As someone whose job it is to be chronically online, it's not a huge surprise that I've found myself deep into WaterTok and StanleyTok — or, for those who touch grass, Water Bottle TikTok. From those absolutely wild recipes that put no less than three packets of flavoring in their drinks to those Stanley tumbler accessory videos that detail everything you need to make your water bottle into a full-on purse, I've gotta admit: I'm wholly and completely fascinated by it all.
People seem to have more questions than answers when it comes to these kinds of videos. Like, is it even technically considered water anymore if you've added so much sugar to it? Why do you need $50 worth of accessories for a bottle that's already almost $50 itself? Personally, whenever I see one of these TikToks on my FYP, my first thought is, "They're cute! They're so aesthetic! But...are they actually worth all that money and hype? Or are we just buying these because TikTokers with lives seemingly way more put together than ours told us to?" Well, my friends, I'm about to find out.
Let me just say, I have nothing but love for the Stanley cup girlies. Spend your money how you want! Buy a water bottle if it makes you happy! Despite being a girlypop who is dehydrated, like, 80% of the time, I, too, have an emotional support water bottle that I've absolutely decked out with stickers, and I 100% feel you on the appeal of it all. My question isn't whether people should be buying these — that's not up to me. My question is...are the Stanley tumblers as a product actually worth all the hype, camping out outside Target stores, and the high price point? And, compared to other viral water bottle brands, does it hold up?
Without further ado, let's get into it!
If I'm gonna invest that much money into a bottle, I want to be confident that the quality lives up to the price.
One of the most important criteria for me when it comes to a water bottle is it being spill-proof, because I am deeply clumsy and have been wronged in the past by a leaky water bottle that took vengeance on my laptop. So, let's start there. Coming in first place is the Owala! Though by the smallest of margins, it's pretty damn solidly sealed. Absolutely nothing came out when I tipped it over, and I had to full-on Blizzard-style hold it upside down for it to leak from the straw.
The Hydro Flask, which came in a very, very close second, held up really well to being tipped over, with not a drop coming out from the lid. The sole reason this ranks the slightest bit lower is because there's this teeny tiny hole on the top by the straw that does leak if it's knocked over. As with the Owala, it leaks from the straw if fully turned over (which, honestly, is expected of all of these, but I figured I'd check anyway!).
In last place is the Stanley. I'm gonna be honest — I was disappointed as hell in this! Given that the Stanley tumbler is the only of the three to have a "fully closed" lid option (more on this later), I was pretty confident it wouldn't spill. Reader, it did. A lot. And very easily. To make sure it wasn't user error, I opened and resealed it, but the results did not change. Water leaks from the top of the lid even if its just tilted sideways, so it's definitely not a ~toss it in your tote~ kinda bottle.
Time to move on to what I believe is the next most important criteria — does it actually keep your drink cold? I'm excited about this one, personally, because of that viral video where a girl's Stanley tumbler not only survived a car fire, but literally kept the ice in it from melting. So, to test this out, I put a single ice cube in each water bottle, sealed them up, and checked back on them periodically to see which one stayed frozen the longest. Truly, this was almost a three-way tie, with 20 minutes separating first and last place. So, take this with a grain of salt, because it was pretty damn close. Anyway, the first place winner was the Owala, in which the ice lasted for about 5 hours and 50 minutes.
Truly neck and neck with the Owala was the Stanley, which lasted about 5 hours and 40 minutes. And in last place was the Hydro Flask, which lasted about 5 hours and 30 minutes.
Here's a summary of the results for this round:
Alright, now it's time to move on to just how practical these bottles are for everyday use. As someone who is usually hauling a big 'ole tote and speed-walking from place to place, I do notttt want to be lugging another unnecessarily bulky item (and a full water bottle can get heavyyyyy). So, the first thing we're testing them on in this category is how lightweight they are. Coming in first as the lightest of the pack is the Owala, which is noticeably lighter than the other two.
I went back and forth on whether the Stanley or the Hydro Flask was lighter, but ultimately they felt about the same, so I gave them a second-place tie. Neither is wildly heavy, but they've definitely got some weight to them.
For what it's worth, I brought each of these with me out and about for a day, including on a long walk, just to see how practical they'd be in my own daily life. I didn't notice any major differences between them on that front, but I will note that the easiest and most comfortable to hold while you're carrying a boatload of things is the Stanley, because of the handle grips.
Moving on, let's talk about special features. The Hydro Flask is pretty simple — what you see is what you get, and that's it. The Owala, on the other hand, has a 2-in-1 lid, meaning you can use it with the straw or sip from its mouthpiece. Comparatively, the Stanley has a 3-in-1 lid, meaning it has both of those features and a third "closed" option, which — we've concluded — does not actually work.
Finally, let's talk about cleaning! If you, like me, have had the viral video of that girl getting mold poisoning from not cleaning her Owala bottle properly seared into your brain, you know how important it is to have a bottle you can get nice and squeaky clean without a whole lot of work. Of the three, the Hydro Flask was by far the easiest and quickest to clean. It's only got three parts, there are absolutely no hidden nooks or crannies, and it's dishwasher safe.
In second place is the Stanley. It's got quite a few pieces to it, and definitely takes a little more time to clean 100%. That being said, I loved that every piece of it was easily detachable and washable. If you've ever made the mistake of forgetting to clean your coffee tumbler for a day or two, you know the absolute curse that is the smell of stale coffee and oat milk that plagues that bottle for a hot minute. I certainly don't think that'd be an issue with this! And, on another positive note, it's dishwasher safe.
Coming in last is the Owala. Honestly, I had a similar issue as the person in that video did. Cleaning it just isn't super straightforward and intuitive! I fiddled with the mouthpiece on the lid a bit to see if I could get it to come off, but ultimately came to the conclusion that I'd just have to do my best to clean it with a straw brush. To give it a fair shot, though, I googled it and stumbled across a Reddit thread where someone asked the same question and learned that if you pull the mouthpiece all the way back, it'll detach and be way easier to clean. I don't recall seeing this anywhere on the bottle's packaging, and given that it was a point of conversation on Reddit, I'm certainly not the first person to have this question. Anyway, unlike the other two bottles, the Owala's lid is dishwasher safe, but the bottle part is not.
Here's a summary of the results from this round:
Friends, we've made it to the final topic, where I ask the age-old question: Does it live up to the hype? Now we get to talk about the fun things, like if the bottles are ~aesthetic~. That might sound like a strange criterion at first, but let's be honest — these have essentially become an accessory, almost like a handbag. I'd argue that, for instance, whether the bottle comes in only a handful of colors or an ungodly large number of them is actually kinda important! It is, coincidentally, also one of the biggest differences between these brands.
The Owala certainly has more of a minimalist, on-the-go kind of vibe to it. The bottle is only available in six color combinations, all of which are multicolored. If you want more options, the Hydro Flask comes in 13 colors — 7 "off the rack" and 6 available for an additional $5 if you choose to "customize" it on their site. If it tickles your fancy, you can also get it engraved or add a design to it for an additional cost. But if you're searching for something in just the right color, patterned, or even metallic, the Stanley is That Girl™️. It's trendy for a reason! The Stanley is available in just about every color and pattern you can imagine, so much so that I gave up trying to count them all after I learned there are special Target-only collections. Like the Hydro Flasks, they can be customized with images, engravings, and more for an additional fee.
Now, knowing all that we know now, do I think these bottles are worth the price and the hype? To calculate this, I tallied up the results from all the previous tests, giving each first place win 3 points, each second place win 2 points, and each third place win 1 point, creating a total of 18 possible points. By that metric, third place goes to...the Hydro Flask! It scored 12/18. It's essentially the same price as the Stanley, but seeing as it didn't perform as well and doesn't have that same ~social appeal~, I don't think it's as worth its price ($44.95) as the other two. I don't think it's a bad water bottle by any means, and if you're looking for something a bit more sleek and simple with only a straw, it might be the one for you! But all that being said, you can get a better product for the same price, if not for cheaper.
Coming in second is the Stanley tumbler, with a score of 13/18. In my opinion, the Stanley is a pretty middle-of-the road water bottle. I think it's kinda pricey for what it is, but it does keep your drinks cold. Given all the hype around it, I expected it to be a lot better quality, though. It's aesthetically pleasing and comes in some admittedly really cute patterns, but the "closed" lid not working and how badly it leaked disappointed me, especially given its $45 price point and how difficult it is to get your hands on. As for if it's worth the hype: kinda! I wouldn't say it's worth camping out for or a must-have by any means given its performance, but I could see myself using it as my WFH water bottle around the house. It's cute, I get it! But all in all, it's just alright.
And in first place, the Owala! I'm gonna be honest — I wasn't expecting this at all, but the Owala wowed me in nearly every category, claiming four first place wins and scoring a total of 14/18. Being the cheapest of the three bottles ($37.99), the best performer, and the most consistent, it absolutely is worth the money, making it also the best bang-for-your-buck. I will admit that initially I thought it was the least-cute of the three, but it's grown on me, surprisingly. It's a great investment, super reliable, and its design makes it a no-brainer to toss in your bag without worrying it'll be too heavy or make a mess. This has without a doubt become my new ~going out~ water bottle to bring on walks, trips to the coffee shop, etc. Absolutely slayed, iconic, That Girl™️, deserves Stanley-level hype.
Finally, here are the results for this final category:
Thanks for coming on this journey with me, folks! Do you agree with my ranking? Do you think I should try some of those WaterTok recipes myself? Do I cave and test if those Stanley accessories are actually worth the hype? Let me know in the comments!