When we’re out on a long trek or camping overnight, the absence of some of our dearest ‘home comforts’ can make things pretty trying. Sadly, hauling our TV, laptop, kettle, AC, or favourite teddy bear along with us just isn’t terribly practical. Nevertheless, there are ways and means of ensuring that we don’t miss out on some of the more rudimentary yet dearly cherished of our creature comforts, for example a good hot drink on a chilly night or a nice cold one when temperatures start to get a bit toasty. Keeping your drinks at the desired temperature can be problematic, however, and that’s why Cool of the Wild is here to guide you through the itty-bitties of liquid storage and to offer our selection of the best thermoses and insulated bottles you can buy in 2017.
This quick overview of the best thermoses and insultated bottles gives you an idea of which bottles are doing the best job at keeping hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold. For more details on each bottle head to the top 10 bottles section where the bottles are reviewed and compared.
But if you really want to understand what to look for in an excellent insulated bottle then read on.
|Klean Kanteen Wide||16oz (455ml)||D-ring or café cap||11.2oz (318g)|
|Hydro Flask Bottle||21oz (597ml)||Standard loop||12oz (340g)|
|Stanley Classic Vacuum Bottle||16oz (455ml)||2 cups and pour-hole||1lb (455g)|
|Thermos Stainless King||16oz (455ml)||1 cup and pour-hole||12.6oz (357g)|
|Yeti Rambler||18oz (511g)||Standard loop||14.4oz (408g)|
|Healthy Human Stein||16oz (455ml)||Standard loop||10oz (283g)|
|LifeSky Stainless Stee||20oz (600ml)||Steel D-ring||13.4oz (380g)|
|Simple Modern Summit||18oz (511g)||1 screw cap, 1 flip lid||9.4oz (265g)|
Why You Need a Thermos
Ever schlepped your wearied bones over a long section of scorching trail only to find your stash of water has taken a turn for the lukewarm along the way? How about spent a night in a tent, chilled to the bone or simply dreaming of a hot cuppa but been unenthused by the idea of firing up the stove and putting on a brew? A ‘yes’ to either of the above will most likely mean you could do with a thermos or insulated drinking bottle. Not only will a good one keep your drinks at the desired temperature but also make you less likely to be put off by the prospect of drinking cold tea or warmish water and therefore pass on replenishing fluids lost during your hike, cycle, climb or what have you. It is great when a little self-indulgence can be justified with medically-supported and health-conscious reasoning, isn’t it?! Before we get down to assessing our top thermoses and insulated bottles, let’s have a look at what makes a good one.
What to look for in a great thermos or insulated bottle
Most of the factors you need to take into consideration when buying a thermos or an insulated water bottle will depend on what you plan on using it for. Only for hot drinks? Only for cold drinks? A bit of both? A stroll down the park or a multi-day thru-hike in rough terrain? Whatever your activity, the most important features to consider are as follow:
The two most common types of insulation used are foam and vacuum insulation. By far the better of the two is the vacuum option, which uses a ‘double-wall’ construction to create a gap (or ‘vacuum’) between your liquids and the exterior shell of your bottle. This wall stops heat or cold escaping or getting in, keeping your liquids at their original temperature for far longer.
Another important aspect related to construction is durability. If you’re likely to be putting your thermos through some serious rough and tumble, your best bet is something that will take a few blows and dings without losing its thermo-regulation capacities over time. Stainless steel options with solid or protected lids usually score best in this regard, while quirkier designs with too many bits and pieces involved in the construction, primarily of the lid, are more likely to falter the more you use them.
Finally, and because we don’t want a backpack drenched in coffee, tea, electrolyte mixtures or grandma’s soup, how leak-proof a thermos or insulated bottle is must be high on your list of considerations related to construction. Some thermoses and bottles tick this box admirably while others are only likely to remain leak-free if kept upright in a cup-holder and not thrown in a backpack or otherwise shaken about. Some cap and lid designs, moreover, are often flimsy or poorly made, meaning the contents of your thermos/bottle are likely to be the contents of your backpack before too long!
The capacity of your thermos or insulated bottle will depend on what you’re up to. A long trek or thru-hike might make you want to cut down on weight and opt for something on the small side, but if you’re likely to cover long stretches of ground without any sure water source along the way, a larger capacity bottle is the safest option. Likewise, if the liquids in your bottle are intended to hydrate two or more people, the capacity you require will increase accordingly – two or three people wouldn’t have to walk very far to exhaust the contents of a 500ml supply!
Practicality and Features
Thermos and insulated bottle manufacturers have come up with a surprising number of weird and wonderful ways to make their bottles more functional and user-friendly. Some have been successful in this regard, others less so. A few of the more desirable features to look out for include the following:
- A lid cup – saves you carrying your own
- A wide mouth – easier to pour and drink from
- Easy grip – because some stainless steel varieties are apt to slip through your hand while you pour
- Carry handle/strap
- Pour-hole – for ease of pouring without unscrewing the lid. This is very much a matter of personal choice but can help to keep the temperature of your liquids regulated by reducing their exposure to outside temperatures
- Multiple lid options – so you can chop and change to suit your activity
Now we’ve got an idea of what makes a thermos or insulated bottle do what we want it to do, let’s get down to business with Cool of the Wild’s selection of the best insulated water bottles and thermoses we’ve found across the market.
The 8 best thermoses and insulated bottles
Kleen Kanteen claim the KK 16oz Wide keep drinks hot for 10 hours and iced for up to thirty. In practice, these figures drop substantially – down to around 4 or 6 hours of warmth and around ten for cool drinks. Not bad, but not as reliable as the Hydro Flask. On the plus side, this canteen is easy to clean, not too heavy, reasonably durable and has interchangeable lids. For camping adventures, we recommend the Wide Flip D-Ring Cap, which is far less likely to leak than the slightly sketchy Café Cap. For more details, read our full review of the KK 16oz Wide.
- Easy to wash
- Weighs only 11.2 oz
- Sketchy, leak-prone café cap
- Keeps drinks warm for only 5/6 hours
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The Hydro Flask is a sleek, double-walled and robust flask that is certain to arrive somewhere on the podium when awards are handed out for Best Insulated Water Bottle. Made of premium grade stainless steel with a sweat-resistant matte exterior that won’t scratch easily, the Hydro is sturdy and durable enough to deal with a bit of a rough treatment and, just in case, comes with with a lovely lifetime warranty. Unlike many of its rivals, the Hydro’s claim that this flask keeps drinks cold for up to 24 hours and hot for up to 6 hours is entirely accurate, making it more efficient in terms of heat retention than competitors the Klean Kanteen, Lifesky and Healthy Human Stein (below). While not capable of keeping drinks hot as long as the Stanley Classic, the Hydro comes in a few ounces lighter. An all-round winner if you don’t need to keep your drinks hot for a great length of time. For more details read our full review of the Hydro Flask.
- Keeps water icy cool all day (and night!) long
- Keeps hot drinks piping hot for up to six hours
- Scratch-resistant coating
- Easy to clean
- Regular mouth still wide enough for easy, quick pouring
- High capacity, light weight (only 12 oz, 340g)
- Lifetime warranty
- Only six hours of heat-retention
The Stanley Classic is, all in all, pretty much what its name suggests. Boasting a double wall and effective vacuum insulation, a tough, stainless steel exterior and two integrated cups for drink sharing, this rock of a bottle pretty much does it all as well, if not better, than any other thermos on the market. Retaining heat for up to a whopping fifteen hours and boasting a super-sturdy lid, this could well be the best thermos for keeping coffee hot and the least likely to leak when subjected to a bit of shaking or droppage. Hands-down winner in terms of reliability, sturdiness, durability, and it retains heat better than all other items on review. If you can deal with the extra few ounces of weight, your search for the best thermos can end here!
- Keeps your drinks hot/cold for over 15 hours
- Twin-cup lid for sharing
- Comes in bigger sizes
- Keeps drinks iced for 60 hours
- A touch on the heavy side (1.0lb – 455g)
With a stainless steel double wall and a super-sleek exterior, the Stainless King certainly looks the part. The cap’s twist-to-open pour-hole also held much promise, suggesting an improvement on the leak-prone buttoned caps favoured by other manufacturers. Put to the test, however, the King was ever so slightly less noble than its name suggests. Although very robust and effective at keeping drinks at the desired temperature for a fairly long time (around 8 hours for hot drinks and 14 for cold), the lid and pour stopper proved to be liable to a spot of leakage when given a good shake or drop. A decent option if you won’t be subjecting it to any rough and tumble but not an ideal option for the trail, for which the similarly priced and weighted Stanley Classic will do a much better job.
- Keeps coffee warm and drinks cold
- Stainless steel serving cup
- Nice groove for easy handling
- Iffy cap construction (plastic interior and steel exterior tend to separate with time)
- Prone to leakage
- Serving cup included
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The Yeti Rambler looks like a small missile, is just as tough and yet won’t ‘explode’ in your backpack no matter how many bumps and bangs and episodes of general abuse you put it through. A robust and decent option but doesn’t quite match up to the Stainless King and Stanley Classic performance-wise. While providing a bit more in terms of capacity than both, it comes up a bit short of the Stainless King in keeping drinks hot or cool and far short of the Stanley Classic.
- Larger capacity than competitors
- The wide mouth and wide grip handle make it very user-friendly.
- Keeps drinks hot/cool for 6/7 hours
- Not prone to leakage
- Cool name
- Not as good as Stainless King or Stanley Classic for keeping drinks hot or cool
- A touch heavy (14.4 ounces )
Available in different sizes and colours, the Healthy Human Stein is a fetching, double-walled insulated bottle that comes with a handy carabiner to attach to belt loops or backpack straps. The handle on the lid is a really nice shape and size that sits comfortably in your hand compared with the narrow loop of the Hydro Flask, and the lid also features an internal stainless steel plate to ensure that your drink never touches plastic. While the 16oz stein might keep you cool on a day hike, it will struggle to provide as much warmth as the best of its insulated bottle competitors due to its smaller volume. The 21oz stein is a better choice for those looking for better heat retention, and is a very strong competitor to the Hydro Flask.
- Handy carabiner
- Nice, large lid-handle
- Keeps drinks cool for up to 8 hours
- A looker, if that’s important!
- Stainless steel on inside of lid
- Poor heat-retention in this size
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With double-wall insulation, 20oz capacity, a wide mouth top and sweat-free exterior, the LifeSky is a high-capacity, user-friendly bottle that scores high in almost every aspect. Given its size and capacity, it is reasonably lightweight (13.4oz) and also comes with a handy carabiner to clip onto straps or belts. A solid, middle-of-the-road option that comes up a little short of competitors such as the Stanley Classic and Hydro Flask in terms of insulation.
- Cool design
- Not prone to leakage
- High Capacity
- Handy carabiner
- Reasonably light (13.4 oz) the 20oz capacity
- Not the best insulation
- A touch awkward to drink from owing to the shape of the taper at the neck and cap
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For the aesthetically-minded camper, trekker, climber or rider, the Simple Modern Summit just might be the most appealing option in our review. Coming in fifteen colours and with a fetching, curvy design, the Summit is certainly a winner in terms of appearance. While not the best option for keeping hot drinks hot (does so for around 5/6hours), the Summit is a fuss-free, easy to clean, double-walled bottle that keeps cool drinks cool for around 20 hours without building up any condensation or ‘sweat’, and is not prone to leakage. A great option for keeping drinks cold and less likely to leak than insulated bottle rivals the Klean Kanteen and Healthy Human Stein.
- Not a sweater
- Keeps cool drinks cool for a long time (around 20 hours)
- Simple, efficient design
- Very light – 9.4oz (265g)
- Not the best option for hot drinks
- Second lid (the ‘flip-lid’) fairly useless
- Scratches easily
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The above selection of thermoses and insulated bottles shows that enjoying a few of the most basic home comforts while out on the trail is easily accomplished. Whether you need something to warm your belly on a nippy night or to cool you down on a sweaty summertime slog – or both, even – Cool of the Wild hopes that in our top picks you will find something suited to your needs and upcoming adventures! In the meantime, we’ll work on finding some way to get the AC, TV and teddy bear out there with you too…!