Hydration is one of the most import things that a human can focus on, especially when you’re involved in outdoors endeavors. Having a good secure source of drinking water is critical and having a way to carry it ensures you can stay hydrated and enjoy what it is you’re in the woods for in the first place. Well, the folks at Hydro Flask have been making the tools to do that for quite a while now and they just tweaked their line to give hunters, soldiers and folks who like a lower profile product something to look for with the added colors of their Tactical line.
Stainless steel bottles are extremely popular and with good reason. They’re tough, environmentally friendly and they do a great job of protecting your life saving beverages in the bush. Hydro Flask kicks that all up a notch with their double walled vacuum insulated bottles which will keep cold drinks cold for up to 24 hours and hot jones hot for up to 12 hours.
The Tactical line consists of the popular Hydro Flask 21 ounce bottle at present available in a choice of four colors: Coyote Brown, Desert Tan, Foliage Green, or Nite Ops Black although the I also had one of their monstrous 64 ounce Growlers to test as well that comes in low profile Black Butte color (as well as basic stainless finish and a muted Copper Brown finish.) The bottles are made with 18/8 stainless steel which is resistant to bacteria and odors and Hydro Flask backs their products with an unconditional lifetime warranty proving that they certainly have confidence in their products. The stainless construction means that they’re chemical and BPA free too and even the outer powder coating is nontoxic and food grade. The 21 ounce Tactical bottle sells for $25.99 and the big Growler for $49.99 on Hydro Flask’s site and if you buy direct from them you can participate in their 5% Back program which allows you to donate 5% of your purchase price to a charity of your choice from a list of available charities on their site.
I’ve worked with both Hydro Flask bottles for about six months now and had a chance to use them in the high 90 temperatures of summer down to the single digit temps of late December and early January. For routine use the 21 ounce Tactical bottle is a good choice. It’s sized to be easy to carry whether it’s in a day pack messenger bag or even slipped into the cup holder of your car or truck. It slips securely into the water bottle holder of most packs and bags too so that you can keep it handy on the trail and in the field. My Tactical bottle was in the Foliage Green color and it makes for a nice low profile look that blends in well with your hunting and bushcraft gear. It would also work quite well for actual military field use if you want a good insulated bottle for deployments. I have a number of other bottle s around this size from other manufacturers and although they work just fine for what they are, none are double wall insulated like the Tactical bottle. In the summer time I’d fill the bottle with cold water from the fridge, or add some ice in the mornings before I left the house. The insulating properties of the bottle are very good. I’d find that the ice lasted long into the day and even the next day, when the ice was melted the water itself was still cool and refreshing. My single wall bottles certainly didn’t keep my water cool, let alone cold anywhere near as long as the Hydro Flask did.
As the seasons changed and the temperatures dropped I transitioned my use of the Tactical bottle from keeping my beverages cool to keeping them hot. I started suing the bottle instead of my thermos to keep coffee and occasionally tea hot. Hydro Flask rates the bottles at 12 hours for hot beverages and this seemed to be about right for me. I could easily get through an 8 hour shift at work and still have my coffee hot at and past shift change. I tried preheating the bottle with hot water before pouring my coffee in and I think this helped when really trying to stretch out the time I wanted to keep my beverages warm. Honestly though when I was just looking at keeping things hot for 8 or so hours I couldn’t tell the difference.
While the 21 ounce Tactical bottle was handy for all around use the 64 ounce Growler is a little more specialized. This isn’t a bottle that you’re likely to carry regularly just in case you need a drink, and it certainly isn’t one you’re going to use for a light weight backpacking trip. It is great though if you need to keep a larger quantity of liquid hot or cold. Some of the uses that spring to mind are when you’re camping or doing other outdoor activities with a group of people. If you’re doing an outdoors class, a group working on trail maintenance, a scout troop, or a bunch of buddies hitting the woods for a day of hunting it’s a nice tool to keep coffee warm of ice water cold and handy. It also works well for soup if you want to have a hot lunch ready to go in the colder weather. The wide mouth makes filling and pouring easy too.
Now, the fact that Hydro Flask markets this big bottle as a growler means there was one more test I had to make with this bottle. If you aren’t familiar with the term a Growler is a large, usually glass, bottle that you can take to your local craft brewery or bar specializing in craft brews and fill up to take home some of your favorite beer that is only available on tap. It’s become quite popular with beer aficionados and is a great way to take enough beer to share with your friends out of the bar and basically wherever you want to go. One of the problems with conventional growlers though is that glass breaks and glass bottles aren’t necessarily allowed at all venues such as sporting events, beaches and parks. Plus, they don’t have any insulating properties. Hydro Flask’s 64 ounce Growler solves both the insulation and breakage issues quite nicely.
During the summer I swung by my local brew pub to pick up something to share with my craft beer loving buddies on one of our annual camping trips. When I first sidled up to the bar and asked for a fill the bartender was a little unsure about if she could fill my Growler. Many bars and pubs have their own branded growlers and prefer that you use those for fills. She went to check with her manager though and after I watched with some amusement as the carefully examined and discussed the Hydro Flask she came back with it filled with excellent high gravity Belgian Ale. She said that her manager was fine with filling it since it was the same capacity as their regular glass growlers; they just spent a couple minutes checking it out first. While we were talking some of the other patrons at the bar were checking out the Growler too and were very interested in its capabilities and wanted to know where to get one.
Now, I’d had this beer at the pub recently and it was extremely good and a little on the pricey side. I definitely didn’t want this one to warm up on me ruin the beer. I took a leap of faith though and just kept the growler in the tent with me rather than dropping it in a cooler to ensure it stayed cold. I deliberately waited 24 hours before cracking the seal on the bottle to see if Hydro Flask’s claim of 24 hour cold insulation was true. With some trepidation we cracked the flask and poured a round of drinks. As an aside, I have a set of stainless steel pint glassed from Klean Kanteen that is a perfect accompaniment to the Hydro Flask Growler. They’re the standard size and feel of an English pint glass but in indestructible stainless steel. Perfect for the woods, beach or park. Anyway, even after sitting 24 hours in my tent in temps up into the 90’s the bottle was still cool to the touch when I brought tit out. The beer poured nicely with an appropriate head for the beer type showing that the bottle had remained tightly sealed. The temperature was perfect. It drank as if it had come right from the tap. I have to admit that although I had already tested the bottles with water and fund they worked fine I was a little more skeptical about how well it would really keep beer cold. The Growler worked exactly as advertised though. We tipped back a few glasses between us and then sealed it up tight and let it go with the remaining beer for another 12 hours. At 36 hours we cracked it again and checked the beer’s status. Now, at a full 12 hours past the point where Hydro Flask guarantees coldness we still had cool beer. Not nearly as chilled as at 12 hours, but still cool and quite drinkable. We thought that was pretty impressive.
If you need a good, rugged, low profile insulated bottle for the field or even just everyday use I can definitely recommend the Hydro Flask Tactical and Growler bottles. The keep cold stuff cold and hot stuff hot and do so at a pretty reasonable price too.
As seen in Issue 19 of Self Reliance Illustrated!