Fred’s at Coachella right now, so odds are he’s very thirsty. That got me thinking about hydration and water bottles, in general, and how most of the solutions to one of the most basic human problems of quenching thirst suck.
Most water bottles are about as elegant as a concrete block. They’re hard, they take up a lot of space, they start to stink after a while and make water taste bad, thereby inherently making them bad at doing their sole job. I imagine most cavemen had the exact same problems with their water-carrying devices.
Can’t we find a better solution?
The Problem With Hard Water Bottles
I’ve tried to use Nalgene-style water bottles a few times in my life, but I’ve always been excessively disappointed from a utility standpoint alone. Let’s be honest: they’re less than ideal to drink from. The size of the opening is simply too big for a bottle that large. Unless I’m enjoying the great outdoors on a hot day, I have zero interest in pouring water all over my chest.
Hard water bottles take up a fixed amount of space. When they’re empty, they don’t become any smaller. Should we take it for granted that a water bottle should take up a fixed amount of volume in our precious luggage space?
And what to do with the bottle when it’s not being stored in luggage but you’re not actually drinking? Am I supposed to carry it in my hand? And, yes, I know I can clip a water bottle to my belt with a carabiner. But who doesn’t hate that thump-thump-thump with every step against their leg?
There have also been safety concerns with Nalgene. I don’t know if the concerns have any merit, but I choose to stay away.
Lower quality plastic water bottles are even worse than Nalgene. They oftentimes start to stink and make water taste bad after just a few uses. I have no patience for products that are bad at doing the only job they’re designed to do.
CamelBak and Their Brethren: Close but No Cigar
CamelBaks and other similar “hydration systems” are a great solution in some settings. They’re clearly designed for outdoor activities like biking and hiking, and I think they’re perfect for those activities.
If I were walking across Europe, I’d definitely want a CamelBak. Couldn’t beat it.
But not for most traveling or in every day life. In my humble opinion, CamelBaks are less than ideal for most people that are traveling. Drinking tubes seem best suited for babies and astronauts. I don’t want to be sipping from a CamelBak at the Louvre.
As For Disposable Water Bottles… Duh
For honesty’s sake, I’ll admit that I’m not obsessed with environmentalism. But I am very conscientious of it. I certainly don’t want to go out of my way to hurt the planet.
And, frankly, I feel that chronic use of disposable plastic water bottles is about as bad as it gets. I have no problem with occasionally buying a bottle of water, but no one should be drinking and throwing away five a day. Yet plenty of people do. It’s too much garbage to solve a simple problem.
More importantly, tap water is one of the greatest resources of the modern world. It’s close to free, it’s perfectly safe, and it tastes just as good as most bottled water.
Simply put, it’s wasteful and expensive to drink bottled water. I don’t like it. I don’t endorse. It’s a primitive, inelegant solution.
The Best Solution I’ve Found
When I was in Park City for Sundance this year, I got a 0.5 L Vapur Anti-Bottle in a swag bag. I was immediately taken by it. First, it’s pretty to look it. My bottle is an attractive purple with a slightly abstract white print of the map of the world. It’s understated and nice.
But even aside from the design, I realized it was a genius solution as soon as I saw it. Just looking at it, it’s obvious what the Vapur does and how it works. And because you get really thirsty in the dry, mountain air, I was extra-eager to give it a try.
Vapur’s Anti-Bottle is roughly 8.5 inches long with a 2-inch hard plastic drinking spout at one end. When fully extended, it’s less than a foot long and exactly as wide as an iPhone is long. When it’s empty and free of air, you can fold it to about the size of a small wallet. The body of the bottle is a durable, flexible plastic. There’s a small carabiner at the top of the Anti-Bottle near the spout to allow you to hang the bottle where you want.
I loved the Vapur. Its small mouth was great to drink from (similar to the mouth of a disposable plastic bottle). When it was full, I used it’s carabiner to hang it from the leather belt around my jeans. When it was empty, I stored it in a pocket on my NorthFace shell, and I never knew it was there. I’ve had no problem with its durability.
The damn thing just worked. I was jealous I hadn’t thought of it.
I’d compare the Vapur Anti-Bottle to the magnetic iPad Smart Cover. The solution is so very simple, obvious, and elegant that only a genius could think of it.
The Vapur also cleans easily with soap and water. Mine doesn’t smell bad yet. I still drink from it.
However, since a Vapur is only $10, they’re also readily replaceable. It seems reasonable that someone who consistently uses a Vapur would go through about two per year. That’s a whole a hell of a lot better than throwing out a disposable plastic water bottle every day.
Vapur also has a new Anti-Bottle which I haven’t yet tried. It’s called the Element, and it’s slightly larger and designed to be more durable. Best of all, it’s only $2 more expensive. Outdoor enthusiasts and those traveling to very dry climates might want to give the Element a try.
The Vapur Anti-Bottle is the best solution for how to carry water on the road that I’ve ever found. They’ve managed to elegantly solve a problem humans have had since we were cavemen. For that, I thank and applaud Vapur.
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