Water Bottle shootout : Klean Kanteen vs Sigg

DSC_7495-150x150It has been several years since I gave up plastic. My biggest dilemma at that time was carrying my drinking water without leeching any chemicals into it. On searching the net I finally short listed these two bottles. It was just a matter of who accepted credit card payments and shipped to India -both would also shock my colleagues and keep them passing snide remarks for the next six months or so once the cost of the bottles and the shipping were converted into Indian Rupees… but I planned to buy only one of them, not both -or at least that’s what I thought then… unfortunately the International Shipping doubles the cost of the actual bottle.

Google   When I compared the bottles feature for feature, the beauty of the drop dead sexy Sigg traveler soon began to fade. I detest aluminium as much as I detest plastic. In fact I had only recently done away with all my barely used aluminium cook pots and even my Prestige pressure cooker in favour of stainless steel. For my cooking I prefer Cast iron, Iron and lastly Stainless steel in the kitchen (and a few traditional brass & copper tools/utensils) and Titanium for all my camping needs.  Aluminium is just too ready to react with other stuff, pits easily, is soft enough to get dented and  ends up getting slowly scraped by your spatula and later becoming an integral part of your meal (and you).  Aluminium poisoning is also a suspected cause of Alzheimer’s. The Sigg had some proprietary, secret, golden yellow translucent resin coloured liner on the inside of the bottle to prevent whatever you put into the bottle from coming in contact with the aluminium. They also claim that third party tests have proved that it doesn’t leech into the drink. (Read more about it here) For me as an end user, this was all hearsay -there was no way I could verify their claim and had no reason to trust them -besides there was also the fear that the coating would get scratched off when scrubbing it with a bottle brush… which meant I’d end up buying a special cleaning brush from Sigg and also pack of cleaning tablets for life, not knowing what residues the tablets would leave behind… which is in my opinion foolish, as it would set me up for a recurring expense + recurring International shipping. The Klean Kanteen on the other hand was made of 18/8 brushed food grade stainless steel, had a wider mouth (Sigg has them too now but didn’t then) which meant easier cleaning. It also wasn’t painted (They are offering coloured ones now) which meant in an emergency, I could boil water in my Klean Kanteen over my camp stove! (w/o the lid of course). I don’t remember whether the Sigg came with various caps then (does now) but the Klean Kanteen definitely did. Both also came (optional extra purchases) with Neoprene jackets. The Sigg came with its own and the Klean Kanteen shipped with an odd looking (which I still hate) jacket manufactured by ‘Built NY’. I had to literally use my hands and feet to shove the Klean Kanteen into the bottle carrier… its loosened up acceptably though over the one and a half years of use…

DSC_7488

Before I go any further, I must let you know how I ended up with two water bottles instead of one… One of the advantages of the Klean Kanteen was that I could buy directly from the manufacturer, which is a lot safer when buying online than from some unknown merchant. I placed an order for my Klean Kanteen (40 oz  -1.22 litres) and a couple of different caps. However, their credit card processing was done offline and so my card was not immediately charged. After a lot of email exchanges with the guy in charge of International sales, I finally gave up and cancelled the order as it was getting delayed beyond my expectation (Due to Christmas sales). I then went ahead and bought my Sigg from http://www.swiss-memories.ch/

A couple of months after I had done this, I noticed a suspicious charge on my credit card by the name of Cressline.Google   After giving Citibank 2 days, I did my own Googling and realized that this was the company that owned the trademark  Klean Kanteen. On contacting International Sales again, they admitted to a goof up and admitted that the order had been accidentally shipped (probably they forgot to cancel it) and asked me to refuse to accept the package. When they got  the package back, they would give me a charge back on my card. This sounded fair enough and I refused the package when it arrived. 15 days later, I received a dirty postcard in bad handwriting from the office of the Director of foreign posts. The message was short and sweet,  -If I didn’t collect my package within 7 days, they would auction it off… So I took 2 days leave (Their office was closed on one of the days) paid a fine of close to Rs. 750/- and of course the crazy to & fro auto charges in Delhi and then became  the not so proud owner of two wildly expensive water bottles… Thanks to Klean Kanteen and  the guy that sits under the turban in the office of the director of foreign posts. So my Klean Kanteen was sparingly used or rather mostly unused for about a year and a half.

After filling up at a mountain pool in Kathwar village in Himachal Pradesh, India

After filling up at a mountain pool at Kathwar village in Himachal Pradesh, India

IMPRESSIONS: The Klean Kanteen holds slightly more water at 40 oz  (1.2 liters) than the Sigg (34 oz or 1 Liter). The second obvious difference is the weight, the Sigg being only slightly heavier than a plastic bottle. When it comes to the mouth of the bottle, the Klean Kanteen is bigger than the Sigg – the intention being to allow you to drop in ice cubes and also allows a better view of the inside of the bottle. The Sigg has a narrower neck and has its translucent golden coloured liner which makes it very difficult to judge if the bottle is dirty.

However the neck (Diameter/length) of the Sigg makes a perfect seal with your lips and makes it a pleasure to drink from. It is also easier to drink from the Sigg in a moving vehicle than from the wide mouthed Klean Kanteen as due to the wide mouth of the bottle, I’ve often spilled water all over the front of my shirt in a moving vehicle. The bottle caps come in various types. For the Klean Kanteen, I bought a sipper type sports cap, a cap similar to that of  the Sigg and also a flat cap as shown in the picture. I found the Sports cap  to be of not much use, except that I did not need to unscrew the cap when I needed a drink. The Sigg cap was finished like ebony and comparing it to the rough Klean Kanteen cap felt like comparing a Ducati with a Bajaj Scooter.  A year and a half later however, both materials look  similar. Klean Kanteen should work on their cap finishing so that it doesn’t turn off first time prospective buyers.

The Sigg & Klean Kanteen bottle Caps

The Sigg & Klean Kanteen bottle Caps

Note the stainless steel cap of the Klean Kanteen bottle. It is an optional extra for guys who do not want any plastic touching their water. Also note the white strip running up the side of the Sigg cap. That is a kind of fuse in case excess pressure builds up inside the bottle. It is supposed to vent the pressure without destroying your bottle. Please note that both the bottles come with a variety of caps. I am only showing the ones I am currently carrying on my trip.

Coming to the bottles, the Sigg has a long history in making aluminum extruded bottles. However the lightness of the bottle comes at a price. The dent visible on the top of the bottle was caused by a full bottle rolling to the floor from a height of one foot! In addition to that, I have numerous other small dents caused when the bottle was in its neoprene jacket and inside a sturdy bag as cabin baggage -probably caused by smooching with my Nikon SLR when the aircraft banked sharply. Sigg claims that the coating is flexible and so dents don’t have any effect on it. However that still doesn’t make me a  fan of dented water bottles. If you plan to buy the Sigg, you MUST also buy the optional Neoprene bottle sleeve -and leave it on always which kind of takes away the joy of showing off your sexy bottle :-(

The rusty zipper pull on the Sigg Neoprene bottle sleeve

The rusty zipper pull on the Sigg Neoprene bottle sleeve

Finally the neoprene bottle sleeves… The Klean Kanteen guys openly declare that their bottles are made in China, but that they oversee the quality (which is good) so I didn’t care that the sleeve (optional extra) they shipped (Manufactured for a third party company -Built NY)  was made in China  too (again to good standards). However I did get shocked when I found that my Sigg bottle sleeve was made in China. What’s more -it had loose threads coming out of the sleeve. Unlike the Klean Kanteen,  it also started producing very small fuzz balls of the Neoprene material. It does seem to have worn well for the one and a half year of use though. The zipper pull has started rusting and I hate Sigg for that. The other main differences are…

The Sigg sleeve completely covers the bottle and needs to be zipped down slightly to place your lower lip on the bottle neck. This full sleeve also marginally enhances the keep cool capacity (Not very much) of any cold beverage. It also comes with a carabiner type clip and a Velcro strip which can be opened and fixed over a belt loop or attached to a backpack. I use the carabiner type clip often for affixing the half empty or lighter bottle to a loop on my jeans. Its not very comfortable on a full bottle.  The Velcro seems sturdier. The Klean Kanteen sleeve -or rather the Built NY sleeve has a side handle which enables you to carry the bottle horizontally like a suitcase. It also has a strip of neoprene which terminates on a sturdy press button surrounded by a skin coloured patch of Velcro. I sometimes loop the strip through my jeans belt loop to hold the bottle temporarily (like when I need both hands free to lock/unlock my front door) or when it is empty. It is uncomfortable when the bottle is full as the neoprene strip is slightly elastic. However my bottles have been most used in my daily commute to and from my workplace and of course on my outstation trips, so they have usually been  carried inside my backpack as I fear that someone might pinch them on the train. The only times they have been outside are when I have been trekking. (When backpacking I prefer to additionally carry my 3 liter Camelbak hydration bladder (purchased in a weak moment before my anti plastic days) as water consumption during backpacking in north Indian summers is usually very high)  Both the bottles sure catch everyone’s attention and understandably the Sigg has more fans that the quiet , sturdy Klean Kanteen.

I have never used anything except water in both the bottles so I will be unable to comment on how other beverages fare.

All said and done, both the bottles have their place. For the hot north Indian summers, I switch over to the Klean Kanteen for its marginally extra water carrying capacity. Maybe the Sigg would be preferred more for college kids or for EDC especially in cooler climes or where you can refill your bottle frequently. I have started using the Sigg more for treks  where there are established water sources on the way as it is light weight, but plan to use the Klean Kanteen for backpacking and camping as I can use it to boil my drinking water if necessary. In the cooler months, I carry the Sigg to work.

I am disappointed that my friends can’t spot any difference between the Sigg and the Rs. 99/- look alike bottles available here even though I can spot so many… I’m guessing that not many will buy it here unless it becomes established like some of the other brand names like Levis and becomes another status symbol. I wish people would buy these bottles for the sheer build quality that they possess.

Now that Klean Kanteen has started coming out with coloured bottles as well, I hope they don’t discontinue the existing brushed Stainless Steel finished models. Design wise I like the Sigg though. If they ever come out with a Stainless Steel version, instead of their existing coated aluminium bottles, I’ll switch over to Sigg! (Simply because I prefer a bottle with a narrower neck and prefer my water at room temperature -so don’t need to drop any ice cubes into it)

I highly recommend both the bottles though! Check out the pros & cons and decide which one suits your purpose. As I used both the bottles for a long time, I realised that I automatically adjusted to some of the  features in the bottles. For eg. I’ve stopped spilling water over myself as   I learned to drink in between movements of the bus. I loved each bottle when I used it.

IN A NUTSHELL:

KLEAN KANTEEN (40 OZ – 1.2 Liters):

DSC_7490-200x300PROS:

  • 18/8  (Chromium %/Nickel %) High Quality Food Grade Stainless steel Body
  • Sturdy and durable ( I have SS items in good shape from two generations ago!)
  • Holds relatively more water than the Sigg Traveler
  • Can be used in an emergency to purify water by boiling [W I T H O U T THE LID]
  • Doesn’t puncture or dent easily -very good value for money (but it does dent)
  • Wide mouth makes it easier to clean or drop in ice cubes
  • Optional stainless steel bottle tops
  • Can be used as a condenser for distillation by buying an extra sports sipper type cap and modifying it to accept a plastic pipe

CONS:

  • Wide mouth makes drinking in a moving vehicle difficult without spilling water.
  • Relatively heavier
  • No safety vent in the bottle cap in case pressure builds up for any reason.
  • Bottle sleeve is fashionable and does not cover the bottle completely up to the neck which is not very good news if you are carrying cold water in hot weather.
  • Bottle cap is not completely threaded (Note the close up pic of the bottle caps) Friends drinking from my bottle have inadvertently tried to screw down the cap forcibly almost damaging the threads on the cap -Needs practice to thread the cap properly.

SIGG TRAVELER (34 OZ – 1 Liter):

DSC_7491-200x300PROS:

  • Light
  • Colorful & Eye catching and makes heads turn
  • Comfortable to carry
  • Matte finish, a pleasure to hold
  • Sleeve completely protects the bottle
  • Narrow mouth makes it a pleasure to drink from even in a  moving vehicle
  • Ergonomic design
  • Good for those who use water purification tablets, where you need to drop a tablet into a liter of water
  • The matte surface of the paint gives better grip when using the bottle without the neoprene cover
  • The paint also insulates the bottle marginally and makes the bottle warmer to hold (in winter) and provides better grip when it is cold and when water has condensed on the body.

CONS:

  • Very easily dented  so lower value for money in the long run
  • Chinese made bottle sleeve needs more  attention to detail and materials and proper inspection
  • Needs special care when cleaning to avoid damaging the internal liner and the external painted surface too
  • The Paintwork -particularly the cross has started wearing off -in spite of always using the sleeve
  • The internal liner has started to wear out at the neck where the bottle cap threads in -might spread to the rest of the bottle.
  • Bottle cap is not completely threaded (Note the close up pic of the bottle caps) Friends drinking from my bottle have inadvertently tried to screw down the cap forcibly almost damaging the threads on the cap -Needs practice to thread the cap properly.
  • Narrow mouth/golden coloured translucent  liner on inside makes it difficult to see into the bottle and clean
  • Aluminium, lined  with an undisclosed flexible liner

Some folks have tried (successfully) repairing the dent in the bottles by filling them with water and under frequent observation allowing them to freeze in the freezer -with the cap on. It does present the risk of the bottle tearing, if it is forgotten inside the freezer, so try it at your own risk!!

Note: [30th Nov 2010]

I’ve given off my Sigg to my friend. I’ve been using the clean Kanteen as my sole water bottle for a few months now and its grown on me. I bought a water bottle sling for it from Chico bags and I am in the process of modifying its useless sipper cap to accept a tube so I can use my Klean Kanteen as a condenser for distilling water in a survival situation. I’ll do a separate post on it as soon as I can find any tube which does not taint the water on getting hot.

Note: [17th Jan 2011]

My Klean kanteen got dented yesterday after falling from the same height that my Sigg had fallen down from when it got dented -roughly about a foot in height. This was with the Neoprene jacket on like with the Sigg. The location of the dent was identical to that on the Sigg. Both the bottles were full when they got dented.

Note: [6th Dec 2013]

I didn’t stop here. I went ahead and bought 4 more Klean Kanteen products…. All the pics are from the Klean Kanteen product page.

The 64Oz -1.9 Liters wide  Kanteen

The 64Oz -1.9 Liters wide Kanteen.

I bought this beefy cylinder for long treks where I would need more water. In the winters it serves as my water storage container in the house. I housed it in the well padded OD Green Maxpedition 12″ x 5″ (large) bottle holder for protection. It goes in a bit tight but still fits in, at the expense of making the pockets on the bottle holder hold less.

Then this 27 Oz (800ml) Black Classic bottle, as my original Klean Kanteen would not fit into my my Metrosafe 250 GII

The 27 Oz (800ml) Black Classic bottle.

Bought as my original Klean Kanteen would not fit into my  Metrosafe 250 GII. I had hardly started using it when I was robbed of all my belongings after being drugged on a passenger train near Manmad.

The 27Oz (800 ml) KK Reflect in brushed finsih with Bamboo topped cap

The 27Oz (800 ml) KK Reflect in brushed finish with Bamboo topped cap

This replaced my Kanteen stolen with the rest of my belongings. Hope we’ll be life long friends. I love this baby :-)

 

The KK 20oz (592 ml) Vacuum Insulated Steel Bottle

The KK 20oz (592 ml) Vacuum Insulated Steel Bottle

This pretty flask was bought to bring coffee to office as I decided to no longer drink the unhealthy pre-mix coffee from our coffee vending machine at work. I used it only for a short time as even though the bottle was well designed, there was massive heat and cold loss through the cap -a shoddy design. I count this as a waste of money as I could have got better and cheaper products in India in this category. I currently use it at home to keep warm drinking water warm in the winters while having my lunch or dinner.

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