As a once crunchy-camp-goer I will always have a soft spot for the timeless Nalgene water bottle. The wide-mouth that inevitably spills just as much water down the front of your shirt as it deposits into the mouth, the dinged-up hard plastic attached to backpacks and totes (bulky design denying it entry into outer pockets) by a carabiner that’s spent more time on city streets than any leafy green hiking trail. But in a world of boutique design stores and water sommeliers, the Nalgene and its clunky, impractical design seems to have been replaced by the trendy, sleek, problem-solving water-wear I now admittedly tote.
Crowd-sourced funding of design projects, awards, conferences, and countless other outlets for the celebration of good design have created new expectations for even the most mundane of products. In the heavy August heat, a well-designed water bottle may be at the top of your list.
Reinventing the Bottle
The Square water bottle in a variety of colors. (image via CleanBottle.com)
Why design a Square water bottle? So that if you drop it it won’t roll away. Yes, that’s one of the selling points for this Red Dot Design Award winning water bottle. Additionally, the metallic canister opens at both ends for easy cleaning. It is worth mentioning the Square was realized through a Kickstarter campaign.
There seems to be a weariness surrounding metal water bottles, and having taken a few parched gulps from the metallic-tasting Klean Kanteen, I totally understand why. However, a BPA free plastic lip on the square assures no metal tinge to your drinking water.
Pouch water bottle by Vapur. (image via Amazon)
I’ve noticed in my time as a nanny — yes, I nanny on the side — that the pouch design, like the one by Vapur, is popular with young moms trying to save the world one Poland Springs bottle at a time. The shape and material, a far cry from the classic bottle, allows for the pouch to collapse nicely for storage in diaper bags and kids backpacks. But honestly, from a design standpoint, they just don’t have the minimalist aesthetic that I’ve come to expect of collectable water bottle design.
Bobble water bottles (images via 1, 2, 3)
Now commonly stocked everywhere from bookstores to CVS, Bobble is undoubtably the mainstream (is there a water joke here) crossover choice for accent-color-conscious drinkers. The sleek transparent design creates an hour glass shape that I guess makes gripping the bottle easier, but definitely cuts down on the amount of liquid it can hold. I’ve always been skeptical of how durable the slightly maleable clear bottle is, but have never heard anyone complain.
My Black + Blum water bottle introduced me to the idea of using Binchotan charcoal as a water purifier. I don’t know if I buy that the stick of charcoal in my water genuinely balances the pH of my drinking water, or if it does, that it positively effects me in any way, but there’s something elegant about the black sculptural stick resting in my bottle.
Other than the neat fastening mechanism that seals the bottle, B+B have designed a sleek transparent container that lets the charcoal speak for itself.
But Black and Blum is not alone. There are other bottles on the market that employ more elaborate takes on the carbon filter, one being the Nava container from Kor (left), which uses coconut shells that are converted into active carbon which they claim is the most “renewable and health-safe resource” for filtration. Kor is another water bottle that was helped along by Kickstarter.
However, all of these filtration systems require that the water being filtered is potable. For a bottle that promises to make drinkable water from the most impure of sources, there are UV rays. The “Pure” Water Bottle kills 99.9% of waterborne impurities in 2 minutes through a built in wind-up UV light.
Glass water bottle designed to look like its unsustainable plastic counterparts. (image via Green Head)
The resurgence of glass water bottles is interesting as they were originally replaced by the lighter, more portable plastic water bottles that are now being phased out in the face of environmental concern.
However, I’m not sure a return to glass is fail proof: yes, there are no weird chemicals from overused plastic, no metallic taste or sweaty bottles and some really good-looking options, but glass is so heavy. For a while I used the bkr, and it weighed more than a full sized water bottle but was empty after a few sips. However, the plastic sleeve kept it from smashing, which was my main fear, and came in a wide variety of small-batch color choices so the chance of running into another hydrated pedestrian toting a water bottle in “dive” is slim.
Similarly, the Takeya (left), inspired by the iconic form of the Americana milk bottle employs a glass/silicone combination that ensures protection of the glass and some fun color options. Weight is still a definite factor, especially if you plan on toting the bottle at all times, but there’s something that feels really luxurious about drinking out of glass on the go.
In a design economy where we’ve come to expect stunning and practical solutions to every mundane detail of our lives, it’s no surprise that there are so many viable options battling it out to become our water bottle of choice. This list takes on some of the most compelling containers from an aesthetic lens, but who knows what the next Kickstarter campaign will turn up.
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