The basic question here is plastic versus metal. Until recently, many bottles made from polycarbonate (PC) contained bisphenol-A (BPA), an additive now considered unsafe. Most manufacturers of PC bottles, including Nalgene, have since eliminated BPA. However, other additives may be used that haven't been fully tested yet. Because of this concern, some people prefer a metal bottle. Here, your choice is aluminum versus stainless steel. Aluminum bottles require a liner to prevent the metal from interacting with liquids in the bottle. This is generally a thin layer of plastic or resin and may raise its own safety issues. Stainless steel bottles don't need a liner but can impart a metallic taste to water left in them overnight. Look for "food grade" stainless steel.
Bottles are available in many sizes, so you should have no trouble finding one to meet your needs. Be sure to consider how you'll use the bottle (in a bike cage? side pocket of a backpack or tote?) and get one that fits. A wide mouth makes for easier filling, but narrow-mouthed bottles are less messy to drink from. Sport tops allow one-handed drinking, so are popular with cyclists and hikers. The Platy bottle is collapsible, and takes up very little space when empty.
Some manufacturers offer a variety of top styles, as well as replacements. Carabiners or clips are useful to attach your bottle to a pack, belt, or strap. Several companies offer insulated bottle holders as well. Splash guards reduce the risk of spilling when drinking from a wide-mouth bottle.
Use and Care
Reusable bottles should not be used for hot liquids unless specifically intended for that purpose. Chemicals may leach out of plastics when heated. Heat may damage the liner of aluminum bottles. And the outer surface of non-insulated bottles may get hot and cause burns. Most bottles can safely handle juices, sodas, iced tea or coffee, and energy and sports drinks as well as water.
Some producers say their bottles are dishwasher-safe, while others recommend hand-washing with hot water and gentle detergent. A soft brush should be used on aluminum bottles to avoid damage to the liner. Cleaning brushes and tablets are available from some manufacturers.
Article Written By Peggy Hansen
Peggy Hansen holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from UC San Diego, Doctor of Medicine from UCLA, and completed postgraduate training at Stanford, Duke and Harvard. An award-winning writer and photographer, her work has been featured in Catnip, Herbalgram, Porter Gulch Review, and many online pieces. She's also a commentator for KQED-FM