So Long Nalgene Water Bottles


If you’re like me you’ve managed to pick up a few Nalgene water bottles over the years. The first ones were nothing fancy, made from a milk jug looking plastic that was tougher than nails. If you dropped it off a 50′ cliff, no big deal. But we “needed” something flashier.

I remember when I saw the first colored Nalgene bottles, in red, pink, blue, and a rainbow of others colors. I even remember being given one of the old style non-colored types at an event and feeling somewhat slighted that I wasn’t lucky enough to get a “cool” one. Yes, shallow thoughts but today, I’m feeling rather lucky to have that old school Nalgene. Here’s why.

I read 5 months ago about MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) pulling Nalgene bottles from their shelves due to the bottles being made from polycarbonate plastic containing BPA (Bisphenol A) which is made from Acetone and Phenol, both of which are toxic and harmful. These are the bottles with the number 7 on the bottom, and most of them have the letters “PC”

Furthermore, REI has followed suit and pulled the polycarbonate Nalgene bottles from their shelves, replacing them with 52 different options that are BPA free.

Nalgene said late last month that they are phasing out the bottles that contain BPA “because of consumer demands”, also stating that the bottles made with BPA are safe. Of course they’d say it was safe (safe being a relative term in this particular discussion), with millions upon millions of dollars at stake. But before we call out the lynch mob, they are making an effort to educate consumers on their microsite.

Nalgene Water Bottles - nothing like old school goodness

On the flip-side a no nonsense article entitled “Don’t buy a Nalgene Water Bottle Until You Read This” on last month cites a study which says that BPA is not safe. The US EPA says that they are safe while Canada’s health organization has banned them from the country. Who’s right?

Consider this from a National Geographic Blog article written by Steve Casimiro

Please. Let’s use some common sense here. With billions of dollars at stake, corporations, government, and scientists are wrangling over the definition of “safe.” And while human-bisphenol studies are few, this week’s National Institutes of Heath report noted that BPA shows “association” with “higher levels of testosterone in men and women, recurrent miscarriage, and chromosomal defects in fetuses”. Does that sound safe to you? Especially when the solution is a new BPA-free water bottle that costs less than 15 bucks? I don’t think so.

Like my mom used to say (referring to food in fridge that had been around and was suspect) – “when in doubt, throw it out”

Now What?

All of this got me thinking twice about my own Nalgene water bottles and if I should hang onto them. I realize that each day, whether we like it or not, we are exposed to a lot of chemicals and other things that are harmful. But to do so knowingly has kept me thinking, until now.

So I pitched a number of my Nalgene water bottles that are polycarbonate, containing BPA. If unlike me you’ve got a few of the old cloudy milk jug looking ones and you’re still a fan of the old style REI has the old school looking Nalgene bottles that are BPA free.

Selling these “less stylie” bottles will certainly be an uphill battle with the cool kids.  For them there are some options to getting colored water bottles that are BPA free.

CamelBak Better Bottle - BPA free and with all the nifty color options

BPA Free Water Bottles

There are a number of options for water bottles if you’re looking to get away from BPA, or if you live in Canada where they have been banned. Here are a few I like:

While I’ve spent many days over the years with my Nalgene keeping me hydrated on the way to the tops of mountains, down slot canyons, on road trips and even day hikes with my kids I’m ready to say good-bye to them.

As the saying goes, it’s water under the bridge.

About Author

Kendall has long been known for his passion of the outdoors. In the past 10 years his love for skiing, particularly backcountry skiing, has defined his pursuits. He's also been active in trail running, mountain climbing, rock climbing, ski mountaineering, cycling and has recently taken up backcountry bow hunting. Aside from writing reviews on he also reviews products on and is co-founder of


  1. i found a nalgene bottle alongside a trail that looks like the three in the picture… any idea when these were made or ceased to be made?

  2. Ryan – They actually never stopped making those types of water bottles. It was more a case of they weren’t “cool” any more so production on that particular kind was very small. If you found one just like the 3 I took a photo of, I would say that it’s still good to go, of course after you wash it.

  3. I’m so glad to hear being a spendthrift and not yielding to popular pressure finely payed off for me. I would love to say I know those bottles were trouble, but in truth my old one’s just never wore out. I have about 8 of the as you call them old school bottles. I have made everything from hot chocolate and coffee to fruit punch in them. You can’t stain them, they don’t deform under pressure, and after 15 years still don’t leak. I was looking at these new bottles that look like what I carry white gas in, and thought they looked cool. I think I’ll just wait and keep it old school until they get this all figured out. Cheers, here’s to being cheep.

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