Part of being responsible long-term travelers is minimizing our environmental footprint even as we burn tons of carbon jetting around the world. We do what we can when we can, and years ago shifted our consumption to reusable products as much as possible. An easy way to create less waste is by investing in a good travel water bottle. Good waterbottles will let you stay hydrated for free nearly anywhere in the world, and without adding to the trash heaps that burden so many countries. So I did what any avid comparison shopper would do: I tried to find the best water bottle for travel by ordering them all on Amazon to test at home!
What are the requirements for the best travel bottles?
I only considered BPA-free water bottles, but fortunately that covers most of the travel water bottle market these days. Apart from that requirement, I consider the following criteria in seeking the best travel water bottle:
-Compact shape and lightweight
-Easy to open
-Easy to drink
-Easy to clean
Three contenders for the best foldable water bottle
Vapur Element foldable water bottle
The Vapur Element is a lightweight water bottle, clocking in at just 2oz. When unrolled, its body is a completely flat water bottle and the only protrusion is at the top. The roll up water bottle is made of heavy-duty plastic.
Monument collapsible water bottle
The Monument silicone water bottle is a very functional collapsible drink bottle. It has a traditional water bottle shape and a carry handle attached at the top. It’s the least expensive of the bottles I tested, but seems high quality. The only choices are pink and blue.
Hydaway travel water bottle
The Hydaway foldable water bottle first caught my eye back when it was on Kickstarter. It comes in a range of vivid colors, and in addition to the regular adult size they even make kids water bottles in fun color combinations (spoiler alert: they hold less than the stated capacities, but I’ll explain more below). Construction quality is great and it just feels like a nifty little product. Why didn’t someone come up with it sooner? These silicone water bottles are such a cool-looking product that they make great gifts for travelers in your life, especially if you throw in the protective case.
August 2018 update: Great news! We’ve just heard from our friends at Hydaway that they’ll be releasing version 2.0 next month. There are some awesome changes ahead. We’re looking forward to the option of a 28oz bottle rather than the current 21oz (but maybe really 18oz) size. They’ll also come with a slimmer profile, easier expansion mechanism, new lid options and lighter weight. And did they mention that they’ll have an optional carbon filter available to improve the taste of your water?
Yeah, we’re excited.
Evaluating collapsible drink bottle options
Compact shape and lightweight
The clear winner for the most compact collapsible drink bottle is the Vapur Element. It weighs only 2oz and collapses to nothing, and there’s even an integrated caribiner to keep it rolled up or hook onto your backpack when it’s open. Hydaway has a more sizable footprint when folded, but it at least slim enough to tuck just about anywhere. The Monument collapsible water bottle and Hydaway foldable water bottle both weigh around 6oz, but the Monument folds to an awkward shape that won’t fit nicely anywhere. It was also very hard to roll the Monument into that not-so-compact shape, but it does cleverly use the woven carry strap to stay rolled up (which sometimes even works to keep it rolled!).
Winner: Vapur Element; Runner-up: Hydaway
Leak-proof water bottle
I’m happy to report that all three bottles were leak-free!
Winner: three-way tie
The Hydaway is stated to hold 21oz, but in my testing it only held around 18oz – a big difference! I reached out to Hydaway via Facebook Messenger and their customer service was extremely responsive and helpful; they explained that there’s some shrinkage of the silicone during the cooling process, but they’re working to address the issue for their spring 2018 version. The Monument foldable water bottle holds 22oz, while the Vapur Element is available in two sizes: 22oz or 32oz. How you judge capacity will depend on your own needs, but I’m a big water drinker when we’re traveling.
Winner: Vapur Element; Runner-up: Monument
Easy to open
Whether you’re running through the airport pulling a suitcase or out hiking while holding trekking poles, no one likes to fight with a water bottle cap. The clear winner here is the Monument silicone water bottle, with its push-button flip cap! Zero extra work required, so thank you for that. I find that the Vapur Element lightweight water bottle needs two hands to open, but opens pretty easily and quickly. Hydaway requires two hands AND some elbow grease, though it’s possible that mine will ease up with time since it’s brand new.
Winner: Monument; Runner-up: Vapur Element
Easy to drink
Ok, a water bottle can have all the features you want but the best travel bottles need to be easy to drink from. In this category, the Vapur Element absolutely falls flat in my opinion. We’ve had them for a few years, but basically sent them out to pasture after a few uses. Even when they’re mostly full, as soon as you lift them to drink the pressure from your hand causes the bottle to mostly collapse on itself; combined with the relatively wide opening for drinking, it’s a recipe for disaster. Ronnie has had some wet-lapped road trips thanks to the Vapur collapsible water bottle! Both Monument and Hydaway remedy that issue with rigid grip rings in their centers. On the Monument bottle it slides up near the lid when folded, while the expandable sections of Hydaway collapse into its grip ring. The ring on Hydaway is much narrower so it might be tough for big hands to manage but your worst case scenario is putting a little pressure on the flexible silicone – still not enough to cause the entire bottle to collapse like the Vapur. The flip-up straw lid on Hydaway slows water flow enough to make drinking a little cleaner, especially when you’re driving or giving the bottle to little people (they even make a half-height version for kids, though I think the lack of a rigid ring in the middle might be tough for them to manage)..
Winner: tie between Monument and Hydaway
Easy to clean
We only use our reusable bottles for water, so cleaning the bodies is as easy as a good swish with hot, soapy water followed by a rinse. Don’t judge. Years of cleaning sippy cups have taught me to judge a bottle’s washability by the number and complexity of parts in the cap. Fortunately all three of these bottles have pretty simple caps. Hydaway’s opening is a little smaller and so requires more care to clean, especially if you’re using it for anything other than water. Only Hydaway and Vapur specify that their bottles are dishwasher-safe but I’m not sure about Monument given the webbing wrist strap; however, the Vapur Element and Monument water bottles are too tall to fit in the top rack of our standard dishwasher.
Winner: three-way tie
Odds and ends
The Monument bottle is the only one that’s a standard size and shape when opened, so it will probably fit best in your car’s cup holder for road trips or in the mesh water bottle pocket of your backpack.
Monument and Hydaway have wider necks when the tops are off, so take note if you like to fill up with ice before a long drive.
What’s the best collapsible water bottle?
So what is the ultimate water bottle for travel? As with all things, it probably depends on your needs.
Best hiking water bottles: Vapur Element
You just can’t beat its light weight and compact form when rolled up! Even without rolling, this flat water bottle takes up almost no space. The integrated carabiner is also a handy feature.
Best water bottle for road trips: Hydaway foldable water bottle
It’s cupholder-friendly shape and wide grip ring make it easy to drink while driving – just keep it to water
Best water bottle for long-term travel: Hydaway foldable water bottle
Great balance of usability and space-saving design
So what did our family choose? We have a full set of the Hydaway silicone water bottles being delivered today from Amazon! I chose the lovely Chili color for myself.
Best travel bottles that don’t collapse
Best water bottle with filter – Brita Sports Water Bottles
I’ve used the 20oz Brita water bottle for years and they’re some of my favorites! Great for those situations where you think the water may have a funny taste. This filter water bottle is pretty light weight but it does require replacement filters after every 300 fills, so not the best choice for long-term travel.
Best portable water purifier bottle system – GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier
If you plan to travel to places with questionable water sources, you NEED a GRAYL system. Unlike the Brita, which is great for water with an off taste, GRAYL does the heavy lifting of actually removing nearly all viruses and disease-causing bacteria from your water regardless of the source. If you’re focused on responsible travel, GRAYL is an amazing way to minimize your environmental impact by reducing your plastic consumption: each filter displaces 300 single-use plastic bottles. This is the best water bottle for travel in the developing world, where tap water is unpotable and recycling is painfully uncommon. Check prices and pick up your GRAYL today.
You can find Camelbak hydration packs in all shapes and sizes, but I love the larger versions. They combine huge 3L water capacity with enough extra cargo space for a sweatshirt and lunch. When you’re out hiking or cycling, no need to mess with a water bottle at all! Just flip open your bite valve with two fingers and take a sip. I do recommend adding a bite valve cover to keep your mouthpiece clean and avoid the annoying little drips that happen sometimes.