Anytime you are exerting yourself hydration is incredibly important. This is especially true on a mountain bike where you may be far into the backcountry without easy access to water beyond what you can carry in your best water bottle for MTB. Without the right access to water, it doesn't take long before your body starts to dehydrate. In the beginning that might mean just a loss of performance but keep it up and you can experience heatstroke, dizziness, and confusion. It happens faster than you might think and you have to stay vigilant.
Part of staying vigilant is making sure you have the right water bottle with you. A bottle that fits your best MTB bottle cages, your style, and carries the water you need. To help with the process of finding the right bottle, we've put together a list of what we think are the best water bottles for MTB on the market right now. Keep reading for the list or jump to the bottom to see how to choose the best water bottles for mountain biking.
Best water bottle for MTB
Not every bike is going to be able to fit a 28oz water bottle in the main triangle. If you can fit it though, you get more water in the same space. It's only 2-4oz more compared to others but that means it's more likely to fit and less likely to fall out due to lack of support from a standard cage. Along with the large size comes an insulated design to help keep water colder longer and a valve that means no need to close the top with your teeth. If you like the design and features but need a smaller size there is also a 20oz version available as well.
Most of the time when your local shop has a bottle it's a Specialized Purist bottle. They are everywhere and people rarely think much about them but they are actually marvels of technology. The inside of the bottle has an ultrathin silica coating that keeps anything from sticking. That means no mold, no bacteria, and no leftover sports drink. All it takes is a bit of soap and water to get everything clean and it really does work to keep mold from forming. It also keeps the plastic taste separate from your water. The MoFlo valve design isn't self-sealing but it does make it easy to drink from.
When things are hard it's best to simplify. The trick of the Camelbak bottles is that they have a valve that opens against the pressure of a gentle squeeze. You don't have to open it or close it or really think about it other than to get the hydration you need. If you are traveling and want to make sure it won't leak from a bit of pressure there's a lock you can use as well. If you need to clean it the whole thing disassembles without much trouble. It's also a nice feature to have a variety of color options available to match the rest of your kit.
You can get seriously ill riding through farm roads in the wet and mud then drinking whatever your tires fling at your bottles. Even if you find yourself in less extreme weather, each time you take a drink could mean a mouthful of dust as the water gets flowing. If you like the idea of the Camelbak Valve but would rather keep dust, dirt, and any other muck out of your water then the Camelbak Podium dirt adds a cover to it. There are fewer colors available and only the smaller 21oz size so if you like one of the standard Podium bottles you could also add the cover with a separate purchase.
If you like the idea of a cover to keep the top of your bottle clear of filth you might ride through, then Elite has an option for you. Instead of only covering the valve the Elite Fly MTB uses a removable cap for the entire top of the bottle. Along with being well protected the Elite Fly lineup uses a lightweight design. You might not care much about gram counting but that lightweight design has other benefits. One of the ways Elite has made it lighter is by thinning the walls in the center section and the side effect is less resistance to squeezing. Easy squeezing means more water faster.
If you have a small space in your frame, it might be plenty of space for a bottle but nothing more. Most bottle cages have a design that requires extra space to lift the bottle out. One solution is to switch cages for something that uses a side-loading design but Fidlock has taken that idea a step further. The Fidlock Twist system uses magnets instead of a traditional cage. Twist the bottle to release it then to replace it just get it near the base and the magnets will do the work. There's also a cover to keep things clean and a self-sealing valve that makes drinking easy.
When it comes to bottles with a self-sealing cap one of the challenges is lower flow. The same is true of insulated bottles. Polar uses a nice soft exterior plastic in combination with a valve design that flows well so that it's never a challenge to drink. For this mountain bike-specific version, you get all the same features as other Polar bottles but it comes in a 12oz size for small frames as well as the addition of the Muckguard. The Muckguard is a simple design that covers the easy-to-remove Surge valve with a cap. If you ever want to use the same bottle on a road bike it's also simple to remove the cover.
How to choose the best water bottle for MTB
What size bottle do you need?
Mountain bike frames are the biggest limiter when deciding on the right bottle. Can your frame fit two bottles or one? What size bottles will fit? Maybe you actually need to check out our list of the best hydration packs. You might also be able to fit a larger bottle if you have the right bottle cage, so check out our list of the best MTB bottle cages and see what's best for you. Once you've got an understanding of what your frame can handle then you can decide what style of bottle is going to work for you.
Should you choose an insulated bottle?
If you are riding for long periods of time then an insulated bottle won’t do much late in the ride. Even so, there's very little downside to insulated bottles. They may warm up before being empty but at least for a while, you'll get to enjoy the cool water.
Insulated water bottles contain an internal lining that helps to keep your water at the same temperature for longer. There's nothing worse than taking a mouthful of warm water when you're craving something cold and refreshing. The design of insulated bottles helps prevent that from happening.
However, they can be overkill if you're just going on a short ride on a comfortably temperate day. While there's not a lot of downsides to insulated options, they do cost a bit more for the same function so it is worth considering. When deciding whether or not they're worth it, think about how long you tend to ride for, and whether your local climate is likely to badly affect the temperature of your water.
How do you clean your water bottle?
The best thing you can do for bottles is to immediately rinse them with soap and water following a ride. No matter how exhausted you might be, take a few minutes to put a little soap and hot water in your bottles, give them a shake, then squeeze soap and water through the valve, and finally rinse thoroughly. Those few minutes will save you lots of hassle later and make sure nothing starts growing in your bottles. After that initial rinse then you can think about a more thorough cleaning.
The first thing to keep track of is what your particular bottle can tolerate. A dishwasher can be an excellent way to get a bottle clean but the high heat can also destroy a bottle, so check to see what yours can handle. Along the same lines, some bottles can handle a good scrubbing while others only need a rinse.
When it comes to mountain bike bottles you will likely need to spend some time on the exterior as well. Just using your hands and water might be enough to get the dirt off but if not be careful about getting too aggressive. A plastic bristle brush is a good option and some, gentle, non-scratch scour pads can work as well.
After you've got everything clean make sure to also let them dry completely. You'll have to remove the top and leave it off while they are drying or it's unlikely they will fully dry before the next ride. The exposure to air and a thorough drying will do a lot to make sure your bottles are clean and fresh the next time you grab them.
How often do you need to replace your bottle?
There's no hard and fast rule to this one. Plastic water bottles will last forever in practical terms. There's also not much available in terms of sustainably sourced water bottles. It's a piece of plastic that can't always go through the recycling system. These are all good reasons to keep using them as long as possible.
The challenge is that over time water bottles get difficult to use. The outsides get scratched and it starts to be harder and harder to get them out of the cages. They also start to look worn and can be hard to clean after a while. These are all reasons to replace them often.
Looking at both sides, there's no right answer. Replace them as infrequently as possible but do it when you need to. If you are careful about cleaning them, they will last longer. It's also helpful to clean the inside of your bottle cages from time to time as a way to extend the life of your bottles. If you want something that lasts even longer consider the Fidlock bottles and cages or a metal bottle instead of plastic.