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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

Hydro Flask versus S’well



Care for the environment and your health by investing in a reusable water bottle.
Care for the environment and your health by investing in a reusable water bottle.

According to a recent study done by the CDC, at least 40% of adult Americans do not drink the recommended daily amount of water. While it is true that beverages aside from water (coffee, tea, juice, soda, even beer) add up the day’s total hydration, the auxiliary effects of many of these beverages can compromise, or even negate, their valuable hydrating effects.

Water for the win

Considering the potential pitfalls of many of America’s favorite beverages, the simple fact is that nothing quite satisfies thirst and prevents dehydration quite like water. Filtered, spring, mineral, tap—where it comes from ultimately is not all that important. The simple presence of sufficient water levels in the body is what counts.

Disasters in plastic

As sensitivities to ecology and environmental issues have emerged as a front-running social issue, the ways we consume water have become more important than ever. Bottled water is generally accepted as an evil, do-it-if-you-have-to solution.

The plastic is not biodegradable. In the United States alone, consumers dispose of at least 24 billion plastic water bottles. These bottles (at least the majority, which are thrown in the garbage) will sit in landfills for upwards of 1000 years.

Additionally, the assumed promises of bottled water are not always kept. Many users of bottled water think that their purchases guarantee pure, clean drinking water. While this is often true, the National Resource Defense Council has recently reported that as many as 25% of bottled water contains simple tap water.

Oh, and the chemicals! Different types of plastic, identified by the number inside the triangle on the bottom of your single-use bottled water, harbor all kinds of known and theoretical health threats. The leaching of BPA chemicals (present in all plastic water bottles) has been reported to have harmful interactions with hormones in the body.

Finally, given a source of safe drinking water, consistently purchasing bottled water is simply unsound financially. It is far cheaper to invest in a safe, durable water bottle to be used with safe drinking water than it is to continue buying harmful plastic bottles of single-use water. You can also invest in a tumbler and get the same benefits! Check out my picks.

Clean conscience water bottles

As consumer awareness of the setbacks of bottled waters continues to grow, so does the market for safe, reusable, eco-friendly water bottles. Over the years, the US market has had countless trends in hip hydration solutions.

The Camelbak brand dominated the market throughout the 1990s. When their complex backpacks with hoses and bladders fell out of fashion, the Nalgene line took over in the early 2000s, promoting simple, utilitarian canteen-style bottles which were touted as nearly indestructible. While Nalgene still has a strong share of the trendy water bottle market, there are some important new players on the scene. Namely, Hydro Flask and S’well.

Hydration is swell

Hydro Flask, founded in 2009, offers a remarkably wide array of water bottles, thermoses, and even beer pints and wine tumblers. They are headquartered in the epicenter of trendy outdoorsy gear—Bend, Oregon. The outdoors and the ‘take it with you’ mentality of all things biking, hiking, and trekking dominates their image and marketing.

S’well, an even younger (and smaller) company, was founded by a female entrepreneur in New York City, and is now the fastest growing female owned company in the US. Her mission was (and is) to combine function and fashion to create a solution to the harmful bottled water ‘culture’ so pervasive in the United States. Additionally, a portion of S’well proceeds go to UNICEF organizations funding the implementation of clean drinking water in some of the world’s most underserved communities.

S'well Stainless Steel Water Bottle - 17 Fl Oz - Supernova - Triple-Layered Vacuum-Insulated Containers Keeps Drinks Cold for 36 Hours and Hot for 18 - BPA-Free - Perfect for the Go

Find S’well bottles at Amazon.

Bottleneck and neck

Upon a cursory side-by-side glance at these 2 product lines, one striking similarity is the nearly infinite levels of customization, between color and size. Fashion is clearly an extremely important element to each company. However, Hydro Flask offers more diversity in function than S’well.

Hydro Flask offers numerous styles of lids, serving different functions. Wide Mouth Flex Cap, Straw Lid, Hydro Lid, and Standard Mouth Flex Cap are just a few of the different varieties of lids offered. Some lids simply operate as closing mechanisms, while others allow for clipping onto bags or belts. S’well, by comparison, only offers one style—a standard issue plastic water bottle size.

Hydro Flask Water Bottle - Standard Mouth Flex Lid - 21 oz, Cobalt

See Hydro Flask bottles listed at Amazon.

Each company offers sturdy, insulating bottle construction material, guaranteed to be free of harmful BPAs and other leaching chemicals. However, S’well offers a triple-walled vacuum construction model, which comes out as the stronger insulation, compared against Hydro Flask’s double-walled design.

S'well bottles come in a wide variety of aesthetic options, more than Hydro Flask offers.
S’well bottles come in a wide variety of aesthetic options, more than Hydro Flask offers.

Each brand offers a similar 18/8 stainless steel construction, in varying volumes (9 oz, 17 oz, and 25 oz) which prevents ‘sweating’ on the outside of the bottle (your stickers will stick!), and renders each bottle virtually unbreakable. Additionally, each bottle will keep cold drinks cold for upwards of 24 hours, and hot drinks hot (or at least warm) for upwards of 12 hours.

Both S’well and Hydro Flask bottles offer a wide variety of customizable colors and patterns, though S’well is the aesthetic winner, with its creative pallet of available designs and patterns, as diverse as the interests of its users.

The new industry standard

Each of these bottle brands offers high quality, safe bottles designed to last years. Either choice will be a good one, and certainly better than continuing to donate to landfills by buying bottled water. Find more awesome insulated water bottles.

That said, it seems that the Hydro Flask is the better option, simply by virtue of offering more options. The S’well bottles are fantastically designed, and perfectly suited for a reusable bottle for the home or office, but they fall short for the person who wants to take their bottle with them. They seem more concerned with appearances than functions, as reflected in their numerous exterior design options. Hydro Flask understands that not all hydration needs are the same, and they offer a product line that reflects that understanding. Want more comparisons? Check out my evaluation of the Yeti rambler versus the Thermos.

Additional Resources:

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: davidd and Inhabitat

Kitchen Professor author
About the Author: David McLemore

David learned to cook at an early age after his mother told him that he couldn't live on pizza forever, Dave uses his modest kitchen skills to recreate sorely-missed recipes from home and to occasionally make new favorite ones from places he is visiting.

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