Filling bottle from stream

The value of recommended daily intake of water depends on the source but it seems to be about 2L. This means water, and doesn’t include coffee or beer, apparently. If this is true, I imagine a lot of people are spending their lives in a state of persistent mild dehydration. Of course, 2L is just the basic requirement. We need more if the weather is hot and humid, when exercising, and at higher altitudes. Concerning exercise, the rule of thumb is that we need an extra 500 ml of water per hour of “moderate exercise,” so a water bottle is an essential item to bring on any outdoor activity.

Water bottles

The purpose of a water bottle is to transport water so you can stay hydrated with clean water. I thought there wouldn’t be much to say about the humble water bottle, but like most things, the rabbit hole runs as deep as you are inclined to delve. The main factors for consideration when purchasing a bottle are material, neck width, and the cap.


You can get bottles in plastic, metal or glass. Glass bottles are great for the office or at home, but a bad idea for sports bottles, because they are heavy and breakable.



Nalgene plastic bottle
Nalgene is a popular and reliable brand of plastic bottle
  • Lightweight
  • Cheap
  • Relatively durable
  • Transparent (aids water management)


  • Less durable than metal
  • Potential long-term health concerns?

Some people are concerned that BPAs have an adverse effect on health, so most manufactures now proclaim the lack of such in their products. Despite these BPA-free claims, the unregulated state of bioaccumulating substances in plastics still makes people uneasy. Search for “estrogenic activity of plastics” for more information if you are so inclined.



Water bottle on fire
Steel water bottles can be used to boil water. ultimatesurvivaltips.com
  • Durable
  • No health concerns?
  • Can be used to boil water


  • Heavier than plastic
  • More expensive

Aluminum is lighter than steel but weaker. Because of the reactive nature of aluminum, bottles made from it have an inner coating, usually plastic. Which seems to make them fairly pointless, in my opinion. You might as well get a plastic bottle.

Narrow vs wide mouth

Whatever material you go for, I recommend choosing a wide mouth bottle. A wide mouth makes it easier to clean the inside of the bottle and use it with a water filter. The downside is that it makes it more difficult to drink from when walking. You will definitely splurge water all down your front in a comedy fashion on at least one occasion.

Cap failure modes

Take a quick look at the cap. How likely to break is it? A fancy button-operated spring-loaded cap might seem nice, but the more parts comprising the mechanism, the more potential failure modes the mechanism has. Stay simple and durable with a heavy-duty screw on cap, unless single-handed operation is necessary, for example when climbing or biking.

Reliable bottle brands: Nalgene, Klean Kanteen, Laken, Hydroflask

For runners

woman in runner's vest with soft bottles
Salomon soft bottles. altitudeblog.com

Runners generally don’t have time to mess around pulling bottles out of packs and stuffing them back in. As a result, people running longer distances use a hydration pack or runners vest. These are equipped with a 1-3 L hydration bladder and hose from which you can sip as you run. The other option is to carry collapsible flasks in front pockets on the vest. Why collapsible? Hard bottles are great when completely full, but the water sloshing about when they are half empty makes them irritatingly noisy on a run. Be warned that bladders and collapsible bottles are fragile. I once burst a hydration bladder by dropping it when full, just before a race…

Drinking from lakes and streams

Man drinking from stream
Drinking from streams is a gamble. You will probably be fine. Probably. backpackinglight.com

Depending on your country and location, you might think you can drink from streams or lakes you find on your way. I have done this many times in the UK and Japan, and still do this from time to time in NZ. I have never had any problems, yet. But the overwhelming consensus seems to be that this is a Bad Idea. Basically, you can never know what has recently crapped or died upstream from where you are drinking, no matter how pristine the water looks. Still, the biggest concern over drinking contaminated water is diarrhea, which will only set in later, if at all. So if the lack of water will impact your ability to get home safely, I think you should absolutely take the risk and drink from the stream. If you are outdoors for longer, though, you should always boil, filter, or chemically treat any water sourced from streams or lakes.

Water purification

There are a lot of options for water purification on the market these days. Here are a few that are cheap, easily portable and effective. All have received excellent reviews and will perform well.

Katadyn BeFree

Katadyn BeFreeA bottle with an internal filter. Just fill it up and go. Convenient and lightweight, the only drawback is the limited capacity and fragility of the bottle.

Sawyer mini

Sawyer filterSmall, lightweight, adaptable and inexpensive. This is the go-to for runners, day packers and the like. Only real drawback is that it doesn’t handle large quantities so well.


LifestrawThe cheapest and simplest filter. Again, small and lightweight. Very much an emergency option: this is only for drinking directly from the water source, not for filtering water to carry.

Aquamira Water Treatment Drops

The smallest, cheapest and lightest option of all. A few drops of this kills viruses and, if you can wait an hour, also kills Cryptosporidium, which iodine doesn’t. Since it isn’t a filter, it doesn’t filter out particulate. The obvious drawback is drinking chemicals with your water.


So, do you drink from streams? If so, do you use the above methods, or do you rely on something else? Do you have any preferences concerning your water bottle or hydration pack?? Let me know in the comments below!

5 Essential Items for Outdoor Sports

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  • barbara white

    Not sure about all this consumption of water now recommended…there is a whole school of thought that links human malaise to the invention of the cup. It’s difficult to consume so much if you’re lapping, the ‘natural’ position.

    • Rowan White

      It’s certainly an interesting idea, but a bit beyond the scope of this blog. My initial thoughts are as follows:
      – Modern medicine recognizes that over-consumption of water leads to dilution of sodium in the blood and can in fact be fatal. One would have to drink gallons for this to occur, but it is possible.
      – For lapping to be ‘natural’ for the human body, we would have to go back to before we became so “hands-oriented” (for want of a better expression). As soon as we evolved to the point where we could cup water in our hands to drink, it would make more evolutionary sense to do so as one is more vulnerable when lapping than when drinking from hands. Accordingly, a comparison between the lapping ‘human’ and the more modern cup-drinking human may not be valid.
      – As a general rule, doctors currently consider us to suffer from dehydration and recommend us to drink more water.

      Sorry I cannot comment more decisively on this!