Just about all eco-conscious travelers are aware of the virtues of stainless steel water bottles. (And if you want to know which ones are best, check out our Stainless Steel Water Bottle Smackdown.) But what about the collapsible water bottle option? At first it might seem a tad gimmicky, but this foldable water bottle variety is here to stay. Is it a viable green option? If so, which one should you buy?
Pros and cons of the collapsible water bottle
4. Great for backpacking or hiking
5. Some are made in the USA
1. Made with plastic materials
2. Most hold less volume than traditional hard-shelled bottles
3. Foldable: most don’t stay upright easily
4. More seams equate to greater leaking potential
If collapsible water bottles are made of plastic, are they eco-friendly and safe?
Some are not: read carefully before buying! The options listed below are all BPA-free. They are all reusable, and all require less energy to pack, carry, and create than heavier stainless steel. Warning: cheap collapsible water bottles, such as most free promotional ones, will leak! You’re better off spending a few more dollars on one of the ones below.
BPA-Free Collapsible Water Bottles
1. Platypus PlusBottle: The Platypus bottle is BPA-free, made in the USA, and holds a full liter of water. All Platypus collapsible bottles are made to fit in car bottle holders (though they sometimes fall over) and all the tops in the Platypus line are interchangeable, a big plus. The PlusBottle is coated with what Platypus calls its Slimeguard antimicrobial treatment, which is a fancy way of saying it’s treated with a natural (and safe) coating of silver ion which keeps the water fresh and taste-free. The PlusBottle is under $14 on Amazon.
2. Nalgene Wide Mouth Canteen: The Nalgene bottle is also BPA-free, and holds more liquid at 1.5 liters or 3.0 liters. It’s stiffer than the Platypus, and instead of folding it, travelers can roll it. I really like that its wide mouth fits ice cubes and almost all filtration systems. It’s best for backpackers, as the wide mouth might be a detriment for kids and casual travelers. The 48 oz version can be found at Amazon for under $12.
3. Vapur Element Collapsible bottle: The Vapur (also made in the USA and BPA-free) includes what it calls a SuperCap over its wide-mouth, which makes it perfect for adding ice cube and easily sipping from. According to numerous Amazon reviews (this is the only bottle of the three I haven’t personally tried), the Vapur stands up well while filling, and doesn’t collapse even when only half-full. It’s available at Amazon for under $14.
When the collapsible water bottle is best
1. Airport security: easily dump liquids at security, fold and store, and refill at the gate.
2. Backpacking during which weight (or lack thereof) is important (use a carabiner to attach a collapsible water bottle to your pack)
3. Packing in luggage for use later during a trip
When a stainless steel water bottle is better
1. Hiking or backpacking if you dislike hanging a bottle from your pack, and prefer a bottle pocket.
2. Car trips during which you need water bottles that fit in a cup holder.
3. Travels with kids for which you’ll need a sippy cup spout on your bottle. (Check out our best water bottle for kids picks.)
There are good options for collapsible water bottles and they can work really well for travelers. Just think about what you’ll use your collapsible water bottle for, then make sure you get one that’s BPA-free and won’t leak.
Do you use a collapsible water bottle? Which brand do you recommend? Any pit falls?
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