Outside Business Journal
Sponsor Content: HydraPak

Get Ready: Plastic Water Bottles Are Making a Comeback

HydraPak’s RECON is the world’s first bottle made from 50 percent post-consumer recycled plastic


At HydraPak’s product testing lab, the one-liter plastic bottle was filled to capacity with water, which swooshed like the steady beat of a song each second, for 72 hours.

Dubbed the RECON, the bottle clung to the hiking imitation machine, which rapidly jiggled the bottle via a clip around its TPU bail handle that refused to break. During the product testing phase, the bottle was “vigorously shaken to over-simulate the roughest type of hiking with the maximum weight inside the bottle to test durability and leak resistance. We eventually stopped the machine. There was no failure,” explained Jonathan Austen, director of product at HydraPak.

Next up: the drop test. Full bottles were dropped onto a concrete surface from three to five feet high at six different orientations including the bottom, top, and side. In the end, these tests proved that the new HydraPak RECON is virtually indestructible.

“What’s the big deal?” you might be asking. Lots of plastic bottles are super tough. But this bottle, the HydraPak RECON, is the very first hard plastic bottle where the bottle and cap is comprised of the greatest amount of recycled material to be featured in a reusable bottle to date.

Woman sitting on rock holding clear plastic HydraPak water bottle.
The Hydrapak RECON is the first bottle-and-cap made with 50 percent recycled material. (Photo: Courtesy)

RECON: New Sustainability Standard

Over the past two decades, HydraPak has become the number one original equipment manufacturer of reservoirs and soft flasks in the world. The company was founded in Northern California with a mission to create durable hydration and water storage products for outdoor use. With the acquisition of Polar Bottle in 2018, it expanded its brand portfolio of reusable hydration with bicycle squeeze water bottles. HydraPak’s sustainability focus has evolved to include not only product purpose but also the materials, manufacturing, packaging, and promotion of a circular lifecycle. The brand’s debut hard bottle is the RECON and it successfully sets an industry benchmark.

The RECON is the first bottle-and-cap made with 50 percent recycled material. HydraPak utilizes Eastman Tritan Renew technology to transform plastic waste, from a variety of sources with a primary source being PET (polyethylene terephthalate) single-use bottles, into upcycled outdoor bottles. Tritan Renew is utilized across various products including small appliances, food-storage containers, eyewear, textiles, and cosmetics packaging. But HydraPak is the first adopter in the hydration realm.

To boot, at end-of-life the RECON is recyclable, which benefits the environment and eco-minded consumers who want to recycle. “When you design using materials that are hard or impossible to recycle, it’s not going to do the consumer any good at the product’s end of life,” said Austen. “Our goal is to help create a demand stream that encourages a virtuous cycle of circular manufacturing. We want to make recyclability more convenient and broadly available to consumers,” said Austen.

Woman sitting on sleeping bag in green field, looking into the distance. Mountains in the background.
The new RECON will be available in fall/winter 2020 at hydrapak.com (Photo: Courtesy)

Tested and Approved for Adventure

Sustainability cred aside, the RECON may very well be the backpacker’s ideal water bottle. It’s tough as nails (as proven from the above mentioned lab torture) and the tall and thin shape—of both the 1-liter and 750-milliliter size—means it slides easily in and out of backpack side pockets.

The cap is leak-proof and twists 180 degrees to close and open: You don’t need to remove or lift up the cap to drink. Instead, the cap is rotated open and liquid can pass through. A lid that doesn’t require detachment to guzzle means that “Recreationists won’t risk a splash or spill in a remote location, like when they’re hiking on the trail or even when they’re walking around town. Also, the flow rate of the cap design is exceptional—you’re not choking on water or sucking in air—like you’re drinking out of a water glass, which is optimum for staging hydrated,” said Morgan Makowski, marketing director at HydraPak. Dayhikers and multi-day trekkers will also appreciate the bottle doesn’t cost or weigh more than comparable plastic bottles despite the hardiness or recycled content.

Reusable Bottles: A Rising Popularity

Across the world, there’s a growing demand for reusable bottles. The market is estimated to reach a value of more than $11 billion, from 2020 to 2030, according to a study published by Eminent Research. That surge is evident among outdoor industry shoppers, too. “Water bottle sales have been on the rise over the last few years, as consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about the impact of single-use plastic on the environment as well as societal trends pushing towards healthy lifestyles.

The growth rate for water bottles over the past five years has averaged close to 12 percent year over year,” said Shayan Hart, the camp buyer for Backcountry. In the outdoor industry, the hydration category represents $345.7 million, and bottles sales account for more than half of that sum, reports the NPD group. Among bottles, stainless steel designs recently doubled in sales and reached a 54 percent share of the category overall. “We’ve seen quite a bit of innovation within the product market as well: single-wall insulation, double-wall insulation, vacuum-sealed, and alternative caps,” said Hart.

But stainless bottles are expensive (about double the cost of plastic) and heavy. Plus, added Hart, “We haven’t seen much from a recycled story in the market, yet,” added Hart.

Today, reusable bottles are made from glass, metal, silicone, and less than 1 percent of the market has explored biodegradable matter, produced from algae, reports Transparency Market Research. But polymer, or plastic, reusable bottles are the most popular and account for more than 30 percent of the global market, says Eminent. Plastic is attractive, because it’s easy to clean, doesn’t carry a metallic taste, and it’s more affordable. And for recreationists, it’s essential for a bottle to endure the elements, high action, or a slam onto rocky singletrack, which the RECON can handle.

The RECON ultimately provides hydration for adventurers and everyday users—yet, it’s so much more than an outdoor water bottle. This product aims to shake the industry by utilizing recycled plastic to push forward circular manufacturing. It places a new pressure on streams of recycled materials and intends to make recycling more accessible countrywide. The RECON doesn’t stop at a single liter of hydration: its design encompasses the big picture. Hopefully, we start to see a lot more of our gear built with comprehensive responsibility to make a positive impact.

HydraPak’s new line of RECON outdoor water bottles ($15-$16) will be available in fall/winter 2020 at hydrapak.com and select specialty retailers.