When you row, you only stop very briefly to catch your breath and drink water. It's important that when that break comes, you get the liquid you need. I've had a lot of different water bottles, and used them well.
My first water bottles were all Nalgenes. They carry a lot of water, which is definitely a plus if you're going for a long session. They're also great for gulping, which is important if you've got a limited amount of rest time. The screw top also keeps the drinking surface clean, which is nice when your bottle rolls around in the bottom of the boat.
Downsides? They take two hands to open, which is really inconvenient if you're trying to hold an oar, or steer a bike. (They also don't fit into water bottle holders on bikes--go figure.) The little leash that holds the cap on is also incredibly flimsy. A little duct tape goes a long way, but expect a decapitated bottle within the year.
They're also really big, which means they don't fit well in backpacks, or tucked into the back of a sports bra. If you expect to be short on hands to carry your bottle, the cap loop is only good as long as it lasts.
When I bought my bike, I also got these standard cycling water bottles.
I use these as my standard practice water bottle, bringing two for longer practices and hot days. They deliver a solid stream of water without spilling all over your face (no matter how jerky the ride). I can also use these with one hand, which is super convenient for riding bikes and rowing. They've got a tall, slim profile which fits well in my backpack and tucks nicely into the boat.
The little divot is ok for gripping, but otherwise these bottles lack a good carrying mechanism. You can stick them into your sports bra or spandex, and they're light enough to manage, but with two bottles it gets a bit trickier. The spout also tends to get pretty grimy. I suppose it's good excuse to wash them more often, but sometimes one practice will render the squirt top disgustingly salty.
My newest acquisition is a CamelBak bottle with a straw.
This is great for stationary biking, running and for just around the house. Because of the straw, you don't have to tip your head back to drink--a big plus if you're trying to stay balanced on the treadmill. It's also really fun to drink out of the straw, and I definitely drink more water when I have it around the house. The closure mechanism is very secure--don't worry about leakage.
Unfortunately, the straw also doesn't let very much out at a time--not good for gulping. It's also a little bit unwieldy--the flip top mechanism is difficult to use one handed and the loop isn't super comfortable for carrying. Finally, the straw makes packing in ice a bit difficult--you can fit ice but there has to be some wiggle room left.
The ultimate advice? The best bottle for you depends on what you're doing! I use my CamelBak at home, and my squeeze top bottles at practice. When you purchase a bottle, really think about how you're going to be using it--is tipping your head back ok? will you need a lot of water at a time, or just a few sips? how much water do you need and how cold does it need to be? how will you be carrying it?
Try going to a store that sells athletic equipment, preferably one with knowledgable salespeople. Ask for their opinions, and let them know your particular situation. They may be able to direct you to the best bottle for you.
Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com.
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