Many people in the ultra-light backpacking community use plastic soda, water, or Gatorade bottles to carry water while hiking. For a long time, my choice for water storage was the 1.5 Liter Poland Springs Bottle, but I have recently switched to the 1.5 Fiji Bottle. I find that the large square Fiji Water Bottles fit better in my side pockets, won’t roll away, and have a lower center of gravity than the old Poland Springs bottle of equal volume.
Why not use hard plastic water bottles for hiking?
Before discussing the advantages of the Fiji bottle over other bottles, I should start by explaining a few of the reasons for using recycled bottles and not the hard plastic or aluminum bottles sold in sporting goods stores. To start off, it saves money! Many of the 1 Liter bottles available on the market can cost up to $20, and they come with nothing but air inside. Fiji or Poland Springs water bottles usually cost less than $3, and they come with water!! Sure, you can’t reuse them as many times, but even fancy Nalgene and Camelbak bottles eventually get too grungy to keep using.
More importantly, hard plastic or aluminium water bottles are heavy. An empty 1 Liter Camelback bottle weighs 6.7 ounces on my scale. A 1.5 Liter Fiji Water Bottle weighs only 2 ounces. That is a 5.4 ounce weight savings per liter of capacity.
Fiji Water Bottles are Square
If you’ve ever stopped for a break and put your water bottle down on an un-even surface, you’ve probably experienced the fun of having to chase it down the hill. This has happened to me too many times. When refilling water from a Sawyer Squeeze filter by yourself, you need to sit your empty containers on the ground. It is a major disappointment when an unstable bottle falls over and dumps out all of your freshly filtered water. I find that I don’t have these problems with a square bottle. You can lie a square bottle on its side and it won’t roll. When standing up, they are more stable because they have a greater surface area on the ground.
Fiji Water Bottles Fit Better
This isn’t the case for everybody, but it is for me. I use a Gossamer Gear Gorilla backpack, and it’s side pockets are a unique shape. I find that a square bottle fits much than does a round bottle. Additionally, Fiji Water Bottles are shorter in height for the same volume, so they have a lower center of gravity. This makes them more stable and less likely to flop around or fall out of your side pocket while hiking.
Updated: Concern about #1 PET Bottles
A friend of mine writes:
“Be careful, #1 PET bottles are not intended for reuse has chemicals can leach out of the plastic – thus why Klean Kanteen is in business.” -Jack
Jack has excellent point, and we should be concerned about this. I did some quick research, and I found mixed answers. There are some concerns that as PET bottles degrade over time, they may leach chemicals such as antimony and acetaldehyde into water. Most studies show that these levels are within safe limits. As with most chemicals, the effects of prolonged exposures to these substances me be difficult to determine, and should be avoided.
My advise is to use the #1 PET Fiji bottles only for a few days, and then replace them. If you’re through-hiking, consider replacing them every time you stop in a trail town. If you’re just out for the weekend, throw out your bottles when you get home.
Here’s my logic: The process for chemicals leaching into water is going to be time dependent. The longer the water sits in the bottle, the more chemicals will leach into it. By this reasoning, the water that comes in the bottle from the store already has more chemicals than does any batch of water that you refill and drink on the trail.
I hope this helps. What are your thoughts?