Leakproof and Lovely: We Tested 12 Water Bottles to Find the Best Ones for Staying Hydrated

We sipped from and toted 12 water bottles to find the five that were truly portable, durable, leakproof, and easy to drink from.

water bottles laying on a green surface
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Water is so hot right now (or, should we say, cold?). There's a TikTok channel (aptly named 'watertok') that covers, well, all things water. Water sommeliers even exist and will collect and recommend luxury bottles of—you guessed it—water. 

With this water fandom comes a whole lotta bottles and tumblers to sip your H2O. To find the best ones, We tested 12 water bottles between 18 and 40 ounces and in a variety of materials (plastic, stainless steel, glass). We wanted a bottle that was portable, versatile, easy to drink from, and leakproof. In the end, five bottles (including two tumblers) met our standards. 

The Winners, at a Glance

This lightweight water bottle is brilliantly engineered with two sipping options: a straw and a chug spout, so you can slurp or gulp. But even though there are two ways for water to escape, the tight-fitting lid made the bottle super leakproof. It also has excellent cold retention. 

This popular stainless-steel water bottle was easy to sip from, and it kept water chilled for a long time. We liked its slim profile, too, which made it nicely portable.  

While it won’t keep water chilled, this plastic, budget-friendly option from Nalgene is still a great water bottle. The lid is secure and leakproof, so you can toss it in a purse or backpack.  

With a sleek form and large capacity, this tumbler wowed us from the get-go (it was our overall top pick when we tested insulated tumblers). Beyond aesthetics and practicality, it also kept water cold for a very long time and, surprisingly for a tumbler, was leakproof. Plus, it’s only $30. 

While it holds 40 ounces of water, the (infamous) Stanley tumbler is still lightweight enough to tote around comfortably. It sports a sturdy straw that is easy to sip from, and the tapered base fits easily into a car’s cup holder. 

The Tests

using a thermapen to take the temperature of a water bottle
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly
  • Usability Tests: We evaluated how easy each water bottle was to fill with ice and water, and sipped water from each water bottle at least 25 times. We also brought them with us in the car to assess their portability and how they fit into cup holders.
  • Spill Test: We filled each water bottle with water and knocked it over five times onto a paper towel-lined surface to see if it leaked.
  • Cold Retention Test: We filled each water bottle with 100 grams of ice and 300 grams of chilled water and checked the temperature with an instant-read thermometer every hour for 12 hours and then again at 24 hours. 
  • Cleanup Tests: We hand-washed each water bottle with a bottle brush and soapy water, noting how easy or difficult it was to do so. We also ran the dishwasher-safe bottles and parts through the dishwasher and checked for damage afterward.
  • Durability Test: We dropped each water bottle five times onto the pavement to examine durability.

What We Learned

Straws Made for the Smoothest Sipping Experience

a closeup of the stanley tumbler straw and lid
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Straws, screw-tops, chug spouts—the water bottles we tested had a myriad of lid and mouthpiece designs. But out of all the sipping methods, we preferred straws (this matches what we found in our stainless steel water bottle review); they were easy to sip from and, in the case of internal straws, like in the Owala Free Sip and Hydro Flask, they helped channel the water up into the sipping port without having to tilt the bottle. While we also liked the straws on the tumblers we tested, most (save for the watertight ones like the Simple Modern) did leak when knocked over, so that's something to keep in mind.

Stainless Steel was Best for Cold Retention

A hang adding ice to a stainless steel water bottle
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

To test cold retention, we filled each bottle with 100 grams of ice and 300 grams of water chilled to 53°F, and checked the temperature every hour for 12 hours, then again at 24 hours. Water in the plastic bottles warmed up faster, as to be expected since plastic doesn’t have as much thermal mass as insulated stainless steel. The ice completely melted in all the bottles around the 12-hour mark, but the water in the stainless-steel bottles was still cold, averaging 59°F. If you’re the type who likes a brisk sip of cold water, a stainless bottle is the way to go.  

Lightweight, Smaller Bottles Were More Portable

Water bottles with base diameters between two-and-a-half and three inches, like on the Owala FreeSip, Stanley Quencher, and Hydro Flask, fit nicely into cup holders, making them great for car ride sipping. And if you're on the go, lighter and more compact bottles, like the Nalgene and Purist, are practically made for tossing into a backpack or tote (bonus: they’re leakproof).

Conversely, the Yeti Rambler was just a little bit too big to be super portable; it had a 3.25-inch wide base (just a smidge too big to fit into a cupholder) and weighed one pound, four ounces empty (that’s six ounces more than the Owala FreeSip). 

So, in the end, while it depends on how and when you use your water bottle, the lighter, smaller bottles are a good bet for active water sippers, while the tumblers are great if you’re driving and want to sip water like you would an iced coffee. 

Dings and Dents Weren’t a Big Deal 

bottom of the owala bottle with a dent in it
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

A lightweight, stainless steel water bottle is going to ding and dent when dropped; while it’s the sad reality, the good news is the damage is merely cosmetic. The Hydro Flask was especially susceptible, sporting new marks after each drop, though you can buy a silicone boot to add a protective layer. The plastic bottles ended up with a few scratches, but it was the one glass bottle we tested from Takeya that suffered irreparable damage—it shattered on the fifth drop, even though it claims to be shatterproof (eek!).

Leaks Were Minimal

Most of the water bottles we tested were surprisingly leakproof, especially any that had internal straws or covered lids. As to be expected, the majority of the tumbler-style bottles, like the Stanley Quencher, leaked a little bit of water. The Simple Modern tumbler was an outlier in this—it didn’t leak at all, thanks to a silicone lining around the straw—making it a great choice if you’re prone to knocking things over but want a water tumbler. 

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Water Bottle

a closeup of the owala water bottle mouthpiece
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

The best water bottles are easy to sip from and convenient to carry around. Bottle bases that fit into cupholders were a bonus, as were bottles that were light and compact enough to fit into a backpack or tote bag. If you’re looking for a standard water bottle, we liked options with internal straws with the spout covered by a lid; they were easy to sip from and the lids prevented leaks. If you’ve jumped on the tumbler train, we liked ones that were easy to grab and go, and that had sturdy straws that were easy to sip from. 

The Best Water Bottles

What we liked:  This compact water bottle won points for its portability and watertight seal—it’s the kind of bottle you can throw into a purse or backpack and be on your way. It sports a straw and chugging mouthpiece, so you can either take a sip through the hole attached to the straw or chug through the wider mouthpiece. And if you’re the type who prefers a nice, tall, chilly glass of water, this bottle kept water under 62°F for 24 hours in our tests.  

What we didn’t like: The bottom did ding during the durability test, but a rubber bottle boot can help protect the finish. 

Key Specs

  • Volume: 24 fluid ounces
  • Materials: Stainless steel, plastic
  • Base diameter: 3 inches
  • Height: 10.75 inches
  • Weight: 13.7 ounces
  • Sipping style: Straw and chug
  • Dishwasher-safe: Yes, but it’s recommended to handwash the cup to preserve the finish 
owala water bottle
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

What we liked: A winner in our prior testing as well, the Hydro Flask is a no-frills water bottle that does a solid job on all counts. We liked the slim form, which made it ultra-portable. Its cap had a built-in straw that was easy to drink from and its wide mouth made it a cinch to fill.

What we didn’t like: It’s expensive and dinged up fairly easily—but the good news is you can buy a removable, silicone boot to protect it (and the dings are cosmetic only).  The only other qualm we had is that if the sipping spout is left up, it will dribble when tilted, so if you’re tossing it into a backpack, make sure the spout is pushed down first. 

Key Specs

  • Volume: 24 fluid ounces
  • Materials: Stainless steel, plastic
  • Base diameter: 2.85 inches
  • Height: 12.55 inches
  • Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Sipping style: Straw 
  • Dishwasher-safe: Yes; straw and lid top rack only 
hydro flask water bottle on blue green backdrop
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

What we liked: This plastic bottle was the lightest of the lot, which counts loads if you’re active and want water at the ready at all times. The simple, narrow spout stayed clean and was easy to sip from.

What we didn’t like: The bottle didn’t maintain the temperature of the chilled water for long at all, quickly climbing up to room temperature. The clasp to lock the lid was a little flimsy and it allowed the lid to pop open after a drop. 

Key Specs

  • Volume: 24 fluid ounces
  • Materials: Plastic
  • Base diameter: 3 inches
  • Height: 9.5 inches
  • Weight: 4.6 ounces
  • Sipping style: Sipping port (no straw)
  • Dishwasher-safe: Yes
pink nalgene water bottle with the lid open on a blue green surface
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

What we liked: At $30, this tumbler gives you a lot of bang for your buck. Not only was it surprisingly leakproof, but it also kept water under 45°F for 16 hours (not many tumblers can boast a feat such as this!). The handle was ergonomic, too,  and it comes in an array of pretty monochrome colors. 

What we didn’t like: The lid was a little bit difficult to screw on, since it’s quite thin.

Key Specs

  • Volume: 40 ounces
  • Materials: Stainless steel
  • Weight: 1 pound
  • Fits in a car cup holder: Yes
  • Sipping style: Straw
  • Dishwasher-safe: Yes
An orange insulated tumbler on a countertop.
Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

What we liked:  While we kind of wanted to roll our eyes at this trendy behemoth, we wound up liking the Stanley. The sturdy external straw made it easy to drink from, and the handle had a rubbery grip, making it easy to carry. While this is a big tumbler, it does have a smaller base that fits snugly into a cup holder. 

What we didn’t like: This tumbler does leak, so you can’t toss it into a purse or backpack. While bigger than most standard water bottles, it’s actually on the slimmer side compared to other tumblers.

Key Specs

  • Volume: 30 fluid ounces
  • Materials: Stainless steel
  • Base diameter: 3.15 inches
  • Height: 10.8 inches
  • Weight: 17.6 ounces
  • Sipping style: Straw 
  • Dishwasher-safe: Yes
a green stanley tumbler on a blue green surface
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

The Competition

  • Yeti Rambler: While it was durable and had good cold retention, this bottle was just too big and bulky to tote around. 
  • Yeti Yonder with Tether Cap: We liked the lightweight, leakproof nature of this bottle, we just didn’t love the lid. The way it’s set up—with the chug spout covered by a twist cap, set on top of the screw-on lid—makes it easy to accidentally unscrew the whole lid and douse yourself with water.
  • Stanley the Quick Flip Go Bottle: This water bottle was heavy and the lid had a flimsy locking mechanism we didn’t trust not to leak if tossed into a bag. The thin metal handle was uncomfortable to hold, too. 
  • Thermos Hydration Bottle: The long sipping spout was easy to drink from, but the covered lid had a flimsy button. 
  • CamelBackEddy+Water Bottler with Tritan Renew: To drink from CamelBack’s rubber spout, you had to squeeze it open with your teeth—this was unpleasant, to say the least.  
  • Takeya SURE-GRIP Glass Water Bottle: This water bottle was the only one we tested made out of glass, and it didn’t survive the durability test, shattering after the fifth drop.
  • Purist Collective Mover: While sleek, this bottle was wide and slippery. The rubbery lid cover was also hard to pop open.

FAQs

What is the difference between a water bottle and an insulated tumbler?

A standard water bottle usually has a lid, but beyond that, they can differ widely. Some water bottles we tested had chug spouts, while others had internal straws attached to an exterior sipping port. Some have all-encapsulating lids, while others feature one lid with a sipping port that folds in and out. Material can also vary greatly; we tested bottles made of stainless steel, glass, and plastic. Insulated tumblers, on the other hand, are more standardized; they’re often made of stainless steel, sport a straw that pokes out through the lid, and feature a large handle for toting. 

Which is better: a water bottle or insulated tumbler?

Neither is better, per se, but each has pros and cons. As mentioned above, water bottles can vary greatly, so we recommend looking for one that suits your needs. We liked bottles with internal straws that attached to a sipping port since they made drinking water easy and mess-free. We also liked bottles with sturdy lids that won’t pop open unbidden or leak when tossed into a bag. Tumblers often do leak, on the other hand, and are meant to be sipped from like you would an iced coffee. They are oftentimes larger than a standard water bottle, though most sport slim bases and fit into cupholders easily. 

Can water bottles keep water chilled?

In our tests, we found that stainless steel water bottles kept water chilled the longest, while plastic performed the worst in this realm. 

Is Yeti or Hydroflask better?

Both have their pros and cons, though in this review, we preferred the Hydroflask 24-ounce Wide Mouth with Flex Straw Lid over the Yeti bottles tested.  

Why We’re the Experts

  • Helen I. Hwang is a freelance writer for Serious Eats.
  • She holds a mechanical engineering degree and worked at food companies for seven years.
  • She has written for The New York Times for Kids, Parents, Eater San Diego, and other outlets.
  • Grace Kelly is a commerce editor at Serious Eats. 
  • She is passionate about reusable water bottles and carries one with her at all times (she likes to think she was on the hydration trend before it was a trend). She also wrote Serious Eats' review of stainless steel water bottles.
  • She has written dozens of reviews for Serious Eats, including wine openers and boxed chocolates.
  • For this review, we tested 12 reusable stainless steel, plastic, and glass water bottles. We examined them for leaks, durability, and usability (how convenient they were to fill with water and ice, sip from, and tote around). We also tested how well each bottle retained initial temperatures when filled with chilled water and ice.