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You CAN Break A Nalgene

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Unbreakable. That’s a word that pops to mind when people think of Nalgene Bottles. We were all wrong.

broken nalgene

This week a conversation and debate began on Reddit after a user, KarlHungus, posted the above photo. He wrote: Anyone else have memories from their childhood of having competitions with friends to see if you could break a Nalgene, to no avail? Well huzzah…it’s possible after all!

He explains how it happened: I was hiking in the woods without a pack and tossed my full Nalgene to the other side of a river before I crossed it. It hit a rock and cracked. I’m pretty sure that being full with water was a determining factor. Also, I have dish washed it before, and it’s possible the heat caused micro-fissures [in the bottle].

Durability Debate

The photo sparked a lively conversation, including theories as to how Karl’s bottle could have broke. People offered anecdotes to talk about Nalgene bottles’ famed durability, including the likes of this gem: “My friend shot one with a black powder musket one time. It was fine.”

Another example: “We packed one full of gunpowder and stuck a fuse in it. Top blew off, it melted and ballooned a bit, the inside was charred and flaking, but it was still technically ‘intact’.”

A commenter wrote that he has thrown his bottle off two-story buildings. “Boiled water in them. Drove over them… and after all that abuse it’s still going. That’s why I find [the photo of a broken Nalgene] hard to believe.”


Nalgene removed the substance BPA (bisphenol-A) from its water bottles in 2007 to address concerns that the chemical could cause harm.

Now, Nalgene bottles (and most water containers) are BPA-free and made of different materials than the bottles hikers used in years past.

Nalgene produces a range of bottles and uses various materials
Nalgene produces a range of bottles and uses various materials

While that may be good for the body, many folks believe the newer bottles are not as durable.

“Their reputation for durability came from the old, good plastic with the nice BPA in it — Lexan, the stuff in astronaut helmets,” wrote one person on the Reddit chain. He said he worked at an outdoor retailer. “The new stuff isn’t as durable.”

The anecdotes continue through dozens of comments. We liked this one:

When I was 16, I tested an old version Nalgene, the one with BPA, by punching it into the ground using the bucket of a 320C. It was a bent, twisted mess of bubbled plastic, but the bottle still held water. Recently, I had one of my new BPA-free Nalgene bottles in the freezer only half full. I dropped it on the ground and it shattered into 5 pieces.

Nalgene uses various materials and offers many different bottle models. See the company’s materials page for a break down.

Finally, if you do bust a Nalgene it looks like the company has a generous policy to fix the situation. “They’ll send you a new one free of charge,” noted one commenter. “Just fill out this form.”

What’s your experience with Nalgene water bottles? Ever broken one? We’d love to hear in the comments below.

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