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Stainless Steel Water Bottles for Travel

My water bottle of choice.

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It is said in many countries that you can always tell an American based on the fact that they always have a water bottle with them. This is probably true: people from my country like to prepare. I am from a culture that teaches the benefit of planning ahead, and one that is extremely paranoid about health and sharply independently minded.

Like my fellow contrymen, I usually always have a water bottle hooked on a carabiner and attached to my belt wherever I go.

I hate paying for water, and, in many places, stealing a drink from the tap is not always a good option. So I usually prepare my water for the day in my room by filtering or boiling it, and then I carry some with me in a liter sized stainless steel bottle as I go out on my daily rounds.

I have used many different water bottles in my travels: from sport bottles to plastic Nalgenes to disposable bottles that are only meant for a single use. I can remember one summer of doing archaeology fieldwork in which I used the same disposable bottle for the entire season. I did not yet heed the fact that plastic bottles leach chemicals into the water. After realizing that I was poisoning myself on a very minor level each time I took a drink, I moved on to a Nalgene bottle, which, as rumor had it, did not leach any chemicals. This rumor proved to be a marketing myth, as Nalgenes leach as much as a disposable bottle. So packing away my much used green Nalgene I set out to find an affordable stainless steel bottle.

Stainless steel is not suppose to leach chemicals.

I picked up a stainless steel thermos in India one year and used it as I traveled through China, Mongolia, Southeast Asia, Central America, and by bicycle through Eastern Europe. It worked out fine, except for the fact that the thick layer of insulation – which is the hallmark of a thermos – made the bottle a little bulkier than I wanted it to be.

No matter if you buy polar camel tumbler here, or any other model of stainless steel bottle, keep in mind to choose the one with the right weight and size for your needs. Also, be aware of the material used in the lining as some can still leach chemicals.

I then remembered drinking from Loren Everly’s water bottle as we hitchhiked from Mongolia across China. He had a stainless steel bottle that was not insulated: so the entire inside volume was available to fill with water. I praised him for his choice of bottle immediately, and sought out to find one for myself.

This search unexpectedly took a couple of years. I knew that I could purchase a stainless steel non-insulated bottle through a variety of places on the internet but I simply did not have a regular enough address for it to be mailed to me . . . . and I also did not want to pay the expensive price that many of these online vendors were asking for them. $20 to $30 is far too much money to pay of a stinking water bottle.

So I just kept looking for a stainless steel water bottle to appear in my path.

Finally, I was home for Christmas in 2008, and the one thing – the only thing – that I asked my family to get for me was a couple stainless steel water bottles.

They did.

I tested these bottles for the past two months (I lost one on a bus in Serbia), and found that they are good enough to keep traveling with. They are light weight, sturdy, easy to transport, have not yet leaked, can be use with hot liquids (with caution), and seem to have been made with quality materials. This type of stainless steel bottle, which was manufactured by a company called Klean Kanteen, passed my initial test with only a few obvious flaws in design.

The bottle can come with either a sport bottle top or a screw on top with a carbiner hole in it. Do not use squirt bottle tops for traveling, they will open in your bag and get every thing wet. Also, make sure to always check the seal on these bottles, as I am sure that it will eventually leak. In point, I do not trust the rubber seal in the top of these bottles, as I fear they can too easily become worn out and allow for leaks.

The main design flaw of these bottles is shown in the above photo. The lip at the drinking end of the bottle folds outward, leaving a hard to clean depression where bacteria can build up and then go into your mouth.

The bottle cap has a hole so that it can be attached to a carabiner and then easily carried. Be careful when using a carabiner, as items can be easily removed from them.

I like to give travel gear a two month trial run before I make it a part of my pack. Even with a couple design flaws and a high price tag ($20) this stainless steel water bottles passed the test and I will continue travel on with it in tow.

This bottle is not yet perfect, but it is the best way to carry drinking water that I have found yet.


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Filed under: Eastern Europe, Europe, Turkey

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3722 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

4 comments… add one

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  • Anonymous July 2, 2009, 5:56 pm

    Thanks. this was helpful.

    Link Reply
  • Emily February 25, 2011, 10:52 am

    Thanks for the post! I am a faithful user of Klean Kanteen products. I use mine on a daily basis and I will continue to do so. I trust Klean Kanteen because of the sturdy stainless steel that’s BPA free.

    Thanks again for posting :).

    Link Reply
  • Oscar April 25, 2011, 3:38 am

    Hi, this is Oscar. We are so glad to know you from your enquiry for our products

    Our factory produce many kinds of water bottles for many years .Our main water bottles include stainless steel water bottles ,aluminum sports bottles .baby feeding bottles and water bottles with filter .we have wide mouth bottles and small mouth bottles .and we have straight body and curve body. At same time, we produce some kinds of travel mugs, coffee mugs, vacuum flasks and stainless steel soap .If you are interested in them, welcome you to visit our company website: http://www.evergreenbottle.cn I think you will take an interested in them.

    By the way, all of our products can be passed the SGS, FDA, LFGB, CE, ROHS certification and BPA free. And our main markets include North American, Europe (Germany, France, Italy) .Aus. and Jan. So please don’t worry about our quality

    If you are interested in them, welcome you to contact me anytime
    We look forward to receiving your reply soon

    Thanks and best regards

    Link Reply
  • Trevor Warman November 14, 2023, 6:51 pm

    SilverAnt sent me a titanium water bottle to ROAD TEST: https://www.nomadicbackpacker.com/silverant-ultralight-titanium-800ml-water-bottle.html

    Just the job!!!

    Link Reply