Monday, September 30, 2013

The Square Review

As the first water bottle review, it is fitting that I chose something different, something that stands out from the horde of stainless steel or aluminum jugs that dot the shelves of virtually every store you go to--from the grocery store to a gas station.  Water bottles are everywhere.  Virtually all of them are garbage.  Given the similarity in design and lack of quality, change, almost regardless of what it is, is a good thing.  The Square is definitely a change.  It is definitely different.  And it is definitely better.

Here is the product page.  The bottle comes in an array of colors (only the top, bottom, and logo are different colors, the stainless steel body remains as is).  Here is a written review from the Gadgeteer.  Here is a video overview, as there aren't too many water bottle video reviews out there.  You can buy the Square on Amazon:

Finally, here is the review sample provided by Clean Bottle:


Here is a recap of the water bottle scoring system.  

Twitter Review Summary: Good looking and well designed, the Square is among the best non-insulated bottles available.

Design: 2

I originally thought the Square was nothing more than a gimmicky, a way for the bottle to stand out in a crowd of cylinders, but four weeks of carry has proven me wrong.  There are real advantages to the square shape.  First, it is somewhat more dent resistant than the normal water bottle.  Second it is easier to pack, riding well in my Bihn Cadet briefcase at the end of the day.  Third, it provides a bit more grip and doesn't roll away when knocked over.  One thing I didn't count on was the ability to use the square shape to lock the bottle in place in a cup holder and then twist off the lid with the same hand.  It sounds complicated, but once I got the move down I could open the bottle with ease with one hand and no looking (eyes on the road, right?).


But the square shape is only one of four major design highlights of the Square bottle.

First, the mouth of the bottle is truly superior, surpassing even my beloved Human Gear CapCap.  Nothing I have used is quite as nice. 

Then, there is the simple yet useful cap loop.  It straps on to my lunch bag and my briefcase with ease, in the event the briefcase is too packed to carry something else.  Third there is the pass through cleaning.

There are myriad of benefits to the bottom cap.  First, it absorbs impacts to a degree that a metal bottom won't.  Second, it alllows you to fill the bottle with ice too large for the mouth.  Third, it allows for effortless and thorough cleaning.  This will be the cleanest, best smelling, best tasting water bottle you own, provided, of course you aren't so lazy as to not clean it. 

Finally, the cap is a minimal twist design, coming off with a short quarter turn.  This is invaluable when driving.  Instead of twisting and twisting and eventually taking your eyes off the road to figure out what the F is going on, you just yank once and the cap is off. 

Fit and Finish: 2

The fit and finish is excellent, as it has to be to pull off the bottm cap trick.  Without a snug fit and expertly crafted rubber seals this thing would leak like a screen.  But everything is wateright and secure.  You can tip the bottle upside down for days without a concern.  The seal that seals the bottom is mimicked on the top making this thing as sound as a submarine.  The stainless exterior is well made and without a seam and the plastic mouth is free of seams or sharp edges.  This thing is miles away from the drippy, slippy, and whale spouty Camelbak that both my son and I had.  Open that thing it there was liquid going everywhere, as if the bottle had somehow carbinated the contents. It is also significantly more water tight than Nalgenes or Kleen Kanteens.  Both are also a little leaky, not as bad as the Camelbaks, but pretty unacceptable.  Gaskets make all the difference.  They are a pricey addition to a water bottle but they are the difference between a wet shirt (or briefcase or car) and a dry one.  They are, undoubtedly, worth the upgrade.    

Carry: 2

As mentioned before both the cap loop and the shape of the bottle make this an excellent carry bottle.  The seals also make it pack well as you can cram it in something, turn it upside down, and not even worry about it leaking, something that you can't do with the Nalgene/Camelbak/Kleen Kanteen/Hydroflask/Sigg bottles of the world.  

Grip: 2

The cap loop not only makes a great lash point, it also allows you to grab the bottle easily and pop it open.

The squareness is actually not bad at all in terms of grip.  The stainless is slick and is more slick when the bottle sweats (which all non-insulated bottles will do time to time).  The square shape does give your hand something to register against when opening the bottle, another benefit of the different shape.

Drink Quality/Accessibility: 2 is a great mouth:


It seems so simple, but judging by the number of companies that fail at this most crucial part of a bottle, it is not.  The approach to the actual opening is smooth, there are no seams or rough edges, and the opening is just wide enough.  The water flows out easily and there is little splashing.  Additionally, it is easily wide enough to fill the bottle from a tap, water fountain, or a stand alone water cooler.  The opening is not so wide that your nose gets crammed into the bottle.  It is not wide enough to drop many kinds of ice cubes through, but you can take off the bottom to do that.  In short, this is the best mouth in terms of drink quality I have ever used.  It is at least the equal to the CapCap, if not a bit better.

Materials: 2

The stainless steel is fine, the plastic is smooth and durable, but the seals are where the Square distinguishes itself from the rest of the bottles out there.  They are literally what makes this bottle possible, both the short travel twist mechanism and the removeable bottom.  I would note that the stainless steel here is very smooth to the touch, with a light texturing and it is extensively machined (see images under "Leak Proof"), especially on the bottom of the bottle.  The fact that there are no machine marks or burrs is a testament to how nice this bottle really is.  

Insulation: 0

Ah the one thing the Square can't deliver.  This is an noninsulated bottle and there is really no insulation properties at all here.  If there were, well, we might be looking at the iPhone of Water Bottles.  Alas, there is still room for the Square to improve.  Clean Bottle, please consider creating an insulated version of the Square...

Durability: 2

In a month the Square accumulated no real wear marks at all.  It sat in a cup holder (which it does quite nicely).  It traveled in my briefcase.  It got hooked on to bags.  It went on hikes and rode in Maxpedition Pygmy Falcon II.  The stainless steel seems to be of a thicker gauge than the normal steel used in bottles by the mainstream companies, but really I think it had to do with the shape of the bottle.


As mentioned above the plastic was durable and resisted dings and scrapes quite a bit.  The seals seemed to work just as well at the beginning as they did at the end of the review period, but really a month is too short a time to judge their durability.

Leak Proof: 2

Even with a gaping hole at the bottom of the bottle:


The Square never leaked, even a drop.  I jostled it and moved it around and nothing happened.  You might think that the short travel screw top would be a problem but there is a seal at the top as well, locking the contents in.  This is the most leak proof bottle I have ever used and I have used more than a dozen different designs.  

Ease of Cleaning: 2

Nothing on the market is easier to clean.  Aside from the square shape, this is the second most obvious benefit over the competition.


Down the center of the bottle you can see that cleaning is simple--run a soapy cloth through the bottle, rinse and your done.  I wouldn't drop this in the dishwasher as I am sure the seals would be adversely effected by the heat, but when cleaning is this simple who cares? 

Overall Score: 18 out of 20

The Square is a bottle that is different and the differences are harnessed by the design to give it superior functioning.  An insulated version would be in the running for the yet to be made "iPhone of Water Bottles", but even uninsulated this is a very good bottle.  The pass through design is great and works flawlessly, both in terms of ease of cleaning and the ability to load water and ice.  The rubber seals are really nice and did not exhibit any wear during the month long testing period.  If you don't care about insulation, given the Square a look.  It is expensive, running about $15-20 more than the average Kleen Kanteen, but the fit and finish, materials, and clever design make this a substantially better bottle than the horde of cylinders that are out there right now.    


  1. how many ounces of water does it hold?

  2. Nice looking bottle, but I can't for the life of me understand why someone would buy a non-insulated single-layer water bottle. If one needs a water bottle, it would follow that one would like to keep cold liquids cold and hot liquids hot. I currently EDC a SS double-insulated Camelbak and have recently purchased a 40oz wide-mouth Hydro Flask for car trips and my daughter clips a 24 oz Hydro Flask to her school backpack. Although the Camelbak bottle is cool (they have redesigned a faulty flex spout design; I got 3 replacement head subassemblies gratis before they did), I am just waiting to replace it with a Hydro Flask as my EDC bottle.

  3. I use a 40 oz Klean Kanteen for EDC, anything smaller is just not enough for a regular workday.

  4. Great review, but to me the bottom line here is price. I've used the same sub-$10 nalgene for four years without any problems. I can open and close the stock cap one handed, maybe I just have freakishly large hands, but I doubt it. The 32oz capicity is perfect to me, enough that it won't run dry but also small enough to finish off before it gets warm, even in sunny south florida. and strangely, i've never experienced the leaks that so many others report. I close it tight and throw it in my bag without a second thought. The square looks great, but for more than 4 times the price, it has to be better than great.

    1. I have to agree with anon here. Paying over $40 for a non-insulated water bottle seems crazy. The improved cleaning via the bottom opening doesn't justify choosing this over a fully insulated Klean Kanteen or Hydra Flask, both of which can be found for $10-20 less.

  5. Love the fact that you're reviewing drink bottles! It's such a common (and overlooked) EDC item and it's good that you are bringing attention to their design and value.
    For your numerical score, I think a score of 2 for "Drink Quality/Accessibility" should be reserved for caps that not only drink and pour easily, but can be opened and closed one-handed with minimal effort. You could argue that there are few, if any, caps that would meet both requirements, but that's just the point; the high score should be reserved for companies that achieve both.