Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hate the taste of plastic water? Time to upgrade!

We've all experienced it — that uniquely flavored water that flows out of plastic water bottles and hydration packs on hot summer days.

Even the supposedly "tasteless" plastics such as Lexan will yield some plasticky aftertaste if the sun bakes it long enough. And cheap bike bottles? You might as well chew on your tire — it will taste a lot like the water that pours out of that plastic bottle.

Enter Sigg. This Swiss company specializes in aluminum bottles suitable for beverages of all kinds. We field-tested several models of the Sigg sports bottle — ranging from .75-liter sport-style bottles to 1.5-liter big bottles. The .75-liter volume is bigger than the standard bike bottle, but the Sigg still fits securely into a bike bottle cage. Tester Sarah Doherty, who is hard at work training for a half-Iron Man triathlon, dubbed the Sigg her favorite bottle ever.

The key to earning that praise from Sarah, as well as similar accolades from hiker Chris Bloomquist, is in the lid. The Sigg top is a wonderful piece of engineering. Since you can't simply squeeze the rigid metal bottle to force water out, a simple pop-up valve wouldn't work well. So Sigg engineered a leak-proof top that opens with a simple twist. That twist opens the top drink valve as well as a couple one-way air vents around the edge of the bottle top, allowing air to stream in as water flows out. Sarah said the patented top provided a greater flow of water during her training rides than any bottle she's previously used.

Those top-notch tops cap mighty fine bottles, too. All Sigg bottles are treated inside with a nonreactive, unbreakable elastic coating. This prevents the aluminum from leaching into your drink while protecting the aluminum from acidic beverages such as juices and sodas (yes, the leak-proof cap will even seal in carbonated beverages).

To provide strength and durability, the bottles are extruded from a chunk of pure aluminum, resulting in a seamless design. The tough finish on the bottles' exterior is a baked-on powder coating that is environmentally friendly. It is solvent-free, thus reducing potentially toxic air emissions during the manufacturing process.

The down side of the Sigg aluminum bottles is the tendency for the bottles to get dinged and dented over time. Fortunately, their seamless design means even the deepest dents won't result in leaks. Eventually you'll want to replace dinged-up bottles, but that just leads to another green benefit of these bottles — the worn-out bottles can be safely tossed into any aluminum recycling bin.

The Sigg sports bottle sells for $20. For more information click here.

— Dan A. Nelson, special to The Seattle Times