Gear Guy

Q:

What Are the Best Glass Alternatives to the Plastic Water Bottle?

How breakable are the new glass water bottles? Can you take them outdoors, or are they only for the office?

What Are the Best Glass Alternatives to the Plastic Water Bottle?

Photo: Maridav/Shutterstock.com

A:

Glass has emerged as a popular alternative to plastic water bottles, and it’s part of a general trend toward more sustainable, healthier beverage containers. Since scientists began putting the word out about BPA as a potential hormone disruptor about five years ago, plastic alternatives, such as stainless steel and glass, stepped up to challenge the status quo.

Then there’s the taste issue. Some plastics leave water tasting funny, especially if you use the bottle to hold something other than water—moxie, green tea kombucha, and vodka appletini are some of the worst culprits in my own experience (and particularly bad in combination with one another).

Stainless steel products such as the Klean Kanteen are chemically inert and don’t impart a taste for most users, but they can be difficult to wash completely. You peer down the stainless steel throat and scrub with a long-handled brush, but you can never quite know whether you’ve removed all the schmutz. (Inventors are addressing this issue with a square stainless steel bottle that opens on both ends—coming in December.)

Enter glass. More pitched toward intrepid cubical warriors than hikers, these bottles weigh more than twice as much as stainless steel. Where an empty Klean Kanteen pulls in at around a half pound with the cap, most glass bottles weigh well over a pound. Yet you can’t beat the beauty and simplicity of glass. My hiking friend Adam (a luddite, who wears thick woolen socks with everything—boots, sandals, cycling cleats) swears by glass water bottles, extra weight be damned. “We’ve been drinking out of glass for 3,500 years,” says Adam, and he intends to use it for another half century.

The only hitch for outdoor use is possible breakage. Yet I found these bottles aren’t as fragile as they seem. They are covered in protective silicone (or in one case, bamboo) and they don’t shatter easily. With deference to vintage David Letterman and his scientific experiments atop a five-story tower, I sacrificed a new CamelBak bottle on a large outcropping of rock in the woods. It took four hard throws to get it to break. Most times it landed on the soft silicone bottom or the plastic top and survived. At last, it landed square on its side (the shards were easy to pick up).

So if you go glass, you have to take care, but not extraordinary care. These bottles are heavy, but they also stay extraordinarily clean. This week I tried out the CamelBak Eddy Glass. (I probably won’t be returning the review unit.) I’ve included two more popular glass bottles after the jump from Takeya and Bamboo Bottle.

CamelBak Eddy Glass
Takeya Classic
Bamboo Bottle

Glass Water Bottles: CamelBak Glass Eddy

camelbak glass water bottle
Crash Test: The Camelbak Glass Eddy.   Photo: Bob Parks

The $25 Glass Eddy is CamelBak’s marriage of ancient and modern materials. It uses thick, durable glass made in France. The plastic cap includes a high-volume bite valve of medical grade silicon, a straw for drinking with the bottle upright, and a shielded plastic vent to prevent leaks. The glass version of the Eddy weighs a whopping 18 ounces, however, and comes in just one size—24 ounces of water. If that’s too heavy for the trail, think of it as the Cadillac of hydration systems for the workplace.

Glass Water Bottles: Takeya Classic Glass Water Bottle

takeya glass water bottle gear guy
Takeya Classic Glass Water Bottle.   Photo: Courtesy of Takeya

Takeya, a pioneer in glass water bottles for a few years now, has versions in 16, 18, and 22 ounces. The 22-ounce version weighs 17 ounces and costs $20. A grippy silicone jacket protects the French-made glass container within, and if the bottle gets a little funky, you can throw the whole shebang in the dishwasher to return it to crystal clear. It has a loop for hooking to a ‘biner on your pack, though online reviewers say that because of its weight and simple screw cap, it’s probably more office-y than outdoorsy.

Glass Water Bottles: Bamboo Bottle Company Bamboo Bottle

Bamboo Bottle Company bamboo water bottle
Bamboo Bottle Company Bamboo Bottle   Photo: Courtesy of Bamboo Bottle Compan

This bamboo-covered bottle from the material-named company is the least sporty of the bunch, but the most versatile. It’s heaviest at 20 ounces empty, but you can get it with a screw top, flip top, or a special cover for hot liquids (clam chowder at the summit?). While the other bottles in this lineup can’t stand heat, the bamboo exterior insulates the glass container. The 51 percent recycled glass also features a thread at both top and bottom, so you can completely disassemble it for the dishwasher. Online reviews are positive on balance, though users report minor leaks and grouse at the hassle of removing all the parts for cleaning. Sounds a little like the classic XGK stove—heavy, requires maintenance, beautifully designed. $25

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