Why you should care

Because hydration and self-defense go hand in hand.

Drink more water. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Look, we don’t expect the bottled-water industry to ever stop trying to steal our cash, but in 2014, a case of kidney stones got me serious about drinking water. Plastic bottles? Out. Glass? Unlikely to last. Stainless steel? Bingo.

Which is to say, 14 hours into OZY Fusion Fest, an outdoor festival in Central Park that took place on a 100-degree day, my 40 ounces of water spiked with apple cider vinegar, stevia, sea salt and three ice cubes was still pleasantly cool. Courtesy of a brand-new, $43, cobalt-blue water bottle.

A bottle that, after the BPA-related bottle recalls in 2008, says Scott Allan, president of Hydro Flask, was begging to be made. Cofounders Travis Rosbach and Cindy Morse had the idea, he says, to make one that looked like a sports bottle and offered the safety of food-grade stainless steel, but performed like a vacuum-insulated thermos. “Surprisingly, no one had done this yet,” says Allan. Hydro Flask, based in Bend, Oregon, debuted at a Portland Saturday market in summer 2009.

Now it’s a throwing weapon to aim at the assailant’s face area, giving me a chance to flee. Although I would dearly regret losing that bottle.

“Maintaining beverages at the temperature consumers wanted was a game changer,” says Allan. He claims that a bottle that’s almost too hot to touch, like one left in a hot car, will still keep things cold. The bottles work for hot beverages, too, and the company encourages customization: There’s a whole web page for building your own. Which is to say, mix and match among the seven sizes, 14 colors and two types of lids: handle top (always!) or sippy lid (which they call a Hydro Flip).

This is all great, but I’ve discovered a bonus, an absolute cherry on the bottle top, that Hydro Flask likely didn’t intend.

Out here in Silicon Valley, I hike alone in the woods. It’s the greatest thing about living here. I love seeing bobcats and coyotes. And if a mountain lion is my exit ramp from this mortal plane, so be it. What I do worry about, just a little bit: people.

Last year, a trio of meth-y lowlifes allegedly killed two people: a young Canadian woman who’d befriended them in Golden Gate Park and then a teacher of tantra who was hiking in Marin County. Then there was David Carpenter. Also known as the Trailside Killer. Yeah, there’s that.

So, I take the magical blue bottle on all my hikes — one big bottle of water in the car and the Hydro Flask on my person keeps me covered from a hydration standpoint. And it quickly dawned on me that Hydro Flask was giving me more than just water; it was also giving me a sense of safety. This thing is heavy when full, and it’s got such a handy handle. When it’s just me and the redwoods and the coyotes, the Hydro Flask swinging at my side, I feel like Little Red Riding Hood with her hydration cudgel.

2 dip

Pro tip: If you don’t want your Hydro Flask to dent, don’t drop it on cement.

Source Sean Culligan/OZY

But am I fooling myself that a water bottle could help in an emergency? James L. Painter, who teaches jiu jitsu, boxing and American Prison Fighting in Washoe Valley, Nevada, says I’m right on the money. “This is a sturdy-looking bottle, and in the right hands or with the right mind-set, you could hurt someone enough to stop them,” he says. Painter gave me a few tips for using Hydro Flask as a weapon of self-defense. If the bottle is full, I can hold it like a small bat. But if I run into trouble and have already downed half my water, Painter advises using a one-handed overhead swing: “This will be a good blow because of something called the marriage of gravity,” he says. Empty bottle? Now it’s a throwing weapon to aim at the assailant’s face area, giving me a chance to flee. Although I would dearly regret losing that bottle.

Then there’s the flayel option. If that word doesn’t ring a bell, think long pole with a chain and a spiky ball at the end. Yeah, a flayel. My Hydro Flask has no spikes (yet), but Painter says I could tie that awesome handle I love so much to the sleeve of my fleece pullover. Voilà, “a much longer reach and thus greater impact.” (A company spokesperson says it’s never heard of Hydro Flask as a tool for self-defense.)

Downsides to Hydro Flask? Well, spending $43 hurt, and it dented a little bit when I dropped it — but I’m still saving my pennies to buy a second one.

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