In defense of a Nalgene: why a Nalgene can be a good hiking water bottle

In defense of a Nalgene: why a Nalgene can be a good hiking water bottle


Nalgene’s get a bad rap and are often thrown aside when it comes to ultra-light thru-hiking. I always hear, “you can save some weight by switching to Smart water bottles”, but are Nalgene’s all that bad? I personally dont think so.

Nalgenes are great water bottles for daily life and even for outdoor adventures. Im not talking about your traditional “tritan” Nalgene bottles that weigh about 4 times as much as a Smart bottle. The Nalgene I speak of is the Ultralite (HDPE) series bottles that only weigh only about 2 times as much as those weightless Smart bottles. The ultralite 1 liter bottle weighs 108g or 3.75oz.

Upgrading to the 1.5 (48oz) liter ultralite bottle will yield a better bottle-weight to water-volume ratio due to the geometrical characteristics of shapes. The volume to outside area does not grow 1:1 as a three-dimensional shape gets bigger, so the volume of the bottle will increase faster than the material of the bottle. Depending on your hike, one 1.5 liter bottle can be sufficient to get you to the next watering hole.

Nalgene’s have a wide mouth which make them easy to clean if you plan on using something other than water. For example, if you need to throw some electrolyte power/tablet into your water you can safely clean the bottle and prevent mold from building up and causing stomach problems on your hike.

These bottles are indestructible and can last almost a lifetime. There is no doubt that these bottles can last infinitely longer than a smart water bottle. I have used disposable plastic bottles for thru-hiking and I have had them break just before the second year was over. Nalgenes are made to be used in extreme temperatures and extreme conditions, and I think the HDPE bottles are even stronger than the traditional “tritan” bottles.

I have had my Nalgene, now, 8 years using it for thru-hiking, camping, EDC, traveling, biking, and everything in between. I am hard on my gear so having something that will last through my daily abuse is important to me.

Smart bottles are designed to use the least amount of plastic and be made as cheap as possible which is why they dont last as long. Because they are disposable, they contribute to the plastic issue that plagues our planet today. Switching to a bottle that can be reused for an indefinite time will be better for the environment.

There is a lot of contradictory information on plastics and which ones are bad and which ones are good. What I could gather is HDPE is the least reactive plastic there is and has no known chemicals it leaches into water which can not be said about other disposable water bottles.

My point is, Nalgene bottles are not bad at all and get a bad rap on the ultra-light thru-hiking groups. I feel that having a Nalgene ultralite HDPE bottle in your arsenal or maybe the 1.5l (48oz) bottle as your main water storage is not a bad option. Alternatively, you could skip bottles all together and just use a hydration pack, while I love hydration packs, I also enjoy the extra control you get with a bottle, but we can leave that for another discussion.

The COMPLEAT by Gerber Gear: lightweight camping, hiking, and cooking utensil set.

The COMPLEAT by Gerber Gear: lightweight camping, hiking, and cooking utensil set.