KOTIS SWAGLAB
The Best Insulated Water Bottle
August 24, 2020    |    By Jacob Hoogerwerf

 

Introduction
Calling drinkware a popular investment for brands would be an understatement. Second only to t-shirts, drinkware is one of the fastest growing product categories in the industry and an excellent option for brands to invest in. A whopping 82% of Americans have a promotional drinkware product with 52% of them using it weekly. That offers a staggering 1,400 impressions throughout its lifespan.

Now, there are a lot of options out there when it comes to drinkware. Fortunately, I consider myself a reusable bottle connoisseur, and I am here to help you navigate your drinkware dilemma. For the last decade, I can probably count on a single hand how many disposable water bottles I’ve consumed. Similarly, I can recount the handful of reusable bottles that have lasted the better part of my adult life, starting with the first version of the Camelbak Eddy all the way to the Takeya Thermoflask.

The stakes are high for reusable drinkware products. In the United States alone, we consume over 100 billion plastic beverage bottles a year, that’s 315 per person. By picking the right drinkware product, you can make huge headway reducing plastic waste, 91% of which, isn’t recycled. When it comes to reusable, insulated water bottles, we recommend the H2Go Journey Bottle for its great build quality and superior thermal capabilities. For those who prefer a branded product for gifting, the MiiR Vacuum Insulated Bottle offers excellent performance and a give back program.

OUR PICK

The H2Go Journey Thermal Bottle

Sleek Design, Excellent Thermal Capabilities.
Offering excellent thermal performance and a functional design, it’s hard to beat the H2Go Journey Bottle. Offered in several colors and shipped in a retail-ready gift box, the Journey bottle is a perfect solution for most people.

Minimum Order: 48
Base Cost: $11.99
Decoration: Laser, Pad Print

While all double-walled, insulated bottles offered great performance in keeping cold liquids cool and hot liquids warm, the H2Go Journey Thermal excelled in the most important test: everyday usage. With thoughtful, yet practical design, the Journey is easy to use and worked equally as well on a normal workday as it did on a longer, outdoor hike.

Offering a leak-proof, screw-top lid and a powdered body finish, this bottle felt more premium than many of the more expensive options that we tested. With a swing clip on top, this bottle is easily stored on the outside or inside of your bag, depending on your preference. At 25 ounces, this bottle is the sweet spot in terms of size, offering enough liquid for one outing but not too much to be prohibitive to carry on the go. It’s also worth mentioning that this bottle kept water the coldest in our test; it was the only bottle to keep chilled liquid under 50 degrees for the entire day.

Available in eight unique matte colors and a shiny stainless steel option, most companies will be able to find a style that suits their brand. Heck, even the newly designated Seattle Kraken hockey team picked this bottle to feature their brand new insignia.

FOR BRAND AFICIONADOS

The MiiR Vacuum Insulated Bottle

Modern Look, Deep Brand Promise.
MiiR is always a fan-favorite, offering premium products with superior finishing. This bottle is no exception. Combining tasteful design with a powdered finish, excellent liquid temperature control, and a giveback program, this bottle is a great premium choice for those who prefer a name brand experience.

Minimum Order: 20
Base Cost: $29.99
Decoration: Laser, Pad Print

For many, drinkware often serves as part or the entirety of a corporate gift to employees, clients, or associates (more on this later). A little bit of brand name recognition never hurt. The MiiR Vacuum Insulated Bottle offers stellar performance and a classic look for a modest price increase. Even better, Miir donates a portion of proceeds from each product to an important cause. The “Give Code” on my bottle indicated it helped support the Kula Project in Rwanda, promoting entrepreneurship through coffee to disadvantaged women.

Offering a narrower body and mouth than the other products we tested, this bottle stood taller than the rest, despite holding the relatively standard amount of liquid at 23 ounces. For some, the larger stature won’t matter, but it’s an important consideration for those including this item in kits and mailers. Miir does offer a wide mouth variant of the same bottle, that is more in line with standard dimensions of other products tested. If I were to purchase a Miir bottle, I’d opt for the wide mouth variant, but that comes down to personal preference.

Both variants of the Miir Insulated Bottle come in black and whiteThe construction of these products is stellar, with a leak proof lid and sturdy clip for carabiners or straps. Like our other top choice, the bottle comes with powdered finish, giving you a little more grip and a slightly textured look – perfect for your logo.

OUR PICK

H2Go Journey

Sleek Design, Excellent Thermal Capabilities.
Offering excellent thermal performance and a functional design, it’s hard to beat the H2Go Journey Bottle. Offered in several colors and shipped in a retail-ready gift box, the Journey bottle is a perfect solution for most people.

Minimum Order: 48
Base Cost: $11.99
Colors:

Decoration: Laser, Pad Print

UPGRADE PICK

Miir Insulated Bottle

Modern Look, Deep Brand Promise.
MiiR is always a fan-favorite, offering premium products with superior finishing. This bottle combines tasteful design with a powdered finish, excellent liquid temperature control, and a meaningful giveback program.

Minimum Order: 20
Base Cost: $29.99
Colors:

Decoration: Laser, Pad Print

UPGRADE PICK

Miir Wide-Mouth Bottle

Same Great Bottle, Better Shape.
MiiR’s wide-mouth variant offers the same perks as its insulated bottle with a more standard shape and design. Its fixed clip on the top makes screwing and unscrewing easier and offers a place to hook onto backpacks and bags.

Minimum Order: 12
Base Cost: $29.99
Colors:

Decoration: Laser, Pad Print

Other Products We Tested

This test has been our most comprehensive to date. Over the course of two months, we tested a total of 16 water bottles in everyday usage, temperature trials, and durability tests. There are a dizzying number of bottles out there and in many circumstances, the right bottle comes down to personal preference. The bottles we’ve selected are well-constructed and work great for most users.

For the test, we looked at several glass and plastic options as “control” test groups. In general, we do not recommend a glass or plastic bottle unless you are specifically interested in those materials. If you are set on a glass bottle, we like the H2Go Inspire Bottle. There was not a plastic option tested that we recommend.

Similarly, we tested a handful of single wall metal options. While these are likely to be more durable and attractive than their plastic/glass counterparts, they offer no temperature insulation improvement. See our temperature test below for a visual look at how cold water faired for all our bottles and materials.

That leaves us with a plethora of double-walled insulated bottles. All options we tested will keep your water cool throughout the day. After a full workday of testing, less than 10° separated all our double-wall options. While it didn’t make the cut for our top choices, the Contigo Ashland Chill bottle offered excellent insulation along with a straw and spout option (check out the next section for a guide on navigating bottle styles).

The Yeti Insulated Bottle is also worth mentioning. Yeti is an ultra-popular brand and while we were slightly underwhelmed by Yeti’s insulated coffee mug, their water bottle performed very well, keeping liquids cold (or hot) throughout the day. Their ultra-wide design includes a huge opening, Yeti calls it their “Chug Cap”, that’s designed to allow your entire mouth and nose to fit in the opening. For you speed hydrators, this might be your best option.

A quick note on popular brands, including S’well and Hydroflask: As you’ll find in our research, well-constructed, double-walled, insulated bottles all perform at a similar level. The bottles that we have chosen offer an exceptional value given their quality and construction. If you prefer co-branding opportunities with big brand names, they’ll work just as well, but your price point may be higher.


A Note on Bottle Styles

Full Spout
Like drinking out of a cup, the entire top of bottle can be removed. Leakproof.

Lid with Mouth Piece
Screw top for easy pouring, new bottles are leakproof with proper sealing.

Lid with Straw
Flip top straw for easy drinking, generally not leakproof when tipped upside down.

Button Flip-Up
Softer straw that flips upgenerally more resistant to leaking, but will leak over time.

As we touched on in our review on the best commuter backpack, some branded merchandise is inherently more personal than others. Water bottles aren’t an exception. Your recipients have preferences in terms of size, shape, color, and the top of the bottle. Not to get too technical over a bottle, but the drinking experience is the most important part and ultimately determines how often your product will get used. You can keep liquids hot or cold for hours on end, but if it spills down your shirt during showtime, your investment will be spending its life in the cupboard.

In general, for giveaways and retail products, we recommend products that will delight the highest number of people. Some will prefer the convenience of a straw or flip-up option, but for most, I recommend considering leakproof bottles only. While most reusable bottles start off leak-resistant, after seals start to wear out it’s common to find puddles in your bag for flip-up and straw bottles. We want to help you make swag that lasts, so we recommend investing in full spout or spouts with closeable mouth pieces. These bottles generally have screw-top lids that are will stand the test of time and keep liquids where they should be. Additionally, these bottles tend to last longer and are more resistant to mold and grime.


Why You Should Invest in Drinkware

In terms of delighting the highest amount of people possible… drinkware is a great idea. According to ETS, drinkware is the second largest swag category, with 88% of American consumers owning a promotional drinkware item. On average, people keep drinkware for over 12 months and each drinkware item generates 1,400+ impressions over its lifespan. Clearly there is a marketing and brand opportunity.

Beyond numbers, however, is the chance to develop a closer relationship with the user of the product. Like I mentioned, over the last decade I’ve only used a handful of bottles. They follow me to and from work, in my personal life, on vacations. I’m not alone. Premium water bottles have become the favorite accessory for young adults and this trend has only grown over the last decade. If you can create a product that people want to use, with tasteful graphics, you’ll be able to develop a deeper relationship between your brand and your people for months and years to come.


Our Research

For more than two months, we put over a dozen water bottles through a series of tests looking at performance, durability, usability, and decoration capability. We combined this data with personal insights and internal sales data to deliver our recommendations.

Temperature
On a normal summer workday, we looked at the temperature of refrigerated water in each of our bottles over the course of nine hours:

When you break down the results segmented by material, the insights become quite clear. If you care about temperature control, a double-walled insulated bottle is the way to go. Interestingly, the cheapest value plastic bottle slightly outperformed the glass and single-wall metal bottles for most of the day, but in the end all the non double-walled tests were very similar.

I’ll be the first to admit that taking the temperature of water isn’t an exact science. I didn’t follow the University of the West Indies’ accepted method for testing water temperature; however, the data is quite clear. All double, insulated bottles perform well, most of which will inch about a degree closer to room temperature per hour, with more being lost immediately after being put in the bottle.

Build, Construction, and Aesthetics
Most modern water bottles are built well and look nice, but if I had any general complaints for the water bottles we tested, it would be the overall durability. Even after just a week of testing, some of the bottles began to leak, have small scratches and dents, or the mechanisms (i.e. buttons) stopped working. Full spout lids have the least number of moving pieces and rubber seals, meaning they’ll last the test of time with minimal care and cleaning.

A true, double-walled insulated bottle is going to be a little bulkier than a non-insulated bottle. This is of course because they essentially have one bottle inside of another, with a vacuum sealed pocket in between. Our top choices, the H2Go Journey and Miir Insulated Bottle passed our durability tests with flying colors. Even when dropped on their side and corners, they didn’t suffer any damage outside of normal scratches. This is likely due to their strong, steel exterior. Unfortunately, this wasn’t true for all bottles. Both the H2Go Trek as well as the Birke Double Wall bottle sustained dents during normal testing on the sides due to using thinner sheets of aluminum, rather than steel.

It’s important to distinguish between performance and durability. Both the bottles I would deem as “heavy duty” or “light weight” both retained water temperature at the roughly the same efficiency, more or less. When it comes to lifespan and toughness is where the more-rugged bottles began to excel. Even after drop and durability tests, the Yeti Bottle (which was the heaviest empty bottle tested at 22 oz. in weight) emerged without even a scrape. When considering which bottle to purchase, try to find a sweet spot between durability and portability.

Decoration Capability
Most bottles feature one of two decoration techniques: laser engraving and pad printing. Some bottles, including our upgrade choice (the Miir Insulated Bottle), support both laser and printing, so be sure to check with your product specialist when it comes time to decorate.

Since water bottles are a high-touch item, going in and out of bags, in the cup holder, on the desk, and washed often, we generally recommend the more permanent decoration solution, which is the laser engrave. This offers a classy, monochrome design which often looks silver on a dark bottle. Since the art is etched into the bottle itself, you can feel your logo as well. For bottles that already offer a powdered finish, including both of our top choices, this complements the already textured exterior of the bottle, and will withstand the entire lifespan of the product.

For those who are looking for a little more color and control, printing remains a great option. While it won’t have the everlasting feel of laser etching, brands are able to fully customize their design with color.

FOR MAXIMUM CREATIVITY

Liberty Bottles

Full color, full wrap design capability
When design comes first and you want to leave a lasting impact from each bottle, consider Liberty. They pioneered a full color, cylindrical printing technique that allows the designs to wrap seamlessly around the entire bottle.

Minimum Order: 144
Base Cost: $16.40
Decoration: Proprietary Decoration Technique

While on the topic of decoration techniques, we wanted to discuss Liberty Bottles – a drinkware manufacturer taking custom to the next level. Their flagship bottle is only single-walled, but they now have double-walled options as well. Manufactured in small-town USA, these bottles are dedicated to ending single use plastic, and sport some of the most unique decoration options out there.

In addition to seamless full wrap printing, they add a clear coat finish that brings a unique raised texture on top of the art. Liberty offers dozens and dozens of designs on their site for inspiration. If you want to flex your creative muscles (or let our design team do so), Liberty may be the route for you.


Decoration Tips
A final thought on design: in general, with products that get used daily, less is more. How often do you use a product with a massive logo down the side? Probably not very frequently. We encourage you to opt for tasteful, less obvious designs on your products (with the caveat being a well-designed full wrap Liberty bottle). For those investing in co-branding opportunities with major drinkware companies, look at the size of their logo; it’s often small and doesn’t dominate the bottle. Follow their lead and opt for simplicity over size.

While this may hinder the walking billboard effect that some brands hope for, your product is far more likely to get used if it looks nice and complements the user’s style. A few thoughtful conversations are worth much more than glances at an oversized logo.


Environmental Impacts of Investing in Drinkware
We touched on this in the intro, but I wanted to circle back to this topic. The swag industry gets a fair amount of criticism for its impact on the environment (much of which is rightfully deserved). Products like reusable drinkware are perfect for aiding in the reduction of waste, rather than adding to it. Plastic waste is a serious issue. Each year, over 260 million tons of plastic is produced. A staggering and frustrating 91% of it, is not recycled. And perhaps most damaging, 10% of plastic produced each year ends up in the ocean.

As an exercise, I hope you can reflect on how much plastic you use in a year. We have plastic grocery bags, water bottles, Ziploc bags, food packaging, air bubbles in your Amazon boxes, clothes made from non-recyclable materials, and more. Many of the goods and services we use generate much waste.

Now, this piece isn’t specifically about the environmental impact of swag (we’re developing other content to address that). However, with all products that we sell, we advocate for the ones that have the highest potential to do good, and reusable drinkware is a great example. Some Americans still use plastic bottles for all their water consumption. Consider the impact a reusable bottle can have on someone who consumes 4-5 disposable bottles a day.

For many, the plastic savings won’t be that dramatic and we won’t solve the plastic waste crisis with a single item, but investing in reusable products is a great way to do good for the world, while doing good for your brand.


Why Bottles are Perfect for Kits and Gifts
For all the reasons above and more, investing in reusable drinkware is an excellent idea. Reusable bottles are one of the fastest growing segments of promotional goods and they get used. They also make perfect additions to kits and corporate gifts.

Not only are they universally loved (88% of Americans own a promotional bottle), but they complement many other items, allowing you to add a reusable bottle to round out your gift.

Combine a messenger bag and a bottle and you have a new hire kit. Bring together a shirt and a bottle and you have an exercise kit. Put a bottle in a backpack and you have an adventure kit (or any kit really). Bottles are a universal and welcomed addition to any kit or gift that you’re working on.

Finally, there is the aspect of promoting wellness. As we’ve mentioned, reusable bottles are generally seen most often in gyms and outdoor life. By bundling your bottle with other wellness and fitness items, you can promote a healthy and positive lifestyle for your people. And if nothing else, 80% of working Americans say they do not drink enough water every day – you can be a force for that positive change.


Why Trust Kotis
We’ve been selling drinkware since the beginning and have been delighted to be part of the movement to reduce waste and promote re-use. Over the past year, we have sold more than 300,000 units of reusable drinkware. With even the most conservative estimate that each re-usable item reduces disposable plastic waste by about 20 units, we are happy to know that we’ve helped reduced plastic waste of over 6 million units.

Our goal is always to help our clients navigate the many product choices out there. Jacob Hoogerwerf, our product tester, spent over two months putting these bottles through their paces. The above recommendations were formed through a series of tests, client feedback, and sales data. These are not endorsed by any supplier, we simply want to help make your life easier when choosing merch. Let’s do swag together.