Sometimes traveling puts me in fine homes or comfortable hotels or hostels and I enjoy clean plates, glasses, and water.
Other times, travel has landed me where I don’t want to have to touch a plate, fork or glass. Sometimes there isn’t even a glass to drink from.
And then there are the days — most days — when I love the glasses where I’m staying, but I’m out seeing the town, city, or countryside from morning ’til night, and need to carry water.
In the heat of Panama, for example, I carried a 1-liter bottle of water with me constantly, having to hold those bulky bottles all day and evening. As is most common in my travels, it wasn’t a lack of clean water, but of constantly stopping to buy water or ask for a cup of water.
Oh, how I have wished for a water bottle I could trust not to leak but crush up to nothing when it was empty. A water bottle that didn’t take up a ton of space in my day-bag or cause my hands to be in pain from clenching it by the slippery neck all day long.
It wasn’t until well after my Central America travels, but happily, I found a solution — a water bottle comfortable to drink from, large enough to carry significant water, collapsible to not kill space in my bag all the time.
The HydraPak collapsible water bottle is great for travel
When out for a hike or for a day, while the bottle is full (or partially full) I carry it in my ChicoBag Bottle Sling. When it’s empty I just twist the HydraPak Stash™ down and toss it into my daypack, handbag, or whatever I am using for that day and occasion — and fill it again and again later.
(To carry my Stash, I’ve had it in my ChicoBag Bottle Sling. It’s a tight fit and I wish it was wider, but the Stash™ can remain in the sling all day so it does the job. However, this sling makes it harder to take the top off and screw it back on perfectly to prevent leaks so return i hopefully you’ll find a better sling.)
With the HydraPak Stash, I have been easily able to ask kind bartenders or restaurant establishments to fill my bottle because the mouth is wide and not a hygiene issue. Then I can pop the Watergate (see below) back in and drink from a controlled flow rather than a wide opening. I used this in LA, then took it with me on one long trip, then continued to use it in LA again. At $25, I believe its a good value.
The HydraPak Stash’s wide opening also makes it easy to drop ice cubes into the water.
I can drink slowly or guzzle water without taking in air or having to work hard as I must with a straw-style drinking vessel.
I selected the 1L bottle but if you carry the 750ml bottle you can use it with the Katadyn BeFree filter. I’m told you just need to purchase the refill.
Because the 1-Liter HydraPak Stash has a wide mouth, it can be a challenge to drink from while walking or in a car or bus. The Watergate is a flexible, soft plastic piece you insert into the top of the opening so you can drink more easily while in motion. (I got such a kick out of hearing the name for this HydraPak add-on. If you don’t get it, that’s ok. It’s a generation thing.)
My Experience with the Stash
HydraPak claims their bottles are durable — and this one sure is! For four months straight as I traveled, it was my go-to bottle for most of my liquids consumption. (I’m not a soda or tea person; I drink water all day long, coffee when it’s made and offered at a home or hostel.) It’s amazing to me that the Stash withstands having all that water in it. I’ve opened mine many times during the day to drink and I’ve taken it with me all day and even used it by my bed to drink from — and it has never developed a leaked.
Being soft-sided, the 1-Liter Stash requires two hands to open and drink from. When I’m walking I stop, unscrew the lid, drink, screw the lid back on, then continue my walk. Sometimes it takes concentration to properly catch the treads of the screw top. Using it nearly constantly for over 6 months, only one time I failed to close it properly and had a water leak, but it wasn’t a bad leak.
I made one mistake when it came to cleaning. Thinking this was only water, I failed to do something logical and recommended. HydraPak recommends you use water and a bit of dish soap to clean it out every couple of weeks or month. Ideally, with a bottle brush. As a traveler, we won’t have a bottle brush, so they recommend cleaning it every two weeks. I’m thinking weekly is better. And, because it squishes down and has a wide enough mouth, you can use a typical dish-cleaning sponge to clean the sides and bottom.
I think I was smart to keep the lid off and make sure it dried out completely when I wasn’t using it. However, it was almost always in use, full of water. Keeping water in it doesn’t keep it perfect. So after about 3-5 months of use, I realized it didn’t smell so fresh. I carry their Bottle Bright tablets for cleaning but didn’t think of using one as a preventative measure instead of waiting until the bottle smelled. So by the time I used a Bottle Bright tablet, it still required more effort — the repeated baking soda. I filled it with baking soda and warm water, then shook it up to get to all inside surfaces. I repeated this a few times, then let it dry out. I gave my Stash a rest and after a little while, it was back to normal. It’ll be coming along on my next long travels.
As I completed this post, I spoke with a man in customer service who know the Stash since day one and he has never heard of a funky-smell issue. His surprise was genuine. He asked if I’d cleaned it out once or twice a month with hot water and a bit of dish soap. See, I hadn’t. I will from now on though — and recommend the same to you.
I didn’t check with customer service but I think a bit of baking soda every couple of weeks would help keep the bottle nice. I’ve always been able to find Baking soda is where I’ve traveled. (I keep some on hand for indigestion.)
Here’s the official HydraPak Stash product details page.
Another HydraPak Option — the Stow
HydraPak also now has a flask-like Stow™ introduced in 2017.
I like that it’s lighter and it rolls up to next to nothing, making it even easier to pack and carry in a day bag. When I rolled mine up I was actually excited! (Yes, I’m a space-saving/weight-saving travel geek now.)
It doesn’t have a solid base and based on its web page photo shown here, I didn’t expect it to stand it up on a table or bedside on the floor. I was wrong. Oval-shaped with water in it the water flattens the bottom and it stands well even half full.
It doesn’t have a wide mouth so we won’t be putting ice cubes into this water bottle. Long, thin water bottle style ice would fit though.
I theorize that the Stow is easier to clean than the Stash; that you can fully scrub the inside walls, top, and bottom against one another. (Like when doing laundry with a Scrubba wash bag.)
The drinking difference is that this is a “spill-proof” cap. You twist the top part up to drink then pull hard (suck) or squeeze the bottle to bring up the water. That’s because HydraPak doesn’t want it spilling on you as you carry it on your belt or backpack while you’re walking. Yes, you can leave the twist top untwisted as you walk. (But close it for extra safety.)
At a suggested retail price of $17, it’s within reach of many travelers.
Here’s the Stow’s official product page.
My Experience with the Stow
While the Stash. gives me a drink-from-a-glass feeling, the Stow feels like drinking out of a water bottle in that you need to lift it and suck in the water. When I squeeze the bottle it’s much less of a suck.
I love that although I’ll likely never toss it into a handbag or backpack compartment with my iPhone, Mac, or other important electronics, I am not terribly worried about it being near. On the way home from grocery shopping (orange juice, chocolate bars, shampoo and a few other things) I was able to simply toss it on top of my stuff for easy access. Everything stayed dry and I enjoyed sips of water as I walked the mile “home.”
I am also able to carry my Stow in my ChicoBag Bottle Sling. I’ve simply sqeezed the not fully filled body and slid it in. The Stow’s entire body is so flexible that I can stuff it in there. With the Stow’s much smaller top and the top’s unique spill-proof mouthpiece, this sling doesn’t block its use.
What Can You Carry in a HydraPak bottle?
Here’s what you can use in it.
- Electrolyte drinks
- Nutritional gels
- Powdered protein
- Cleaning tablets
When I don’t like the taste of local water I put a little bit of powered flavor in. I haven’t tried that with this bottle. I’m guessing it would stain the bottle but would otherwise be ok.
You may carry coffee, tea, milk or juice, but it will leave a film on the inside. I wouldn’t advise it.
On one of my other water bottles, I put liquid vanilla (for baking) as flavor and it lined the bottle. I was able to clean it out easily but it wasn’t worth the flavoring.
Actually, about the coffee and tea, HydraPak says do not use if for “any liquid above 140 °F (60 °C).”
HydraPak also says not to use it for alcoholic or acidic beverages.
Here’s their support page on this.
An Alternative Brand and Style
The other bottle I’ve used but not taken on a long-term trip is by another brand called the HYDAWAY.
The HYDAWAY water bottles are thicker-walled and fold down in steps.
I like that the original model enables you to drink with one hand. It’s a flip-up straw rather than a lid which may be more spill-proof and easier to drink from but to really feel my thirst quenched I unscrew the lid. It’s heavier though and doesn’t hold enough water for a true outing, so while I love it in my car or by my computer or bedside, it’s not a first choice for my travels.
I haven’t yet tried their 2nd version which comes larger, is a screw-top and is lighter. However, at 6oz for the 1-Liter size, is still heavier than the 3.7 oz HydraPak 1L. I expect it would be a want-to-bring item for me, but the weight may cause me to continue choosing HydraPak over it.