The Best Water Bottles for Runners

by Amanda Furrer, Morgan Petruny
·12 min read
Photo credit: Staff
Photo credit: Staff

Hydration is one of the most important, and easiest to neglect, aspects of training. But, new technologies that both regulate your beverage’s temperature and make using a bottle more convenient on-the-go can help keep you drinking before, during, or after a run. From easy-to-carry handhelds and flexible flasks to vacuum-sealed, insulated tumblers for keeping your post-run drink of choice (beer included) ice cold, these are the best bottles to help quench your thirst.

See five of our top picks below or keep scrolling for more bottles we love, plus buying tips and expert advice.


Handhelds, Tumblers, and More Reusable Options

Instead of grabbing a single-use plastic water bottle, there are tons of reusable options out there. Stainless steel, vacuum-walled tumblers keep liquids hot or cold, and are ideal for hydrating in between workouts. For long runs and days you hit the trails, handhelds and fuel belts make water accessible when there are no fountains on your route. Belts and hydration packs will keep your hands free, and many also offer additional pockets for gels and loops to hold a jacket. Portability is made easier with collapsible bottles that fold up small, stow away quickly, and use specialized locking valves to prevent leakage.

How We Tested

For every bottle and handheld, we noted characteristics from weight and volume to versatility and mouthfeel. We took into account runners who may prefer a pop-up top or a wide opening, and inspected interior scent and taste. In addition, we evaluated how easy each bottle is to use, carry, and clean. We also performed a cold temperature test on several of the insulated tumblers. We filled the bottles with 10 ice cubes, topped them off with water to the brim, and measured their initial temperatures. Over the next 24 hours, we took readings at regular intervals, shaking the bottles prior to each measurement to ensure that the water temperature was consistent throughout.

We followed up with a leak test, in which we added dye to each of the bottles, screwed the lids tightly shut, and then wrapped them in white paper towels secured by a rubber band. We then placed them in ziplock bags and shook, rolled, jostled, suspended them upside down, and laid them on their sides for 24 hours. We’ve included our findings in the summaries for each bottle below.

Handhelds and Pouches

—LIGHT AND COLLAPSIBLE—

Nathan ExoShot 2.0

Volume: 14 oz. | Use: Cold Liquids

This collapsible bottle has a comfy hand strap for grip-free running. The sleeve has a slim pocket to store gummies or gels, which makes the ExoShot ideal for marathon training or trail runs. “The bottle was easy to fill, and the cap screwed on securely,” said our tester, Erin, who took the bottle out on a hilly five-mile run. “After two miles of running with a full bottle, I forgot that I was carrying it. The bite valve was also simple to use.”

Read Review

—MOST STORAGE SPACE—

Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated

Volume: 18 oz. | Use: Cold Liquids Only

One issue some runners have with plastic handhelds is that they tend to get slippery with sweat and spillage—no matter how taut the strap is around your hand. The SpeedDraw resolves this problem with a rubber backing and textured plastic on the sides so the bottle won’t slide around, and you won’t need to run with a clenched fist. “Every feature of the bottle is designed with comfort and function in mind,” said our photo editor Kristen Parker. “The hand strap is made of a soft fabric and is adjustable to create a snug fit for different sizes. Even though the bottle is made of a harder plastic, it still feels soft and flexible and squeezes easily in your hand.”

Read Review

—SECURE GRIP—

Amphipod Hydraform Ergo Minimalist

Volumes: 16, 20 oz. | Use: Cold Liquids Only

Testers loved Amphipod’s handheld for its ergonomic shape. The adjustable hand strap is so soft and comfy, the Hydraform Ergo Minimalist essentially becomes a part of your hand. One tester commented how she even forgot she was holding it as she ran. The hand strap also has two easy-access gel holders. A self-sealing valve on the Jett-Lock cap allows you to squeeze the bottle, releasing as much water as you need.

Read Review

—MOST AFFORDABLE—

Hydrapak SoftFlask

Volumes: 17, 27 oz. | Use: Cold Liquids Only

Our video producer and resident ultrarunner Pat Heine knows a thing or two about hydration out on the trails. He tested the SoftFlask’s high-flow bite valve, which quickly released water and sports drinks. The cap also twists to lock, but Pat found not a drop of liquid leaked when it was unlocked—no matter how hard he squeezed it. The Hydrapak flask has an integrated handle to help you hang on to the bottle while opening gels or adjusting a hat. “I found myself having to grip the bottle a bit more than I prefer,” said Pat, “but it’s not a dealbreaker since once you empty the bottle it’s practically weightless, and easily tucks into the waistband on a pair of shorts.”

—BEST FILTRATION—

Katadyn BeFree Collapsible

Volumes: 20, 34 oz. | Use: Cold Liquids Only

Filtering water in the backcountry can mean the difference between a great experience and a few days locked in the bathroom. The BeFree has a .01 micron microfilter, ensuring that you’ll be drinking safe water when you need it. The filter is built into the cap of the flask, so water is filtered as you drink it. When you find yourself rushing to the nearest creek for emergency water on that hotter-than-expected day, the large screw-top opening fills quickly so you can get moving again. Noticeably larger than most soft flasks, it won’t fit in the front pockets on most hydration packs when full. Its soft-flask construction allows it to collapse down to slightly larger than the size of the filter and cap to stash when you don’t need it. For anyone venturing out for a long day in the mountains, it’s a crucial piece of kit for real self-sufficiency.

Bottles and Tumblers

—MOST SIZES AND COLORS—

Takeya Actives

Volumes: 18, 22, 24, 32, 40, 64 oz. | Use: Hot and Cold Liquids

Takeya’s Actives bottle wasn’t exceptionally great during our temperature testing. After 24 hours, the water in the bottle rose from 38 to 59 degrees, leaving us with water that was just below room temp. However, it did perform well for the first eight hours with the temperature rising only four degrees; if you need a bottle to keep your water chilly for a full day at your desk—that also comes in a boatload of sizes and colors—you shouldn’t have a problem with the Actives. During testing we found that the twist cap is totally leakproof, and the hinge keeps its slim handle and lid securely positioned away from the spout while you drink, so it won’t flop down on your nose mid-sip. Plus, we like the removable silicone bumper around the base of the bottle, which helped prevented nicks and bumps on table surfaces when we couldn’t find a coaster. (Don’t worry, the bottle is still sweatproof, so it won’t leave a ring.) The only drawback was that the bumper would sometimes slide off the bottle’s base and get lodged in a car’s cupholder.

—MULTIPLE LID OPTIONS—

Klean Kanteen TKWide

Volumes: 12, 16, 20, 32, 64 oz. | Use: Hot and Cold Liquids

Short for “Thermal Kanteen,” the TK is a bottle we liked for its versatility for keeping drinks cold or hot with a slew of lid options that cater to whatever you’re guzzling. For instance, for keeping our Nuun and water chilly and slugging fast, we liked the chug cap. The cafe cap was our lid of choice for sipping on piping hot coffee. The only drawback was that the latter cap wasn’t completely leak-proof in our test. It should withstand sloshes and getting jostled around in your cupholder, but don’t throw it in your gym bag when it’s filled to the brim with a cup of morning joe. During our temp testing, we noted that Klean Kanteen edged out two of the most popular brands in the hydration game right now. After 24 hours, the TKWide kept our water three degrees and six degrees colder than the original Hydro Flask and Yeti Rambler, respectively.

—MOST DURABLE—

Yeti Rambler

Volumes: 12, 18, 26, 36, 46 oz. | Use: Hot and Cold Liquids*

If durability is a priority, go with the Rambler. A double-walled, vacuum-sealed stainless steel build and a shatterproof cap make this bottle one of the most rugged we’ve tested, withstanding repeated drops and multiple cycles through the dishwasher without an issue. We also liked that the entire lid unscrews to expose a wide mouth, so there’s no fussing with trying to squeeze ice cubes through the narrower spout opening. While the slimmer handle on the Takeya above didn’t feel especially flimsy, the handle on this Yeti is thick and hefty with a much sturdier feel in comparison. We’d recommend it for runners who will likely be roughing up their bottle a little more on the trails—or have a tendency to leave a full bottle rolling around under the passenger seat of the car.

*Not a drop spilled out from the Rambler’s chug cap during our leak test, but take note that it’s not designed for hot beverages. If you need a caffeine kick on the go, make sure it’s iced coffee.

—FASTEST FLOW RATE—

Bivo One

Volume: 21 oz. | Use: Cold Liquids Only

The Bivo is really designed for cyclists, but runners will dig it at the track or even just for post-run refreshment. It’s stainless inside, so you don’t get that yucky plastic taste, but silicone on the outside so it’s grippy. Pull up on the silicone nozzle and tip the bottle upside down for a fast slurp of water. The water gushes out really fast—you don’t have to squeeze the bottle or suck on the nozzle—which makes it perfect for grabbing in between reps or intervals when you’ve got only a quick second to slurp down what you can. Push the silicone nozzle back down to close it. The only drawbacks are that it’s not 100 percent leak-proof, and it’s not insulated.

—MOST COMPACT—

Que The Collapsible Bottle

Volume: 12, 20 oz. (fully expanded) | Use: Hot and Cold Liquids

“Normally, I have to arrange my workout essentials just so, or I struggle to zip the bag closed,” said test editor Adrienne Donica, “but the Que’s compact size—it’s less than 5 inches tall when collapsed—made it fit with no hassle.” Que’s bottle is made of 100 percent food-grade silicone, and has a set of grooves that snakes up the outside. These grooves allow the pliable silicone to fold in on itself. And when the Que is expanded, the grooves serve the dual purpose of providing a place for your fingers to grip the bottle securely.

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—BEST FOR PICKY SIPPERS—

OtterBox Elevation 20 Tumbler

Volume: 10, 16, 20 oz. | Use: Hot and Cold Liquids

An interchangeable lid (parts sold separately) allows fickle runners to switch between a shaker lid, straw lid, thermal lid, and more. The OtterBox tumbler is also virtually indestructible, which comes as no surprise since the brand is synonymous with phone protectors. “I’ve found with stainless steel bottles that the paint or decorative features can scratch easily or peel off,” said our tester, photo director Amy Wolff. “I’ll admit I’m clumsy, but despite my best efforts to scratch and destroy this bottle, I can’t.” Internal copper lining maintains temperature, and its bottom fits most cup holders—perfect when you need that extra kick of java on your drive to a trailhead.

Read Review

—BEST UPDATE—

Hydro Flask Trail Series

Volume: 21 oz. | Use: Hot and Cold Liquids

Hydro Flask’s original Growler won the hearts of many runners and beer lovers, like our director of special projects Kit Fox, for its ability to keep both water and frosty brews chilled postrun. This newest option from the brand uses the similar tech that Kit loved in the Growler model, but makes it significantly lighter for carrying around in your pack on the trails. Plus, we found in our temperature test that this new model also keeps water a bit colder for a longer time. After 24 hours, the water temperature of the Trail series bottle was two degrees cooler than that of the original model. It’s not a lot, but it can make the difference for preserving a couple ice cubes to crunch postrun.

—BEST INSULATION—

Avana Ashbury

Volumes: 18, 24 oz. | Use: Hot and Cold Liquids

The Avana wowed us in testing with its ability to keep our water cool, thanks to its triple-walled (not double) insulation. After 10 hours, that extra insulating layer helped keep our water just as cold as when we filled up the bottle. In fact, after 24 hours in a 70-degree room, the water warmed a mere total of seven degrees, making it the top performer of all the insulated models we tested. As sleek as it is functional, the Ashbury uses a specially designed mouthpiece and straw so you can tilt the bottle and swig, or simply sip from it without lifting a finger. The fully leakproof lid is topped off with a flexible easy-carry loop, which we found surprisingly durable despite its slim appearance. Plus, each Avana bottle supports clean water initiatives around the world, and comes with a unique donation code so you can track in real-time which projects you’re helping.

—EXTRA STORAGE COMPARTMENT—

Bindle Bottle

Volume: 20, 24 oz. | Use: Hot and Cold Liquids

Hydration is important—as is having a designated place to store your keys, cash, and post-run fuel. If you find yourself rifling through your bag looking for your house key after a run, or perhaps often find someone tapping your shoulder at the gym asking, “Excuse me, is this your membership card and key ring?” as you sip from a no-frills bottle, then the Bindle will save you time, give you peace of mind, and quench your thirst. The rotund, vacuum-walled bottle stores ice-cold water and has a bottom compartment with room enough to store apartment and car keys, a small tub of Vaseline, a debit card, and earbuds.

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