…and it’s the best “gym” bottle I’ve found!

Here’s what CamelBak has to say about their new $9, 21 oz. bike bottle:

The “Podium” bottle from CamelBak redefines the bike bottle for athletes:

  • Made of medical-grade silicone, the self-sealing valve eliminates splatter on your frame and jersey
  • Revolutionary valve lets you sip from any direction or squirt to cool off on long rides—no more ”bite-open, hip-slap shut” steps.
  • Squeezable sides provide high flow and squirt rates
  • Made from a proprietary blend of polypropylene with HydroGuard™, the Podium lets you taste your drink not your bottle
  • Positive shut-off valve at base of bottle provides leakproof transport
  • Polypropylene is 100% BPA free

The link for the CamelBak website is at the end of this post (thanks for taking my email and helping me turn it into a guest post, Kevin!).

CamelBak Podium bike bottleLast week I wandered over to the bike accessory section at REI to check out the new generation of bike bottles (some insulated, some with new spouts). In the past I’ve stayed away from these soft translucent plastic bottles despite their convenient “sippy cup” style spout tops because, quite frankly, they impart a revolting (IMHO) taste to water kept inside for more, say, than 30 seconds.

That makes this type of plastic bottle pretty useless for me, and in the past I’ve stuck with Platypus “non-rigid” water bottles, which are taste-free (see this review at Practical Hacksthe Platypus Platy foldable bottle) or just endlessly re-used disposable “sport cap” bottles, usually the 24 ouncers from Trader Joes.

But since the “no BPA” movement has sprouted, I’ve been curious what side effects (like getting rid of the plastic taste) the movement might have on “durable” water bottles (my disposable sport cap bottles wear out pretty fast).

Sure enough, there was a label on the new CamelBak bike bottle claiming that it is now not only free of BPA, but also that it is now free of taste and odor.

Ok, I’ll bite. I opened up the bottle top and gave it the quick sniff test – thankfully, there was no wave of noxious plastic fumes trapped like a Genie in the bottle.

Then I noticed the “new feature” of this bike bottle:

It has a one way valve to control the flow of water, surrounded by a silicone “tower” to keep your lips away from the valve.

CamelBak Podium valve detailNo, this is not the “bite valve” made famous by CamelBak on their regular hydration system tubes and which was unfortunately IMHO grafted onto their Nalgene-style hard plastic bottles for their “water bottle” line.

Rather, the valve on the CamelBak Podium is an advanced version of the one-way valves parents are used to seeing on some “sippy cups” for toddlers. It allows for an ample flow of water when you squeeze the bottle or suck on the silicone tower “surround,” but doesn’t allow for spills if you drop the water bottle.

This makes this new bottle perfect for the gym.  You don’t have to worry about it leaking if it tips over, whether it’s on the floor or on your bag.  When it’s time to go home, you rotate the positive lock-off valve to the closed position, and it won’t leak even if your gym bag gets compressed.

But wait, there is one more reason, the overriding reason in my humble opinion, for preferring this over other non-disposable bottles.

CamelBak Podium valve detailThanks to the design of the valve nestled deep in the throat of the spout, this bottle requires almost NO maintenance and is pretty immune from “mouth funk,” the funky odor the spout of a bottle can pick up if you don’t religiously wash it.

The spout design is brilliant. If you invert the bottle, you can index the silicone tower surround against your front teeth and squirt a measured gulp or two or three into your mouth for a quick drink. If you need a lot more water, you can purse your lips around the silicone tower surround and draw the water out as on a typical sport top bottle. The difference is, your lips and the residual saliva on them are far away from the actual valve, and clean up at the end of each gym session is no more complicated than rinsing off the outer portion of the silicone tower surround. Since this area is on the “exterior” of the valve assembly, no moisture is trapped to allow bacteria build-up.

So now I’ve found my ideal sport bottle. I don’t have to “bite” to pull the top open, or put my fingers on the spout top to pull it open. The on/off mechanism is a lever on the top of the cap, far away from the actual drinking spout. Once open, the water still won’t spill out if the bottle is tipped over, but the generous design of the actual valve allows a good flow of water when I need it. For “recharging” during sparring sessions, I can just “squeeze” the bottle for measured gulps. For complete refueling and I purse my lips and draw out as much water as needed. Clean up is quick and minimal, and actual washing shouldn’t be required except on very extended intervals (this assumes nothing but H2O in the bottle, hydration fluids will require a soapy rinse, squirting out from the inside – cleanup similar to a toddler’s sippy cup). Finally, to disengage and re-engage the lock, my fingers don’t have to touch the spout itself, adding another degree of cleanliness.

Of course none of this would be meaningful if they hadn’t gotten the odor/taste out. I’ve waited 20 years for this to happen, and I’m glad it finally has, because this style of bottle – wide mouth (takes ice cubes), shatter-proof, squeezable, light (way closer to the Platypus designs than to the “hard plastic” or aluminum alternatives) – has always appealed to me. Heck, for most of my gym use I’ve been using Trader Joes sport cap bottles even though they don’t “squeeze” well due to the hard plastic.

Here’s what sets the Podium apart from the rest of the herd:

.

1. Unlike their earlier foray into hard-sided water bottles, you don’t have to unscrew a top, or use a bite-style valve to get the water flowing

2. The valve buried out of the way in the silicone surround “tower” but can easily be squeeze or suck activated. For that matter, you can index the silicone surround tower to your front teeth and thereby keep the spout away from your lips altogether. I do this and just squeeze the bottle to get the right amount of water during my breaks

CamelBak Podium leakproof feature3. Even without using the rotary locking lever on top of the cap, the bottle won’t leak water when held upside down

4. Using the rotary locking lever makes the bottle ultra-safe for in-bag carry

5. Guys can safely ignore washing this bottle for really, really long periods of time, and we know just how much time that saves at the gym. Unless you always purse your lips around the spout, drool like a dog, and back-wash

6. There is truly no plastic taste

7. This is much, much lighter than a Nalgene or any similar hard plastic or aluminum bottle

8. The screw top threads on securely (doesn’t try to cross-thread) and doesn’t leak, unlike some bargain-basement bike bottles

9. The wide-mouth makes it possible to add ice cubes. It also makes it harder to miss the opening when refilling at a water cooler, unlike narrow-neck bottles. Finally, the wide mouth allows cleaning with a bottle brush, something that is very difficult to do with narrow-neck bottles

10. CamelBak has made a quality product. It costs more than a generic plastic bike bottle, but I believe the quality, details, and features justify the extra cost.  The standard Podium is available in 21oz. and 24oz. sizes


CamelBak offers an insulated version of the Podium in addition to the standard version reviewed here.  Their site, if you’re interested in purchasing a bottle, links to several online partners.  You can see the Podium and other CamelBak products here:  CamelBak

The Fine Print:  I have no connection to CamelBak, and neither does Kevin!

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2 Comments on CamelBak adds a new twist to that old standby, the “bike” bottle

  1. Michael W. says:

    I have to retract my enthusiastic endorsement of the Podium in one respect – it doesn’t deliver enough water flow for the massive quick gulps I need in between sparring sessions at jiu jitsu. For that I need a traditional high-flow sport cap bottle.

    On the other hand it is doing admirable duty as my daily carry water bottle in my Timbuk2 bike messenger shoulder bag. It never leaks, even if I forget to close it, and I can squirt a dollop of water in my mouth without touching lips to spout, which means I don’t have to always be worried about cleaning the cap. When my kids “bogart” the spout, I know an outside rinse will be enough, since the actual valve mechanism is buried in the tunnel.

    Still highly recommended, but NOT if you need massive quick gulps. This delivers smaller controlled spurts.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Michael,

    Thanks for taking the time to do an update!! It’s tough to really understand a product until you spend a lot of time with it in varying situations and conditions.

    Kevin

    [Reply]

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