I jumped on the Nalgene bottle train a few years ago, mostly because I was excited to finally have a water bottle big enough to last me through a decently long workout. Those tiny little half liter Arrowhead bottles weren’t nearly big enough to quench my thirst, and I didn’t want to haul around more than one of them. Nalgene bottles were awesome because they came in a million different colors with lots of designs, they held plenty of water, the tops were attached with a little leash, and the bottles were pretty hard to break (the latter two were especially good for someone like me who constantly drops things). Then everyone started freaking out about BPA. To be honest, my first reaction was BP-what?
I started seeing lots of cute metal water bottles, but my friend told me that right after she bought her shiny new metal water bottle, she dropped it and put a huge dent in it. That didn’t exactly encourage me to run out and buy one. Most of the metal water bottles I saw were much smaller than my awesome hot pink Nalgene bottle, so I often slowed down when I saw the new metal bottles but never seriously considered buying one.
I started looking at new water bottles online (my theory being there were a lot more choices on the internet than in the stores where I happened to see them). That’s when I learned that most of the metal water bottles are made of aluminum, which can react with acidic beverages (like apple juice or orange juice), leaching toxins and chemicals. For that reason, all aluminum bottles are lined. With what, you ask? Often it’s baked on epoxy or plastic. Both of these types of liners can leach BPA or other chemicals, and both types of liners can get scratched up, exposing the aluminum. Sometimes ceramic is used to line aluminum bottles, but the ceramic can crack. Sigg, one of the big companies that makes aluminum bottles, won’t disclose what their lining is made of, so take that as you will. (Update: a few months after I posted this blog, Sigg admitted that their liners in bottles manufactured before a certain date contain BPA so my paranoia was not unfounded)
Klean Kanteen bottles, on the other hand, are made from food grade stainless steel, the same material used in most food processing, dairies, and breweries. In other words, whatever concerns you may have about drinking water out of a stainless steel container shouldn’t be an issue if you’re okay with drinking beer or milk.
Unlike Siggs and a lot of the other bottles out there, Klean Kanteen bottles have a wide enough mouth that you can put regular sized ice cubes in and wash the bottles easily. Sigg solved these two problems by offering special ice cube trays and bottle cleaners, but that seems like too much extra stuff I need to buy. I’m all for accessories, but they have to be cute and bottle cleaners do not fall into that category.
Another big plus for Kleen Kanteen is that their bottles come in multiple sizes, including a big 40 ounce bottle! Finally, something that could take the place of my beloved 34 ounce Nalgene bottle! I bought two 40 ounce bottles, one in brushed silver and one in a bright blue. My theory was that I would have one bottle for home use and one for work.
The first thing I noticed was that unscrewing the cap made a horrendous screeching sound. Mr. Awesome said it probably wouldn’t be so bad once the bottles had water inside, and he was correct.
The second thing I noticed was that the bottles had a slightly metallic smell to them. As you know, you taste what you smell, so the metallic smell of the bottles made me taste the water as slightly metallic. There are some solutions to this: first, don’t inhale while drinking. I know that sounds self-explanatory since inhaling while drinking can cause choking, coughing, and sputtering, but once I made a conscious effort not to inhale right before I took a drink, there was less metallic smell/taste. The other thing that really helped was washing the bottles, particularly the inside and outside of the rims, with baking soda a few times. After I washed with baking soda the first time, there was a noticeable decrease in the metallic smell, but it was still there. I had assumed that one quick wash with baking soda would do the trick, so it wasn’t until the next day when I was at work that I realized there was still a little bit of the metallic smell and taste, kind of what I imagine licking a quarter would be like (only colder). I washed again with baking soda after work and that seemed to do the trick.
The bottles are not insulated at all, so I either fill my bottle with cold water from the refrigerator or I use filtered tap water (room temperature) and put the bottle in the refrigerator before I go to bed so that it’s nice and cold when I take it to work the next morning. The bottles do sweat, so it’s helpful to have a coaster, a folded up napkin/towel, or an insulated tote (more on that later) so that you don’t end up with a little puddle underneath your bottle.
So which is better? The plain stainless or the one with the pretty color? It’s a toss up. I think that the blue bottle had less metallic odor initially and it faded more quickly, but the plain stainless bottle seems to stay cold a little bit longer. I have no scientific data to back up either of these claims though!
One thing I dislike about these bottles is that the lip of bottle is exposed, even with the cap screwed on. The rim, which is where I put my mouth, is exposed at all times. One day while driving to work, someone cut me off and when I slammed on my brakes, my water bottle flew off the passenger seat and onto the floor. It rolled around a bit before I was able to pick it up, and by then the entire bottle, including the drinking edge, was covered in the dust and debris from the floor of my car. Yuck!
I initially disliked that there was no leash to keep the lid attached to the bottle, but the slanted design of the top allows me to lean it at an angle so that it won’t roll off my desk. I also started remembering how many times I’d accidentally whacked myself in the face when the attached lid on my Nalgene bottle rotated while I was drinking, so maybe not having a leash is a good thing.
I bought one of the insulated totes to keep my work bottle cold a little longer since it sits on my desk all day. It seems to work pretty well. If I had two of the exact same bottle, I would love to do an experiment to see just how well the neoprene sleeve works, but for now I’ll just have to be happy that my water stays cold for a few hours.
The neoprene sleeve has a few issues though. First, they are made by Built to fit multiple bottles by different companies. The one I bought fits both the 32 ounce and the 40 ounce bottles. Both bottles have the same circumference, but the 40 ounce bottle is taller, which means that the top loop of the tote doesn’t quite work. The bottle fits inside the top loop, but it’s then difficult to use the top loop to hold the bottle because there is barely enough room to squeeze my fingers between the loop and the cap. There is another loop on the body of the bottle, but it’s a bit awkward to use. Holding the loop on the body makes the bottle crooked, meaning I can’t hold it straight up and down, so I have this paranoid feeling that my off kilter bottle may fall forward.
Another problem is that the when I pull the top loop up, the neoprene rubs against the exposed drinking rim of the bottle. This leads to the third problem, which is the neoprene itself stinks. That’s because neoprene is essentially rubber treated with a lot of chemicals. I don’t think it’s necessarily the healthiest thing to inhale all the gross neoprene chemicals every time I drink out of my water bottle, but even if it were totally safe, I can’t stand smelling that stench every time I take a sip. I’m trying to find a better water bottle holder. I found a company called GreenSmart that makes their insulated totes out of recycled plastic water bottles. According to them, their Neogreene products have twice the insulating properties of stinky old neoprene, but their totes don’t accommodate the big 40 oz. bottles I have, so I haven’t bought one.
The 40 ounce Klean Kanteen fits perfectly into the cup holder in my car, but once I added the neoprene sleeve it was just a smidge too big to fit into the cup holder. Luckily I have a big flip up storage console in the armrest, so I still have somewhere to put it while driving, but not everyone has that option.
I was content with my 40 ounce Klean Kanteen, but then I saw something really exciting – a new model with an even wider mouth! The new Klean Kanteen Wide is for all of us who miss the size and shape of our old Nalgene bottles. The new model accommodates water filters for people who hike or camp (not me). But even better, the cap screws onto the outside of the mouth which means that the drinking lip is now completely covered – yay! The shape of the new wide mouth bottle is a little different. The classic Klean Kanteen tapers at the top so the top of the bottle is narrower than the footprint of the bottle. The new wide mouth does not taper at the top, and as a result, the bottle is a little shorter. That means it fits inside the neoprene sleeve a little better. They also have a monster 64 ounce bottle available in the wide version!
One side note: the original Klean Kanteen comes with a plastic (BPA-free) cap. When I ordered my new wide mouth Klean Kanteen, I ordered a stainless steel cap for my original Klean Kanteen. I figured what the hell, I’m already paying for shipping so why not? When my order arrived, Mr. Awesome put my new stainless steel cap on my old bottle and showed me that the stainless steel cap has an overhang so that the lip of the bottle is completely covered, which is awesome! I just wish that their website mentioned that because I would have bought that cap sooner if I had known!
Klean Kanteen has a great side by side comparison of their classic bottle versus the new wide bottle here in case you can’t decide.