Glass water bottles for the outdoors


Lifefactory's 22-oz Beverage Bottle

With all the concerns about Bisphenol A (BPA) in certain older water bottles, I've occasionally heard glass mentioned as an alternative. After all, glass bottles are reusable, recyclable, and don't leach chemicals into your drink or give off a metallic taste. You can buy glass baby bottles, so why not ones for outdoorsy adults?

Well, because glass bottles are breakable, right? And who wants a wet pile of glass shards in his or her backpack miles from the trailhead?

Lifefactory, maker of glass baby bottles, now has introduced 22-ounce glass beverage bottles for the adults. The bottles have silicone sleeves for grip and to prevent breakage.

Lifefactory says its glass bottles are designed to withstand normal drops and wear, though I have yet to use one myself. The San Francisco Chronicle called them "practically unbreakable" and repeatedly dropped a bottle on a concrete floor without any cracking.

Lifefactory doesn't list a weight per bottle, so that's another factor to consider. Glass, especially sturdy glass, is not lightweight. And you'd want to leave a glass bottle at home during freezing conditions.

I'm curious though. Would you consider carrying a glass bottle on a summer hike or other outdoor adventure? Do you already use one or know someone who does? If so, tell us about it.


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Comments

Bill S
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March 15, 2010 at 1:10 p.m. (EDT)

By coincidence, one of the participants on the snowshoe hike I led this past weekend brought his water in a glass bottle. This prompted a bit of discussion about plastics (including the tastes that plastics can introduce, including the tastes of mixes that are used in the water that linger for many refills afterward), recycling, BPA (and other chemicals in plastics that leach into the water), and the question of sanitation (keeping any water containers free of critters and molds that can make you sick).

Alicia
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March 15, 2010 at 1:25 p.m. (EDT)

Did he or she bring a recycled bottle (like a soda or ice tea one) or something bought for this purpose? Did the user like it and think it worth the potential trouble?

Heather
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March 15, 2010 at 2:04 p.m. (EDT)

It's so great to see people starting to talk about glass water bottles!! I've been a fan for years and even have a company that sells them (most of ours our Made in the US, which we're pretty proud of). Glass is definitely the most eco-friendly, health-friendly option--the only sustainable cradle-to-cradle bottle (check out more info on my website).

Regarding durability... the ones above look great! You can also buy neoprene or silicone sleeves or even use a heavy-duty sock to cushion it on a hike. We take ours everywhere and we have clients who are hikers and bikers. Give one a try... you won't regret it! And you'll be doing something good for you and the environment!!

Bill S
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March 15, 2010 at 9:28 p.m. (EDT)

Alicia,

It was a genuine Perrier bottle of the 1 liter size, with the wire cage attached stopper. So, originally a purchased bottle of water, carried back from France as a souvenir, which adds the extra function of bringing back memories whenever he uses it. No need to buy special purpose bottles! Um, well, it's original "special purpose" was to hold expensive spring water (bubbly at that).

Alicia
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March 16, 2010 at 8:03 a.m. (EDT)

Now that's a great conversation starter!

flannery
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March 16, 2010 at 9:32 a.m. (EDT)

@Bill S -

I am curious, was the Perrier bottle the only water holder this person had? What was the backup plan in case it broke? I love the idea of using glass but it seems like it could be risky. I will admit, I have pyrex measuring cups (for cooking) that I have dropped on hard wood floors that are none the worse for it so maybe glass tech is getting to the point where it could be feasible. I suppose one could make a water bottle out of bullet proof glass that could withstand dropping. Could be an interesting conversation starter as well... :-)

Mike

alan
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March 16, 2010 at 10:07 a.m. (EDT)

I really like the stainless bottles, not sure I can get myself to try glass.

Bill S
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March 16, 2010 at 11:53 a.m. (EDT)

Since Perrier is "avec gaz", the contents are under pressure. So the glass is fairly heavy and doesn't break easily. As Alicia mentioned in the article, that is a serious drawback to glass containers - weight and fragility. The fragility of glass is one reason I use a couple of Nissan thermos bottles when I want a truly insulated container rather than the more common glass-lined ones, a 0.5 liter and a 1.0 liter (the Nissans are also the only thermoses I have found that keep water hot for a long time in subzero conditions - actually I should say Thermos, since the Thermos people are the importers of the Nissan bottles).

The person was carrying the bottle inside his pack with his extra layers, so it was well-cushioned.

Sometime, I should do an article on keeping liquids hot or cold in the back country. A "few" years ago, I felt the need for having some hot tea during the day on backcountry ski tours and on long expeditions in very cold climates. I bought several different brands of insulated bottles plus cozies, only to find that at 0 deg F, most kept water that had started at boiling temperature above 100F no more than a couple hours. I was able to return most of them (REI return policy - hooray!), but donated several to Goodwill and still have a couple that keep cold drinks cool enough for a hot afternoon - most insulated containers seem to work better for keeping things cold than keeping them hot. I had to do a lot of hunting for the Nissan bottles. Even the shop that a friend who had recommended that brand didn't have any in stock. But I found the 0.5L one keeps the water above 100F for 23 hours in a 0F environment, and the 1.0L one for at least 27 hours.

alan
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March 16, 2010 at 12:22 p.m. (EDT)

Bill have you tested other brands besides the Nissan bottles? I assume you are referring to the double walled stainless or aluminum thermos type bottles. I'd be surprised if one brand of these is better than another. I do agree that the insulated covers for a nalgene type bottle are best used to keep water from freezing rather than keeping water hot or even warm.

Perry Clark
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March 16, 2010 at 11:32 p.m. (EDT)

What does the Life Factory bottle weigh? Nalgene lists the weight of its 32 oz wide-mouth bottle (the near-ubiquitous one) as 0.33 lb, or about 5 oz. Life Factory doesn't list a weight on their web site for their 22 oz bottle, but I'd be surprised if it isn't quite a bit more weight to carry less water. And given that the glass bottle also has a rubberized protective sleeve, the "green" advantage of glass versus Tritan or similar may be modest in this particular case.

I'm sticking with my Nalgene bottles for now. And probably forever.

Alicia
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March 17, 2010 at 7:36 a.m. (EDT)

I don't know the weight, Perry. I wrote and asked and they haven't written back, nor could I find it listed elsewhere.

Bill S
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March 17, 2010 at 3:12 p.m. (EDT)

Alan,

Yes, I have tested a number of brands. Some astounded me at their poor performance. For example, one REI-labeled thermos was almost too hot to hold when I filled it with the boiling water. It cooled in the 0 F freezer as fast as an bare Nalgene. A Camping Gaz plastic thermos was about the same as a Nalgene in a cozy. A plastic-bodied, glass lined Thermos branded 1 liter was above 100F at the 20 hour mark, but 95F at the 21 hour mark.

The construction of the Nissan bottles is different from most other stainless-lined thermoses. The big difference in terms of insulation is that the inner container is isolated from the outer stainless shell by an insulating suspension, plus the foam between the inner and outer (so no convective loss). In other words, the thermal isolation is done better than most of the other bottles.

I had thermocouples to monitor the freezer temperature. The temperature of the water in each container was measured by repeated longer and longer runs (you have to remove the cap to measure the temperature of the contents, since the wire for a probe would compromise the seal, and hence heat loss rate).

Before doing the tests, I thought as your comment indicates - there would be no significant differences. The REI stainless thermos looked enough like the Nissan that a friend had that I bought it and was astounded at how hot it was to the touch. That's what inspired a more diligent search for the Nissan bottles and the testing. I borrowed most of the test bottles from friends and neighbors, including other backpackers and climbers.

For most people, the short cool-down times may be unimportant, since most such bottles are just used for an afternoon picnic. So if the coffee (or tea in my case) is hot for 3 or 4 hours only, it doesn't matter. But on expeditions, where we may be out for 15 hours or more in subzero conditions, it does matter.

alan
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March 17, 2010 at 5:31 p.m. (EDT)

Bill, that's good information to have. I've got the REI bottle, but have only used it for the picnic type situation. If I head out on a multi-day winter trip a Nissan bottle would be worth the cost.

Munchkin
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March 18, 2010 at 9:03 a.m. (EDT)

As much as I love drinking from glass, I'm not sure that I would take it on the trail...I have to consider weight when hiking/backpacking. Think the BPA-free Camelbaks would still be my preference.

waterdog5
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March 22, 2010 at 2:38 p.m. (EDT)

Lifefactory 22 oz bottles weigh about 1 lb empty and 2 lb full of water. I think it is a personal choice of what is more important- weight or a strong preference to use glass. Some people dislike the taste of water stored in plastic or metal bottles. With glass, you can be absolutely sure that nothing is leaching into your water or liquids (who knows what else they'll find leaching from plastics besides BPA). The sleeve to protect the glass is made from silicone, not plastic or rubber. Silicone is inert and derived from sand. It is a non-petroleum product unlike BPA free plastics.

FromSagetoSnow
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March 30, 2010 at 9:24 a.m. (EDT)

I purify water with iodine so plastic taste isn't that big of a worry for me. On the rare occasion that I buy bottled water (an odd thing to buy in a first-world country) I reuse the bottles. The plastic bottles used to sell water are very light and, when they get dirty I throw them away with a clean conscience. I'm the last person to obsess about weight and I like the old-school appeal of glass bottles but in this case I think reusing bottled water bottles is sensible too. I'd buy a glass bottle to hike with if the price was right. I carry a stainless bottle, reused bottled water bottles and and an old Nalgene bottle and I like them all. I can safely boil water in my stainless bottle if I have to though.

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