Nalgene Ultralite vs Regular: Which Bottle Is Better?

When people think of Nalgene Bottles, what usually comes to mind is a wide mouth 32 oz bottle made of hard, transparent plastic. 

After all, it’s been their most popular reusable water bottle for decades and honestly it feels like everyone in my climbing gym (myself included) has one.

But what most people don’t realize is that Nalgene also makes Ultralite Bottles that are, in my opinion, one of the best products they make. 

When comparing regular Tritan Nalgenes vs the Ultralite versions, for most people the regular Nalgene is going to be the best option as it comes in more sizes and color options and can handle higher heat – making it perfect for dishwashing.

For those who care about weight or are prone to breaking their water bottles the Ultralite version is a great alternative. It can handle drops better, weighs about half as much as the regular Nalgene and it can also be found for ridiculously low prices when on sale – making it a great choice for the budget shopper.

Ultimately both types of Nalgene bottles are really good. I personally prefer the Ultralite version purely because it's exactly the same form factor as a regular Nalgene and it's lighter – making it perfect for hikes. But the regular Nalgene is much more common and if 0.2 lbs of weight isn't as issue (and for most people it isn't) then the regular Nalgene will do you just fine.

While I used a Nalgene Bottle as my daily driver for years, I’ve recently started moving away from non-insulated plastic bottles for everyday use — my Klean Kanteens and Hydro Flasks have been getting a lot more love. 

My Ultralite Nalgenes, however, are irreplaceable for backpacking, hiking, and the climbing gym. You just can’t beat the simplicity, versatility, and super light weight. 

Most Popular
My Favorite
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Dishwasher Safe:
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Best For:
Most people looking to buy a Nalgene
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Serious hikers where every little bit of weight counts
Most Popular
4.9
Price and Value:
Durability:
Color Options:
Portability:
Dishwasher Safe:
Best For:
Most people looking to buy a Nalgene
My Favorite
4.8
Price and Value:
Durability:
Color Options:
Portability:
Dishwasher Safe:
Best For:
Serious hikers where every little bit of weight counts

Price And Value

Tritan and Ultralite Nalgenes normally fall into a very similar price range on Amazon — somewhere between $13 and $17 for 32 oz wide mouth bottles.

But if you’re willing to go off the beaten path and get a non-standard size or narrow mouth Ultralite Bottle, they can sometimes be found for ridiculously low prices.

For example, at the time of this writing, 48 oz Ultralite Bottles are $9 and 16 oz narrow mouth Ultralite Bottles are only $6.60 on Nalgene’s site. 

That being said, I’m more than willing to spend a few extra dollars for a standard 32 oz wide mouth bottle.

It’s by far the most popular for a reason.

Most Nalgene accessories are only compatible with wide mouth 32 oz bottles and they’re big enough to hold a full day's worth of water (for most), but not so big that they’re awkward to carry around.

Winner: Ultralite Nalgene

Tritan and Ultralite Nalgene Bottles are normally very similar in price. 

But Ultralite Nalgenes get a slight edge because, if you can find one on sale, they can be absurdly cheap.  

Nalgene Ultralite HDPE Wide Mouth Bottle (32 oz)
$26.00 $13.12

My from HDPE the Ultralite Nalgene bottles are BPA-free and weigh 40% less than regular Nalgene bottles. Comes with the wide mouth lid and lifetime warranty that you get with the regular Nalgene bottles.

Buy Now at Amazon
02/02/2023 10:43 am GMT

Durability And Longevity

Both Tritan and Ultralite Nalgenes are surprisingly durable for plastic bottles — just in slightly different ways.

Tritan Bottles can withstand most drops and falls (even some pretty nasty ones), but are more prone to cracking if they land wrong.

Ultralite Bottles, on the other hand, are malleable and can flex to absorb impact a bit better than the regular Nalgene bottles. I’ve never managed to damage one by dropping it. The worst that’s happened is a small dent that popped right back out. 

Tritan Bottles do, however, have an edge in terms of how well they handle high temperatures.

You can put boiling water in a Classic Nalgene with no issue, which makes them perfect for use as a hot water bottle to stay warm on the trail

Ultralite Nalgenes can still handle some pretty high temperatures, but boiling or near-boiling water will soften the plastic they’re made of and may permanently distort under pressure. 

When I poured boiling water in both my regular Nalgene and my Ultralite Nalgene I noticed a huge different in how the plastic responded.

The regular Nalgene didn't soften or deform AT ALL. It felt just like it usually does and I could even hold it for a short period of time before it felt too hot.

However the Ultralite Nalgene became noticeably softer when I poured boiling water in it and if I pressed in with my hands that deforming took some time to go back to normal.

It did eventually go back to normal but I can imagine a big dent might permanently deform the bottle.

Winner: Tie

Tritan and Ultralite Nalgene Bottles are both extremely tough in their own way.

And honestly, when you consider that both are backed by Nalgene’s incredible lifetime warranty that fully covers defects as well as damage (so long as it’s not from fire, freezing, or chewing) both of these bottles are going to last you a lfietime.

Even if you do manage to break them (and it's your fault) then Nalgene will replace your broken bottle free of charge. It's a pretty insane and amazing warranty for such cheap water bottles and it's one of the reasons Nalgene is so popular.

Options And Style

Ultralite Nalgene Bottles are pretty straightforward (even by Nalgene’s standards). They come in three sizes (16, 32, and 48 oz) and traditionally only one color, opaque white. You don't get any color choices for the Ultralite and that kind of sucks.

But I get it, it's a niche product so color options isn't as important.

Classic Nalgene Bottles, on the other hand, come in five sizes (12, 16, 24, 32, and 48 oz) and so so so many color options and designs. Seriously, it’s a lot. 

At climbing it feels like every man and his dog has their own Nalgene bottle. Seriously these things are everywhere. But with so many colors to choose from I am yet to see someone with my exact color Nalgene. This makes it easy for me to tell which one is mine.

There are also limited release regular Nalgene bottles like the one pictured above that my friend got from her trip to Hawaii. She loves it and I even think it glows in the dark.

Winner: Classic Nalgene Bottles

If the way your bottle looks is at all important to you, a Tritan Bottle is your best bet. Ultralite Nalgenes are pretty boring and ugly and there are no color options to choose from.

Nalgene Wide-Mouth Water Bottle (32 oz)
$16.35

Made with BPA-free Tritan Renew plastic these Nalgene bottles are made with 50% recycled plastic.

This is the best selling water bottle that has been around for 30 years (and likely to last you 30 years). Suitable for warm and cold beverages (-40 to 212ºF) this is marked with milliliters and ounces for easy measurement.

Buy Now at Amazon
02/02/2023 10:33 pm GMT

Weight And Portability

A 32 oz Tritan Nalgene weighs in at around 0.4 lbs — more than light enough for everyday use. Compare this Nalgene to the Hydro Flask bottle where the same 32 oz size weighs 0.94 lbs…more than twice as much.

BottleWeight (grams/ounces/pounds)
Nalgene 32 oz (Wide Mouth)182.8 g / 6.45 oz / 0.40 lbs
Nalgene 32 oz (Narrow Mouth)166.9 g / 5.89 oz / 0.37 lbs
Nalgene 32 oz Ultralite108.6 g / 3.83 oz / 0.24 lbs
Nalgene 32 oz Narrow Mouth (1995 version)175.7 g / 6.20 oz / 0.39 lbs

Honestly, the regular Nalgene bottle is so light compared to the water you put it in you don't notice its weight at all.

But for activities like backpacking or climbing, every ounce matters. As you may have guessed by their name, Ultralite Nalgenes are… ultra light.

A 32 oz wide mouth Ultralite Nalgene weighs only 0.24 lbs. Half the weight of a regular Nalgene. So for those trying to save on whatever weight possible this is the one for you.

But for most people, weight isn't going to be a major factor so the regular Nalgene is going to be fine.

Winner: Ultralite Nalgene

If weight is a factor, an Ultralite Nalgene is the clear choice. 

In fact, you’d have a hard time finding a better weight-to-volume ratio with any reusable water bottle on the market. I know I haven’t been able to. 

My two Ultralite Nalgene Bottles are a staple for me on multi-day hikes. They’re extremely light, versatile, and durable. What more do I need?

Which Nalgene Should You Buy? Regular or Ultralite

I'll give you the answer I would give to any of my friends who ask me.

If you don't care about weight buy the regular Nalgene 32 oz and choose a color that you absolutely love. It's a great bottle, the plastic is BPA and BPS free and it'll literally last you a lifetime.

If you're a hiker and want something slightly lighter weight and you don't care about color options or you water bottle kind of looking like it's from a lab…then go with the Nalgene Ultralite 32 oz bottle or the larger size.

The Ultralite is my favorite and one I use more often but for most people I'd still recommend the regular.

Nalgene Wide-Mouth Water Bottle (32 oz)
$16.35

Made with BPA-free Tritan Renew plastic these Nalgene bottles are made with 50% recycled plastic.

This is the best selling water bottle that has been around for 30 years (and likely to last you 30 years). Suitable for warm and cold beverages (-40 to 212ºF) this is marked with milliliters and ounces for easy measurement.

Buy Now at Amazon
02/02/2023 10:33 pm GMT

Or heck, given Nalgene bottles are so cheap why not grab one of each?

Nalgene Ultralite HDPE Wide Mouth Bottle (32 oz)
$26.00 $13.12

My from HDPE the Ultralite Nalgene bottles are BPA-free and weigh 40% less than regular Nalgene bottles. Comes with the wide mouth lid and lifetime warranty that you get with the regular Nalgene bottles.

Buy Now at Amazon
02/02/2023 10:43 am GMT