Menu
Search
Menu
Close

August/September 2015

Water Bottles

Smart, durable, and spill-proof, one bottle clobbers the competition.

How We Tested

The alley behind the test kitchen isn’t exactly a bucolic place to spend a breezy afternoon, but I, along with a photographer and videographer, had important work to do: dropping refillable water bottles onto the pavement, over and over again, to test their durability. Call it a cold, hard real-world test.

We were evaluating eight different water bottles. There are thousands for sale, so we narrowed our lineup to stick with a few key parameters.

First, we focused on basic single-walled bottles and considered only BPA-free models. (BPA stands for bisphenol A, an industrial chemical used in some plastics. It’s currently under review by the FDA, but critics claim that it can leach into food and cause health problems.) Also, we nixed straws because they’re difficult to clean thoroughly and tend to get funky fast. We avoided bottles made from glass, too, because it’s heavy and, of course, breakable. And we were strict on price; anything north of twenty bucks was out. Our final lineup of eight bottles, each costing between $10 and $20, was made up of five plastic bottles, two stainless-steel ones, and a soft plastic pouch.

We wanted a bottle that was easy to fill, open, close, carry, clean, and sip from. It also had to be spill-proof and exceptionally durable. Before each bottle plummeted toward the pavement, a succession of testers evaluated its basic functionality. We then filled them with an electric-yellow sports drink and let them sit for 24 hours to check for unwanted staining. Some were dishwasher-safe, while others weren’t; we hand-washed or ran each through the machine 10 times, depending on manufacturer instructions, to check for wear and tear.

We bought extras of each bottle and assigned them to staffers, with the stipulation that they use them every day for two weeks and take them wherever they go. The bottles went to work in the test kitchen and at local restaurants; they went on long walks around the city, hiking in the mountains, to the gym, and to yoga; they rode in cars, trains, and buses and sat on the couch through Netflix marathons; one even took a weekend trip to Cape Cod.

Meanwhile, we ventured into the alley with our eight testing copies. We shook each full bottle vigorously upside down for 10 seconds and then dropped each from shoulder height onto the hard pavement—upside down, right side up, and sideways. Only half the bottles survived.

Of the three materials the bottles were made from, the soft plastic pouch was too squishy and awkward for everyday use. The stainless-steel canisters were problematic, too; testers sometimes spilled while filling them because they couldn’t see inside, and they dented easily. Our favorite canisters were made of Tritan, a clear, hard plastic. We could see through them for easy filling, and they aced the dropping tests, bouncing off the pavement with nary a scratch.

Testers liked protected mouthpieces, which felt clean on the lips; exposed ones got dirty or dusty. And testers didn’t like complex bottles with fussy buttons or finicky, hard-to-undo latches. These complicated bottles were also less durable: More external doodads meant more to break off.

As far as being spill-proof and durable, nothing beat the classic screw-on lid. But some bottles were too wide to drink from easily, while others were so narrow that they were hard to fill and clean. Two bottles with screw-on lids tackled this catch-22 by mounting a second, smaller twist-off cap on top of the lid. One bonked us in the face while we sipped—less than ideal. But the final bottle nailed it.

Our favorite was clear. It was made of strong, clear BPA-free Tritan and had a smaller twist-on cap that opened and closed smoothly and was easy to drink from; its large opening was great for filling and made cleaning a cinch. It smacked down onto the pavement again and again without spilling a drop and looked nearly brand-new afterward. It comes in 24- and 32-ounce sizes; the former fit easily in larger cup, bike, and backpack holders. Whether you’re hiking, lounging, or squished on a bus, our winner is the best water bottle for staying hydrated on the go.

Try CooksCountry.com FREE for 14 Days

START YOUR 14-DAY FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP

Every Recipe, Every Rating, Every Video from Every Magazine & Every Episode!

  • 10+ years of Cook's Country Foolproof Recipes
  • Complete Cook's Country TV Video Library
  • 3,800+ Equipment Reviews and Ingredient Taste Tests
  • Step-by-Step Technique Photos
  • Save Favorites, Create Menus, Print Shopping Lists

Dear Home Cook,

If we were new to CooksCountry.com, we might think, “It’s easy to get free recipes on the Internet. What makes your recipes different?” Well, unlike recipes from blogs, message boards, and other recipe sites, our recipes are exhaustively tested by our team of full-time test cooks until they offer consistently great results. That means fried chicken with a crunchy coating and moist meat, a low-fat recipe makeover for macaroni and cheese that’s as creamy and cheesy as the full-fat version, and fork-tender slow cooker pot roast.

We’re obsessive in our quest to find and foolproof the best of American home cooking, from fuss-free weeknight dinners, to updated, simplified versions of regional specialties, to slow cooker and make ahead meals. CooksCountry.com is the only place you can find every foolproof recipe published in Cook’s Country magazine since 2005, plus objective ratings and test results from both Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated for cookware and supermarket ingredients.

Let us make a simple, no-nonsense offer. Try out our website FREE for a 14-Day, No-Hassle Trial Offer. We’re pretty confident that CooksCountry.com will quickly become an invaluable resource for everything from a quick Tuesday supper to your next get-together with family and friends.

Thanks for your consideration,

The Editors of Cook’s Country

The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.