By Andrew Liszewski
By now we all know that metal reusable bottles are a far better alternative to buying single serve portions of water in plastic bottles. Not only are they better for the environment as most plastic bottles are just discarded, but in the long run they can save you a lot of money by bottling H20 yourself. So if my moving words have finally persuaded you to consider switching to a reusable metal bottle, and as a gadget fan you’d prefer something with a little thought and engineering behind it, you’ll want to check out my full review of the S’well bottle after the jump.
At this point you can walk into pretty much any store and find a rack of reusable metal bottles, and because there are so many options to choose from, many of them are quite cheap these days. But if you’re not simply after a deal, and would prefer something a little more innovative with a unique design, the S’well should pique your curiosity. Their clever glass bottle-like shape is what first caught my eye, but it turns out there’s more to them than just looks.
Unlike most reusable metal bottles, the S’well bottles actually feature a double-wall, insulated design that keeps cold beverages cold and hot beverages hot. So in addition to cold water, it can also be effectively used with tea, coffee and other beverages that are best consumed warm. But unlike a thermos, the inside’s not made of glass so there’s no worry about it getting easily destroyed if dropped. The phrase ‘Tonka-tuff’ comes to mind.
One of the first metal water bottles available, and arguably still one of the most popular are the bottles from a company called Sigg. I’ve been using them for years, and except for a little Bisphenol A (BPA) scare a couple of years ago, I’ve found them to be great. So when it comes to comparing the S’well bottle to what’s already on the market, I figured the classic 0.6L Sigg bottle was the most appropriate choice.
The most obvious difference between the two bottles is their size. The S’well is noticeably taller than the Sigg, but actually has slightly less capacity. It holds 17 ounces of liquid while the Sigg holds ~20. You might think that’s a bit odd given both bottles have a similar diameter and that the S’well is the taller of the two, but that double-walled design means there’s less volume on the inside. But I think the difference in size and capacity is negligible, particularly since the S’well will also keep your drink insulated, while a Sigg, and other metal bottles on the market, will not.
The opening on the S’well is also just slightly larger than the one on the Sigg, which has a lot of benefits I’ve found. It’s easier to drink from and fill, it makes it easier to use standard sized ice cubes and it’s even easier to clean. The cap is also a bit more elaborate than those included with Sigg bottles, but that’s because it has to provide a watertight seal that also insulates. But what I like best about the cap on the S’well bottle is that it features a very coarse thread, allowing you to easily open the bottle with just a few turns.
Now unlike a lot of metal bottles on the market, the inside of the S’well bottles aren’t coated with a liner that leaves you wondering just what kind of chemicals are lurking on the inside. The bottles are all made from non-leaching, toxin-free stainless steel, and the double-walled design is surprisingly effective at keeping your beverage insulated.
For extreme testing purposes I filled the bottle with boiling water straight from a kettle, and after a couple of hours not only did the bottle not feel hot to the touch (or even slightly warm for that matter) but when I emptied the contents into the sink and over my finger, it was painfully clear the water was still piping hot. Now I did notice the metal cap did get a little warm so there’s definitely a bit of heat loss there, but the company claims the bottles can keep hot liquids hot for up to 12 hours, and cold liquids colds for up to 24. Which I think is more than adequate for most users’ needs.
The other benefit of the insulated design I really like is that when filled with cold liquids the outside of the bottle stays at room temperature, which means condensation won’t form. It might sound like an odd thing to notice, but many times the inside of my bag, and its contents, have gotten wet from a cold bottle covered in condensation.
Of course the most important feature of the S’well bottles is not how well it keeps your beverage tempered, or how good it looks stuck in a pocket on your backpack. It’s the fact that the company donates 10% of its sales to support the WaterAid organization which creates programs to improve access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities. And keep in mind this has been the company’s mindset from day one, not a by-product of their success.
So while at $35 the S’well bottles are admittedly some of the more expensive reusable metal bottles on the market right now, I think they’re definitely worth considering. The unique insulated design means you can use them to carry hot beverages like tea or coffee, but also keep cold beverages cold so they’re particularly refreshing on a hot day. And because they’re made from stainless steel there’s no worry about harmful chemicals or tastes leaching into the liquid inside, which has been a hot button issue regarding plastic bottles over the past few years. Most importantly though, the company behind them seems genuinely committed to creating a unique product that stands out in terms of both form and functionality in an already crowded market.
+ Bottles feature a unique shape and design.
+ Double-wall construction keeps your beverage insulated for hours and leaves the bottle always feeling comfortable to the touch.
+ Large opening makes them easier to fill and clean.
+ 10% of all sales are donated to WaterAid.
- At $35 they’re definitely one of the more expensive reusable bottles on the market.
- Cap tended to get very warm when the bottle was filled with hot liquids.
- Taller than a 0.6L Sigg bottle though it has a slightly smaller capacity.
S’well Insulated Stainless Steel Bottle – $35
If you have any questions about the S’well bottle you’d like answered, please feel free to leave them in the comments, and I’ll try to respond to them as best I can.