The Ultimate Guide to Insulated Bottles
I flew into Salt Lake City and exited the airport. July heat was much different than the coastal breeze of Los Angeles summer. In that moment, I wish I had a bottle of cooled water with me... I waited for my Uber burning in the summer sun.
The next 4 days of the trip were packed with walking the trade show floor of Outdoor Retailer and being amazed at how much show space and foot traffic insulated water bottle brands take up.
Probably one of the most popular outdoor accessories, an insulated water bottle is a great choice for daily use or for taking on outdoor or camping trips because they can keep your cold drinks cold and your tea or coffee hot for many hours longer than standard non-insulated bottles.
They are also a great way to encourage you to stay well hydrated each day.
I didn’t realize how many of the “tumbler brands” are really old and have been making insulated bottles for decades.
So all this excitement pushed me to do more research on the bottles and brands and this article is a pretty comprehensive look at the history and line-up of current brands you can buy bottles from.
In this article, you'll find out 7 things:
- Cool insulated water bottle brands to know
- Health facts about hydration
- What double wall insulation means
- History of the vacuum flask
- Where to get stickers for your tumblers
- Effective ways to clean the bottles
- How to fit bigger bottles in a car cup
Some health facts first
Drinking fluids regularly helps your heart, brain, and muscles all function properly, helps carry nutrients to your cells, and helps your body flush out any toxins more quickly.
Some people may be surprised to learn that for optimum health, they should drink between 40 and 60 oz. every day, and more if you are out in hot weather or exercising.
For example, when hiking in hot, humid or high-altitude conditions, it is a good idea to drink around 30 oz. of fluid per hour to stay hydrated. To give you an idea how much can fit in a standard 20-24 oz. insulated bottle sizes, here is a chart.
So because they can hold much more fluid than a standard cup, are highly portable, and are easy to store in a backpack, keeping an insulated water bottle with you is a great way to make sure you stay well hydrated throughout the day.
Note: not all bottles in this review have all these features. Please refer to product descriptions for exact specs.
When choosing a drink bottle there are definitely a few material types that should be avoided. For health reasons drinking from aluminum or plastic bottles isn’t a good idea.
Aluminium can leach into the water and build up in your body over time, which has been linked to brain and bone problems in some people.
Plastic bottles contain a range of potentially harmful compounds including BPA, which has been shown to have negative effects on the brain and prostate gland, especially in children, as well as possible links to increased blood pressure.
Even without the possible health risks, aluminum or plastic bottles are also likely to give the water an unpleasant taste.
Glass or stainless-steel water bottles are by far the best option from a health point of view but stainless steel is really the material of choice because it is safe, doesn’t affect the taste of the liquid, won’t crack, is durable, and can be paired with vacuum technology for great insulation properties.
The history of a vacuum flask
The story of the drink cooler as we currently know it started way back in 1892 when the Scottish scientist, Sir James Dewar, invented the first vacuum flask.
Vacuum flasks are made by placing one flask inside another flask with both joined at the neck and the air in the gap between the two mostly removed.
This near-vacuum significantly reduces the heat transfer between what’s inside the flask and the environment outside such as your warm hand or the air on a hot day, keeping your drink cold.
But despite coming up with the invention, which at the time was known as the Dewar flask, James Dewar never patented it, leaving it to two German glassblowers in 1908 to patent the vacuum flask for use to keep cold drinks cold and warm drinks warm.
They named their product “Thermos”. Thermos in Greek means "heat."
Early 1920s British military Thermos flask
Dewar later went to court to try and claim the rights to the invention but lost the case.
Soon various domestic products were being designed using the technology after it was licensed to the Thermos Bottle Company who began selling a range of highly successful consumer products in the US and Canada.
The thermos flask had been born.
The Brands to Know
Let's get to the exciting part, the tumblers and the brands themselves. Here is every brand that's featured in this post (and exact bottles on photos):
- YETI (Rambler Lowball - 10 fl. oz. and Rambler Tumbler with MagSlider Lid - 20 fl. oz.)
- Hydro Flask (Wine Tumbler - 10 fl. oz. and Coffee Flask - 16 fl. oz.)
- Klean Kanteen (Wide Vacuum Mug with Cafe Cap 2.0 - 16 fl. oz.)
- SIGG (Elements Earth Water Bottle, Beige)
- S'well (Travel Mug, 16 oz, Moonstone)
- Stanley (Stanley Classic Flask)
- Thermos (King 16 Ounce Travel Tumbler)
- Miir (the one I have is discontinued)
- Mizu (V8 Water Bottle in matte grey)
- Zojirushi (SM-KHE48NL Mug, 16-Ounce, Champagne Gold)
There are a few things all these tumbler brands are very similar in.
As we go through these brands, I wanted to highlight some of the common features they share. So here is the anatomy of a perfect bottle and how double wall insulation works.
The brands that will be mentioned next, mostly have all of these features, so it's more about the brand and visual design.
What's the best insulated water bottle? All of these 10 are in the finals, it's your personal preference that defines the winner.
All of these brands are also pretty great with Asilda Store stickers. You'll see them on all the bottles. Feel free to grab your stickers sets over here.
You'll notice that each bottle in this article has some stickers on them. Here are a few facts about Asilda stickers, so we can get that out of the way:
- Water resistant, very durable
- 5-8 years of UV protection - meaning won't fade in the sun for a long time
- Air release technology - you can push air bubbles out
- Easily removable with heat (hair dryer or any other heat device). Don't leave residue
- Dishwasher safe
Now, let's go to the insulated bottles and brands.
YETI is an Austin, Texas-based manufacturer of outdoor lifestyle products, well known for their sturdy (but pricey) coolers.
More recently they have begun to also offer a range of vacuum-insulated stainless-steel drinkware.
YETI hasn’t been around for that long, launching in 2009 after two brothers decided to create the most rugged cooler for their fishing boats.
Having a fishing supply business at that time, they knew the market and what was so needed – a cooler that can withstand the test of time, weather, weight, and pretty much anything.
REI started carrying their coolers, just as a small test at first, but everything sold out incredibly fast. So now pretty much the full range of YETI products can be found at REI stores, where I got all of these YETI tumblers for myself.
What I like the most about YETI is their series of videos called YETI presents.
Each of the short films is about 6-7 min long and is beautifully produced. Here is the full playlist of them, but I also picked 2 of my favorite videos.
Going back to the bottles, YETI’s Rambler series includes stainless steel tumbler cups in 10 oz., 20 oz., and 30 oz. sizes as well as 18 oz. and 36 oz. double wall vacuum insulated water bottles with screw on lids.
The range also includes ½ gallon and 1-gallon jugs with carrying handles for storing larger volumes of cold water or hot tea or coffee.
Out of all the brands I’ve purchased, these look the most well-built. No compromise on quality and the price is reasonable compared to others. Most of the bottle elements also seem to be patented.
A bonus thing about these YETI tumblers is their packaging. You'll know evertyhign you need about these Rambler 20oz and Lowball 10oz Tumblers and will probably get a good laugh out of it too.
They squeezed in some funny wording like "BPA free, obviously."
YETI just launched a series of wine glasses, similar to Hydro Flask one I have below.
Hydro Flask is a rapidly growing Oregon based company that launched with an insulated bottle line-up in 2009 and quickly hit $1 million in sales by only 2011. The company was doing a lot of things right and after 7 years of really going full force, Hydro Flask sold for $210 million in 2016 to the company that also owns OXO brand goods, Braun, Revlon, and others.
It's impressive to become a top seller at REI and Dick's Sporting Goods. A year ago they outsold even the plastic bottles. When heritage is not something you can rely on to promote the products, colorful designs, and recognizable logo definitely compliment a thoughtful approach to growing the fan base.
When you don't have to stick to how things used to be done in the past, there is a lot of room to try things that appeal to us, 30 something creatives who don't easily trust in fancy advertising.
The main competitors for Hydro Flask are S'well and YETI. It'll be interesting to see how each one grabs on to their fan bases, even though it's really hard to mix up these three brands.
The bottles are compatible with either flip lids or wide mouth straws. If you like these stickers on Hyrdo Flask bottles, be sure to grab some here.
Klean Kanteen is a family owned business based in Chico, California. The idea was to create something eco-friendly and to this date, Klean Kanteen is known for their focus on environmental impact.
Just for some perspective, here are the facts: Americans use 58 billion to-go cups and 35 billion plastic water bottles every year.
Back to the product. A few years ago, they released 100% leak-proof cap, so you'll notice on the images how thick it is dues to all the layers inside.
A common feature for Klean Kanteen bottles is the wider opening, mostly for convenient cleaning and a complete access to the inside when in a dishwasher.
When you buy Klean Kanteen, 1% of profits always goes for the Planet. I didn't realize this until now, but there are 82 pages of brands that are members of 1% For The Planet.
The most immediately recognizable feature of any Sigg bottle is the iconic shape of the bottle and loop ring cap.
It is a Swiss company that was founded in 1908 and over the years has released many popular drink bottle designs loved by mountaineers, campers and hikers.
In fact, the numerous bottle designs that it has produced over the decades has led to its addition to the permanent design collection in the New York Museum of Modern Art. Who said a drink bottle couldn’t be a work of art?
An interesting and handy feature of Sigg bottles is that all of the bottle range uses the same diameter head and thread, meaning you can easily interchange any bottle and cap.
This goes for their whole range of caps that include sports bottle caps, caps with extra dust protection and even ones with glow in the dark markers. Many brands started doing this and you can now swap caps on YETI, Hydro Flask, and many others.
S’well launched in 2010 with the clear aim of helping to reduce the number of plastic water bottles that are used and thrown away every day.
By 2017 it had become the fastest growing woman-owned company in the US. The company also partners with a range of charities including UNICEF, American Forest, and (RED).
S’well’s bottles definitely have some of the sleekest and most aesthetic designs of any bottle manufacturer I’ve seen and they also include some good design features such as triple walled insulation that includes a copper layer to prevent condensation on the outside of the bottle. This means that the bottles won’t sweat in your hand or your bag.
The Stanley brand has a 100+ year history and was founded in 1913 by inventor William Stanley Jr. in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
He initially came up with the design of the all-steel Stanley Bottle as a result of electrical work he was undertaking.
He discovered that a welding process he was using could be used to create a vacuum bottle using steel rather than glass.
Within two years, William Stanley began mass producing the Stanley bottle, creating a range of insulated jugs and drink servers.
William died soon after in 1916, but a New York-based investment company took over his operation and its new managers continued to invent and develop new products and broaden the Stanley product line.
The steel Stanley vacuum bottles came to be used in a very wide range of uses, in everything from keeping fluids cool to transporting human organs and were widely used by pilots during World War II as well as adventurers around the world who wanted durable vacuum sealed bottles.
A collection of vintage Stanley bottles at the New Britain Industrial Museum, New Britain, Connecticut, USA
Today, Stanley’s products are focused on camping and outdoor goods, made from durable materials to ensure they are hard wearing, and often come with additional side-mounted carry handles.
Its drink bottles are available in a Classic Series for a timeless look, Mountain Series for climbing and adventuring use, or Master Series, which uses thicker stainless steel for increased longevity.
The company that started it all, Thermos has been manufacturing vacuum flask-based consumer products for more than 100 years.
So long in fact, that the brand name has now become synonymous with any type of vacuum sealed insulated flask.
From its founding in 1904 in Germany until around 1922, the company strove to be the sole company allowed to use the term thermos to describe a vacuum flask, as it considered it free advertising for the company.
1909 Thermos advertisement
As the company and the vacuum flask market grew, it tried increasingly hard to protect the trademarked name, launching lawsuits against any other manufacturer who tried to use the term and even preventing dictionary editors trying to include it.
This continued right through until the 1960’s when a judge ruled that “thermos” was so widespread in use that it was considered a generic term that the Thermos Bottle Company could no longer hold exclusive rights to.
A vintage Thermos bottle
After its original founding in Germany at the turn of the 20th century, Thermos is now based out of Illinois and makes a wide range of insulated food and beverage containers, sports bottles, lunch kits, and other consumer goods.
But it will always be best known for its vacuum flasks.
Miir was founded on the dual principle of making high-quality products as well as helping to fund giving projects. All Miir products help fund US-based and international projects in areas such as clean water and health.
My Miir bottle is a bit beaten up after I threw it in the ocean about 10 times. I was filming this video below and this bottle has been my favorite for a long time, until the ocean made it's mark.
I first came across Miir bottles at Topo Designs, the two brands made a few collaboration bottles and that was my clue that these must be pretty cool. The crew top is finger and carabiner friendly, so you can easily attach the bottle to a backpack.
My favorite feature is how smooth these bottles feel, with their matte texture, but it also can leave your fingerprints all over the bottle. Either way, I like that Miir is doing something different with their bottle design.
In Seattle, Miir has a retail store where you can get some fine beverages and attend guest speaker events. The one I'd go to is called Beer & Gear.
Mizu was founded in 2008 by professional snowboarder Jussi Oksanen who wanted to create functional consumer products that looked creative and attractive too.
In addition to offering a really large range of colors and designs for its drink bottles, Mizu offers customers the option of customizing the design of its full range of products.
To create a custom designed bottle, people can send in a vector artwork or design and receive a mock-up within 48 hours.
Once the production is approved, Mizu will send you the completed custom design within 3 – 4 weeks.
It’s a great option for people who want to have something a bit different and more unique than just a plain, single color drink bottle to carry around with them.
A brand that's as recognized as Coca-Cola, but in Japan, Zojirushi has an awesome piece of history. Join me in going back in time to 1918 for a few seconds.
World War I just ended in Europe, and for Japan that meant new territories, new trade, and new inventions. Japan is experiencing an industrial revolution. In 1917 Nikon is founded, in 1918 a few more brands come to the market:
- Nakajima - largest air jet manufacturer in Asia
- Pilot - largest pen maker in Japan
- and ... Ichikawa Brothers Trading Company (later renamed into Zojirushi)
30 years later, after selling appliances and other things, Ichikawa Brothers come out with their very first thermos in 1948.
Turned out the business was doing much better now that the company had their own product to sell instead of being a retailer and distributor for others.
In 1961, the company is renamed into Zojirushi Corporation, which in Japanese means elephant, a symbol of royalty, rarity, power, and long life.
A few years later the company comes out with their first electric rice warmer and, well, now they are the best seller of rice makers in Japan, the country where rice is a 3-times a day meal.
My water bottle from Zojirushi has lasted me so far a few years and I love several unique features about it:
- The lid comes apart in multiple pieces, so it's easy to clean fully
- The lock means you'll never get leaks and spills
- It's extremely well-built
- It keeps drinks hot-hot-hot, you almost have to let your drink look for a minute before pouring it in
In the US, Zojirushi is popular in Japanese markets and on Amazon.
Taking your Bottles for a Ride
One of the biggest disappointments when it comes to these bottles is when you just poured a fresh coffee, left your home to go to work, sit in your driver's seat, and then all of a sudden the bottle doesn't fit your cup holder and you have to hold it in your hands the whole way to work. Bummer. Major bummer.
Generally speaking, most of the bigger bottles (my YETI, Klean Kanteen, S'well, and Mizu) didn't fit in my BMW 3-series cup holder. I was on a hunt for the solution and here is what I came up with, Amazon being the starting and ending place for this search.
I looked at the reviews and decided this really is the best option out there - BottlePro 2 - Adjustable and Extendable Car Cup Holder Adapter ($16).
It comes with a few base widths and a koozie to keep this adapter snug inside the default car holder. You can take the size rings on and off to fit your car. Everything is pretty intuitive.
One issue you may face is if your bottle is not as wide as the holder and you have your bottle wobbling from side to side as you drive. One solution you can use is to add a few velcro strips (the softer side) and create this internal band inside this adapter.
Overall, this is definitely a lifesaver if you prefer bottles that have a bigger base/width. This car adapter can fit bottles up to 3.7" wide.
How to Keep Them Clean
It's frustrating when your favorite bottle starts having a weird taste or when you leave a drink inside for a bit too long, that pretty much ruins the bottle.We've all been there and I decided to research some solutions.
Everything is really quite straightforward, but there was something I found that will save all of us a ton of energy normally wasted on frustration - cleaning tablets by SIGG and Camelbak.
Recommended cleaning supplies:TABLETS: Camelbak Cleaner Tablets or SIGG Cleaning Tablets
- Dishwasher (most stainless steel insulated bottles and dishwasher safe)
- Warm soapy water + brushes
- Cleaning tablets - let it dissolve for 5-10 min, then rinse
For hardcore cleaning (99% of the time it should not get to this):
- Vinegar (it is an all-natural cleanser) - ⅕ of the bottle size - fill with white vinegar, let it stay overnight
- Bleach Solution (like Clorox Regular Bleach) - 1 tablespoon of bleach + 32 oz of water (1 quart). Let it sit for a few minutes.
Also, DO NOT DO these:
- Put in microwave - the steel will block the drink from heating up and metal can catch fire
- Put in freezer - liquid expands when frozen, bottle will get deformed and will lose insulation properties
That's it friends, hope this article was helpful and informative. If you have any comments and recommendations on what else I can add to this post, please leave the comments below. Take a look around the store, chances are you'll find something you like.
Image Sourceshttp://cdn.ecommercedns.uk/files/4/205854/6/2230916/thermos-000001.jpg https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Universal_Stanley_vacuum_bottles_-_New_Britain_Industrial_Museum_-_DSC09891.JPG https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2c/Gustav_R._Paalen%2C_Double_Welled_Vessel_1909.png https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Thermos http://www.boweryboyshistory.com/2011/12/thermos-building-keeping-it-hot-and.html https://todayinsci.com/D/Dewar_James/DewarJamesBio-SciAm(1910).htm https://samsmalldesign.com/work/thermos-campaign-concepts/ https://www.thermosfacts.com/a-history-of-the-thermos/