There are always options.  Especially here in the free market world.  You don’t even have to build a better mousetrap.  You can build some crazy near-useless piece of junk and do well with it, as long as it’s marketed well.

How about this for an updated version of the old axiom:  “Build a mousetrap and market it better than other mousetraps, and the world will beat a path to your stock offerings.”  Or something like that.  Feel free to edit that lumbering mess down to something pithy and comment below with it.

Anyhow, what if your options are REAL options?  What if, for instance, you want to carry water with you.  Here in this twenty-first century first-world free market country, we don’t need a heavy wooden bucket and a trip to the local spring (though that IS how my great-grandmother got water for her family.  Oh, we haven’t been twenty-first century for all that long, have we?)  No, we’re  Americans (except for those of us who aren’t, and there’s nothing wrong with that.) and we get OUR water from the STORE!

Disposable plastic bottles filled with tap water (don’t argue with me.  That’s tap water and everyone knows it) fill shelves in grocery stores, convenience stores and vending machines all around us.  Is that how you like to transport your water?  Just buy some when you need it?  Convenient and Free Market all the way!

That doesn’t suit everyone, though.  Some folks like to get a bottle that lasts a little longer around the house.  (they might argue that the disposable ones last a little longer in other places, but that’s another subject)  Nalgene-type plastic bottles.  Wide-necked enough to drop a handful of ice into, and wide-necked is good if you’ve left some old Gatorade in there until it’s turned fuzzy.  Cleanup on a Nalgene bottle is a good thing.  Some of them now come with sippy-cup flip-up straws, too!  I’ve had several Nalgene bottles over the last decade or so, and they’re fine things.  They fit well into the little bungie-corded slot in my kayak.  They hold enough water that you’d never get a full one down you, meaning that you’re not going to empty it the first time you open it that day and then wish you had more later.  You can see disaster coming halfway through the bottle, and that’s worth something.  On the other hand, they cost, those Nalgene bottles (and don’t think I’m ignoring the fact that they’re not ALL Nalgene bottles.  Nalgene got sucked into the Kleenex Syndrome- their name having become synonymous with the product, like Q-tips, or, if you’re in the U.K., Hoover…If you’re in the U.K. and you guys don’t REALLY say “Hoover Up” instead of “Vacuum”, then by all means correct this social myth for us. We’ve been laughing at how funny “Hoover Up” sounds to us for long enough.) Another issue is BPAs, and how seriously you take them. Disposable plastic bottles and some of the older Nalgene bottle have been accused of having issues with BPA leaching. Apparently, I’m not too horrified by it. I still have one of the old Nalgene bottles. The lid leash is gone and it doesn’t block sunlight as well as the new bottles, but I have managed to LOSE every Nalgene bottle I’ve bought since (if you found on on the Grand Canyon in June 2009… that was one of mine. Nice, wasn’t it?) The old one loves me and I’m not giving it up.

If BPAs or the price of Nalgene bottles bothers you, you can just… y’know… buy a bike.  Usually, the bike shops will throw in a water bottle and a cage for it if you ask nicely.  I like my bike bottles.  I carry one to the Boot Camp workout I go to.  (You ‘member that scene in Iron Man II, when John Favreau gets smacked to the mat by Scarlett Johansson after asking if she’s in “Booty Boot Camp”?  Yeah, I go to a boot camp workouts.”)  The good reasons for bicycle water bottles:  Reusable.  Wide mouths, so you can drop ice cubes in ’em and wash them easily enough.  Those little pop-up spigot whatchacallems on top.  When you’re bicycling, or when you’re in Booty Boot Camp, you need to one-handedly snap up that bottle and squeeze a big drink into your mouth with as little effort as possible.  Screwing off the lid or flipping up a sippy straw is out of the question.  And Nalgene bottles don’t squeeze.  You gotta pour.  So, if your Booty Boot Camp instructor is saying, “Okay, that’s enough pushups.  Now side-shuffle-hops!  One!  Two! Three!”  There’s no time for mopping your forehead and unscrewing a Nalgene lid or anything.  You gotta grab a towel and your bottle, one in each hand and mop and drink in one swift move, otherwise you’ll miss the first two side-shuffle-hops (Didn’t they used to call those Jumping Jacks?) and you look like a slacker in front of the other housewives.

But the other housewives don’t seem to mind missing the first two or three side-jumping-hop-jacks.  They’ve all got these brightly painted aluminum bottles with the screw top lids.  I’d love for this to be a fair and balanced assessment of portable hydration, but sadly, I can’t see the point of these aluminum thingys except that they: satisfy the human desire for Novelty (Expression of Novelty Gene=If it’s New, it separates US from Previous Generations. It’s GOOD.) and it’s a prime opportunity for manufacturers to put their slickest graphics on a really cool-looking container.  That’s it, really.  I guess they’re mostly crush-proof, and that’s sometimes a plus, but there are other rigid bottle options.  The other options don’t necessarily feel as cold as ice when you put ice in them.  And these aluminum things?  Try getting a decent sized piece of ice, much less a quick handful of ice down their little throats.  I’m too lazy to remember to put a half-bottle of water in the freezer so that I can have icewater the next day.  Heck, sometimes I don’t know I’m going outside to play until I’m trying to find my shoes ’cause I’m LATE.  So, BOO to the aluminum flasks for not leaving me ice-cube-loading-room. And for making my fingers ache when I do get some icewater in them.

The rigid plastic bottles are okay.  They don’t feel so bad when they’re filled with icewater, and some of them have hand-friendly shapes.  Some of them start with logos and printed graphics on them, but the printing never lasts long.  Some have wide mouths, and some of them have the flip-up sippy-straws.  The straws sometimes bounce around in the dishwasher and are hard to find unless you have a drawer full of them from having a dozen bottles SOMEWHERE in the house and car.  They work without the straws in them, too, if you want to throw the straws out.  They still have the flip-up sippy bit with the bite-valve at the top, but I worry that there’s mold or something growing in there.  That’s a downside.

Now that I’ve mentioned things having bite-valves and possibly having mold growing in them, we can mention Camelbaks.  Camelbak also has the Kleenex Syndrome.  I think we’re supposed to be calling them Portable Hydration Packs or some ungainly thing.  Anyhow, Camelbaks are the most notorious for being Not Easily Cleaned.  I’ve joked with other bike riders about how they don’t clean theirs until the tube turns black.  I don’t think anyone seriously lets them get too bad, but let’s face it.  Cleaning those tubes is a pain.  And the bite valves get manky just as fast as the tubes.  Yuck.  Yuck. Yuck.  BUT, if you’re riding something where balance is important, a nicely tightened Camelbak is a pleasure.  Have you ever seen someone riding a unicycle?  Not like circus unicycles but someone just going somewhere on a unicycle.  You have to stop, twist sideway and hop over stuff occasionally (some hotshots can leap forward over stuff.  Not me, I gotta do the trials-wise side hop)   If you are wearing a plain old daypack with a couple of water bottles in it, you can nearly knock yourself out.  Not only do the bottles themselves bop around back there, but the water in them slops around like… well, like water in a bottle.  It’s a chaos physics experiment going on attached to your back just when you’d like to have pinpoint balance.  Camelbaks solve the problem.  You don’t leave an airspace in the bladder, so the water doesn’t slop around.  The bladder itself is held immobile in the pack.The pack itself is strapped neatly to you and doesn’t flop around.  Balance.  Important.

Of course, the downside to the Camelbaks and the bicycle bottles and the Nalgene bottles with the flip-up sippy-cup lids is:  bite valves.  Never let your kid use any of them if you want to use them again later.  Every bike bottle lid I owned when my kids first used them is gone now, chewed up like a dog toy.  Same with every bite valve on my Camelbaks- all replaced because once a five year old chews on a bite-valve, you’ll see why it’s  not a good reason to feed them by hand.  The little rats are dangerous.  Also, a kid can cross-thread the screw cap on an aluminum bottle without half trying.  The best way to get water down a kid is to tell him not to drink from the hose and then turn your back.  Then maybe go to the store for a new hose, ’cause the kids will EAT the one you have .

There you have it.  A rundown of some of the most popular portable hydration options.  I myself prefer squeezy bike bottles or Camelbaks, depending on what’s going on.  What do YOU like?  I’ve posted a poll over on the Hubris Facebook Page. But of course, you’re more than welcome to comment here. C’mon. Vent.


Commenter Won mentioned that he prefers stainless steel bottles over the aluminum ones I mentioned above.  I hadn’t thought about the difference.  Anyhow, Won says he likes Klean Kanteens, and they make these here wide mouthed ones.  Click on it if you want to shop them:

Klean Kanteen 18oz Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Bottle (Wide)