The Best and Worst Backpacking Water Bottles

There are many different types of water containers on the market. It’s easy to be overwhelmed with all of the different choices. We have identified two types of water containers you should avoid and two types you should consider using for your next thru-hike or backpacking trip.

water bottle being measured

1. Insulated Water Bottles (Avoid)

Stainless steel insulated water bottles are great for keeping water nice and cold at the office or on a picnic, but are not so great for backpacking. An empty Hydro Flask weighs way too much for backpacking long-distances and is not recommended for carrying on a thru-hike. Due to the heavy weight, insulated water bottles are ranked as the worst type of water bottle for long-distance backpacking.

Weight: 513 grams (18 ounces)

Retail: $40

water bottle being measured

2. Nalgene Water Bottles (Avoid)

Plastic, reusable water bottles, such as Nalgene bottles are super popular for day hikes or everyday use. However, they are really heavy when compared to other alternatives on trail and should be avoided for long-distance backpacking or thru-hiking.

Weight: 183 grams (6.5 ounces)

Retail: $15

smart water bottle being measured

3. Recyclable Plastic Bottles (Consider)

Recyclable plastic bottles are great for long-distance backpacking and thru-hiking because they are lightweight, affordable, and easy to obtain in trail towns. Smartwater and Dasani 1-liter bottle threads match up with the popular Sawyer Squeeze water filter. This makes the Smartwater and Dasani bottles very popular on long-distance trails since a lot of thru-hikers filter their water with a Sawyer Squeeze.

Dasani Weight: 26 grams (0.9 ounces)

Smartwater Weight: 34 grams (1.4 ounces)

Retail: $2

A Platypus water bottle or water bag next to a ruler.

4. Soft Shell Water Bottles (Consider)

Soft Shell water bottles (or water bags) are great for long-distance backpacking and thru-hiking because they are super lightweight and pack up small when not being used. The Platypus and Evernew brand water bottles are lightweight and are designed to be reused.

Platypus 1 liter Weight: 34 grams (1.2 ounces)

Platypus 2 liter Weight: 37 grams (1.3 ounces)

Evernew 0.9 liter Weight: 28 grams (1.0 ounces)

Evernew 2.0 liter Weight: 43 grams (1.5 ounces)

Retail: $9 and $15 respectively


The soft shell water bottles like the Platypus and Evernew brand bottles are lightweight and designed to be safely reused. However, the Smartwater and Dasani type bottles come very close in weight, have threads that match the Sawyer Squeeze water filter, are very affordable, and are easy to replace in trail towns. This makes the Smartwater or Dasani water bottle a very close competitor.

If you need to carry a lot of water, I recommend the 2-liter soft shell water bottles like the Platypus or Evernew bottles because of how light they are and their large water capacity. However, you should quickly transfer your water to smaller water containers when you get a chance. You don’t want the 2-liter container leaking in your pack.

I do not recommend carrying more than 2-liters in one water container because a small leak could be catastrophic.