Buying a new stainless steel bottle for hiking is as easy as it gets – you just go to an outdoor gear store and buy the one you like. However, this is definitely something you shouldn’t do. In my experience, it’s a recipe for disaster and a sure way to end up with an unreliable bottle that simply won’t suit your needs.
When shopping for trekking drinkware, you really want to stick with the well-known names. Bottles made by no-name brands almost always have poor performance and are extremely prone to dents and leaks. Go with the popular brands – such as Hydro Flask or RTIC – and you certainly won’t regret your decision.
However, even if you did decide to get a reusable bottle made by one of these two companies, you’re probably still wondering which one of these two brands is better, and that’s probably why you’re reading this article in the first place.
If so, I’ve got you covered. I’ll be comparing two popular trekking flasks made by these two companies – and their products in general – in order to help you make a decision and get yourself a suitable stainless steel bottle for your outdoor adventures.
The Best Hydro Flask Stainless Steel Bottle
It goes without saying, but the reusable water bottles made by Hydro Flask are well-known to all outdoor enthusiasts. Due to their construction quality and fantastic performance, these bottles are held in high regard by professional mountaineers and casual trekkers alike.
In other words, HF’s products tick off all the boxes. Not only do they sport a minimalistic and therefore very practical design, but they also effortlessly keep drinks hot or cold for hours and hours on end. What is more, they are available in exceptionally stylish colors, which makes them quite popular among younger people.
The only major disadvantage of Hydro Flask bottles is their price. This brand is not the best choice for hiking enthusiasts looking to save some money, although I should point out that it is possible to find this brand’s products on sale and at good prices. In any case, the sheer quality of these bottles definitely justifies their prices.
Hydro Flask Flex Cap Insulated Bottle
- Insulation: TempShield
- Weight: 15.2 oz
- Available colors: 12
- Available sizes: 4
Available in a few different sizes and 12 vibrant colors, this particular model is one of the company’s best-sellers and one of the best stainless steel bottles overall. The main materials used in its manufacture are BPA-free plastic and 18/8 stainless steel, which makes this bottle both safe to use and very durable.
And, like all other Hydro Flask products, this model effortlessly maintains the temperature of cold and hot drinks with its TempShield insulation. With this model, you’ll never have to worry about your drink going cold/hot only a few hours after filling the bottle with it.
Other features worth mentioning are the simple but easy-to-use Flex Cap, slip-free powder coating, limited lifetime warranty, as well as the fact that this bottle is dishwasher safe. The only downside of the bottle is the price. Generally, Hydro Flask bottles are pricey.
- Fantastic temperature regulation performance
- A minimalistic yet practical design
- Limited lifetime warranty
The Best RTIC Stainless Steel Bottle
The design of the drinkware made by RTIC is almost identical to that of the Hydro Flask. Just like HF’s bottles, RTIC bottles are also made out of durable stainless steel and come with insulation that successfully keeps cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot for hours on end.
If you’ve been shopping for a brand new reusable bottle for your outdoor adventures, you’ve almost certainly bumped into at least one RTIC bottle during your research. You’ve probably noticed that, despite their good build quality and convenient features, these bottles are quite inexpensive.
Obviously, this turns them into a tempting purchase. But do the lower price tags that accompany these bottles also mean that they’re not as good as the Hydro Flask ones are? To find an answer to that question, let’s take a closer look at one of RTIC’s best-selling models:
RTIC Sweat-Proof Insulated Bottle
- Insulation: Vacuum double-walled
- Weight: 18.4 oz
- Available colors: 28
- Available sizes: 5
There’s a lot to like about this inexpensive but sleek-looking hiking bottle. First of all, it is both durable and easy to clean due to its stainless steel construction. Secondly, it comes with a special, heavy-duty Lock-It-In lid that prevents leaks and helps the bottle maintain the temperature of the drink.
This is where we come to the only major disadvantage of this budget hiking bottle – screwing the cap on produces a sound that some may find to be very annoying. Otherwise, it is quite well-made and has a very practical design that turned it into a bestseller in the first place.
I should also point out that, just like the Hydro Flask bottle described above, this one also has an exterior that stays dry at all times. And finally, it is available in a lot more colors than its rival. It is a great Hydro Flask alternative.
- Good performance & build quality
- Sweat-free surface
- Low price
- Cap screwing is noisy
Hydro Flask vs RTIC – The Face-Off
The Best Features of Hydro Flask Bottles
Although a lot of (mostly inexperienced) trekkers buy Hydro Flask bottles because of their flashy looks, these products actually provide a phenomenal performance when it comes to temperature control. And that is, after all, why you should be buying yourself a stainless steel bottle in the first place.
Although very similar to regular double-walled vacuum insulation in construction, the TempShield insulation featured in Hydro Flask bottles does a great job of keeping hot beverages hot and cold drinks cold for a long time. The company claims that most of its drinkware can maintain the temperature of cold drinks for 24 hours and of hot drinks for 12 hours.
In reality, however, most of Hydro Flask’s bottles can’t really keep tea or coffee hot for more than 6 hours. After full 12 hours, your hot beverage just won’t be hot anymore – only lukewarm. Still, this is a very good performance and one that will allow you to fill your HF bottle with hot tea in the morning and enjoy it while it’s still hot for lunch.
If you’re someone who always opts for bold colors while shopping for trekking gear, you’ll feel right at home with Hydro Flask bottles. As I have mentioned above, one of the reasons why this brand became so popular – particularly among the younger population – is due to the sleek and vibrant look of its drinkware.
Almost all of their stainless steel bottles can be obtained in lots of eye-catching colors. If you like a particular color, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be able to obtain a Hydro Flask bottle in that same color. The personalization really does matter to most people, and it’s pretty obvious that this brand is completely aware of that.
Lots of Accessories
While being able to purchase a stainless steel bottle in your favorite color is certainly great, having the ability to combine it with convenient accessories is much more important. While some hikers enjoy using bottles with wide-mouth openings, others like to use them with sports cap mouthpieces.
Hydro Flask is fully aware of this and provides numerous accessories for its bottles, including a hydro flip cap, sports cap, flex cap, straw lid, etc. Speaking from experience, it can be extremely frustrating to find a bottle you really like but which doesn’t support the type of cap you use the most, so this is definitely a big plus for Hydro Flask.
There are two additional advantages that come with opting for a Hydro Flask bottle – the slip-free powder coating and the lifetime warranty. As you can already guess, the job of the aforementioned powder coating is to provide the owner with a better grip during sweaty summertime hikes.
The limited lifetime warranty, on the other hand, provides peace of mind and inspires confidence when it comes to the durability of Hydro Flask bottles. And since this brand’s bottles are never really cheap, it’s nice to know that they’re always accompanied by a genuinely generous warranty deal.
The Best Features of RTIC Bottles
A lot of people who decide to go with an RTIC bottle do so because of the low price of this company’s drinkware. In general, the products made by this brand cost half as much as the ones designed and sold by Hydro Flask.
One thing worth pointing out here is that RTIC doesn’t offer dozens of different color options for all of its bottles – just some of them. Moreover, there are no options for different lids and caps.
When comparing affordability in the Hydro Flask versus Stanley debate, Stanley also offers competitive pricing, often positioned between premium brands like Hydro Flask and more budget-friendly options like RTIC.
Although inexpensive, the RTIC bottles are double-walled and vacuum-insulated. In other words, no condensation appears on their exteriors, not to mention the fact that this kind of construction also allows them to effortlessly maintain the temperature of hot and cold drinks.
This becomes an especially convenient feature once we consider the fact that you’ll find no powder coating on RTIC’s drinkware like you would on the bottles made by Hydro Flask.
Good Temperature Control
Just like in the case of Hydro Flask drinkware, the bottles made by RTIC – including the one I described above – can keep cold drinks cold for up to one entire day (24 hours). During summertime hikes, this feature can be a true lifesaver.
Although the RTIC bottle I reviewed in this article can maintain the temperature of warm beverages as well, the company never mentioned for how long can it do so. So I decided to put the bottle to test and realized that it can maintain the temperature of hot tea for about 5 hours. This is quite impressive and comparable to the performance of Hydro Flask bottles.
Wrapping It Up…
Photo by Tony Webster via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
I consider the RTIC bottles – including the one I reviewed in this comparison – to be great alternatives to Hydro Flask models. Although not perfect, they provide decent performance and handle the daily wear and tear quite well. If you’re a casual hiker looking to save money, you won’t make a mistake by going with the RTIC bottle I described above.
However, Hydro Flask is still the brand to go with if you want an above-average stainless steel bottle that won’t let you down no matter the circumstances. Sleek looks and vibrant colors aside, this brand’s bottles offer a genuinely phenomenal performance in terms of temperature regulation and are extremely user-friendly in every sense of that term. Check out our Hydro Flask vs Klean Kanteen comparison and our Nalgene vs Hydro Flask as well.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.