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|Top Pick & Best for Sawyer Filters: Dasani 1L
|Sawyer Mini, Sawyer Squeeze
|Runner-up: Smartwater 1L
|Sawyer Mini, Sawyer Squeeze
|Sawyer Mini, Sawyer Squeeze
|Best Collapsible Water Container: Evernew 2L Water Carry Bag
|Sawyer Mini, Sawyer Squeeze
|Platypus Platy 2.0L Bottle
|Best for Katadyn BeFree: Hydrapak Seeker 2L
|20 fl oz
|20 fl oz
As a weight-conscious backpacker, sometimes I go down the rabbit hole of optimizing a minor piece of gear. This is one of those times.
After weighing and checking the filter compatibility of eight water bottles and collapsible water containers, we think the Dasani 1L is the best ultralight water bottle for backpackers.
It weighs just 0.88 oz, half an ounce less than the ubiquitous Smartwater 1L. It’s also compatible with the Sawyer Mini, Sawyer Squeeze, and Smartwater sports cap — the latter of which you can use to backflush your Sawyer filter without the cleaning plunger.
To be clear: all the bottles and containers on this list work just fine.
If you’re happy with the ones you currently use, by all means keep using them. Which water bottles you take with you is far from the most important gear decision you’ll make.
However, if you’re like me you find it fun to tweak and optimize even the largely inconsequential items in your pack. If you want to go down the rabbit hole too, keep reading for our full reviews.
Top Pick & Best for Sawyer Filters: Dasani 1L
The Dasani 1L is the lightest water bottle we tested and is also compatible with Sawyer filters and the Smartwater sports cap.
That gives it most of the advantages of the classic Smartwater 1L in a slightly lighter (and cheaper) package.
The sides of the Dasani feel thinner to the touch than the other plastic bottles on our list, but when I did a drop test as a simple test of its durability it held up well.
What’s more, the Dasani bottle is what the brand calls the Plant Bottle. Up to 30% of it is made from plants, so you can feel a little bit better about using a disposable bottle as opposed to a reusable one.
Some hikers will find the narrow mouth of this bottle to be a drawback. It makes it harder to add drinks mixes and electrolyte powders. Some SteriPEN models, such as the Adventurer Opti and Traveler Mini, won’t fit inside.
The Dasani is also a couple inches shorter than the Smartwater and LIFEWTR bottles. It might be more difficult to remove from your side pockets while hiking, depending on your backpack.
Runner-up: Smartwater 1L
A backpack with a couple Smartwater bottles sticking out of the side pockets might be the most telltale sign of a hiker’s ultralight ambitions — after a toothbrush that’s been chopped in half, of course.
Their popularity is well-deserved. They are compatible with Sawyer filters. They are tall and slender which makes it easy to fish them out of the side pockets of most backpacks.
Smartwater bottles are durable despite being disposable. One AT thru-hiker carried one for three months, only throwing it out because it started to get grimy. Once they do need to be replaced, it’s easy to find them in any grocery or convenience store.
Also, you can buy the 700 mL Smartwater with a “sports cap”. The sports cap is a flip-up cap that makes it easy to drink from your bottle with one hand and can be used to backflush Sawyer filters without the cleaning plunger.
We recommend getting it then transferring it to your compatible bottle of choice — whether that’s a Dasani, Smartwater, LIFEWTR, or something else.
We named the Smartwater 1L our Runner-up after the Dasani 1L simply because the Dasani is half an ounce lighter. Though if you already backpack with Smartwater bottles and they work well for you there’s no compelling reason to switch.
Best Collapsible Water Container: Evernew 2L Water Carry Bag
During my research I read accounts of many lightweight backpackers who use the following water carrying system: two one-liter water bottles with a one- or two-liter collapsible water container.
The Evernew Water Carry Bag is our favorite collapsible container. We tested the two-liter size but it’s also available in 0.6, 0.9, and 1.5 L sizes.
When hikers think water containers they tend to think of those from Platypus. However, Evernew bags have a distinct advantage over Platypus bags: they’re compatible with Sawyer filters. That feature alone was enough to make them our favorite.
A few other features make them a joy to use. The cap is attached to the container making it difficult to misplace. The built-in shock cord helps keep the bottle rolled up when stored. The gusseted bottom allows it to stand on flat ground when full without falling over — something the Platypus container had more trouble doing.
At 1.48 oz, the Evernew 2L is slightly heavier than the Platy 2.0L which weighs 1.31 oz, but we consider this difference negligible — especially when you take into account the Evernew’s added benefits.
Best for Katadyn BeFree: Hydrapak Seeker 2L
The Katadyn BeFree is one of the most popular backpacking water filters. Its exceptional flow rate (at the start at least) has won over many.
One of its downsides is its thread pattern. Unlike Sawyer filters, the BeFree isn’t compatible with soda and water bottles.
What it is compatible with are certain water containers from Hydrapak, the company that makes the soft flask included with the filter.
The Seeker 2L, a collapsible bottle, is our recommended water container for hikers who use the BeFree because — along with being compatible with the BeFree — its weight and capacity are well-suited for backpacking.
Yet we don’t recommend the Seeker to anyone else. Beyond its BeFree compatibility there is little that makes it stand out. It’s the heaviest and most expensive bottle we tested. Plus it isn’t compatible with Sawyer filters or the Smartwater sports cap.
Reviews of the 4 Other Water Bottles We Tested
LIFEWTR is Pepsi’s version of Smartwater. The one-liter bottle is identical to the Smartwater 1L in almost every way.
The differences are minor: the LIFEWTR bottle is a tad heavier, shaped slightly differently, and available in a bunch of snazzy designs.
Like Smartwater bottles it’s compatible with Sawyer filters and the Smartwater sports cap. If it’s the only water bottle you can find before hitting the trail, it’s an excellent choice.
With Smartwater bottles being so ubiquitous, I’ve even read about hikers who prefer LIFEWTR bottles as a way to stand out from the crowd. Showcase your personality a bit by picking a design you like.
Platypus containers, such as the smaller SoftBottles and larger containers, are very popular among backpackers.
Their lightness is unmatched. The Platy 2.0L Bottle checked in at just 1.31 oz, making it the lightest container we tested on a per-liter basis.
However, newer Platypus containers aren’t compatible with Sawyer filters — a big drawback if you like to filter straight from your storage container into your water bottles. For that reason we ranked the Platypus below the Evernew.
Gram weenies looking for the lightest possible option should consider the Platypus as long as the filter incompatibility isn’t a concern.
A final side note: Older Platypus bags are compatible with Sawyer filters, and some reviewers say as much in their review. While it is true their containers are compatible, the new container that you’ll be buying will not be.
While we didn’t give it an award, a 20-fluid-ounce Gatorade bottle is the right choice for some.
The bottle’s wide mouth makes it easier to add powders or drink mixes to your water and works with some SteriPEN models. The grooves on the side make it easier to attach the bottle to your backpack strap.
Also, the Gatorade and Vitamin Water bottles were the shortest we tested. If taller bottles such as Smartwater and LIFEWTR fall out of your pack’s side pockets often, a shorter Gatorade bottle might be a better fit.
Vitamin Water bottles are virtually identical to Gatorade bottles.
They are the same height. Their caps are the same diameter. Neither of them is compatible with Sawyer filters or the Katadyn BeFree.
The biggest difference I can spot is weight. The Gatorade bottle weighs 1.2 oz while the Vitamin Water weighs 1.38 oz.
That difference is so minor in the grand scheme of things that if you do want a wide-mouth bottle just buy the Gatorade or Vitamin Water flavor you like best.
How to Choose the Best Water Bottles & Containers for Your Needs
Besides weight, here are some things to take into account when choosing your backpacking water bottles and containers.
Think of your bottles, containers, and filter as part of your water carrying system. Ideally your bottles and/or containers are compatible with your filter and limit the need to bring excess gear like bottle thread adapters, extra dirty water bags, and backflushing supplies.
During my research I learned many lightweight backpackers like having two one-liter water bottles and a one- or two-liter collapsible container which they use as a reservoir for untreated water.
Of course, how much water you need to be able to carry at one time depends on a number of factors such as where you’ll be hiking and the characteristics of the trail. Find out that number then mix and match your bottles and containers to achieve that desired capacity.
Though not important to all hikers, it makes filtering and storing water easier if your water bottles and/or containers have the same threads as your water filter of choice.
Sawyer filters are well-designed in this regard because they are compatible with many narrow-mouth plastic bottles. From our list that includes Dasani, Smartwater, and LIFEWTR bottles as well as Evernew bags.
As for other filters, the Katadyn BeFree is compatible with some Hydrapak water containers. Some SteriPEN models work best with bottles with wide mouths while others fit narrow-mouth bottles.
Smartwater Sports Cap Compatibility
The Smartwater sports cap is only available on the 700 mL Smartwater. It requires buying an extra water bottle to get it (then just replacing the cap on your compatible bottle of choice with it), but we highly recommend it if you use a Sawyer Squeeze or Mini.
With it you can backflush your Sawyer filter without the cleaning plunger. Plus it’s a flip-up cap which makes it easy to drink from your water bottle with one hand. Hikers using trekking poles will especially appreciate this.
Height & Compatibility with Backpack Pockets
Many backpackers have experienced it — you get thirsty while hiking and reach towards your pack’s side pocket, only to find that you can’t pull out your water bottle without taking off your pack or contorting your arm into an awkward position.
One potential solution is a taller water bottle. In our test the Smartwater and LIFEWTR bottles were the tallest.
On the other hand some backpack pockets are shallow and tall water bottles slide out of them easily. Short grooved bottles like those from Gatorade and Vitamin Water are more compatible in this case.
It’s easier to add drink mixes and powders to wide-mouth bottles. They also scoop water more easily from shallow pools.
Alternatively, the bottles that are compatible with Sawyer filters and the Smartwater sports cap are all narrow-mouth. Narrow-mouth bottles can also be a little easier to drink from without spilling when hiking.
How We Tested
Our testing focused mostly on weight, filter compatibility, and the ability of each bottle to backflush Sawyer filters with the Smartwater sports cap.
I pulled out my trusty scale and weighed each water bottle and container. Before weighing I removed any easy-to-remove labels and, in true Mike Clelland fashion, the little plastic ring beneath the cap.
Filter Compatibility Check
I tested the thread compatibility of each bottle and container with three of the most popular backpacking water filters — the Sawyer Mini, Sawyer Squeeze, and Katadyn BeFree.
Smartwater Sports Cap Compatibility Check
I tested each bottle’s compatibility with the Smartwater sports cap which can be used to backflush Sawyer filters.
It turns out Sawyer filters have the same thread pattern as Smartwater bottles, thus any bottle that is compatible with Sawyer Squeeze and Mini is also compatible with the Smartwater sports cap.
Of the bottles and containers we tested that includes the Dasani, Smartwater, LIFEWTR, and Evernew.
Finally, as a simple test of durability, I dropped each full water bottle and container three times from chest height onto a trail.
They all held up beautifully — a couple small scratches and some specs of dirt here and there, but no punctures or leaks.