Insulated Water Bottle Review: Camelbak Podium Big Chill vs.. Polar

By | September 20, 2013
My typical bottle setup when I ride…

If you are anything like me, you have a stack of water bottles.  They have them at your local bike shop. They give them away at bike expos and at organized rides.  Before long, you have a cabinet in your kitchen full of them.  To make matters worse, I worked at a place with a large lost and found.  From time to time they would clean it out and just throw everything away.  This infuriated me, but that is the topic for another time and place.  Needless to say, I pilfered lost and found garbage day.  I ended up with several 24 oz Polar insulated Bottles and a Camelbak PodiumBig Chill.  Once I got these, I left the others at home.   Whenever I go on a ride, the Big Chill is in the front cage and the Polar was in the rear.  I like insulated bottles.  They WILL NOT keep your liquid cool all day, but they do keep it cooler than a regular bottle.  I also am a big fan of NUUN.  When riding with a clear bottle, it weirds me out to see the NUUN change color due to exposure to UV light.

Anyway, late this summer, I was riding on a terribly rough road just outside of Puyallup, WA.  My Camelbak Big Chill worked loose from its cage, hit the ground and was sadly hit by a car.  I was down to one bottle for the rest of the day.  The following weekend, was RSVP and I made a special trip down to REI and purchased a new Camelbak Podium Big Chill.  Considering the fact that I have more bottles than I can shake a stick at, it might be a good idea to review the Podium and Polar and explain why.


  • +  Has a handy dandy leash which makes pulling it out of the back bottle cage a piece of cake.  I love the leash!!!
  • +  Not sure if it is officially dishwasher safe, but it has handled many trips through the dishwasher without incident.
  • +  Bottle is BPA free
Look at the black mold…
Euw!  Every time I ride…  It is a
challenge to find the one with
the lease mold.
  • –  Plastic on the inside of the bottle is not smooth.  It seems to be the perfect surface for mold/mildew to attach itself.  Nothing seems to get rid of it.  Including many trips through the dishwasher.
  • –  Even if the problems with the smooth surface is solved, the Polar Bottle is made of two layers with a foil insulating layer in-between.   To keep these layers separate, the polar bottle has divots on the inside of the bottle.  This is another location that harbors mold/mildew and is hard to clean.  The plastic on newer polar bottles feels smoother, but the divots are still an issue.
  • –  The mouthpiece is not rough.  This may not be an issue, on a single day adventure.  However, this year I rode RAGBRAI.  By the third day, I had a giant canker sore on the inside of my upper lip.  It was not difficult to find the source of this sore, since it hurt like hell every time I took a sip from my Polar bottle.  Other bottles with similar valves are not so hard on the lips.
Look at that mouthpiece!
+  The CAMELBAK Jet Mouthpiece is a work of art.  Twist it to close it tight, but it does not spill when it is open.  Just squeeze for refreshment.  It also makes a satisfying ‘poot’ sound when you squeeze air out of it.  Fun to annoy your friends.  Plus it is gentle on your face hole!  No sores on the inside of your mouth!
+  The inside of the bottle is a nice shiny slippery plastic.  Nice and easy to clean.  No mold/mildew or yuk!
+  Aiding in the ease of cleaning, there are no divots in the inside of the bottle.

Smooth easy to clean
–  There is no handy dandy leash…  However, since I keep this bottle in the front cage, it is not a big deal!
–  Add a NUUN or two to your water and you will hear a high pitch squeal for the next five minutes as the carbon dioxide slowly escapes from the bottle.  The first time you hear it, you wonder if you have a flat and what the hell that noise is.  With some time and experience, you can annoy your friends with that noise like the satisfying ‘poot’ sound.  That noise beats the top blowing off of your closed bottle spilling your precious NUUN everywhere!
-This damn thing costs $15 at REI.  $15 for a plastic bottle?  DAMN!
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