CamelBak's big new range of drinks bottles includes both insulated models and plain plastic bottles. With spring in the air I thought it best to keep it simple, with a selection of the plastic ones. Here I'm looking at the Chute Mag 1L, Eddy+ .75L and Eddy Kids .4L
For details of the full range see camelbak.com
These robust plastic bottles are BPA , BPS & BPF free, and dishwasher safe. The quality and toughness feels on a par with a Nalgene bottle, my usual choice, though these are made in China rather than the US (if that matters).
The caps are interchangeable, so if you bought a couple of different models/sizes you could swap between the bite valve of the Eddy+ and the more open neck of the Chute Mag.
Chute Mag 1L - £18.99
This comes in a range of sizes from 1.5L down to 0.4L; I think 1 litre is a good capacity for a sunny day out. The vacuum insulated version looks good for winter or alpine use, and will set you back £34.99 (fair, for what looks like it might be a decent flask).
Having done a quick home test, it looks like the Chute Mag will happily hold boiling water, so whether you're boiling to sterilise or to create an improvised hot water bottle in a chilly tent, you can be confident it won't leak. I would not suggest trying this with the bite valve models though.
I like a wide mouthed bottle for easy filling from streams, and for topping up with snow. Take off the lid and the Chute Mag is easily wide enough. The spout itself is much narrower, fitting neatly in the mouth for easy spill-free gulping (with my wide-necked Nalgene you have to be a bit careful not to dribble).
The lid itself is a bit unusual, and I have to say I'm not a fan. Its notable feature is, believe it or not, a magnet, which holds the lid neatly open to avoid it getting in your way when drinking. So far, so harmless? Well not really. I think this is a solution in search of a problem, but worse, the magnet is easily strong enough to deflect a compass needle. That's a borderline safety issue in Britain's misty hills, and certainly something to be aware of. I do wish outdoor brands would stop sticking unnecessary magnets in things (jackets, gloves... now a bottle). What's wrong with simplicity? At least the magnet doesn't seem to add much weight, with the 1L bottle weighing barely more than my 1L Nalgene.
Other than this, I like the Chute Mag. It's robust, the carry handle feels sturdy, and the price - while a few quid more than a Nalgene - seems OK for something that'll probably last years.
Eddy+ .75L - £18.99
With 1L, .75L or .6L bottles, plus a .6L insulated version, the Eddy+ offers plenty of choice. I went for the 3/4 litre bottle, which is marginally more compact and packable than the full litre, and probably all you need for a quick crag session or half-day hill.
Its sucky bite valve makes this more of a sipper than a gulper, which is good for the car when you don't want a lap covered in Ribena. The valve has a good flow, and doesn't taste too plasticy. It is leak-proof when closed, won't spill if you knock the bottle over, and because it can be disassembled it's easy to keep clean. I really don't like hydration bladders/tubes (and say so at every opportunity), but find I don't mind this valve. It's nothing special, but it's good quality and justifies the price tag.
Eddy Kids .4L - £15.99
This comes in just the one capacity, and I think it's a sensible size for a smaller child - enough for a day out, without being too big or heavy. Ideally, kids should carry at least some of their own weight on walks.
As a scaled-down Eddy+ this has the same bite valve, which makes sense since nippers are forever spilling things.
There's too much plastic in our lives, and we could probably all do with buying fewer quality products rather than loads of rubbish. I've lost count of the number of cheapo plastic water bottles we've bought our girls over the years. In my experience budget bottles soon get scuffed, and things like carry handles can easily break off. It's not a budget option, but the Eddy Kids is good and tough, and should last for ages. Now we've just got to make sure our two don't misplace theirs!
I'm told the bite valve can rip over time if your kid is prone to chewing it; but usefully, it's replaceable.
Then there's the chemical composition of the plastic itself. One cheap bottle I bought only last year from a well known outdoor sports bargain megastore has developed an unmistakeable chemical taint that's rendered it unpleasant (and possibly inadvisable?) to use. God knows what it's made of. I certainly wouldn't want my children exposed to potentially harmful chemicals if I can avoid it. BPA-free plastic, as used in quality bottles like these Camelbak models, does provide some measure of reassurance. BPA, which stands for bisphenol A, is an industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate plastics. Small amounts of the stuff can migrate into food or drinks stored in the container, and while nobody seems to know precisely how harmful it is to ingest, research indicates that it may interfere with hormones, while possible links with some cancers have also been widely aired. Playing it safe, particularly with growing children, seems like a no-brainer. How safe are the various BPA-free alternatives? I'll have to leave that question for another day.
Back to the more important fun stuff. The Eddy Kids comes in a number of bright, cheery designs. Our girls were sent the rather gendered unicorns and glittery rainbows - both went down well, though I'm pleased to say they would have been just as happy with UFOs or sharks. The main thing is that they like them, and actually want to carry their own when we go out. That saves me having to.