10 Clever Things To Do With Old Nalgene Bottles

It may feel like Nalgene Bottles last forever, but you will eventually need to replace them — whether due to damage or just plain wearing out.

I threw out the first couple of Nalgene Bottles I needed to replace, but I soon realized that old bottles can be handy to keep around and can continue to live on even after they no longer work as my daily driver.

Old or damaged Nalgene Bottles may qualify for replacement under Nalgene’s lifetime warranty, but either way, have many helpful uses around the house or on the trail.

Old Nalgene Bottles can be used for organization and storage, to propagate plants, as a DIY ice pack, to keep warm on cold nights camping, as a makeshift backcountry shower or washer, or even as a backpacking urinal.

If all else fails, Nalgene Bottles are recyclable. 

At the end of the day, finding a way to repurpose old bottles is much better for the environment and has proven to be surprisingly helpful.

I’ve found so many uses for my old bottles, I sometimes wish I had a few more laying around that I could repurpose.

1. Ask Nalgene For A Replacement

Nalgene offers an incredibly generous lifetime warranty on all of their bottles, which covers defects as well as damage

If you’re retiring your old Nalgene Bottle because it’s cracking, cloudy, or just worn out, asking for a replacement is easy and Nalgene will cover almost anything — outside of damage from freezing, chewing, and fire.

I'm not even joking, it's kind of ridiculous how generous Nalgene are with their replacement policy. There are countless stories online of people contacting Nalgene after THEY BROKE their decades old bottle and Nalgene sent them a replacement free of charge.

How many water bottle companies do you know that will replace a bottle when it's your fault it's broken?

The only thing I have seen Nalgene refuse to replace is old bottles just because they contain BPA. That doesn't seem to be covered – but it couldn't help to ask.

Nalgene usually doesn’t require you to send in your old bottle when you get a replacement, so be sure to check out the rest of this list for more ideas or how to reuse that old broken bottle. 

2. Use It For Storage Around The House

Old Nalgene bottles make great storage containers for non-food items.

If you walk through my Dad's garage, you might think he's a bit crazy (he probably is).

It looks like a museum of old water bottles, jam jars and a variety of other containers — full of screws, paint, and anything else.

He's a bit of a hoarder but he's also the first person I call if I need some obscure screw to fix something in my house.

Nalgene bottles work great for storing things like screws and nail but they can also be great for dry food storage. I actually keep some rice in an old bottle and it works great.

3. Use It For Plants

My partner uses an old Nalgene Bottle to propagate plant cuttings.

Depending on your home’s aesthetic, old bottles work great as planters as well. 

Me though, I've got a brown thumb which is why I use old gel packs in my pot plants to help them last longer when I forget to water the plants.

4. Use It As An Icepack

Because Nalgene Bottles are safe to freeze and pretty much never leak, they make decent ice packs. 

Technically speaking Nalgene bottles aren't covered from “freezer damage”. I'm guessing this means completely filling the water bottle and then freezing it. This could cause enough pressure to break the bottle or the lid.

Overfilling will crack the bottle as the ice expands. 

But just be sure you only fill the bottle about ⅔ of the way full before freezing and you should avoid this problem entirely.

The great thing about using Nalgene bottles as ice packs is they are big and chunky so they last ages (block ice lasts longer than loose ice) but also as the ice melts you can drink the water saving on space and weight.

5. Use It To Keep Warm On Cold Nights

An old Nalgene Bottle filled with boiling water can be wrapped in a sweatshirt or a few wool socks and tucked into a sleeping bag or under a jacket for warmth.

Ideally you should only use a Tritan bottle with boiling water. The Ultralight HDPE bottles will soften and distort at high temperatures.

Make sure not to drink heated water from a plastic bottle, even after it cools. High temperatures increase the amount of chemicals that leach from plastic into water

Read more about whether you should use boiling water in your Nalgene or learn about the safe temperature ranges for your Nalgene bottle (to avoid it melting completely).

6. Use It To For Storage (or Trash) While Backpacking

Old Nalgene Bottles are great for storage around the house, but even better on the trail. 

Sticking small items like lip balm, toothbrushes, and spare batteries will prevent you from having to dig around the bottom of your pack for them.

Crushable food items, like crackers and cookies, will be kept safe in an old bottle. 

Because Nalgene Bottles are watertight and will float, they make a great container for items you want to keep dry and don’t want to lose — like wallets, matches, keys, and first aid supplies.

I only suggest doing this with the widemouth bottles though as if you have the narrow mouth bottle your keys and wallet might get stuck in there forever.

By the end of my trips, my old bottle is usually stuffed to the brim with food wrappers and other trash I don’t want wildlife catching the scent of. I always try to leave the bush better than I found it.

7. Make A Backcountry Shower

Drill a few holes in the sides and bottom of your bottle, pour some hot water in, and hold it above your head to make an easy DIY backcountry shower. 

This works best with the larger 48 oz bottles as the 32 oz ones tend to empty a little to quickly.

Alternatively, instead of drilling holes in the base of your bottle drill holes in the lid. Then you can fill up the bottle and then hang it upside down when you're ready to have a shower.

8. Make A Backpacking Washing Machine

Stuffing a dirty pair of wool socks or a grungy base layer into an old Nalgene Bottle, adding some biodegradable soap and water, and shaking for a few minutes makes a great DIY washing machine. 

It's also a pretty decent workout for your arms.

9. Old Bottles Make Great Camping Urinals

Not gonna get into too much detail on this one… but an old Nalgene Bottle has saved me a trip out of my warm tent more times than I can count. 

It's also been a lifesaver when I've been stealth camping in my campervan and don't want to get out of the van in the middle of the night and let the local residents know someones sleeping in their street.

It’s easy, won’t leak, and (don’t be too grossed out) can even help keep you warm when tucked into your sleeping bag…though if I'm honest I've never gone that far.

I even had a roadtrip with my kids and stuck in traffic my youngest needed to pee really badly and had to go in the bottle. Funnily enough it turned out to be their highlight of the trip and they still talk about it years later.

For obvious reasons, just make sure you’re not peeing into one of your drinking bottles by mistake. 

No NO! That's not lemonade!!!

10. Recycle It

If all else fails, Nalgene Bottles are recyclable at most recycling centers.

Old polycarbonate Nalgene Bottles and Tritan Bottles have the recycling code 7, which is accepted by many curbside recycling programs.

Ultralite HDPE bottles and the lid from any type of Nalgene have the recycling code 2, which is almost universally accepted. 

If you’re not sure if your curbside recycling program will take your old Nalgene Bottle, you can find out here