As a frequent traveler and avid exerciser, I’m often on the go — and often thirsty. This makes having a stylish and functional reusable water bottle a must-have accessory that’s nearly as important as any other item in my bag.
Reusable water bottles are also, of course, a must for the sake of our environment. In the U.S., we purchase about 50 billion plastic water bottles per year. And we only recycle about 23% of plastic bottles we use — the rest end up in landfills. By using a refillable bottle, I can rest easy knowing I’m doing my (small) part to help reduce plastic waste.
After testing out various water bottles over the years, I’ve become somewhat of a discerning drinker. I’ve fallen in love with several brands of water bottles — the stylish ones that keep my water cold for hours (even in hot yoga!) and offer features I didn’t even know I needed.
The only major downside: The containers come at a price. These bottles aren’t cheap ― some of them can cost upward of $50 depending on size and style ― which makes many of us rightfully pause before dropping cash on them.
Are they truly worth it? What exactly makes them “perform” better than the $10 to $15 bottles next to them on store shelves? To find out, I went to the experts — the designers behind some of the more well-known water bottle brands. Here’s what makes a “fancy” water bottle so, well, fancy:
Double-walled (or triple-walled) vacuum insulation
High-end brands like Hydro Flask, Stanley and S’well feature vacuum-insulated stainless steel. Translation: This design ensures your water will stay cold for hours — up to 24 hours, according to some brands ― and if you put a hot liquid in it, it’ll stay that way for up to 12 hours.
Plus, the high-grade stainless steel material used is basically unbreakable, it doesn’t impart weird flavors to the water, and it doesn’t allow condensation to form on the outside of the bottle. In other words, “the difference between a single-wall plastic bottle and vacuum-insulated steel is extreme,” Eric Shear, global vice president of Stanley, told HuffPost.
Although it may sound high-tech, the concept of double-wall vacuum insulation has actually been around for over 125 years, added Scott Allan, general manager of Hydro Flask.
“The basic idea is a bottle inside a bottle, joined at the neck. The air in between the two walls is removed, creating a near-vacuum, which helps to reduce temperature transfer and allows the contents of the bottle to remain at its original temperature for much longer,” he explained.
The production process
Crafting a high-quality water bottle is more intensive than you might think. At S’well, for example, creating the product, “includes both art and science, and involves a complicated manufacturing process with more than 70 steps,” said Sarah Kauss, CEO and founder of S’well.
Some companies use specially tailored tools unique to the brand in order to create their specific product. Hydro Flask invented a unique way to apply vacuum insulation and uses its own dedicated ovens to ensure stringent control and consistency over the entire production process.
All of this, of course, costs a company more money than using a standard machine. Therefore, the product’s price will likely be higher.
Specialized design details
If you’ve ever accidentally dumped a water bottle into a purse or backpack, you’ll appreciate the carefully designed lids on these higher-end bottles. The caps and lids on these bottles are designed to be the most leakproof, while still easy to open.
Other features ― like handles or caps made with certain coatings that make the bottles easy to carry or grip ― are also coveted parts of a higher-end bottle. And that’s not to mention the cute colors, patterns and even personalization that many brands offer. (A bit more on that below.)
Free of harmful chemicals
You’ll notice that high-end brands are BPA-free. BPA, or bisphenol A, is an industrial chemical in polycarbonate plastics, which is often used in plastic water bottles and other consumer goods, according to the Mayo Clinic. Research suggests BPA may pose certain health risks to the brain and prostate glands of fetuses, infants and children, while other studies point to a possible link between BPA and increased blood pressure.
Yes, they’re trendy, too
Finally, let’s be real: You’re also paying a small premium for brand names; even something as simple as a water bottle has somehow transformed into a status symbol in our wellness-crazed society. Plus, brand-name water bottles often have more pleasing aesthetics than cheaper ones, so you’re also paying for the alignment of a water bottle with your sense of style, Shear said.
So, you don’t have to buy a high-quality bottle for $50. As long as you’re drinking enough H2O and doing a small part to save the planet, that’s really all that matters.
If you are looking for a new bottle, we’ve rounded up a few at different price points below. They all do the most important main job ― keeping you hydrated.
HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Prices and availability subject to change.