It’s impossible to hike anywhere in the U.S. for more than 2 miles without encountering a Nalgene water bottle. The 32-ounce plastic water bottles are beloved among outdoor enthusiasts for their reusability, durability, and functionality.
However, the king of outdoor water bottles has a new challenger courtesy of the Austin, Texas cooler and outdoor giant, YETI.
This past winter, YETI released its most lightweight water bottle yet, the Yonder. But it didn’t have the same stainless steel finish the brand is known for. Instead, the Yonder is made from durable, BPA-free plastic, and looks very similar to the Nalgene.
I wanted to see how the YETI Yonder stacks up to the Nalgene water bottle over the course of multiple tests. I reviewed how both bottles performed at camp, on the trail, and at home to see if the Yonder is worthy competition to the timeless Nalgene.
In short: Nalgene wins my test for camping and the outdoors, because of its value, ability to hold boiling water, American production, and recycled content. But for everyday use, at home and on the trail, the Yonder edges ahead with the pure enjoyment of use and overall durability.
Review: YETI Yonder vs. Nalgene Water Bottle
- Nalgene: 180 g (32 oz.)
- YETI Yonder: 304 g (34 oz.) / 272 g (25 oz.)
- Nalgene: 50% recycled BPA-free plastic
- YETI Yonder: 50% recycled BPA-free plastic
- Nalgene: Made in USA
- YETI: Made in China
- Nalgene: $17 (32 oz.)
- YETI Yonder: $28 (34 oz.) / $25 (25 oz.)
The YETI Yonder is available in two sizes, 34 ounces and 25 ounces, for $28 and $25, respectively. Visually, the Yonder is more slender than the Nalgene, and it has a distinct two-piece cap. The cap on the Yonder has a substantial handle and unscrews the top to reveal a narrow drinking cap, or unscrews all the way for wide mouth access.
YETI constructs the Yonder with 50% recycled BPA-free plastic, made in China. The 32-ounce Nalgene is available in recycled BPA-free plastic and is made in the USA for $17.
At Camp Utility
Obviously, the main usage of both the Nalgene and Yonder is storing water. However, the Nalgene is known for its uses beyond just plain old H20.
The Nalgene water bottle can be used for dry storage in addition to hydration. And with measurements on the side, it is a useful tool to measure out ingredients for cooking or water quantity for purifying chemical needs.
I’ve even used the Nalgene as a dry med kit, storing things like tape, band-aids, and various medicine.
Both the 34-ounce Yonder and the Nalgene function well for dry storage as they boast the same diameter mouth size, making fishing out the specific band-aid you need manageable.
The Yonder does not have measurements on the side, so it may be more difficult to measure out specific millimeter measurements for recipes and camp needs.
The 25-ounce Yonder has a slightly smaller mouth than its 34-ounce sibling, so I would not recommend using this for dry storage. It would prove difficult to fit your fingers inside.
Of course, both bottles can serve as a duct tape wrap, or as added illumination from a headlamp strapped to its side thanks to their opaque coloring.
And one of my more preferred Nalgene uses — a cocktail shaker. Both will work, however, you will have to eyeball measurements more with the YETI. Camp margaritas, anyone?
Drawback for YETI
The largest drawback of at-camp use of the YETI Yonder is its inability to hold boiling water. On cold nights or camping in the winter, I routinely use the Nalgene to hold boiling water and stuff it in the bottom of my sleeping bag to function as a heater that keeps me extra warm all night long.
YETI lists an explicit warning not to use the Yonder with hot (or carbonated beverages, for that matter) liquids or dry food storage. If comparing the Yonder one on one with the Nalgene, that’s a pretty big strike in my book.
On-Trail Test: Carrying, Fit, Filtration
I used both bottles on hikes, climbs, and ski tours for this test. Both bottles fit well enough in side pockets on backpacks, although the slender size of the Yonder makes it slightly easier to get in and out of backpacks.
The YETI Yonder hands-down wins in the clip-ability department, thanks to its oversized handle. I can clip the Yonder to my backpack and won’t worry about it breaking. I’ve broken countless Nalgene bottleneck straps after grabbing and clipping this flimsy strap.
For those venturing on longer hikes, the threads on the Nalgene fit filters to purify water. The threads on the Yonder are slightly smaller and don’t fit filters at this point.
The Drop Test
When it comes to durability, I performed a drop test with both bottles. I ensured that both bottles were filled with the same amount of water, as the YETI has a slightly larger capacity. This was where the Yonder really impressed me.
Check out the full test below.
I dropped both bottles at 6-inch intervals. At 4.5 feet, the bottom of the Nalgene shattered and the YETI kept going strong. I kept upping the height for the Yonder and almost ran out of options for making myself taller. Eventually standing on a chair, I held the bottle high over my head, and still, the Yonder would not break.
Soon, I stood on top of my truck, dropped the Yonder from what I estimated to be 10 feet, and it didn’t break. Then, I held it over my head standing on top of my truck, roughly 13 feet, and the Yonder finally broke.
While the Nalgene has a reputation for durability, the Yonder was clearly designed with the same tough-as-nails engineering YETI is known for. For all intents and purposes, I just couldn’t break this thing.
At-Home Test: YETI Yonder vs. Nalgene Water Bottles
At home and on road trips, the drinking experience was overall superior in the Yonder to that of the Nalgene. And that might sound silly, but after using the Yonder for a month, the Nalgene definitely feels less expensive (and it is).
The lid on the Yonder is made with rubber gaskets that are satisfying to close and seal shut. The Nalgene just feels like you’re rubbing two rough pieces of plastic together.
The small mouth on the Yonder makes drinking in the car way easier, as I’m sure we’ve all experienced how difficult it is to drink a wide-mouth Nalgene on a road trip.
Now there are splash guards designed for the Nalgene that cost as low as $3.41; however, that’s an extra purchase.
Both bottles functioned fine when cleaning, of course, the YETI — with a two-piece design to its lid/drinking spout — has an extra component to clean.
Both bottles were wide enough to allow hydration or electrolyte mixes to go in without fuss.
YETI Yonder vs. Nalgene Bottle Test: Conclusion
YETI impressed me with its entry to the lightweight water bottle market in the Yonder, and there were some definite upsides to that when compared to a Nalgene.
However, for those who need a water bottle for all camping and outdoor needs, I still think the Nalgene is superior because of its ability to hold boiling water, its lighter weight, and its lower cost.
And while the YETI proves much more durable, I’ve never thought a Nalgene could stand to be more durable, even if I have broken a few. For true dirtbags, Nalgene is the way to go.
If your needs are more everyday use, around town, and the occasional camping trip, I believe the Yonder wins for you. While the Yonder was more expensive and heavy, it is more satisfying to use day-to-day.
And they will look equally sharp covered in stickers.