The story of this S'well Bottle review is a very long one. S'well was one of the companies I first reached out to when I decided to start reviewing water bottles. They had a great reputation online and a very nice looking bottle. I sent them an email and they passed, understandably, on sending a review sample. Not a whole lot of folks doing critical reviews of water bottles, especially on sites with a predominantly male readership. I never take it personally when companies turn me down. They only have so much for marketing and they have to spend it wisely. I think its worth it for them to send me stuff. I take a great deal of care in evaluating their products and I have a good readership (you folks), but its not my decision. Again, getting turned down happens (ahem, Spyderco) and I definitely do not hold it against the company.
Determined to get a lot of the major players in the bottle market I used site money to buy a mid sized 17oz S'well. I went to Amazon, put "S'well" bottle into the search bar, and found one for a good price. I bought it and it arrived about three days later. When I took it out of the box it was, well, not branded as a "S'well" bottle, but I thought it might just be a co-branding thing. Then I noticed that the bottle was a little different in proportion. It seemed a little squat for the 17oz model. I filled it with ice and water and then went to rustle up my son for dinner. About 30 minutes later I was sitting down to eat and I noticed there was no ice in the bottle. It was strange as I had put ice in and now there was none. I opened up the bottle and looked inside--only water. Clearly something was amiss. I tried it again and again the ice was gone in about a half hour. I also noticed that the bottle was sweating, which is impossible with an insulated bottle. It wasn't soaked but it was a little damp. Finally I took a magnet to the bottle, which was supposed to be 18/8 stainless steel, and the magnet wouldn't stick. The bottle was aluminum.
I tried to contact the seller and got stonewalled. Frustrated I sent an email to Amazon and an email to S'well warning them of the counterfeiters. The next morning I had an email from S'well asking for help. They were surprised to learn of the counterfeiters and said if I sent them all of the packing slips and material, plus the fake bottle they'd send me a S'well bottle in return. With nothing to lose and a desire to support companies against counterfeiters, on my own dime, I mailed them all of the stuff. Five days later the REAL S'well bottle arrived. It was noticeably and obviously different. The mouth wasn't as sharp, the proportions were correct, and it held a chill forever, keeping ice solid overnight plus some. Oh and it was magnetic. Real stainless steel.
Whatever the review says about the bottle, this is a company that treats customers the right way. I am fairly certain they had no idea I was the guy that asked for a review sample months ago. I think they were just doing the right thing. So, to that end, I strongly encourage you to support the company. The bottle is not perfect (no water bottles are right now) but among the sea of competitors, customer service like that deserves some real recognition. S'well is a super awesome company.
Here is the product page. The S'well 17oz bottle costs $35. They also make a 9oz bottle for $25 and a 25oz bottle for $45. There are ton of colors and unlike most bottle companies there are some hairy arm compatible shades including some with matte textured finish, called the "Stone" collection. The gray Stone bottle is downright manly looking, a huge change of pace for the water bottle world. Here is a written review. Here is a video look. No sponsors or affiliates sell this bottle yet, so go to S'well's site and tell them Everyday Commentary sent you. For reasons discussed above, skip Amazon. Finally here is my review sample (purchased with site money, but not given away for reasons discussed in the Water Bottle Scoring System; basically, its nasty and not cost effective to mail them--$8 or $10 on a $20 item):
Twitter Review Summary: Maybe the best insulated bottle on the market, stuff stays cold for days.
Overall appearance is simply stunning. Literally everyone that saw the bottle was taken aback by how beautiful it was. This is a sleek and gorgeous object, something from a movie set in the future. But the design is not just pretty, its actually focused on making the drinking experience nicer. There is no cap I have seen that is as pleasant to open and touch as the S'well cap, seen here:
It comes off easily and with a few twists (though not as few as the Square). It also a perfect texture, with enough grip from the ribbing to make you confident in your actions, but not enough to make it a pain. Furthermore, the shape of the metal makes this an object that simply craves human contact. Its reminds me of the feel of high end furniture like that from Thomas Mosier.
While large, the 17oz model is not a behemoth. Here it is next to the Zippo.
I would note that the choice to make it a 17oz bottle is a great one and unlikely to be a happy accident. At 17 ounces it easily holds an entire bottle of water or soda (don't drink soda, is garbage, but...). Great bit of forethought and a sign of how much attention to detail went into this bottle.
Fit and Finish: 2
The level of polish on the bottle and cap is really outstanding. This is a glorious item. The cap fits snugging and threads easily with no cross threading ever. I also liked the finish to the mouth, but more on that later. All of the brand labels were clear and well made, not that that matters to us, but it is just shows this isn't a sloppy piece of junk (unlike the fake one I got, which had crooked lettering).
The bottle's size is nice. It will fit in cup holders in a car (all bottle makers please take note, this is an essential feature, don't screw this up). It also slides nicely into my briefcase. Thanks to the superlative cap I have no fear of leaks. I would like an attachment point, but that would mar the sleek aesthetics and is more of a plus thing than a requirement. I could see a washer style attachment point hanging out around the cap area working well.
Though the exterior is very slick and clean, the overall shape and weight of the bottle, even with liquid inside, makes it great in the hand. I haven't dropped it (on accident) yet, and I don't get a lot of sloshing forward even when filled.
Drink Quality/Mouth: 1
On paper, the mouth looked good--wide enough for some kinds of ice but still narrow enough for drinking. Unfortunately, as implemented it was not so good. First, the opening is not quite wide enough for ice. Second, the rim is still a little too sharp. Better than most, but still a little too crisp. Third, there is definitely a metallic taste imparted by the rim. Finally, and perhaps, the nail in the coffin for this particular S'well bottle is this:
Yep, the 18/8 stainless steel rusted. It is pretty noticeable and really unacceptably bad. But I did some research and found out that this is pretty normal. In fact, there is an easy fix. Here is the mouth after a scrubbing with a brillo pad:
Clean as a whistle and good as new. Taken all together this is clearly worth a point, probably like a point and half, but drinking is actually quite good, so I think a 1 is pretty representative.
The coloration of the mouth is a concern as is the stainless steel walls which are usually dent magnets, but so far so good. Still prior experience tells me it is only a matter of time. Steel mouths just don't taste good either. A narrow plastic one (to block out the odors which through a mixing of the senses seem to impart taste) or better yet a glass mouth is much better. The coloration plus the normal ding prone nature of an all stainless steel bottle is a 1.
There is no doubt that the S'well is the king of insulation. In normal use, not leaving it in a frigid car over night, the bottle would keep ice solid for more than 16 hours on a regular basis. Twice I had ice 20 hours later. The claim that it keeps liquids cold for 24 hours is easily true. That is a rare feat. Lots and lots of bottles make this claim. Only the S'well has actually done it, in my testing (three insulated Kleen Kanteens, the S'well, a few rebrands, a Camelbak, and my Nissan Thermos; the Thermos did it as well, but the bottle is HUGE and the actual liquid reservoir is tiny). This is the best insulated bottle of its size (and size to liquid reservoir) I have used.
Nothing is outright busted yet, but even in regular commuting use there is noticeable wear:
This actually looks kind of cool, but it concerns me that once the bottle is dinged it will start to fall apart. Appearance is not the biggest issue, usability is. Over time, dents and dings start to make the bottle wobble and eventually compromise the seal and the mouth. Once that happens, and it has happened to me, the bottle is done. Stainless steel this thin just won't last more than a few years. I wonder if people so concerned with the environment realize that.
Leak Proof: 2
As leak proof as a sub. This is one of the reasons why it holds a chill so long. I have carried this thing in my briefcase upside down with no problems. Amazing.
Ease of Cleaning: 1
Nothing will be like the Square. I get that, but this is worse than even the common wide moth Nalgene or Kleen Kanteen. Decidedly average.
Overall Score: 16 out of 20
On its own this is a beautiful bottle. It works well and I think the coloration problem was a quirk as it was so easily remedied. There is no question this is one of the most striking bottles on the market. Literally everyone that saw it commented. It is also great in hand, as all of the surfaces are elegantly contoured. But the S'well bottle is more than a pretty picture, it works very well. It is utterly leak proof and insulates like a refrigerator. I wish it was a bit more ding resistant, but that is the nature of a stainless steel bottle. Very good.
Okay, stacked up against the Readily Available Benchmark of the Insulated Kleen Kanteen, the S'well is a revelation. It is much sleeker, with a better seal to guard against leaks and it looks much cooler. In terms of insulation it is miles better, but not better than the also widely available Thermos. This is a bottle with the capacity of a Kleen Kanteen (for the size) and the insulation of a Thermos. Not too shabby. This is the best insulated bottle I have used to date, but this bottle with a wide mouth to accomodate the CapCap or an insulated Square would kill everything on the market. Good, better that a lot of stuff, but still not the iPhone of water bottles.