Big, oversized water bottles are the latest celebrity health trend. You don’t need to be famous to use them, though. Anyone who’s serious about their hydration can keep a massive—and stylish—H20 jug close at hand and use it as motivation to take a sip. To find the best gallon water bottle for fitness and everyday use, we tested three stainless steel jugs and two plastic jugs over the course of many months.
At the end of several rigorous rounds of testing, we awarded the plastic Hydro Jug the best overall gallon water bottle and the Yeti One-Gallon Rambler as our top stainless steel pick. Still, all the bottles we tested have something to offer.
The Best Gallon Water Bottles
Best Plastic Gallon Water Bottle
HydroJug Gallon Jug
Material: BPA-free plastic
Capacity: 128 ounces
Weight: 11 ounces
In brief: A durable, easy-to-use gallon jug with an integrated handle and modern aesthetic
- BPA-free and dishwasher safe
- Integrated handle and carrying loop
- Leakproof seal
- Not insulated
The one-gallon HydroJug is our best overall pick because of its functional design, durability, and value. The lid has a wide-mouth opening and a smaller pour spout, both of which seal tight, and there are no complicated components to clean and put back together. Markers on the sides help you track water consumption in ounces or milliliters. Its modern, stylish colors look good at the gym or on your home counter. Much like a classic Nalgene, it carries a faint plastic scent, but nothing that feels (or tastes) overwhelming. It also goes away after a wash or two.
The HydroJug has both a carrying loop and an integrated handle, which allows you to carry the jug whichever way feels best for you. The bottle weighs 11 ounces, and with one gallon of water (which weighs 8.3 pounds), the full jug becomes a nine-pound weight. If you like to exercise around your neighborhood or at a local park, it’s extremely handy.
All of the other jugs we tested required two hands to drink if you aren’t using a straw, but the HydroJug’s side handle lets you drink from the jug one-handed, which is much more convenient. I was also able to flick the small spout cap open with my thumb, which adds to its ease of use. Other jugs were a struggle to close tightly, but the two handles make it much easier to screw the lid on (and remove) because you can hold the handle with one hand and use the carrying loop as leverage with the other. Sealing the small spout requires that you push down with a good amount of force until you hear an audible click. If you don’t, the jug will leak.
The big advantage of the cap design is that it doesn’t have excess components—no rubber O-rings to lose, no small parts to wash. You’ll need a long, thin bottle brush to clean the inside of the handle, but the jug’s opening was large enough for me to get my hand inside to scrub. The HydroJug is also dishwasher safe if you want to avoid hand washing. If you’re using the jug for beverages other than water, they may leave a slight odor behind, but it should fade away after a couple of washes.
The Hydro Jug is shorter and wider than the other gallon jugs we tested, which gives it stability when it’s full. Once, I dropped it on the ground when it was full of water on the ground. Although it scuffed it up, it didn’t spill or compromise the water jug’s ability to hold fluid.
The one-gallon HydroJug isn’t insulated, so if you want your ice water to stay cold for hours, you’d be better off with a double- or triple-wall insulated stainless steel jug. Otherwise, it’s the ideal gallon water bottle.
Best Stainless Steel Gallon Water Bottle
Yeti Rambler One Gallon Jug
Material: 18/8 kitchen grade stainless steel
Capacity: 128 ounces
Weight: 4 pounds 11 ounces
In brief: A durable, double-wall insulated jug that will keep your drinks at the right temperature for hours
- Excellent heat and cooling retention
- Ice keeps for hours
- Durable and long-lasting
- Lid can be difficult to twist off
The Yeti Rambler is a durable double-wall vacuum insulated vessel that will keep your ice cold for longer than you need and your coffee hot for hours. It’s a pricey investment, but should be the only gallon jug you ever need to buy. It’s constructed with durable kitchen-grade stainless steel and is dishwasher safe, but also very easy to hand wash. The steel carrying handle is covered with dense rubber, which makes it more comfortable to hold and is great for pouring. One of the nicest features of the Yeti is the magnetic cap. When you unscrew the small cap, there’s a magnetic dock attached, so it’s less likely to get lost. If you do lose it, it is replaceable.
The Yeti is better suited as a jug to carry water or other liquids that you pour into another container, because it’s pretty hefty to drink from. I weighed the Yeti at 4 pounds 11 ounces, which makes it a whopping 13 pounds when full of water. If you’re carrying coffee for your crew or need water for a sporting event, it keeps drinks temperature controlled for as long as you’d need. In my ice test, cubes remained 24 hours later and coffee was kept hot for the 12 hours I monitored it. Yeti lists the jug’s capacity at 120 ounces, but I was able to pour a full gallon (128 ounces) of water in and screw the lid on.
The main lid takes some force to screw it on tightly, and it can be tough to unscrew—it’s the biggest customer complaint when combing through reviews online. However, if you use the handle as a lever, it makes it much easier to get off (but it does take some effort). When the lid was tight, I didn’t experience any leaking. If yours does, the Yeti gallon-jug comes with a five-year warranty.
I tested a Yeti with the brand’s scratch-resistant DuraCoat finish, which gives it a brushed matte feel. After a camping trip with both the Yeti and Hydro Flask jugs, the Yeti came home unscathed, while the Hydro Flask bore two noticeable scratches on the surface. The low, wide shape makes it stable, but it’s a little trickier to pack in a full trunk of gear.
If purchased directly from Yeti, you can customize your Rambler jug for a small fee, which is a great option for gifts (or just make your own stand out in a sea of other Yetis). Shelling out over $100 for a gallon jug is a lot, so if you don’t care about the insulation, save yourself some money and go with the HydroJug. But if you need drinks to be hot or cold, the Yeti is the best gallon water bottle I tested—not to mention the most durable.
Other Gallon Water Bottles To Consider
RTIC Stainless Steel One Gallon Jug
Material: 18/8 kitchen grade stainless steel
Weight: 3 pounds 2 ounces
Capacity: 120 ounces
In brief: A less expensive leakproof stainless steel jug
- A stainless steel jug at a fraction of the price of Yeti
- More durable than plastic
- Doesn’t hold a full gallon
- Not dishwasher safe
If you want a stainless steel water bottle, but aren’t ready to shell out for a pricey Yeti or Hydro Flask, RTIC makes a more affordable option. It looks similar and shares many of the same features as the high-end jugs, at less than half the price. It doesn’t have the same level of insulation, but will keep drinks at the right temperature for a long time.
RTIC is makes products in the same vein as Yeti, like camp coolers, mugs, water bottles, and jugs. They’re much more affordable, but don’t have as high quality of components and don’t perform quite as well (in reality, though, the $100 jugs overperform for most people’s needs). The RTIC design closely mimics Yeti’s (both are made with kitchen-grade stainless steel), but the two most noticeable differences on the RTIC jug are the cap and the handle. It features a wide-mouth lid with a smaller spout, like the Yeti, but the plastic cap isn’t as thick and durable as on the Yeti. It’s attached to the bottle, but seems breakage-prone. The carrying handle design is the same as the Yeti—a coated steel handle—but the coating is foam, which seems like it will deteriorate over time.
The brand claims that its double-walled insulation keeps ice for up to 24 hours. But in my tests, I recorded the last traces of ice at around the eight-hour mark—not bad for the average day spent outdoors, but not the same type of retention you’ll get with the Yeti. I tested the classic stainless steel finish, but the RTIC jug is also available in brushed matte finishes that look a little more luxe.
I was able to pour 128 ounces into the RTIC jug, but that’s to the top of the rim and won’t allow you to screw the lid on. With the lid on, it fits 120 ounces, so it’s just shy of a full gallon. If you like the look of the Yeti cooler, and aren’t that concerned with the insulation performance, save money and go for the RTIC.
Hydro Flask 128-Ounce Oasis
Material: 18/8 kitchen grade stainless steel
Weight: 4 pounds 2 ounces
Capacity: 128 ounces
In brief: A long, lean insulated jug that closely rivals the Yeti in performance and quality
- A stainless steel jug that can keep ice cold for an entire day
- Leakproof lid that’s easy to close
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Not as scratch-proof as the Yeti
The Hydro Flask is a premium stainless steel gallon jug that closely rivals the Yeti in insulation, performance, and price. Choosing one over the other is a matter of preference, but there are a few small differences that ultimately landed the Yeti at the top of our list. That doesn’t make the Hydro Flask any less of a stellar pick, though. Both are equally insulating and durable, easy to clean, and both have integrated lids with wide-mouth openings and smaller pour spouts.
The main differences come down to shape and lid design. The Hydro Flask jug is taller and leaner than the Yeti, which I found was easier to pack into the trunk of my car or in a tote bag. I preferred this shape for carrying as it didn’t feel as bulky. The Hydro Flask is also easier to pour, thanks to its leaner shape and beveled bottom, but it isn’t as stable as the wider-based Yeti.
The most noticeable advantage of the Hydro Flask jug is the lid design. It doesn’t require any force to twist the lid on tight the way the Yeti does. It twists easily and seals tight—my five-year-old can screw the lid on and off the Hydro Flask but not the Yeti. However, the cap for the pour spout on the Hydro Flask isn’t attached and doesn’t have a magnet, so it’s more prone to get lost.
The Hydro Flask’s flexible handle doesn’t seem as long-term durable as the Yeti’s solid steel handle, but I haven’t seen any tears to the material or anything that points to weakness in the time I’ve tested it. It has a similar type of brushed matte finish on the outside of the jug, but sustained a couple of visible scratches after a weekend camping trip, whereas the Yeti still looks new after going through the same activities. The Hydro Flask has a limited lifetime warranty, but because it shows more signs of wear and tear, I ultimately awarded the top pick to the Yeti. Still, I the Hydro Flask is a great jug.
Venture Pal Motivational 128-Ounce Water Bottle
Material: BPA-free plastic
Capacity: 128 ounces
Weight: 10 ounces
In Brief: A gallon water bottle with hydration markers and a covered drinking straw
- Comfortable carrying handle
- Straw dust cover keeps it clean
- Hydration markers and motivational time markers
- Straw is finicky to wash
The one-gallon Venture Pal is more water bottle than jug. It’s popular on Amazon, with nearly 50,000 Amazon reviews and a 4.5-star rating, likely due to the motivational phrases down the side that encourage you to finish the entire jug throughout the day. It has a drinking straw designed to reach the bottom edges of the container, so you won’t struggle to get those last few drops. Its lid also clicks down to keep it clean.
The carrying handle is roomy enough to fit your hand, but I preferred the functionality of the HydroJug’s integrated handle. Because the Venture Pal is designed to drink from and not pour from, it also isn’t as versatile as the HydroJug. The Venture Pal is dishwasher safe, but if you’re hand-washing, the opening on the jug wasn’t big enough for me to get my hand into to clean, so you’ll need to use a longer brush to reach inside. The straw and lid components are also a little finicky to clean (and you need a straw brush to do so). If you’re looking for a gallon jug strictly for drinking, the Venture Pal is your best bet. If you want one that you can drink from but also use as an everyday backup jug, I’d recommend the HydroJug.
Is A Gallon Water Bottle Worth It?
Any reusable water bottle is an eco-friendly, money-saving alternative to disposable plastic bottles. Some people might prefer the compactness and travel-friendly appeal of a smaller 16-ounce water bottle, but others who are focused on maximum hydration might like having a large one-gallon jug because it doesn’t need to be refilled as often. Plus, it can be motivating to see the water dwindle down throughout the day.
A gallon of water a day is pretty aspirational (not to mention unnecessary) for most people, but there are other reasons to opt for a gallon jug. One is that they’re incredibly useful for families and large groups. If you’re carrying water or beverages for multiple people, like spending the day at a beach or park, attending a sporting event, camping, or traveling. They’re also a good addition to an emergency preparedness kit, and an all-around everyday essential that will get a lot of use, whether you’re going on a picnic or relaxing in your backyard.
Should You Drink A Gallon Of Water A Day?
Short answer: Probably not.
We’ve covered how much water you should drink in our roundup of the best water tracker apps. The truth is that there’s no real consensus or standardized guidelines among medical organizations on how much water any one person needs to drink per day. The most recent USDA “Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2020-2025)” View Source are elusive when it comes to putting a number on ideal water intake, but the basic tenet of water consumption is: choose water whenever possible. Harvard Health Publishing “How much water should you drink?” View Source recommends the guideline of four to six cups per day (about 48 to 64 ounces) for generally healthy people. (You also don’t have to only drink water to stay hydrated—all beverages that contain water, like smoothies or even coffee, count towards hydration.) But this varies from person to person, depending on body weight, height, physical activity, medical conditions, and the climate you live in.
Whatever the correct number of water ounces, Nutrition Journal “Trends in tap and bottled water consumption among children and adults in the United States: analyses of NHANES 2011–16 data” View Source . Still, a whole gallon a day is probably overkill. If you consciously choose to drink water whenever you can, you don’t need to feel bound to drinking a full gallon. (This could also lead to Mayo Clinic “Water: How much should you drink every day?” View Source .) But one way to steer yourself away from dehydration is to always carry water with you—or keep a massive, gallon-sized bottle close at hand.
Should You Choose a Stainless Steel or Plastic Gallon Water Bottle?
Any shift away from disposable single-use plastics is a good one. Luckily, both Michigan State University “Steel, Glass, and/or Plastic Bottles: What is the best choice?” View Source have pros and cons.
Stainless steel typically lasts longer because it’s corrosion resistant and doesn’t leach chemicals when exposed to the sun or heat. These bottles are more expensive and energy intensive to produce, but stainless steel is 100% recyclable. If you go with a stainless steel bottle, make sure it’s food grade #304 or 18/8, which means it’s 18% chromium and 8% nickel.
Reusable plastic bottles are more popular because they’re cheaper to produce, but they have a shorter lifespan and lower recycling rate. If they end up in landfills, it can take hundreds of years before they start to decompose. When purchasing a plastic jug, the best thing to do is look for one that’s thick, durable, and will last a long time.
What are BPAs? Should You Avoid Them?
CDC “Bisphenol A (BPA) Factsheet” View Source —or “BPA”— is used to make polycarbonate plastics, like the type used in some beverage containers, and resin, sometimes found in the linings of food cans. Some studies indicate that it can seep into food or beverages stored in containers that have BPA. This sounds scary, but any panic about BPA might be overblown. Even the FDA “Questions & Answers on Bisphenol A (BPA) Use in Food Contact Applications” View Source . Even so, more studies are needed to determine how BPA affects human health.
Still, some people want a BPA-free gallon jug. All the gallon water bottles we tested are BPA-free, as stainless steel doesn’t contain it and the plastic jugs we tested are made with Tritan, a different type of hard plastic resin approved for use in food contact applications by numerous regulatory agencies. It’s worth noting, however, that many BPA-free plastics use a similar but less studied alternative called Diabetes & Metabolism Journal “Concern about the Safety of Bisphenol A Substitutes” View Source .
How To Clean a Reusable Water Bottle
Plastic water bottles can start to smell funky or develop unpleasant tastes over time, and should be cleaned regularly with warm, soapy water. For hard-to-reach areas, use a bottle brush. If your plastic bottle needs a deep cleaning, add a teaspoon of bleach and a teaspoon of baking soda and fill with water. Let the jug sit overnight, rinse it thoroughly the next day, and let it air dry completely.
Stainless steel can be cleaned with warm, soapy water and a soft sponge or bottle brush. They typically don’t retain odor like plastic, but if your stainless steel bottle starts to taste off, a baking soda and water mixture should neutralize it. You can also soak the bottle and the lid in a diluted mixture of vinegar overnight. However, make sure to check the brand’s specific care instructions first—improper care may void the warranty.
Before tossing any water jug in the dishwasher, make sure it’s dishwasher-friendly.
The Gallon Water Bottle Buying Guide
Which features matter most when buying a gallon water bottle?
- Cost: Gallon jugs range from $15 to $150. Plastic costs less than high-quality stainless steel, but you can also find decent stainless steel jugs for under $50. They just won’t have the same insulation. Determine what features matter to you and don’t buy something overbuilt if you don’t need it. Ask yourself: do you really need ice cubes to last 24 hours?
- Material: Most gallon jugs are either stainless steel or BPA-free plastic. Glass jugs at this size are almost nonexistent. Stainless steel will last much longer, but it’s heavier and costs more. Plastic is less expensive, but more prone to damage. If you’re carrying your jug for personal consumption throughout the day and you’re on the go, plastic might be a better option. If you want a jug for everyday use and many applications, a stainless steel jug is an investment worth considering.
- Features: Look for aspects that make the jug easier to use. The biggest thing to check is how the jug seals. You want a lid that locks tight and ideally has a wide mouth opening and a pour or drinking spout. Outside of that, consider handles, straws, and carrying straps. A lot of the plastic jugs have measurements printed on the side. It’s also popular to see motivational sayings at each marker encouraging more water consumption.
- Insulation: Stainless steel jugs are usually double- or triple-wall insulated. Most claim to keep ice cold and drinks hot for 12 to 24 hours. If you need your coffee hot throughout the day, it’s worth spending the money on a jug that can actually do that. If you don’t, save some money and go with a less insulated option.
- Durability: The longer a water jug lasts, the better. Look for coatings to the outside of the jug, rubber padding, and quality components that don’t look weak or prone to breaking.
- Weight: Plastic jugs are typically in the one-pound range, while stainless steel are in the three- to four-pound range. If a jug is overly heavy, you’ll be less likely to pack it around but it will be durable for rugged use. If it’s light, it will be less sturdy, but easier to carry. Consider how you plan to use it and choose a jug that best suits your lifestyle.
- Ease of Use: There are a few things to think about when evaluating how functional a jug will be: How does the lid and spout work? How comfortable is it to drink out of? How does holding it feel? Is it easy to pour from? Is it portable? If the answer to most of these questions is “yes,” it’s a good jug.
- Cleaning: A gallon jug needs to be easy to clean to avoid bacteria growth on the inside. Look for dishwasher safe jugs and bottles that you can fit your hand into for hand-washing. If they require special tools, like a straw or bottle brush, consider whether that works for your lifestyle. Small components like rubber O-rings can be hard to put back on and can get lost, so the easier (and fewer) parts there are to clean, the better.
- Style: Outside of being leakproof, how a jug looks is actually rather important. Find one that suits your style, and you’ll be more likely to use it. Bright colors and motivational quotes are good for someone who is actively trying to drink more water, while sleek, luxe-looking finishes are appealing for those who want something more chic. For camping and outdoor use, you’ll want something rugged.
How We Found The Best Gallon Water Bottles
Meet Your Guinea Pig
I’m a journalist who covers health, fitness, wellness, and the outdoors, and have written in-depth product reviews for publications like Wirecutter, Outside, Forbes Vetted, Buy Side from WSJ, Strategist, and of course, The Nessie, where I’ve reviewed the best yoga mats, yoga blocks, and meditation cushions. I’ve interviewed dozens of experts on topics related to health and athletics, like doctors, personal trainers, and nutrition experts, and I’ve also guested on podcasts like The Consummate Athlete. Outside of this review, I have also tested smaller water bottles and hydration bladders for hiking.
Our Gallon Water Bottle Testing Process
After reading all the gallon jug reviews I could find, I looked at dozens of products to settle on the top 20 stainless steel and durable BPA-free plastic jugs for testing consideration. (I also looked for glass, but came up short for a suitable 128-ounce option). I whittled that list down to the most promising five, and The Nessie ordered those for testing. Then, I swapped out my everyday water bottle for these five jugs, carrying them with me on daily outings, road trips, family hangouts, outdoor sporting events, and a weekend camping trip. I carted the jugs around in my car, backpack, and tote bag, and washed each jug multiple times by hand. I also conducted controlled experiments in my kitchen, like measuring how long each bottle could hold ice and how long the stainless steel jugs retained heat.
My partner used the jugs as much as I did, and reported back with all of his observations. I also solicited the opinions of friends and family who used them on our camping trip and at other events, asking them to rate the jugs and give me their feedback. I made notes on quality, design, ergonomic features, ease of use, durability, aesthetic appeal, maintenance, and more. In the end, all the vessels we tested performed well enough to recommend, depending on the intended use.