I love my Nalgene bottles but one of the frustrating things about them is they have such a wide base.
This is great for when I'm rock climbing or hiking as it means they won't get knocked over easily and roll down the mountain. But when it comes to taking them in my car and trying to drink water while I'm driving they can be a huge pain.
If you're considering buying a Nalgene bottles or are taking one with you on a road trip you might be wondering whether or not Nalgene bottles can fit in car cup holders.
The 32-48 oz sized Nalgene bottles do NOT fit in most standard car cup holders as they are too wide. The 12-24 oz Nalgene bottles are thinner in profile and will fit into most car cup holders that are at least 3 inches in diameter.
You can purchase a car cup holder extender like the Swigzy Car Cup Holder Expander which is designed to fit the wider 32-48 oz Nalgene bottles without them falling out.
Important Size Considerations
Nalgene has a few different sizes of bottles and each of them has a different diameter (or width). The wider a bottle is the less likely it's going to fit into a car cup holder.
Most modern car cup holders are approximately 3 inches (7.6 cm) in diameter but smaller cars, older cars of aftermarket cup holders can occasionally be smaller (around 2.9 inches or 7.4 cm) and this will affect whether or not your Nalgene bottle fits in the car cup holder.
Below are the diameters of the different Nalgene bottles you'll be trying to fit in your cup holder.
12 oz Kids Diameter: 2.75 inches (7.0 cm)
16 oz Diameter: 2.75 inches (7.0 cm)
24 oz OTF Diameter: 3 inches (7.6 cm)
32 oz + 48 oz Diameter: 3.5 inches (8.9 cm)
32 oz Stainless Steel Diameter: 3.0-3.5 inches (7.6-8.9 cm) tapered
38 oz Stainless Steel Diameter: 3.5 inches (8.9 cm)
You'll need to measure your particular cup holder to see whether or not your Nalgene bottle is going to fit in it.
But it's pretty safe to say that unless you have a super wide cup holder the most common Nalgene bottles (the 32 oz mostly) will NOT fit in a standard car cup holder.
I Tested My Nalgene Bottles In A Few Different Cup Holders
I have a small car with a few different cup holders that I could test my Nalgene in to see whether or not it would fit.
Below you can see the results:
After Market Expanding Cup Holder
My car is from 2004 and for some reason back then they didn't think to add more than the one cup holder in the center console. This means my main cup holder is an aftermarket one I got off Amazon that connects to my air vent.
The cup holder is 2.4-3.15 inches (6-8 cm) in diameter (it expands out for larger cups/bottles) and usually fits coffee cups and thinner water bottles completely fine.
But as you can see my Nalgene bottle had NO HOPE of fitting in there.
Larger Middle Console Cup Holder (8.5-9.5cm)
My center console has a large-ish square cup holder (technically it's a rectangle) which is slightly bigger than my aftermarket cup holder.
It's 3.34 x 3.74 inches (8.5 x 9.5 cm) in width and can easily fit most average sized water bottles. It tapers smaller towards the bottom which does affect some bottles.
Even with this larger size cup holder you can see that the Nalgene doesn't stand a chance of fitting it.
It kind of sits there on an angle, but it is by no means secure at all. When I drive this will 100% fall out and end up on the floor.
Door Bottle Holder
Lots of cars these days have bottle holders in the door side pockets and my car is the same. It features these door side holders which are approximately 2.12 inches (5.4 cm) in diameter.
This one is so small none of my water bottles fit inside it. Only my small Yeti 10 oz tumbler was able to fit in this spot.
As you can see, they are nowhere near large enough to hold my Nalgene bottle.
Back Seat Cup Holder
Why my car decided to have two cup holders in the back seats and none in the front seats I'll never know. Regardless, in my car they are there.
This also happens to be the largest cup holder in my car, so if a Nalgene was going to fit it would be in this cup holder.
They are roughly 3.86 inches (9.8 cm) in diameter and while there is a wide opening where my kids like to store things like pens, unfortunately it still can't fit a Nalgene bottle.
While in theory it should be wide enough to fit the cup holder is slightly angled against the wall of the car and so the opening ends up being too small to fit the Nalgene bottle on it.
Does The 32 oz and 48 oz Nalgene Fit In Cup Holders?
The most popular sized Nalgene bottles (the 32 oz and 48 oz) will not fit into a standard car cup holder as they are much wider than even wide car cup holders.
This is the size that almost everyone has when it comes to Nalgene bottles and unfortunately it just won't fit into any standard car cup holders.
There is a chance a modern car will have a cup holder specifically designed for wide water bottles, but I think this chance of this is extremely rare.
If you want to put your Nalgene bottle in your cup holder while you drive then you'll need to get a car cup holder expander. I suggest the Swigzy Car Cup Holder Expander from Amazon as it fits a Nalgene bottle perfectly and the base expands out allowing it to lock into place so it won't tip over while you're driving.
What Nalgene Bottles Do Fit In Cup Holders?
If you want to get a Nalgene that fits in a cup holder then your best options are going to be either the 12 oz sizes (which is mainly for kids) or the 16 oz size.
These are both 2.75 inches (7.0 cm) in diameter and these are small enough that they will fit even into small car cup holders.
I previously tested whether or not Hydro Flask bottles fit in cup holders and the smallest Hydro Flask was 2.87 inches (7.23 cm) and this size fit into every cup holder I had, even extra small ones in my older car.
So it's safe to assume that the 12 oz and 16 oz Nalgene bottles, which are even narrower. Will fit in your car cup holders just fine.
The 24 oz Nalgene is 3.0 inches (7.6 cm) in diameter and will fit snuggly into most modern car cup holders, but it may be too wide for older or smaller car cup holders.
The larger Nalgene bottles (sized 32-48 oz) are much to wide to fit into any car cup holder, unless you get a cup holder expander.
Get a Car Cup Holder Expander For Larger Bottles
If you're like me and want to have your Nalgene next to you while you're driving then it's worth investing into a car cup holder expander.
These devices go into your standard car cup holder and provide a larger cup on top which helps to fit water bottles like Nalgene (as well as Yeti, Hydro Flask etc).
They are also wide enough to fit most coffee mugs and many of them have a side opening for the handle of your mug to fit in.
I've purchased a variety of these cup holder expanders over the years and I can say that if you're going to buy one then you should buy one with a bottom that expands out so it can wedge itself into your standard car cup holder.
I've purchased ones that didn't fit snuggly and when I slammed on the breaks the cup holder expander and my water bottle went flying through the car.
The Swigzy Car Cup Holder Expander from Amazon is a great option as it's affordable and comes highly rated. I own a version very similar to this and it works great for my Nalgene bottles.
Available in a standard length and long length version this cup holder expander allows you to easily fit large water bottles like Nalgene, Hydro Flask and Yeti bottles into your car cup holder.
The base expands out with a twist allowing it to lock into place and prevent tipping and rubber tabs help hold your water bottle in securely through bumps and turns.
Bottom base can even be offset from the top so it doesn't block adjacent cup holders or so you can stack 2 side by side.