Before you buy a water bottle

The best water bottle for you will depend on how you plan to use it. Metal water bottles are great for commuting, hiking or everyday use, but they can be hard to handle for most athletic activities. Plastic bottles, especially squeezable ones, are the easiest to use for sports. Many consumers choose a filter bottle for travel or use with public water sources where fresh-tasting water may not be the norm. If you can afford it, it may be worthwhile to get more than one type of bottle to suit your different needs. When you start shopping, experts recommend keeping the following in mind:

  • Metal vs. plastic: Which to choose? BPA-free plastic bottles are lighter and less prone to dents than metal. Still, users like the look of metal bottles, which come in a wider range of styles and colors.
  • If you like to add ice, make sure the mouth is wide enough. Wide-mouth bottles are also easier to clean but are harder to drink from and can spill more easily; some include a straw. Cyclists usually use valve mouths because they make it easier to drink while riding. Most manufacturers make accessory caps in various styles.
  • Some water bottles are too wide for cup holders or bike cages. Several online reviewers are disappointed that the bottle they purchased doesn't fit in their car's cup holder or in the bottle cage on their bicycle. If you want your bottle to fit, check the measurements before you buy. Most if not all manufacturers include measurement information on their websites; it's usually in the FAQ section if it's not listed in the product description.
  • Some water bottles should be washed by hand. Most bottles are dishwasher-safe (on the top rack), but others should be washed by hand. Sigg recommends hand-washing its bottles since the narrow opening may prevent the interior from getting clean in a dishwasher.
  • An insulation sleeve may be necessary for a metal water bottle if you want to keep water cold for a long period, or if condensation on the outside makes the bottle hard to handle. If you plan to frequently use your bottle for hot or very cold beverages, you may want to purchase a double-walled insulated bottle.
  • Water bottles may not be recyclable. Metal water bottles from Sigg and Klean Kanteen are widely recyclable. Plastic bottles marked with a No. 7 aren't accepted for recycling in most municipalities, but some manufacturers (like Kor) will recycle your bottle for you.

Is my water bottle BPA-free?

Though many new water bottles are BPA-free, it pays to know if your older bottle is made from polycarbonate (which contains bisphenol A). Most plastic containers are marked with a number inside a triangle with arrows. Ranging from No. 1 to No. 7, these numbers are called the resin identification coding system and identify the type of plastic from which the container is made. No. 7 means the container is made with a resin that isn't in categories No. 1 through No. 6, or is made from a combination of resins.

Polycarbonate is coded with No. 7 or the letters PC, notes ConsumerReports.com, but other plastics that don't contain BPA may also be labeled No. 7. In fact, the new Eastman Tritan copolyester, which doesn't contain BPA, is a No. 7. An article by Tara Parker-Pope in The New York Times adds that if the plastic is "soft and pliable, it's probably not made with BPA." Plastic with BPA is typically rigid and transparent. TheGreenGuide.com notes that plastic containers marked No. 2 (high-density polyethylene), No. 4 (low-density polyethylene) or No. 5 (polypropylene) are currently considered to be safe alternatives.

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