I’ve cracked three nalgene bottles in the past two decades.  The first was a classic 1 liter in milky plastic, before lexan invaded REI and college lecture halls.  It was ancient and wrapped in duct tape, and split radially when I dropped it in the Sylvan Lake parking lot, which was sad.  I think I was relegated to old juice jugs for the rest of that summers rock bumming.  The second was a few years later, Elephant Butte in Arches, at the flat sandstone base of the exit rap.  I got lazy, it might have been the third lap that day and the 40th that year, and let a single kink in the opposite strand rise 30 feet in the air.  I spent 10 minutes trying to huck a partially full 48oz silo through that loop, tied to the other end, before it shattered into pieces striking the rock.  The third was just the other week, when I gave Purple a stout whack on a tree, to split loose the ice which had layered inside after a 10 degree evening.  Purple cracked, and functionally, was no more.


We found Purple on this trip seven years ago, in the midst of the talus along the west side of Norris Mountain.  Purple has been around a lot, on my first successful elk hunt, most memorably.  And this is why I’ve always like nalgene bottles.  They aren’t invincible, but they’re close enough, in the face of accidents and hot water and intentional abuse, that over the years deep memories accumulate.  Purple has the sticker from our Double Duck, and the one from that place with best coffee porter, and the stack Jamie sent me after I proofed their gorgeous map.  I don’t quite have any ideas what I’ll do with it, but I’m certainly not ready to just put it in the trash.

Without Purple, we have perhaps nine or ten nalgenes in the house.  Some are hiding in dark corners.  A few sit in the mud room and are used daily.  I believe, years ago, I bought one of them.  Another was a gift.  Several more were freebz at trade shows.  The rest, a solid majority, were found in the wild, taken home, cleaned, sterilized, restickered as needed over time, and adopted.  And for the pleasure of keeping fewer gatorade or smartwater bottles out of the wild, I’ll gladly keep hauling the ounces.


  1. Mike Moore says:

    I’ve got a pretty good collection of the “milky” ones- 16, 32 and 48 oz – they are almost half the weight of the “new” ones. They seem like they would take a little more abuse as well by just comparing them. I don’t use them much in the summer, but early spring, later fall and winter it’s the only bottle I use (made a mistake a month ago bringing a Platypus which promptly froze near the top rendering the water in it unavailable)

    1. craigwisner says:

      My name is Craig and I’m a Nalgene thief.

      I have two in my pack as we speak, waiting by the door to head out after work tomorrow. Both are the milky (HDPE?) variety, one white, one green w/navy blue cap (my favorite). Definitely prefer them to the lexan ones.
      I *borrowed* the white one from you on the bison hunt Mike…and, well, you know how that goes…

      1. Mike Moore says:

        I was wondering where that one went :)

  2. Paul Mags says:

    I have a collection of knock-off ones from trail work or schwag give-a-ways. We still use them for winter camping or backpacking or when we need to transport liquids in our daily lives.

    My favorite one is from a trail work project in the Comanche Grasslands of SE Colorado. Mainly because it is an obscure area even now with all the growth of Denver since I did that project many years ago.

  3. Chris K. says:

    I found one last Spring near Lion Lake in Wild Basin. It was sticking halfway out of the forest snow swell like a little glacial erratic, covered in cliché Colorado stickers. Fun find. It felt like it lived a good, long life.

    (Paul, was your trail work with the Southern Plains Land Trust? Love that area.)

    1. Paul Mags says:

      Comanche Grasslands in Picketwire Canyon. The rangers showed us the Brontosaurus tracks and even were allowed to camp in the canyon itself (normally not allowed.) Very cool!

      1. Paul Mags says:

        Oh, and with the Volunteers for Outdoors Colorado. A tamarisk eradication project.

  4. gregp says:

    Last year I dropped my full Lexan water bottle down some concrete stairs at school and it shattered. My first thought was, “Oh no! My Bedrock and Paradox sticker is ruined!” Another teacher came running out to see what the noise was. “My Nalgene exploded,” I said, using the brand name as a catchall, as one would call any tissue a Kleenex. “That’s not a Nalgene,” he scoffed, looking at the big puddle with shards of blue plastic in it. “I grew up in the same town as the factory, and they would never explode like that.” Sure enough, it was a Camelbak. They sent me a replacement for free, though, and now there’s a new B&P sticker on it. Fortunately I had a backup :) But camping, outside of summer, I bring the milky white HDPE Nalgenes, like Mike. I had one of those for close to 30 years!

  5. fedster9 says:

    How do you keep the nalgene bottles clean? I would like to sticker mine up, buy I dishwash them, so I am a bit wary…

    1. DaveC says:

      My standards in this area are not high. It has been a struggle recently, as with the kids we more often end up with not-water in bottles, which often go a little while not refrigerated and not cleaned.

      I soup and hot water thoroughly, then air dry in direct sun for multiple days. HItting the threads with a toothbrush is something I ought to do more often.

    2. Paul Mags says:

      My better half uses denture tablets to clean any and all water bottles. She’s a scientist by training and a former career. Her time in the lab left her with much less tolerance from crud in the bottles than me. :)

      1. fedster9 says:

        Paul, that’s great advice, thanks! do denture tables also disinfect a bottle?

        1. Paul Mags says:

          Denture tabs do disinfect per their packaging but do leave crud behind. I do know Joan cleans the bottles with soap and water after the denture tab scrub.

  6. Tom More says:

    You find water bottles like I find bear spray. The last bear spray I actually purchased was early 2000’s The missions seam to be a honey hole with the jewel basin coming in a close second. :)

Leave a Comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s