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Tested: Polar Bottle Insulated Water Bottle (with Zipstream Lid)

polar bottle in stars and stripes design

The Polar Bottle. This classic water bottle is one of the first cycling accessories I ever purchased! That was many, years ago, and it’s still around today. So it’s about time I post a review of the Polar Bottle Sport (with Zipstream Cap).

Here’s the truth – I never liked the Polar bottle. When I first bought one, it was the only insulated bottle on the market, so I made do with the shortcomings. I was willing to use the bottle because I need cold water when I ride, and this bottle was the only feasible way to do that.

It seemed like a great idea – a water bottle with insulation that would keep cold drinks cold on a hot summer day. It did keep my water colder (and my ice cubes solid) for longer than the plain plastic bottles I had used for other sports.

polar bottles

But the insulation took up valuable space, meaning the standard size bottle held less liquid than I was used to. And the $9 bottle (at the time) was much more expensive than any others. It was also kind of slippery and tough to squeeze (you had to grab it at just the right spot, which seemed to be the least natural place to grab it).

So, whenever the bottle eventually cracked, I resorted to regular water bottles that were not only much cheaper, but held more water.

And I went close to ten years using those and the plain old Specialized Big Mouth bottles before the invention of CamelBak Podium bottles changed my life!

Which begs the question… if I was so happy, why did I buy another Polar bottle?

For the design!

I bought a “stars and stripes” design with the idea to carry the Polar bottle on all my Fourth of July holiday rides and races. It’s a beautiful bottle! (And made in the USA, so it’s a perfect fit for Independence Day!)

polar bottle made in usa

It did not disappoint… until I put it in my water bottle cage.

Polar bottles are persnickety about bottle cages.

Since the bottle is so stiff, and surprisingly narrow, it needs just the right bottle cage to fit snugly. Most bottles (or at least the good ones) are very adaptable and fit numerous shapes, styles, and sizes of water bottle cages. The Polar bottle does not share this feature. It sits so loosely in the stainless steel cages on my road bike that I’d be worried it would just launch right out!

Make sure you have a tight bottle cage!

The bottle requires just the right touch.

To actually drink from this bottle, you need to hold it at just the right spot. The problem is, the obvious place to grab the bottle, is not a spot that you can squeeze!

See those indents about 2/3 of the way up the bottle that look like a perfect hand hold? Don’t grab the bottle there. Grab it by the bottom half!

The biggest problem here is that if you’re carrying this bottle on your bike, you have to grab it by the top to remove it from the bottle cage, then shift your hand to the bottom, then drink.

Plus, the foil insulation makes a crinkly noise when squeezed.

It doesn’t keep water cold.

The Polar bottle just doesn’t keep water cold very long. Sure, it keeps water colder than a regular plastic bottle. But not for a significant amount of time.

I fill it mostly with ice, but before long, not only has all the ice melted, but the water is luke-warm.

What’s really disappointing about the insulation is that condensation will develop on the outside of the bottle. This presents two problems:

  • If you’re riding your bike, the bottle will be slippery when you grab it, and you might drop it on the road.
  • If you’re at your desk, it might get your important documents and/or electronics wet.

If you like cold water, you’re better off buying one CamelBak Podium Ice than two or three Polar bottles. I’d rather have one bottle filled with ice cold water than two bottles filled with “kinda cool” water. The Podium Ice simply annihilates the Polar bottle’s insulating capacity!

I want the lid to open and close automatically!

Wait, the lid requires you to pull it open and push it closed?! That’s soooo 2009!

Yeah, the regular sport cap, standard on most Polar bottles, is the older style that you have to operate with your hands and/or teeth. It’s easy to clean, but I’m more interested in on-bike functionality.

twist to remove the polar bottle sport cap

Also worth noting is that the words “twist to remove” are engraved in the cap. Thanks for telling me, but these grooves are prime areas to collect gunk – hard water deposits, sand and dirt, and excess lip balm. Basically you end up with a white film inside the lettering and practically need a dental pick to clean it off!

(So it’s not all that easy to clean, after all!)

But wait, there’s a new lid!

New in 2016, the “Zipstream” cap is Polar’s self-sealing squeeze valve that is also EASY TO CLEAN. The cap is dishwasher safe with a removable valve – and 100% USA Made.

polar bottle zipstream cap

It’s very simple and easy to clean – it easily pulls apart into two pieces. It’s definitely less complex than the Camelbak Podium caps (which are a huge pain to clean and keep clean). With the Camelbak caps, you have to forcefully pry them apart, and then you have to be careful you don’t lose any o-rings.

However, both caps have little hard-to-reach crevices which make for perfect spots for mold to hide!

As for the rest of the cap, it keeps the textured edges that help to open and close the lid. And rather than an on/off lever, the valve itself has a push/pull function to lock it open or shut.

Does the new cap make the Polar bottle a top choice?

No. Regardless of how good the valve is, it doesn’t fix my other complaints.

Aside from the lid, the only redeeming factor is their design – I’ll admit, I really like the style of their “color” series – it’s just that color is so low on the priority list when I’m comparing water bottles.

There are other bottles that do insulation much better, while also having improved valves. Essentially, the Camelbak Podium series of bottles made the Polar bottle obsolete.

What you might want to do though, whenever your CamelBak cap gets so nasty that it needs replaced, replace it with a Polar Zipstream cap! (Yes, the caps are interchangeable between the two brands.)

You can buy just a Zipstream cap on Amazon for about $5, so you get a good easy-to-clean cap, and it’s $1 less than the CamelBak replacement cap.

But again, don’t forget the missing locking feature.

My final verdict is…

I only liked the Polar bottle many years ago when it was the only insulated bottle option for my bike rides. Today, it’s a joke compared to the competition.

While the new cap is an improvement, it’s not enough to sell me on Polar bottles themselves. So, buy Camelbak Podium Ice bottles, and top them with Polar Zipstream caps!

Official website: www.PolarBottle.com

Buy online: www.Amazon.com

Product Review Details
Company: Polar USA
Product: Polar Bottle Water Bottle
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 2.0 out of 5
Review first published: 2008-11-12
Date last updated: 2017-08-12
Obtained Product: Purchased at retailer.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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1 Comment
  1. [Submitted on: Nov 13, 2008 @ 16:49]

    I, and just about everyone I ride with uses the Polar bottle. In the Texas heat, the difference between warm, tepid liquid and cool or cold is awesome. I keep my Polar bottles in the freezer all the time, either with some frozen Citomax to act as ice in hot weather, or empty to prevent growth of yukky green stuff. You do sacrifice a little volume, but I just stick a third bottle in my jersey pocket and I’m good to go.

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coach levi
Hi, I'm Coach Levi. I'm a USA Cycling Certified Level 3 Coach as well as Level 1 Certified with Precision Nutrition. Want to feel better, ride faster, and look great? Let's work together!

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Coach Levi is my favorite child and favorite cycling coach. I'd choose him over Christoper McCarmikael even. Did I mention that Levi can coach you to a healthier lifestyle where you look and feel your best?
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