Water Bottles


Boring review of every type of water bottle I have seen in canyons. I haven't tried everything, but I have seen all of these succeed or fail.

Cheap disposable water bottles

If you see someone with a water bottle like this, it usually means they are brand new to canyoneering and don't know what they are doing yet.

Theoretically these should be good water bottles. They are lightweight and can fit in the corners of a backpack where other things might not. Unfortunately they are quite flimsy and I can't trust them to survive in more than one or two canyons. They also can't hold a lot of water. The water bottles I used in my first few canyons, for example, held 16 oz each. To get a full gallon for a long day I would have needed 8 of those bottles.

Water bladders

Some people love Camelbak-style water bladders and some people have used them for more than five minutes. Just kidding - some people have success with them. For the right canyon they can be perfectly fine.

Let's start with the good things because it'll be quick. The key advantage with water bladders are that the water is easily accessible without taking off your backpack. And when empty they take up almost no space. And they're pretty light for the amount of water they hold. That's it - thus endeth the good.

Now the bad. Deep breath. They break easily and the bite values always seem to leak or go missing. Also if your pack is full the pressure can push the water out.

It's difficult to know how much water is in the bladder just by looking at it so it's tougher to know how much you have drank versus how much you have left. After swimming through nasty, smelly water, I always hesitate to drink from them because I don't know how much of the nasty mixed with the clean. You also have to have a compatible pack - many packs are compatible but not all of them.

If the canyon has a long approach, never gets skinny, and doesn't have gross swims, and you don't stuff your pack too full, it should be fine. Behunin comes to mind.

Platypus water bags

These bags combine all the disadvantages of disposable water bottles with all the disadvantages of a water bladder. For the year or so after they were released, I would actually pick up broken ones dropped in canyons almost as often as disposable water bottles. I know only one person who bought them specifically to test them for canyoneering. They didn't last one canyon. Avoid.

Nalgene bottles

I brought these with me for a long time not knowing how terrible they were. Then I still brought them for a long time knowing how terrible they are: heavy, prone to shattering when dropped, and expensive. One skilled canyoneer says they are the greatest scam in mountaineering. Gatorade/Powerade bottles are superior in all but a few ways.

The good qualities they have are they come with a loop so it's easy to clip them to the outside of your pack or hook your finger around it when carrying it. The ones with a wide opening are slightly easier to pour water into. They are also easier to stir the contents with a spoon for the zero times you will ever do that.

Disposable sports drink bottles

Most water containers follow the "lighter implies flimsy, heavy implies tough" rule. Disposable sports drink bottles, specifically the one liter Gatorade and Powerade bottles, offer a great balance of toughness and light weight. They are the best choice I have found for canyoneering.

The advantages are they are significantly lighter than comparably tough containers such as Nalgene. They are significantly less expensive as well. If you drop it it will bounce rather than crack like a Nalgene bottle.

Ready for the drawbacks? They don't have a loop so it can be harder to carry it while hiking. They always come with a wrapper that will inevitably peel off while leaving the sticky glue behind. Warm water and a little scrubbing will wash that off, btw.

Of all the disposable sports drink bottles my favorite is the Strawberry Lemonade Powerade bottle. Then the Watermelon Strawberry Wave bottle. I don't like their Blue Raspberry Cherry bottle. I prefer the shape of Powerade bottles over the Gatorade bottles because they are skinnier and seem to fit better in the nooks and crannies of a full pack.

Oh, and to fix the "no loop" drawback I created a little loop using 3mm nylon accessory cord. It cinches tightly on the bottle and allows me to hold it or clip it to the front of my pack. There's a picture of it at the top of the page. Haven't quite figured out a good enough set of knots to be perfectly happy but it's way better in every way than a Nalgene bottle.

One last drawback is that Powerade recently redesigned their bottles and they now only hold 28 ounces instead of 32. Super annoying. Watch for it and don't accidentally think you have more water than you actually do.


Get the disposable sports drink bottles. Or do whatever. I won't judge you unless you have those terrible Platypus bags.

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