Insulated Water Bottle Comparison Test: Are Expensive Brands Better?

Do premium brands actually keep your drinks colder for longer?
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Author's note: We created this exercise as a fun and casual way to get a feel for how different water bottles perform when regular people use them in their daily lives. This is not meant to be a scientific experiment with lab-based performance benchmarks.

Reusable insulated water bottles are always popular on Slickdeals. In fact, we it's not unusual to see three or four water bottle discounts hit popular deals or the Frontpage every month. But are premium brands like Hydro Flask worth it? After all, the ultimate measure of a water bottle is how long it will keep your drinks cold. So, we struck out to see how 10 different water bottles performed under realistic scenarios. Hopefully, this information will help you choose between the premium brands (which can cost between $30 and $60 a bottle) and a more affordable $15 water bottle.

To find out the best brand of tumbler to keep your drinks hot, check out our Tumbler Comparison here.

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Comparing Water Bottles

Each of the 10 water bottles was filled approximately halfway with ice and topped off with water. We then measured each bottle's initial temperature as a starting point. After that, the bottles were closed and left in their testing conditions for six hours. We recorded the temperature for each bottle on an hourly basis.

We tested the bottles in two different, common scenarios. For the first test, the bottles sat outside in direct sunlight for six hours. For the second, they were in the backseat of a car parked in direct sunlight for six hours. In both cases, after the test the bottles came inside our air conditioned office for another 18 hours to monitor temperatures overnight. We did that more out of curiosity and realize most people probably don't drink their water 24 hours after filling up their bottles.

Insulated Water Bottle Test Results

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*all temperatures measured in Fahrenheit

Best Performing Water Bottle: S'well (generic)

"Worst" Performing Water Bottle: Hydro Flask

Lowest Price Water Bottle on Average: RTIC

24 Hours Later

Here are the temperatures we recorded after leaving the bottles inside over night after each day of testing. As you can see, the results varied quite a bit.

insulated water bottle test

insulated water bottle test

Which Water Bottle Should you Buy?

Expensive doesn't mean better:

Now, we went into this test anticipating that most water bottles would perform more or less the same. While that proved to be essentially accurate, two of the more expensive, recognizable brands -- Yeti and Hydro Flask -- actually performed the worst compared to the other brands. During the car test, the Yeti and the Hydro Flask got warmer while other brands like RTIC and Contigo cooled down.

All the bottles tested well, but the S'well was the best:

Let's be honest, it's unlikely you'll be able to tell the difference between water at 38 or 40 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this test goes to show you don't have to break the bank to get a high-quality water bottle. And while the relatively expensive S'well (~ $45 and rarely go on sale) had the best, coldest results by far, some people might not actually want to drink near-freezing water all day. You could obviously solve that by putting in less ice (or none at all).

If you don't have design or brand preferences, go for the least expensive:

In the end, most of these bottles provide exceedingly similar performance. If you happen to like the way one brand looks over the other, go for it and make the purchase. Just make sure you wait until it's on sale and you see it on Slickdeals. We've seen some of these brands go for as low as $10 to $15, and they're all perfectly capable of keeping your water cool.

Buy These Water Bottles Here:

ThermoFlask

Lowest Price Ever on Slickdeals: $19.99 for a 2-pack

Regular Price: $24.99 for one bottle

Buy now from Costco

Buy now from Amazon

Contigo

Lowest Price Ever on Slickdeals: $9.98

Regular Price: $18.45

Buy now from Walmart

Buy now from Amazon

Zojirushi

Lowest Price Ever on Slickdeals: $20.80

Regular Price: $27

Buy now from Target

Buy now from Amazon

Camelbak

Lowest Price Ever on Slickdeals: $11.10

Regular Price: $29

Buy now from Target

Buy now from Amazon

Yeti

Lowest Price Ever on Slickdeals: $16

Regular Price: $28

Buy now from Dick's

Buy now from Amazon

RTIC

Lowest Price Ever on Slickdeals: No deals

Regular Price: $18.99

Buy now from RTIC

Buy now from Amazon

Hydro Flask

Lowest Price Ever on Slickdeals: $16.19

Regular Price: $29.95

Buy now from REI

Buy now from Amazon

Klean Kanteen

Lowest Price Ever on Slickdeals: $12.39

Regular Price: $19.99

Buy now from Klean Kanteen

Buy now from Amazon

Mizu

Lowest Price Ever on Slickdeals: No deals

Regular Price: $30.95

Buy now from Dick's

Buy now from Amazon

S'well

Lowest Price Ever on Slickdeals: No deals

Regular Price: $45

Buy now from Nordstrom

Buy now from Amazon

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Do you own any of these water bottles? How do you like them? Let us know in the comments below! 



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About the Author

Liam Fitzpatrick is a Content Editor at Slickdeals in the Los Angeles office. He has written and edited for various digital publishers, including Ranker, Cracked, and Screen Rant. He's always got his eyes out for fresh deals, especially when it comes to entertainment and technology. If you ever want to talk about comic books, classic sci-fi, or Magic: The Gathering, he'll be ready and waiting.


Follow Liam on Twitter here (he's always down to chat about his cats): @slickdealsliam


18 Comments

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#2
While I love the fact someone did this test there were a lot of variables either unaccounted for or not mentioned. Filling the bottles "approximately" half way isn't an accurate way to measure this test. Also there are no results of repeatability. Just 1 test that may or may not prove anything. In fact what if you had totally different results the second time around?
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#3
I agree with bhamstangguy. If you fill all of them half full of ice, you are skewing the results in favor of the larger container. And even if they were all the same size, the one with a little more ice has the advantage.

A better method would be to fill all of them with the same amount of ice cold water, but without ice.
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#4
This seems like a whole lot of effort to go through for a test article, only to be completely haphazard and unscientific about the way you executed the entire experiment. Why not fill a bucket with ice water, then scoop out a preset amount (say, 8 ounces) of ice-free water into each container? That way you'd have a set amount of water in each, and you'd be guaranteed that the water was at 32 degrees when it went in.

Not to mention the temperatures for the Zojirushi have something crazy going on (it apparently was somehow colder after 24 hours), and apparently performs at least as good as all of the other bottles including the Swell, if not better than all of them, yet you don't mention it anywhere in the write-up, despite it being on Amazon for around $25 (which is apparently $20 less than the Swell).
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#5
I love how almost nothing is controlled in this experiment.
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#6
While I support SD doing this I agree that for the time and effort a little bit of control would have been worth it. Kudos for trying though.
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Last edited by JohanM1228 August 9, 2018 at 10:38 AM.
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#7
I'd rather not put ice / tap water in my drinks.
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#8
Quote from bguy
:
I agree with bhamstangguy. If you fill all of them half full of ice, you are skewing the results in favor of the larger container. And even if they were all the same size, the one with a little more ice has the advantage.

A better method would be to fill all of them with the same amount of ice cold water, but without ice.
That was definitely something we considered, but if that was true, the Zojirushi wouldn't have outperformed the ThermoFlask in the outdoor test. And they performed practically identical in the hot car test.
My takeaway from the test was that it doesn't really matter too much which bottle you get if you drink from it throughout the day. You will probably refill it at least once every few hours. And if you go on a long hike or something, your water will still be cold with any of these bottles. So you can base your decision based on design, size or price and not worry too much about performance.
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#9
When journalists try to do science...
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#10
The initial temperature reading means nothing if substance inside the container was not thermally homogenous when measured and ice amount was approximated. Which means the final temperature also means nothing.

The point that in most daily real use cases there's not really a difference does not justify using bad science to 'prove' it. That's how you end up with a growing amount of people not trusting any science....

The experiment could easily be fixed with a blender and a coffee filter or sieve to create ice cold water without ice chunks to skew the experiment. Measure temperature after pouring into bottle.
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Last edited by kineticrob August 9, 2018 at 06:00 PM.
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#11
Quote from deV14nt
:
I'd rather not put ice / tap water in my drinks.
Too funny!! My dad is 92 years old and never has drank anything but tap water. I'm sure the ice used in this test was purified glacial water from Tibet.
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#12
Why do you not have links to these, specifically the winning one.
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#13
Thanks for the great writeup with detailed data! Could you post the capacity of each of the bottles tested?
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#14
Which is the easiest to clean ?
Personally I stick with mugs, with the Ozark trail 20 oz my coffee stays hot/warm for almost 2.5 hours daily. My 30 oz can still have ice the next morning if left in the car overnight

My hands fit in both to clean them when needed. For $1 - $6 each I can't complain
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Last edited by bb6619 August 26, 2018 at 12:15 PM.
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Quote from bhamstangguy2002
:
While I love the fact someone did this test there were a lot of variables either unaccounted for or not mentioned. Filling the bottles "approximately" half way isn't an accurate way to measure this test. Also there are no results of repeatability. Just 1 test that may or may not prove anything. In fact what if you had totally different results the second time around?
I'd be curious to see additional tests along the lines of volume of water present after being completely filled with ice. Compared with the volume capacities of the container
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