Gear Review: Camelbak Podium Ice Bottle

Ice bottle
Camelbak Podium Ice (21 oz) and Big Chill (24 oz) bottles

Water bottles are a cheap accessory usually running between $4 and $10, and unless you’re using a pack hydration system such as Camelbak’s, a necessary one for longer rides. The Camelbak Podium Ice bottle sells for $25. What in the world would justify a premium price for an item that we use without a thought, mistreat callously, and dispose of as quickly as last week’s boyfriend? The name gives it away: this is an insulated water bottle, which one will appreciate greatly in hot weather. Camelbak makes two insulated bottles, the Chill and the Ice. The former sells for $12 and claims to keep water cool “for twice as long.” The Ice ostensibly commands a premium price because your water is kept cold “4X longer!”

A little history: A few years ago Camelbak sold the Ice bottle and then after one season it mysteriously disappeared. I had bought both the Chill and the Ice and found the Ice to work better than the Chill. On a typical hot day I’d fill the bottles with cube ice and cold water, and an hour later all the ice in the Chill bottle would be melted; in the Ice bottle it would last about 45 minutes longer. So, that’s not “4x longer” but almost. But as we all know, size matters and Camelbak sold the Ice only in a 21 oz size whereas the Chill came in both 21 and 24 oz. So I mostly used the Chill.

Riding in Contra Costa County in the summertime can get hot—often over 90 degrees—and having a cold sip is so much more refreshing than a tepid one. I was dreaming of a 24 oz (or bigger!) Ice bottle. Unfortunately Camelbak stopped selling them, and subsequently I found out that the insulating material that Camelbak used in the Ice bottle was no longer available, which is why production ceased. Darn. Well, at least we had a few Chill bottles and one small Ice bottle.

A couple of weeks ago we were wandering through REI and what do I spot but a new Ice bottle. I’m not sure what insulation was used before but now Camelbak is using Aerogel, an extremely light material, and it works very well. The Ice bottle still holds just 21 oz of fluid (a standard water bottle holds 20 oz) but it has the size of a typical 24 oz water bottle; all that extra space must be the insulation. The Chill still comes in either 21 or 24 oz sizes, and there still is no 24 oz Ice bottle. Now seeing the size of the current Ice bottle (the previous model was quite a bit smaller), I can’t imagine how you’d fit a 24 oz version on your bike: imagine the difficulty prying that thing out of your bottle cage. It would have to be the size of a typical Thermos! That must be the reason Camelbak doesn’t make a larger Ice. So if you want the additional cooling power of the Ice, you’re stuck with 21 oz, which is only slightly more than a small water bottle. If you need to carry a larger bottle, then you’re stuck getting a Chill, which isn’t a bad thing, just not as good as the Ice is. At least with the Chill you pay less, $12 for the 20 oz bottle and $15 for the 24 oz.

Yesterday we went for a ride out to Danville. It was in the mid- to high-80s. I filled both the old and new Ice bottles with cube ice and cold water. The new one lasted nearly the entire ride including a long coffee break at Peets, about 3 ½ hours total. I can’t recall when the old Ice bottle got warm but it was well before. I’d say that’s an improvement!