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Building a Better Water Bottle: Aluminum, Steel, and No BPA

by Alicia MacLeay
February 1, 2008

Backpackers, hikers, and climbers have always relied on reusable water bottles. As the general public becomes more aware of the negative environmental impacts of commercial bottled water (see “The Bottled Water Problem” below) they’re turning to reusable bottles too.

But, with health concerns about some plastics making the news, many are left confused. In what should you store your filtered or tap water? And is that old polycarbonate plastic bottle safe, or is it leaching chemical compounds? (see “What’s the Deal with BPA?” below)

Whether it’s for a trek into the backcountry or a trip to the store, there are a growing number of aluminum, stainless steel, and BPA-free plastic alternatives to choose from, beyond the popular,  but potentially problematic, polycarbonate water bottle.


Stainless Steel
BPA-Free Plastic



SIGG Rise Above Plastic bottle

At 100 years old, the stylish Swiss company is coming off its strongest year ever in the United States. SIGG bottles, made from a single piece of aluminum (no leaks), have a water-based, non-toxic interior coating. The liner’s finish helps protect from bacteria and mold and is neutral and resistant to fruit acids and energy drinks (so drinks taste like they should). SIGG bottles have been independently tested to prove they are completely leach-free and are 100 percent recyclable. 

SIGG Simply Eco Logical bottle

Simply Eco-Logical
SIGG lifestyle bottles come in a range of sizes (0.3, 0.6, 1.0 liter, and more) and lids (screw top, active, sport, kids). And new designs are offered seasonally. For 2008 choose a 1-liter Eco-Logical bottle and send a message like “Friends don’t let friends drink from plastic” on the back.

Capacity: 1 liter (33.8 oz)
Weight: 5.2 oz
MSRP: $21.99


Stainless Steel

Guyot Designs and Nalgene

Guyot Designs’ stainless steel, wide mouth bottles are the only ones that work with standard 63 mm water purifiers and accessories. Through May 2008, the unlined, single wall bottles are available only through Guyot. After that they’ll be co-branded with Nalgene, so expect wider availability soon.

As part of their C-Minus program, every Guyot bottle comes with more than enough greenhouse gas offsets to offset the negative impact of their manufacture (100 lbs of verified greenhouse emissions). And, like all stainless steel bottles, they’re 100 percent recyclable.

Guyot Designs Standard water bottle

The Standard
Capacity: 38 oz (1124 ml)
Weight: 12.9 oz (365 g)
MSRP: $24.95

 Guyot Designs Backpacker water bottle Backpacker
Capacity: 32 oz (946 ml)
Weight: 12.3 oz (350 g)
MSRP: $24.95
Guyot Designs Shorty water bottle

Capacity: 24 oz (709.8 ml)
Weight: 7.9 oz (225 g)
MSRP: $24.95

Guyot Designs Commuter water bottle Commuter
Capacity: 24 oz (710 ml)
Weight: 10 oz (280 g)
MSRP: $24.95

Klean Kanteen

Since 2004, Klean Kanteen has produced unlined, stainless steel bottles in children’s (12 ounce) sizes up to 40 ounces. Bottles come with a range of cap options (sport, flat, loop, sippy for the small set) and are clean tasting, dishwasher friendly, and 100 percent recyclable. Klean Kanteen’s first colored bottles will debut in late spring of 2008.

Kleen Kanteen water bottles

Stainless Steel Bottles
12 oz/Sippy Cup
Weight: 4 oz ($13.95)

18 oz/Kid Kanteen
Weight: 6 oz ($15.95)

27 oz
Weight: 8 oz ($17.95)

40 oz
Weight: 11 oz ($23.95)


SIGG’s signature item is its aluminum lifestyle bottle, but the company also offers stainless steel thermoses, vacuum-insulated mugs, and, new for 2008, a thermal bottle and a vintage oval bottle.

SIGG Hot & Cool water bottle

Hot & Cool
The double wall Hot & Cool has a classic SIGG shape, but with thermal properties to keep drinks at the right temperature.

Capacity: 0.5 liters (17 oz)
Weight: 11.7 oz
MSRP: $27.99

 SIGG Vintage Oval water bottle Vintage Oval
The designer Vintage Oval bottle has a smooth hand feel and a leak-proof, retro swing top.

Capacity: 0.4 liters (13.5 oz)
Weight: 5.8 oz
MSRP: $27.99


BPA-Free Plastic


CamelBak’s Performance and Podium Bike bottles are, and always have been, BPA- and phthalate-free. By summer 2008 all CamelBak bottles, including new Better Bottles and Classic Cap Bottles, will be BPA- and phthalate-free.

CamelBak Better Bottle

Better Bottles
CamelBak switched its 2008 Better Bottle line to Eastman Tritan copolyester, a new bisphenol-A (BPA)- and phthalate-free material. BPA-free bottles started shipping to retailers in January of 2008, and all Better Bottles will be BPA/phthalate-free by the end of spring. In the mean time, look for a BPA free-logo on the bottle’s side.

0.5 Liter
Weight: 5.4 oz ($10)

0.75 Liter
Weight: 6.6 oz ($12)

1 Liter
Weight: 7.4 oz ($14)

CamelBak Classic Cap water bottle

Classic Cap
New for 2008, the Classic Cap Bottle is made from the same temperature- and impact-resistant, BPA- and phthalate-free Tritan material as the Better Bottles.

0.5 Liter
Weight: 5.4 oz ($10)

0.75 Liter
Weight: 6.6 oz ($12)

1 Liter
Weight: 7.4 oz ($14)



Nalgene is practically synonymous with the polycarbonate water bottle. While those ubiquitous, bright-colored, plastic bottles are now coming under fire (see “What's the Deal with BPA?” above), the company isn’t dropping its popular line, yet. However, it is offering consumers more options, including different plastics and Nalgene-branded versions of Guyot Designs’ stainless steel bottles (see above).
Nalgene HDPE water bottle

HDPE Bottles
Nalgene makes several versions of its classic water bottle in softer, HDPE (#2) plastic. HDPE, high density polyethylene, is non-leaching and considered safe for food and drink containers. A new, full line of HDPE bottles, in a range of colors, will be available starting February 21, 2008. The HDPE bottles come in 12- to 48-ounce sizes, with narrow or wide mouths, and loop tops.

Capacities: 12, 16, 32, and 48 oz
Weight Range: 3.68 oz to 5.28 oz
MSRP’s: $5 to $10

Nalgene Everyday Line water bottle

Everyday Line
Made with the new temperature- and impact-resistant Eastman Tritan copolyester (like CamelBak’s Better and Classic Cap bottles above), the Everyday Line will launch in March 2008 with BPA- and phthalate-free versions of Nalgene’s 32 oz Wide Mouth bottle, On-the-Go bottles, and kids Grip-n-Gulps.

GSI Outdoors

GSI Outdoors reportedly is working on a BPA-free water bottle and aims to eliminate BPA across its product line by 2009. GSI already offers stainless steel vacuum bottles, mugs, and flasks.