from due to its soft, smooth construction. I also liked that the large twist-top cap allows you to open the bottle without actually putting your fingers anywhere near the mouthpiece. (In COVID-19 times I’m acutely aware of my dirty gym hands.) The cap twists on very securely and didn’t leak at all for me.
Another great thing about the mouthpiece and cap is how easy both are to clean. The mouthpiece is easily removable, so you can just pull it out and soak it to clean out any mold or grime. To “maintain the integrity of the mouthpiece,” the company recommends completely drying it before reattaching it to the bottle.
I loved that when I was working out and paused for a quick drink from this bottle, there was no need to worry about chipping a tooth by accidentally bumping the mouthpiece on your teeth. (Once you’ve bumped your teeth on stainless steel as I have, you’re more mindful of preventing it the next time.)
Made for cold drinks only, the Sundried looks like glass but is made of shatterproof, BPA-free Eastman Tritan, which, according to the manufacturer, is an extremely lightweight polymer material that holds up well in the dishwasher. It may be annoying to some that it doesn’t have a hook for carrying. I appreciated the mouthpiece so much that I was willing to overlook the fact that the Sundried will keep water cool for just a few hours at best.
Everyday Pick: Hydro Flask Wide Mouth With a Straw Lid (24 oz.)
Price paid: $39.95
Where to buy: Amazon, Hydro Flask
Empty weight: 9.7 ouncesCapacity: 24 ounces
Materials: 18/8 pro-grade stainless steel, TempShield (double-wall vacuum insulation), BPA-free and phthalate-free.
I was a germaphobe before COVID-19, so the past few years have only amplified that for me. When gyms opened back up, I was the person wearing a mask (“horrible” is a good word for this) and using disinfectant to sanitize equipment.
I still wash my hands after every group fitness class, which brings me to what’s less convenient about the Hydro Flask. In order to drink from it during a workout, you need to flip up the spout using the latch. That doesn’t seem like a great hardship, I know, but if you want to drink quickly during a class without putting your hands near the mouthpiece, you’ll need to flip it up and leave it open.
The downside of leaving the mouthpiece up is that it will leak if turned completely upside down or if you accidentally hit it and it falls over.
I took the bottle, made from 18/8 pro-grade stainless steel, out to the pool on a hot afternoon. My black Hydro Flask quickly baked in the sun, but the water inside remained ice-cold even when the bottle sizzled to the touch. (I find that I tend to drink more when my water is cold.) The Hydro Flask also keeps hot drinks warm for up to 12 hours, which is nice.
The Hydro Flasks I’ve owned have held up pretty well with just one caveat: They get pretty dinged up after a few years, with various dents around the top and bottom. So know that wear and tear will show on these over time, especially if you’re as tough on bottles as my family is.
I do like that it’s sleek by design and fits well in a cup holder, which I think encouraged me to drink in the car after my workout. Because it’s lighter than the Yeti (below), weighing in at less than a pound, I think it’s a better choice for everyday fitness use.
Indestructible Pick: Yeti Rambler (18 oz.)
Price paid: $30
Empty weight: 1.2 pounds
Capacity: 18 ounces
Materials: Kitchen-grade 18/8 stainless steel, double-wall vacuum insulation.
Dishwasher safe: Yes
The first time I saw a Yeti was several years ago when I noticed my friend’s bottle during a class and asked her about it. She said she loved it, but when she told me the price I knew it was an investment I wasn’t willing to make.
That’s because I’m one of those people who frequently leaves her bottle behind in the emotional mess of brokenness, joy, and accomplishment I experience after a strenuous workout. For that reason, I’m just not an expensive water bottle kind of girl.
Apparently, I am not the norm, with fourth-quarter net sales of Yeti increasing by 18 percent last year, its fourth year as a public company. These bottles definitely have a solid fan base.
There’s certainly a lot to love about the Yeti Rambler. It’s ultra-sturdy and double-wall vacuum insulated so it keeps water cold for a very long time. Made with kitchen-grade stainless steel, though, it’s not exactly light (1.2 pounds when empty), so if you want to travel light on an endurance hike, a less hefty bottle may suit you better.
The main thing I don’t like about the Rambler is the twist-top cap. Though it was completely leak-free for me, I wasn’t able to open it quickly, which was annoying during a high-intensity training session when I had only a few seconds to take a slug of water. At one point, I had to leave it open while I finished my movement because I couldn’t be bothered taking the extra time to close it.
Additionally, its wide mouth makes it easy to fill but also easy to spill a lot of water all over yourself if you’re throwing a refreshment back quickly. The Chug cap, which has a narrow opening for drinking, might have helped. The Yeti website says it comes standard when you purchase one from there, but my bottle, ordered via Amazon, didn’t come with one.
Camping, boating, or fishing may be other places the Yeti’s top-notch cooling qualities are best appreciated. At home after my workout, I was happy to be able to toss it in the dishwasher. And unlike the Hydro Flask, it would be tough to permanently ding this “puncture and rust-resistant” bottle (verbiage I found on the website), so if you want serious chill along with durability, this one is for you.
Accountability Pick: Thermos Nissan Intak Water Bottle (24 oz.)
Price paid: $23
Where to buy: Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Staples
Empty weight: 5.1 ounces
Capacity: 24 ounces
Materials: BPA-free, impact-resistant, and dishwasher-safe durable Eastman Tritan co-polyester.
The Thermos brand of vacuum bottle dates to the beginning of the 20th century and, though I wasn’t around to experience its first offerings, the Thermos name was part of the vernacular when I was a kid. Obviously, these bottles have changed a lot over the years, and it kind of makes me sad that this water bottle doesn’t at all resemble the ones in my memories, although you can find more familiar styles on the company’s website.
This 24-ounce bottle, which like the Sundried is made of Eastman Tritan, is easy to hold thanks to the ridges on its exterior. It has a cap that covers the mouthpiece and locks into place to keep it covered.
There’s a lock to secure the button that pops the cap open, which is handy if you’re throwing it into a gym bag. I shook the bottle vigorously with the cap on and locked, and it didn’t leak at all. If you’re worried about dirty hands touching the mouthpiece, it’s nice that the button does open the cap for you. But while I like the button feature, it pops the cap open only slightly, so you’ll need to use your fingers to fully open it to drink. You could leave the cap open during activity, but if you accidentally tip it over with the cap open, water will come pouring out.
The top of the lid has a rotating tracker to help you remember how many bottles you’ve drunk, a feature that may encourage you to monitor your daily intake. This bottle is impact-resistant and dishwasher-durable, according to the marketing materials, and I appreciated those details. I found it to be a reasonably priced, sturdy option for typical gym workouts, though it did tip over when placed on gym turf because it’s a little top-heavy. At least my cap was closed!
Quick-Fix Pick: Contigo (24 oz.)
Price paid: $26 (two-pack)
Where to buy: Amazon, Walmart; a single bottle from Amazon
Empty weight: 5.6 ounces
Capacity: 24 ounces
Materials: BPA-free plastic
Dishwasher-safe: Bottle and lid are dishwasher-safe on a top rack.
I took this bottle for a spin on my treadmill for an hour-long walk/run. I may have been alone in the room but for a good portion of my workout it definitely didn’t sound like it. The bottle was at least halfway full with water when it began making a sea-lion-like scream as I sucked water out.
“Am I doing this wrong?” I asked myself, out of breath and confused. It was definitely the first time I’d wished I’d really studied the packaging before drinking from a water bottle, not something you typically have to do with something so intuitive.
It’s still unclear, but the sound may have been caused by the way the straw touches the bottom of the bottle. I decided to investigate whether I alone experienced this phenomenon. One Amazon commenter described the sound as that of “a wounded dolphin.” I was unable to replicate it after that afternoon treadmill session, so while the source is a mystery, it’s important to know it could happen.
This bottle, which comes in a pack of two, is designed to be sucked and not thrown back. If you throw it back to take a swig, nothing will come out. While I did like the mouthpiece because I didn’t have to worry about chipping my teeth on it, I must admit I didn’t really enjoy having to suck to get water out of a bottle while I was exercising and wanted to stay hydrated. This bottle is more of a sipper than a guzzler.
The Contigo website says its “innovative” lid technology will “help you sip with ease on the go, wherever you go.” That’s true. It does work fast. Unlike the Thermos, this cap swings fully open when you press the button. The cap also locks for added security if tossed in a bag, too. Bear in mind that if there’s any moisture inside the mouthpiece when you hit the button to pop it open, the mouthpiece will swing up and spit water at you, (once squarely in the eye in my case).
The popping cap does a nice job keeping the bottle sealed. If you shake the bottle with the cap closed, it doesn’t leak at all, but if it’s open and you shake it, water will spit out.
While the lid and BPA-free body are dishwasher-safe on the top rack, it doesn’t appear that the straw is. I suspect mold could collect in the intricate parts of the cap if you don’t keep up with regular cleaning.
How We Evaluated Fitness Water Bottles
To evaluate these bottles for everyday fitness use, I took each to a high-intensity workout class at a gym where I did 45 minutes of challenging exercise, sometimes with weights. I wanted to see just how easy each was to open and drink from when I was doing a lot of moving.
Figuring out the features: I read the instructions for each bottle, studying and trying any of the bottle’s unique features (sometimes before, sometimes after the workout). I also took the bottles for a spin on my treadmill, left them in my car as I ran on a paved trail in my town, and took them to my local pool where I swim.
Leakage: To evaluate leakage, I closed the bottles and then shook them vigorously upside down to see whether or not they leaked any water. I also purposely left spouts open and shook them to see how much water would spit out.
Cleaning: After all the fitness fun was done, I cleaned each of the bottles in my dishwasher. I also hand-washed them with soap and water. I considered how easy it was to take the pieces apart and clean them. Was it hard to get into crevices? Did mold accumulate? I also considered which ones were dishwasher-safe and which weren’t.
How cold they kept water: The Consumer Reports lab ordered the same bottles, filled each with water of the same temperature, and took the temperature of the water twice in 2 hours using a precision thermometer.
This product evaluation is part of Consumer Reports’ Outside the Labs reviews program, which is separate from our laboratory testing and ratings. Our Outside the Labs reviews are performed at home and in other native settings by individuals, including our journalists, with specialized subject matter experience or familiarity and are designed to offer another important perspective for consumers as they shop. While the products or services mentioned in this article may not currently be in CR’s ratings, they might eventually be tested in our laboratories and rated according to an objective, scientific protocol.
Like all CR evaluations of products and services, our Outside the Labs reviews are independent and free from advertising. If you’d like to learn more about the criteria for our lab testing, please go to CR’s Research & Testing page.