Monday, May 25, 2009

Eco Canteen: Stainless Steel Water Bottle

A few months ago I was contacted by Trish at Eco Canteen, who offered to send me a stainless steel water bottle to review, and I eagerly accepted the mission. See, I have been a regular user of re-usable water bottles since the early-mid 90s. I don't think bottled water in the ubiquitous disposable form that is so popular now was even conceived yet, but I loved the portability of beverage on demand. I was an undergraduate at Small Green College at the time, where such practices were standard. Every incoming freshman was issued a re-usable coffee mug; students typically attached these to backpacks with carabiner clips to cart around campus.

At that time, I used the re-usable water bottles primarily for hiking and camping. I started with Nalgene, that indestructible standby. I will confess to harboring nostalgic feeling of fondness for Nalgene to this day, regardless of the whole BPA ickiness -- that came much later. In the illustration below, you can see my original Nalgene water bottle (third from the left). I don't know exactly when I got it, but I do know I drank from it 24/7 during my five week summer session in 1995 at Remote Biological Station Accessible by Boat Only.

Note: one additional water bottle is missing from this photo,
as I forgot to retrieve it from its station on my bedside table.

The larger size Nalgene water bottles fit perfectly into the front pockets of field vests, and I spent many a happy summer tromping around in the woods, drinking 2-4 quarts of water a day. The small Nalgene bottle fits perfectly into an ordinary coat pocket, and can be easily smuggled into theaters or sporting events, sparing the indignity of overpriced disposable beverage. It got so I was using re-usable water bottles constantly... not just while hiking or out and about, but while sitting on the couch or using the computer.

Eventually the growing buzz about the health hazards of BPA became too loud to ignore, and I broke down and bought a few Siggs. I like the Siggs, I really do: they come in a wide array of fun colors and patterns, and are equally as functional as my old Nalgenes. However, I retained the old bottles, BPA and all, because I simply could not afford to replace them all at once. Siggs are mighty expensive, and on a hot day in the field, I might easily drink four quarts of water. Then, from a post and discussion over at Crunchy Domestic Goddess, I learned that Sigg aluminum bottles are lined with a proprietary epoxy, and that they aren't recommended for the dishwasher. Sigh.

The offer from Eco Canteen came less than a month later, so I was ecstatic. Eco Canteen bottles are made from food-grade stainless steel: no BPA, no aluminum, no epoxy. Yes, the offer came in early February; I am terrible for just getting this review up now. However, in my defense, I thoroughly tested this bottle. It has been used in just about every capacity:

  • Hiking - At a county park, a state park, a state wildlife management area, an experimental forest owned by Small Green College, and mushroom hunting.

  • Walking - In the woods behind the house, and around Childhood Village with the parentals.

  • Business Travel - A four day trip out of state, and a day trip to state capital for an agency meeting.

  • Around the house - While computing, watching tv, reading, and gardening.
The water bottle has held up to every possible use. I love that it can safely be used in the dishwasher. I've scrutinized the water bottle for faults, but honestly came up short. I got excited once when I noticed a wet spot on the car cushion where it was resting, thinking it was leaking and I'd finally have a more balanced review. Alas, it was user error; I hadn't tightened the cap all the way. I recommend this product with no reservations about the actual water bottle. Eco Canteen sells the water bottles from their website for the very reasonable price of $9.95 each.

However, be warned: shipping and handling fees are far less reasonable. If you are only purchasing a single bottle, the shipping and handling fee is $5.95, which would still add up to a fair price compared to Sigg or other stainless bottles, except for the free insulated tote, which comes automatically with each bottle ordered, with an additional $4.95 shipping fee. Ouch. This means a $10 water bottles becomes $20 when all fees are included, and is very troublesome to me. Not because of the cost, nor because the marketing is deceptive; all the fees are clearly explained.

It is the principle of the matter.

The literature Eco Canteen sent me with the water bottle claims they are a non-profit that operates with the goal of getting as many people as possible to stop using disposable water bottles, a truly noble goal. However, any truly environmental company would have an option allowing consumers to opt out of the "free" merchandise. For example, when you donate money to The Nature Conservancy, you always have the option to decline the free gift (and if you do choose to accept the umbrella/totebag/T-shirt, it really is free -- there is no shipping charge).

The other word of caution I offer is that shipping fee is not per order, it is per bottle. Therefore, it would be completely unpractical for ordering multiple bottles, because the shipping fees would be astronomical. The empty bottles are lightweight and assessing multiple shipping fees is unwarranted and downright hostile to consumers. [Again, there is no deceptive marketing, I obtained all this information directly from their website.]

I love the Eco Canteen water bottle, but I don't love the purchase policies outlined at their website. The bottom line is I would buy from Eco Canteen if I needed a single water bottle, but not if I needed more than one. Hopefully they will realize I am the target market and implement the changes I suggested in this review.


Momma Val said...

Wow! Nice review. I have a SS water bottle that was given to me which I never use. Being a busy (now pregnant) mom that takes water everywhere, it is very inconvenient for the cap issue. If only it were somehow still attached with a loop after unscrewing OR if it had a flip drinking cap. This is my big issue with all the SS water bottles out there. Thanks for the heads up about the Siggs info too. Anywho, even the old Nalgene bottles had the cap loop so it wouldn't ever fall on the ground or become lost. This one is a good shape. The one I have is really wide and does not fit in any cup holders. Just realized I have the Kleen Kanteen is that a bad one? Anyway, I have the standard model but the very large one with the loose cap. I do see however that they offer sippy's, looped caps, even squirt caps for their product. Which makes so much sense. Now if they just had a baby nipple. Ha! I don't want much do I :)

Nadine said...

Every sip of water I consume comes from a reusable water bottle (these days my Sigg, days past my Nalgenes). I love, love, love my Sigg, but now I worry about the lining. I wonder if the Eco Canteens are available locally or if they can only be purchased online. Great review!

BerryBird said...

Momma Val, I've never used a Klean Kanteen, but I've read good things about them. They are also stainless steel and BPA-free. Your point about the caps is a really good one. It was impossible to lose those old Nalgene caps.

Nadine, I haven't seen any Eco Canteens locally, although they certainly could be somewhere. They have a wholesale options where you can get logos printed for use in fundraisers, etc. I have to imagine the shipping options are better for distributors or fundraising groups, but that info is not available on the website.

Electronic Goose said...

Good review. I'm always looking for good SS water bottles--I'm quite picky.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Excellent review.

How does it taste? I didn't see anything about taste but I am not overly fond of the tast of my stainless water bottle.

AS a graduate of little green school myself, I used various refillable water bottles most of my life--I did try the plastic ones, but I hated them and besides, the water TASTED bad.

Glass bottles are my favorites for taste and washing, but they have such obvious drawbacks that I don't have to mention them.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

my original refillable bottles were aluminum canteens--as a kid and beyond. I try to avoid aluminum now.

Aliki2006 said...

I was glad to read this review. I'm hunting around for a couple small bottles for the kids' lunch boxes next year.

Sammo said...

I'm looking for a canteen that can be used for some long-term travel. The eco canteen seems very similar to the Kleen Kanteen water bottle and judging by the picture it looks like it would have the same flaw as mentioned in this article.

Any idea of a similar water bottle in size and durability without this lip issue?

BerryBird said...

EG - You should follow the link Sammo posted below about the Kleen Kanteen before buying either the EcoCanteen or the Kleen Kanteen, it is pretty disturbing.

Mary - I haven't been bothered by the taste at all, but I have seen some people suggest washing new stainless bottles with vinegar and baking soda. That might be worth trying on any bottle where the taste offends you.

Sammo - Thanks so much for the link! I went over and read the review and was so horrified by those pictures, I jumped up and ran inside to retrive my EcoCanteen from the couch where I'd been drinking from it last night to inspect it. It does have the exact same gapping issues. Luckily mine is not filled with (visible) crud, but I suspect that is because I run it through the dishwasher semi-regularly, which is obviously that is not an option when backpacking or traveling.

Nalgene has a stainless steel water bottle available now, made by Guyot. I found some pretty awesome pictures of it (link below), but I still can't tell for certain if the upper lip of the bottle has the same gapping issues. You might contact the author of that review to enquire? Good luck, and I'd love to hear about it if you do find the perfect bottle.

BerryBird said...

Aliki, I would definitely suggest a different bottle because of your need for several. I don't mind paying shipping per item, but it should be one rate, e.g., $4.95 for the first item and then a lesser fee, e.g., $1.95 for additional items. Otherwise it's just a rip-off.

FOF Bottles said...

Hi everyone on Lake Loop. Since we're discussing options, The FOF Bottle Company is proud to offer our FOF bottles as a clean reusable alternative to the single use plastic bottles. FOF (pronounced how it’s spelled) is an acronym for “For Our Future … For Our Family … For Our Friends.”

All FOF bottles are made of high-quality, food grade #304 (18/8) stainless steel. It’s that simple; they’re completely BPA-free, won’t leach any scary chemicals or toxins and don’t require any type of special inside lining like some other bottles. All caps are made of food grade polypropylene which also are completely BPA-free. Our caps and lids are also independently FDA certified as BPA-free (not too many companies go to that extreme).

All FOF bottles come in single-wall 550 ml or 750 ml capacity in either a brushed stainless or bright (mirror-like) polished finished. They are 100% recyclable, dishwasher friendly, eco-friendly and, quite simply, one of the classiest designs on the market today.

They’re designed with a large bottleneck opening for 2 reasons:
• to accommodate large ice cubes or smoothies, and
• for easy cleaning to prevent any type of inside bacteria build-up.
Small-mouth bottleneck designs can’t give you either of these.

FOF bottles are indeed an essential ingredient “For Our Future … For Our Family … For Our Friends”. Please visit us on-line at to learn more or e-mail for more details. Thanks for your time.

Sammo said...

Thanks BB. I'll do a little more research and let you know what I find out.

Anonymous said...

I found everyone to be very expensive.
Check this out. has the best prices on BPA free Aluminum water bottles. They have free shipping also.

SAH said...

It appears that Klean Kanteen now offers a wide version that may be void of the disgusting gapped lip issue. Check these out:

Thanks for the review! I appreciate your insight.
- Steph

Anonymous said...

All I use is klean kanteen and that's all I'll ever use. Klean kanteen have the best water bottles hands down. stainless steel water bottles

Anonymous said...

I've got both K Kanteen and FOF Bottles. They're both great, just a different design; and a different price. They're the best ones out there I think.

Anonymous said...

I'd stay away from aluminum bottles if I were you. Aluminum isn't good for you, even if it has some kind of "plastic" liner. Have a look at some of the s.steel ones listed here.

Anonymous said...

If you haven't heard, it looks like SIGG bottles actually contain BPA in their liners! All along they said it didn't, but now they admit it does. Stay away from all aluminum bottles.

Your best bet is to go pure stainless steel like Klean Kanteen or FOF Bottles.

Google SIGG bpa to read about it.

clayman said...

For me, the only acceptable water vessel is a clay jug with a cork stopper. I loop it over my shoulder with a clay strap and so set about rambling through the countryside.

Anonymous said...

Hey, just saw that FOF Bottles now have a Junior model. They're real cute in pink and blue ! I'm going to look into these for my kids.

Sammo said...

Just as a follow-up from my above link...I think the Klean Kanteen wide mouth water bottle is best for my needs. I plan on backpacking for about a year and am looking for a water bottle that is durable and won't leach chemicals. Since a dishwasher is pretty much out of the question I also need a bottle that will avoid the 'petri-dish effect' described in the link above. The wide-mouth version of the klean kanteen will not have this issue. The main type of water I will fill it up with will be tap water from developing countries. Given this I am also looking for a bottle that I can boil water in using a simple heating coil to kill any possible bacteria or viruses. I think the Klean Kanteen will fit these purposes. It's...
1. Simple design with no bacteria traps
2. Rugged
3. Can take heat and cold without destroying the container or worrying about leaching chemicals

Amy said...

I love stainless water bottles - they're perfect for any activity.