The Hydro Flask craze is in full swing. You can see these brightly colored bottles everywhere, in gyms, students’ backpacks, on office desks, and in the great outdoors.
Partly thanks to the support of VSCO girls, Gen Z-ers, and millennials, Hydro Flask remains a must-have item.
Despite the hefty price, and the fact that the market is flooded with copycats and hiking water bottles, Hydro Flask has been reigning supreme for quite a while now.
So, what’s all the hype about? And why are Hydro Flasks so Expensive? Are these trendy bottles really worth it? As someone who has been using Hydro Flask products for a while now, allow me to put in my two cents.
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A Brand Built on “Nothing”
Dissatisfied with plastic water bottles, Cindy Weber and her then-boyfriend, Travis Rosbach, founded Hydro Flask in 2009 in Bend, Oregon.
The vacuum-insulation technology which the brand uses is more than a hundred years old. It was first utilized by the Thermos company.
But Rosbach and Weber didn’t just simply take an old Thermos-branded bottle and renamed it Hydro Flask (although this isn’t that far from the truth).
Instead of focusing on keeping hot beverages hot, Rosbach and Weber wanted to create a container that will be known for keeping ice cold beverages ice cold.
They managed to achieve that thanks to the double-wall vacuum insulated technology. The couple adapted the technology so that they could use it in a different way.
The solution was there all along, Bosbach and Weber were just the first ones to connect those dots.
When asked what’s the secret of Hydro Flask’s success, the company’s general manager, Scott Allen, answered “nothing.”
That “nothing” Allen referred to is the space between Hydro Flask’s inner steel container and the powder-coated steel exterior—the age-old double-wall vacuum insulation.
How Did Hydro Flask Become So Popular?
Although durability and exceptional thermoregulation play a huge role here, I think that trendy aesthetics and smart marketing are the key factors that have made Hydro Flask so popular.
After putting the vacuum insulated technology into a quality, stylish bottle, the company filled a bunch of Hydro Flasks with ice and shipped them to the hottest parts of the US, mostly to people living an active life on the go. The company asked recipients to give them a call once the ice melted.
The innovative marketing ploy made Hydro Flask stand out in a crowded water bottle market. Soon, the brand partnered with outdoor companies such as REI and Patagonia.
After initially gaining traction with outdoor enthusiasts and athletes, the brand found broader popularity among VSCO girls, Gen Z-ers, and millennials alike.
Hydro Flask occupies a sweet spot for teens who aren’t showy enough to flash truly high-end brands their parents might be associated with, but still want to be seen as affluent enough to afford an expensive stainless steel water bottle.
Younger generations that pay greater attention to fitness and health consider Hydro Flask to be a social signifier. But Hydro Flask isn’t the first bottle that was used for social jockeying in American culture.
Remember Nalgene? The indestructible plastic water battle of the early 2000s? It’s safe to say that Nalgene paved the way for Hydro Flask.
Nalgene rolled out a series of brightly colored water bottles when athleisure style was on the rise. In the midst of an overall trend toward consuming more water, Nalgene turned its bottle into a fashion accessory.
But the next generation of shoppers was wary of plastic water bottles, and plastic in general. As the world embraced eco-friendly stainless steel water bottles, Hydro Flask became a symbol of the passion for the environment.
Whether it was because of clever branding, stylish design, quality construction, or all three, the younger generations have really latched on to these colorful bottles from Oregon.
Nalgene, on the other hand, is not nearly as popular as it once was, but it still makes one of the best Hydro Flask alternatives.
What Makes Hydro Flask Special?
As I mentioned, Hydro Flask isn’t just a rebranded version of the Thermos. There are tangible reasons why Hydro Flasks are so expensive. The company brought vacuum insulation technology into the 21st century in a few ways.
Hydro Flask’s very own brand of the vacuum insulated technology, TempShield, is a great improvement on the original technology.
I was in awe the first time I woke up in the morning to a metal water bottle that still had ice in it.
To test out the vacuum insulated body, I filled the bottle with ice and left it sitting. The ice melted just before 24 hours. The water in the bottle was ice cold well past 24 hours.
The TempShield insulation doesn’t just keep the water very cold—it guarantees no condensation transfer to the outside of the Hydro Flask.
Even if you are sitting in the blazing sun at the crag or in a hot yoga studio, the ice water will not make the Hydro Flask sweat.
So that Hydro Flask bottles would retain internal temperatures more efficiently, the company created lids with a honeycomb pattern.
Inspired by beehives, Hydro Flask’s Honeycomb insulation uses the sweet geometry of nature to keep drinks piping hot or ice-cold for longer.
Moreover, Hydro Flask’s honeycomb cap is 100% leakproof. I can throw my Hydro Flask into my backpack without worrying about spills.
Both the bottle and the lid are designed to eliminate stress points. And the powder-coated exterior doesn’t just serve to make a statement. It allows for a slip-free grip and enhances the durability of the bottle.
I’ve dropped my Hydro Flask a bunch of times, on hard surfaces, and I am yet to see leaks or major dents. The Hydro Flask even comes with a lifetime warranty.
Personalization and Accessories
The distinct, stylish look of Hydro Flask bottles and the options to personalize them are also important factors that set Hydro Flask apart from the rest of the market.
If you coat a Hydro Flask bottle with a collage of stickers, others will still be able to tell that it’s a Hydro Flask.
Moreover, Hydro Flask products come in a wide variety of sizes (from 12-oz coffee mugs to 64-oz jugs) and different shades (from kiwi and mango to cobalt and mint).
And, whether you get a wide-mouth bottle or a standard-mouth size Hydro Flask, you can buy multiple lids that fit each, such as the sports cap, flip lid, or straw lid.
The brand has even launched a customization page on its website called My Hydro. It allows each customer to design their own, unique Hydro Flask bottles.
I’ve also noticed that the brand is constantly rolling out limited edition collections.
I have no doubt that Hydro Flask’s fashion symbol status dictates the price of the brand’s bottles. But the quality construction, innovative features, and exceptional customer care still justify the price tag.
Hydro Flask bottles still have a practical purpose for those of us who aren’t still in high school. They don’t break easily or sweat into our backpacks. And they keep our drinks at an optimal temperature.
Considering that a Hydro Flask bottle can last for decades, paying up to $50 to permanently avoid the use of single-use plastic bottles doesn’t seem unreasonable.
But this doesn’t mean that you can’t get a high-quality bottle for less money. Hydro Flask doesn’t hold a monopoly on the stainless steel vacuum-insulated water bottle market.
And if you don’t mind paying a premium price for a stainless steel bottle, Yeti, Hydro Flask’s biggest competitor, maybe an even better option for you.
I love hiking. 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.