Alex was the perfect tester for the project. A hardcore roadie and self-proclaimed beer snob, he’s also an engineer. If a water bottle imparts any unpleasant taste to its contents, he’ll know. And his flow rate and output testing is a step above any other review I’ve read.
This is the first part in a review of three different water bottles currently on the market. While I purchased one of the three, the other two were provided in order to test their resistance to mold formation. I decided, before growing the mold farms, to put them through their paces and compare their functionality as water bottles.
The three bottles tested are the CamelBak Podium, the Clean Bottle and the Specialized Purist. Each water bottle held water. The end.
Yeah right. Brian usually has to trim down these reviews, so I don’t want to disappoint him. For this review, I will compare the bottles based on the taste of water from each, the performance of their lids and valves, and their fit in my bottle cages. Each bottle was hand washed prior to the testing and was allowed to drip-dry.
TASTE: The literature provided with each bottle claims that the bottle is designed with clean taste in mind. Clean Bottle is made with 100% non-toxic, BPA-free plastics…, CamelBak states that their bottle is made from BPA-free, taste-free TruTaste™ polypropylene with HydroGuard™, and Specialized claims that with the Purist you will realize what you’ve been missing: the pure taste of water.
During the taste-tests, it was found that the Purist did indeed offer the cleanest taste of the three. It was really splitting hairs to find a difference between the Purist and the CamelBak, but there was a subtle difference in the taste. The Clean Bottle did have a slight plastic taste. It was not overly offensive, just more discernible than the others.
LIDS: In terms of ergonomics, the Specialized was the clear winner. The rubber slip-free grip felt the best of the three and made this lid easiest to tighten or loosen even when wet. The Clean Bottle was second to the Purist in this category. This lid and the screw-off bottom unique to the Clean Bottle were also easy to grip both when dry and wet. The CamelBak, on the other hand, was somewhat difficult to loosen and to completely tighten when wet.
This explains why the CamelBak was susceptible to leaking around the lid when squeezed. I have been using the CamelBak bottles for over a year now, and this has happened several times. The Clean Bottle did have a slight leak at the bottom when squeezed. However, I’m putting this down to user error as it was the first time I had replaced the bottom and don’t think it was tightened enough. The Specialized lid never leaked around the edges.
VALVES: The Clean Bottle retains what has been the standard “pull out to open, push to close” valve. This means that once out, the valve is always open. Therefore, the drinking process requires you to first open the valve, then drink as this valve cannot be left “open.” The Podium and Purist both have valves that are, as CamelBak describes, always open, always shut. CamelBak refers to theirs as a Jet Valve™ and the Specialized version is named the Watergate. Both valves also offer a secondary locking method for a more secure seal. One simply twists on the CamelBak valve and pushes on the Specialized.
All valves were completely closed to check for leaks. The Clean Bottle valve did not leak at all. The CamelBak had a slight leak even with the valve in the closed and locked position. Also, the Jet Valve™ could be heard whistling due to pressure build-up in the bottle when shaken or when a Nuun tablet was added to the water. Pressure change in the Purist, either from squeezing or from shaking to mix a powdered drink supplement, actually caused the valve to extend upward from its locked position and leak. The leak was not major, but it was more than the CamelBak and could be enough to make a mess in your gear bag should the bottle get mashed during transit.
The three valves were also compared in terms of flow-rate and maximum output. A single squeeze on the Clean Bottle delivered 6 oz of liquid, while the CamelBak and Specialized output 8. The Clean Bottle also had the lowest (i.e. slowest) flow-rate at 2.2 ounces per second. The Podium had the highest flow rate at 3.5 oz/s with the Specialized only slightly slower at 3.25 oz/s.
FIT: All the bottles fit fairly well in my carbon fiber cages. The Podium fit the tightest while the Clean Bottle was the loosest. The shape of each bottle made insertion and removal a cinch. Picking a winner in this aspect would be a toss-up between the Specialized and the CamelBak.
The feelings on the road mirrored what was stated previously. Honestly, the valves on the CamelBak and Specialized make drinking much quicker and easier. That can be a big deal when you’re screaming along in a pace-line. The CamelBak seemed to deliver the most liquid the quickest. Also, I found that I preferred the shape of the valve tip on the CamelBak over the other two. Both the Podium and Purist were slightly easier to squeeze than the Clean Bottle.
Overall, I would put the Clean Bottle in third position due to its valve. Based on feel and performance, the CamelBak slightly edged out the Specialized. I guess that means the Podium gets the top step of the podium for this round. Check back soon for the next installment.