Gear

Review: Swell Water Bottle

Swell Water Bottle
A wood-grain styled Swell Water Bottle at a park in downtown Edmonton, on a recent clear day before the wildfire smoke rolled in.

I have had a general dislike and distrust for insulated bottles since my elementary school days, when the thermos that was included in my Care Bears lunch box (don’t you goddamn judge me) would routinely spill whatever was inside all over my lunch below. This was a formative experience.

Since then, I have had nothing but bad luck with thermoses. Every single one I buy seems to either leak or proves impossible to keep clean because of the nooks and crannies of the mechanism to open the bottle or to drink from it. On simple plastic Nalgene-style bottles, like the ones you find clipped with carabiners to the backpacks of university students everywhere, the lack of thermal insulation means that the bottles sweat if there’s cold water in the bottle and there’s at least some humidity in the air outside. If you have your water bottle in a bag with papers or a book, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

So I’m skeptical of water bottles. Very skeptical. This has led me to buy bottles of water or pop on the go as I need something to drink instead of bringing a bottle of cold water with me when I leave home or the office.

Which brings us to now. I’ve been trying to change some habits to reduce both waste and unnecessary spending, so the idea of buying a good water bottle was appealing. Why waste money on bottled water when the stuff from the tap is basically free? Same thing with pop. Even if there’s no caloric damage to having a Coke Zero, it still costs money and requires a single-use bottle. Buying a good water bottle solved multiple problems for me.

Faced with the decision of which bottle to buy, I remembered my traumatic childhood lunch experiences. There would be no more compromises based on cost. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. So I researched the Swell bottles I kept seeing around town and decided to take the plunge. They’re expensive, but the people I talked to swear by them.

And you know what? I love my Swell bottle. It follows me everywhere, I use it at work, and I baby it like the $45 miracle contraption it is.

Swell Water Bottle
The fit and finish on this Swell bottle is excellent. It feels solid, and it has yet to leak in a bag while toting it around town. A few bits of the finish have scraped off from time spent in said bag, but that’s to be expected.

Why do I love my Swell water bottle?

  • It keeps my water cold. I can fill it with cold water at the office at night, and the water is still cold in the morning on my commute in. That’s impressive.
  • Because the bottle is insulated, it doesn’t sweat on the outside if it’s humid out. This was very handy on a recent trip to Montréal, where it was drenchingly humid for my entire stay. I could toss it in a bag with my copy of Le Devoir and not have it soak my newspaper before I had a chance to read it.
  • It’s reasonably lightweight for a metal bottle, and solid enough that I’m not afraid to take it out and about with me.
  • I’ve had no issues with off tastes from the metal or anything like that. As long as you wash it out with dish soap every few days, including around the lip and in the cap, you should be fine.
  • It’s a good size and shape for my purposes. I often don’t fill it full in order to keep weight down in my bag, but it’s nice to have the option, especially if I know I’m going to be out on the bus for a bit.

But before you jump and buy one, some things to consider:

  • They aren’t cheap. I spent $45 for my 500 mL bottle, and even smaller sized models are expensive. There are knock-offs available with the same shape and styling, so consider your use case. Personally, I’m done with cheap water bottles that can leak all over my stuff. I’d rather pay more for the quality.
  • Not dishwasher safe. I’m not sure why you can’t pop it into the dishwasher, but the accompanying documentation says not to do it. Be warned. If it gets grotty because you forget to clean it for a bit with something inside, you’re going to have to use a brush, some soap and some good old fashioned elbow grease to get it back to a usable state.
  • If you keep opening and closing it all day, don’t expect your water to stay super cool. It relies on the seal to keep the cold in and the hot out. (Or, if you use it for something hot, the reverse.)
  • The mouth opening isn’t tiny, but it also doesn’t fit all sizes of ice cubes. You may want to invest in a new ice cube tray that makes smaller cubes that you know will fit into the bottle, or you can either fill your existing tray a bit less full of water in each cube space before popping it into the freezer, or you can run the ice cubes under warm water from the tap before you pop them into the bottle to shrink them down a bit. Your call.
  • If you don’t seal it tightly, you’ve got only yourself to blame for leaks.

The Details

Price: $45 at Coles/Indigo in Edmonton for the 500 mL bottle.

Value for Money: Not cheap, admittedly. There are plenty of more affordable knock offs on the market, though I’m not sure how well they insulate or keep things in your bag safe from leaks. I think I’ve seen a discount knock-off at Dollarama, too. I wouldn’t take the risk, but that’s your call to make.

Availability: Quite a few shops. And look out for sales. They sometimes come on sale for 20% off at Indigo. So that’s good.

Nutrition: Fill it with water and boom, zero calories.

Verdict: I love my Swell bottle. I can’t believe I waited this long to buy a decent water bottle. It’s my constant companion.

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