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camelbak podium bottle

Back when I first wrote about BPA-free water bottles, I mentioned the new Camelbak bottles as one choice. Once I noticed how cool the CamelBak Podium bottle was, I had to get one. It’s like a regular water bottle but with a valve akin to the bite valves on Camelbak’s hydration packs.

The premise is that you can easily access the water in this bottle either by sucking on the valve or squeezing the bottle with your hand. With virtually every other water bottle, you bite and pull the top with your teeth, squeeze the bottle, and then slam it shut on your hip. So this Podium bottle should be much easier to deal with while riding.

In theory, it shouldn’t leak, since the valve automatically stays closed. (It really sucks to get sports drink dripping on your frame, and also your gloves, because then it ends up on your bar tape too.) You can also lock the valve closed using a simple twist-lock lever on the lid.

The one downside I see, much like with a hydration pack, is that it’s hard to clean inside the bite valve. If you use sports drinks, chances are there will be gunk built up in there, which will eventually turn to mold.

But enough with the theory… let’s see how this works in real life…

Buying: This bottle is about $9, which is a little steep compared to your typical $4 water bottle.

Filling: This was simple, like a regular water bottle. The opening is big enough for ice cubes, so there’s no problem here.

Carrying: It fits in a standard size water bottle cage and stays in place. It will also slide into a jersey pocket if you like.

Handling: My first thought with this bottle is that it will take some getting used to! For one thing, I kept wanting to pull the valve open with my teeth, but after a week or so I got past that.

What bothered me is grabbing it out of the bottle cage. You have to grab the top of the bottle so that you don’t end up squeezing the center (which would spray your drink straight onto your bike.) Then once you are holding the bottle, you have to slide your hand down to the center to squeeze it properly. (You could squeeze from the top, but it felt awkward to me.)

I almost dropped this bottle a few times at first, thanks to the odd feel. Also, it gets pretty slippery.

I much prefer grabbing a Specialized Big Mouth bottle, which has a textured grip at just the right spot. It also feels softer, which makes it feel right in my hand. The Podium bottle is rather stiff.

camelbak podium bottle valve

Drinking: This is where the bottle really shines. It really is super easy to drink from. You don’t even have to put it in your mouth at all, so that makes it easy on your teeth.

Just a good squeeze on the middle of the bottle sends a good stream of water into your mouth. You can also suck on the valve if you prefer.

Best part – I really like how I don’t have to slam the valve shut on my hip or chest after getting a drink.

Cleaning: As suspected, this bottle is a huge pain in the behind when it’s time for a cleaning!

If you use sports drinks in your bottles, you’ll end up with sugary residue trapped around the soft part of the valve. That means you need to use a toothpick and/or a Q-tip to get down in there and clean off any built-up sports drink or resultant mold.

See, I want bottles where I can use sports drinks since I hate putting anything sugary in my hydration pack (residue and mold in the tube and bite valve sucks!!) So putting a sort of bite valve on the Podium bottle doesn’t do me much good at all!

Finally, the million dollar question…

Is this bottle leak-proof?

In theory, yes. In reality, no. This is most definitely not a 100% leak-proof water bottle.

camelbak podium bottle valve locked

First of all, let’s say you’re mixing up a sports drink powder in the bottle. If you start shaking the bottle, the force inside will open the valve and send a stream of water onto your kitchen table, car seat, riding buddies, or wherever you’re standing. So if you are mixing up a drink, make sure the twist-close lever on the lid is turned to the locked position!

Second, when you’re grabbing the water bottle and pulling it out of the bottle cage, you have to grab it perfectly. If you put too much pressure in the wrong area, you’re going to squirt your drink straight onto your bike’s frame.

Third, after mountain biking with this bottle for a few hours, I checked my bike and found my down tube covered in stickiness. I’m not sure if that was from me handling the bottle or from the roughness of the trails shaking the valve open, letting a few drops escape each time.

Fourth, I noticed that most of the time, there are a few leftover drops of liquid sitting on top the valve once it closes. If I just have the bottle sitting on a table, these drops end up on my shirt the next time I go for a drink. If the bottle is on my bike, I bet the drops fly off onto my down tube.

Let’s face it – you’ll still get sports drink residue somewhere if that’s what you’re using. You could probably lessen that by always locking the lid, but if you’re racing, you’re not going to take the time to spin the lever to the locked position after each sip. And if you’re mountain biking, you probably won’t have time to perform such a maneuver while moving.

Sure, if your goal is to transport a full bottle of sports drink from point A to point B, without drinking it, this bottle would work perfect and not leak. But if you’re messing around with it, you’re bound to spill a few drops of sports drink somehow.


What did I really like about this bottle?

While this bottle isn’t perfect, there are a few things I like about it. As mentioned, not having to slam the top shut on my hip is awesome.

Despite not liking the feel of the plastic, I like the taste of it. That is, even on the first use, there was no plastic taste. The water tasted nice and fresh each time.

One thing that made this really cool for mountain biking is not having to put my mouth on the valve. As you know, water bottles get dirty when mountain biking, and it sucks to get that built-up mud in your mouth each time you take a sip. With the Podium bottle, you keep the muddy valve at a distance and just squeeze out the fresh drink.

(Unfortunately, due to the openness of the valve, it can get filled with mud, which then means you’re squirting chunks of mud into your mouth with each burst of water!)

What I ended up doing with this bottle is using it primarily for other sports. It’s cool because I can carry the filled bottle in a backpack or duffel bag with the twist-lock lever locked shut, and it won’t leak at all (even if squeezed.) I actually ended up loving this bottle for things like weight lifting, squash, and other sports where I don’t have to carry the bottle around in a cage.

It’s also great for road trips in the car. I always have my Podium ChillJacket bottle right beside me.

camelbak podium bottle

My final verdict is…

While I give CamelBak an A+ in innovation, and I was really excited about this bottle, it didn’t impress me as much as expected. For me, it brought on more problems than it solved. It’s a cool bottle, but in the end, I’m happier with my tried-and-true Specialized Big Mouth bottles.

I do love the bottle for other sports use, so I got my money’s worth. I actually use them all the time. It’s just that for cycling it doesn’t seem any better than usual. And I don’t use sports drinks in them.

You might really like these Podium bottles though (as many others do,) so you should still check them out.

Official website: www.Camelbak.com

Buy online: www.REI.com | www.Amazon.com

Product Review Details
Company: CamelBak
Product: CamelBak Podium Water Bottle
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Date last updated: 2015-09-15
Obtained Product: Purchased at retailer.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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  1. I have just purchased one of these and noticed that mine leaks from the thread on the lid.

    Is this the case with everyone?

    I thought that perhaps my bottle lid is missing a rubber seal or something?

  2. @Robert

    I’ve never seen one of these leak like that. I’d take it back for a replacement.

  3. Robert I have the same problem as what you are describing. I actually came online to see if you can purchase replacement rubber seals for these bottles as I feel that mine is missing one. Even when locked off if I squeeze the bottle I can hear air escaping no matter how much I tighten the lid. I’m gonna take it back to the shop and see what I can get done. Other than that its a great bottle

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