Last summer, I spent an entire concert chugging overpriced cans of water, desperately trying to not pass out from the Texas heat. It was hard not to notice that everyone else seemed to have large water bottles with them, rather than the ones that were being sold at the venue. They had planned ahead, bringing empty bottles from home that they could fill up at the water fountains. Baking under the 107-degree sun, I longed for my 40-ounce Owala FreeSip.

I try to take a water bottle everywhere. That’s no biggie if I’m in the car, but it gets more complicated if I’m out and about and don’t want to carry a huge bag, like if I’m on a walk. Or, had I thought it would be allowed, at a concert. I’m a fan of both water bottles and bags, so imagine my joy when I recently discovered the two things in harmony, in the form of a water bottle bag.

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In the Bag

You may have seen people on TikTok adorning their oversized Stanley mugs with a multitude of accessories, like clips for their lipgloss and sometimes even food trays, making an already bulky accessory even more annoying to tote around. This is not that. A water bottle bag is cute, but it’s useful. It allows you to live your hydrated life without being weighed down.

If you’re anything like me, you already have a collection of bags in varying shapes, sizes, and levels of fanciness. Sure, you could throw a water bottle in one of your old totes or backpacks, but I’ve found a water bottle bag to be incredibly useful. It’s like a waist pack, but for water. It’s like an old-timey camping canteen.

It holds your bottle upright. There’s no chance of it tipping over as you walk, and it keeps a few necessary accessories close by without needing to be oversize. The bag is insulated, so you can keep an uninsulated bottle cold, and the padding keeps the bottle from banging against your hip. It’s also easy to wash and doesn’t look overly technical, unlike a hydration bladder pack.

I tried two. Calpak’s nylon bag is my favorite for most days. Obviously, its main purpose is to hold a bottle, so that’s what the main pocket is designed for. A zippered pocket in front holds valuables like cards and cash plus a phone, and slip pockets around the rest of the exterior can hold keys, a bottle of SPF, a small camera, sunglasses, and maybe even a snack.

There are handles, but the adjustable strap will likely get the most use as you wear it crossbody or over one shoulder. There are four classic colors and prints available and a large selection of limited editions that are usually fun, like daisy print or checkerboard.

I also tried Dagne Dover’s Sloan Water Bottle Sling, which is more sophisticated. I imagine Meredith Blake would have taken this on the Parker family camping trip if it had been around in 1998 (she had her own water bottle bag, btw). It has two drawstring mesh pockets, plus a front slip pocket and a smaller one on the back for a card or cash.

It also has a key leash, which I wish the Calpak had, but it lacks a zipper pocket to keep valuables safe. We generally like Dagne Dover bags, as they’re high-quality and attractive, but they’re also more expensive. The brand uses a lot of neoprene, which isn’t environmentally friendly. Here, it’s paired with a lining made from recycled plastic bottles.

Your Choice

Which water bottles can you use? You can technically fit a Stanley or similarly shaped Owala Tumbler in the Calpak, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It makes the bag bulky and misshapen, and it’s not as easy to slip your bottle out to sip on.

Photograph: Medea Giordano

The 40-ounce BruMate Era fits better in the Calpak but doesn’t work in the Dagne Dover. The Era has a straw and handle, but is just a bit slimmer than the other two. Both bags fit my 40-ounce Owala FreeSip perfectly. The Dagne Dover says it maxes out at 32-ounce bottles, but this one just sticks out the top, if that doesn’t bother you.

When I was in high school in the 2010s, purses were gigantic. They held everything you could possibly need while away from home, like makeup, food, and a change of clothes. Plus school books … maybe. I love a good overstuffed tote as much as anyone, but sometimes you want to be elevated by our bags, not held down by them. That’s where the water bottle bag comes in.

And water bottles have become a fashion item in themselves. They say something about you, the way our bags and shoes do. Most importantly, we want to be hydrated whether we’re on a hot-girl walk, at a concert, or just hanging out with friends. I’ll never be thirsty again.

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