Fifty/Fifty Bottles
40 ounce insulated bottles by Fifty/Fifty

Once I find a product I really, really like, I will be the first to admit that my mind closes like a bear trap to anything else that competes with it.  At the same time, something new and shiny (ooh shiny shiny!) with appealing aesthetics will almost always capture my attention. At least for a minute or two.

But will it sway me away from my Numero Uno Absolute Go-To Nothing Else Can Ever Be as Good product? Remains to be seen. Getting me to open up to the possibilities is the trick.

Nowhere is this more the case than when it comes to double wall vacuum insulated bottles.  I have written ad nauseam about how wonderful I think anything Hydroflask makes is.  When bottles by Avex and Fifty/Fifty caught my eye at the 2016 SurfExpo, I thought it was time to take a closer look.

(In the spirit of full-disclosure, both Avex and Fifty/Fifty provided me with bottles to review.)

Alex insulated bottleAvex ReCharge Travel Mug

This 24 ounce bottle looks amazing.  The almost anodized-like finish reminds me some of the serious eye candy produced by bike part maker Chris King. There is an industrial/military yet space-age quality to the look and even feel of this bottle. The colors are super cool and unique.

Unfortunately, after just a few hours in the confines of my messenger bag, that wonderful finish came out seriously scratched and there was a small dent in the bottle itself.  I was extremely disappointed in the durability of the bottle right off the bat.

Fits Good, Feels Right

One of the ReCharge’s claims to fame is its ergonomic “one-handed” design – meaning it is supposed to be super-easy to drink from when you only have one hand free. The biggest component of this, to me, is not the push-button lid but the groove between the main body of the bottle and the lid.  My hand fits just perfectly around that gripping area and it’s really pleasing to hold this bottle.

Lidsville

I have never been a big fan of the push-button lid: either the buttons are hard to push or you can’t get enough out for a satisfying mouthful, or you get backwash in the reservoir near the opening – a droplet or two of the liquid stays in the little reservoir after the push button closes and you dribble, either on yourself or on your surroundings. I was skeptical about the Avex push button lid but I have been pleasantly surprised.  For hot liquids, the opening is just right and I have to really ‘’work” to get the backwash effect.  And the push button itself seems much more functional.  That said, for cold drinks, when I want a big, thirst-quenching gulp, I can’t really as much of one as I might like.  Avex’s Winter 2016 catalog includes another bottle called the FreeFlow SS which they say has a really high flow rate.  I’d like to compare the two just for kicks and giggles to see if the FreeFlow would address my big gulp needs. The website says it is “coming soon.” It will also have a new powder coat, and that will likely increase the durability.

avex recahrge lidAll of that said, though, the ReCharge Drop Down lid is better than most of its push button competitors.

Another reason why I have been predisposed against push button lids is because they have working parts – namely a metal spring – that over time, I worry about.  How, for instance, would it hold up in the marine environment? Also, any time you have a mechanical lid, it will be harder to clean.  BOOM! The designers at Avex thought of that.  The so-called Drop Down lid will pop open so you can more easily get inside and clean it.  Plus, Avex says it is even dishwasher safe, though since I am kind of obsessive about my bottles, that’s one claim I really don’t care too much about.

So far, this bottle is getting high marks so far for functionality.

Even higher marks have to be given to Avex for making their product lids interchangeable. So, if I really do get annoyed by the push-button feature, I can swap it out for something else. That is, as long as the lids themselves are available.  A quick check of the website does not show a full complement of replacement lids just yet.

At nearly four inches in diameter, it is just a tad too big to fit in the center console cup holder in my Honda C-RV but it fits just fine in the main pull-out holder under the dashboard.

Another feature is the non-skid rubber bottom, not often seen in bottles of this nature. Nice touch.

So, what about the most important thing – insulation?

Here’s where the rubber needs to meet the road, or everything else is moot.

Avex says the 20 ounce ReCharge will keep hot liquids hot up to eight hours and cold up to 24. (For comparison, Hydroflask says their 18 ounce bottles will do hot for six hours and cold for 24.) Now to be fair, lots can impact this number – how big the bottle’s opening is, how much you open it, how cold it is when the hot stuff goes in, etc.  On a recent morning when I was headed to the coast to paddle, I filled the ReCharge with my favorite Maui peaberry coffee at 5:22 am.  For about an hour, the java was so hot I had a hard time even drinking it.  When I finished my paddle at about 3:30 pm, what was left of my coffee was still warm – okay, warmish.  But not cold.  So that’s 10 hours. Fair enough to say that the hot claim is substantiated.

As for the cold, my test of the ReCharge with ice water was just as successful. After 24 hours, the water was still super cold and there was still a bit of ice in the bottle.

The lid, with its uber-functionality is indeed leak-proof. In addition to the push-button opening, the tumbler has spout cover and a built in slide-lock which will keep the push button from engaging accidentally and spilling your drink all over.  As someone who spills A LOT, this is much appreciated though sometimes it is hard to disengage that lock. Sometimes I need both hands.  Is it overkill? Well, perhaps a bit, but I am assured that if I just toss the bottle into my bag, it’s not going to spill all over everything.

I have had a variety of liquids in the ReCharge and there is no residual taste from refill to refill.

So, to recap:

Pros:

  • Really spill proof
  • Insulates as promised
  • Ergonomic

Cons:

  • Durability
  • Slightly over-engineered lid
  • Small opening prevents flow

Would I recommend? It’s great for driving, office use, maybe the gym, for coffee, water, sports drinks, but not in an environment where durability is a concern. That pretty paint job just won’t hold up. (Again, will be anxious to see the new FreeFlow SS which will have a powder coating.)

Rated: 7 out of 10 Mullets

Fifty/Fifty 40 Ounce Bottle

As much as the Avex looks dramatically different from the Hydroflask, the Fifty/Fifty brand bottles look extremely similar.  So much so that I had to do a double-take the first time I saw them.  The difference are extremely subtle.  There is a very slight, mostly cosmetic dissimilarity between the lids.   And colors are a bit different. Other than that, if you are not paying attention, you might not know one from the other.

fifty Fifty 40 ounce bottle

Except when you look at the price tag: At $29.99 MSRP it’s about $7.00 cheaper than the comparable HydroFlask.

So, is it worth it or is this a case of “You Get What You Pay For” ?

I loaded up my 40 ounce bottle with Skratch Labs Apples and Cinnamon hot drink mix for that same paddle trip.  The steaming hot beverage went in at about 5:00 am.  When I cracked it open at 3:30, my glasses steamed up.  The Skratch stayed drinkably hot for at least another hour or so.

As for the cold, as a test, I filled it up at 12:30 one afternoon with ice water and over the course of the day, drank a bit out of it, then left it.  At 24 hours, there was still ice inside.  At 33 hours, there was one piece of ice left and the water was super cold.

But a couple of things I noticed almost immediately- first the lid was hard to screw on.  I even wondered if the bottle threads might be damaged, even though I couldn’t see any issues. It took a couple of tries to get it seated correctly. Second, the vacuum seal was almost too good. I had a hard time unscrewing the bottle when I went to open it.  When I finally did get it open, the gasket inside the lid came apart from the lid.  I was able to replace it.  But these are things I have never experienced with Hydroflask, and could lead to insulation degradation if it continues to happen.  Indeed a quick check of consumer reviews on Amazon shows I am not alone in this experience.  Of note, some folks who have used these bottles with carbonated drinks have had issues other issues as well.

Because of the paint job, Fifty/Fifty bottles are not dishwasher approved.  They offer a one-year warranty (dents and scratches excluded) as opposed to Avex and Hydroflask, which both have lifetime warranties.

The bottle rolled around in the wasteland that is the inside of my car for a couple of days.  The powder coat finish suffered no ill effects nor did the bottle emerge from the car with any dents.

This spring, Fifty/Fifty will offer a variety of lids and accessories on its website, including the coffee-friendly flip top. Fifty/Fifty’s lids will fit all of their wide mouth bottles. So, if you want the three-finger easy grip handle that comes on their growler on your 40 ounce thermos, you can get it. And that handle is pretty darn cool.

To recap:

Fifty/Fifty 40 ounce bottle:

Pros:

  • Insulates as claimed
  • Cool colors
  • Price

Cons:

  • Lid seal may have issues
  • Replacement lids not yet available
  • One year warranty

Would I recommend? Yes, as a slightly lower priced alternative to the Hydroflask, and as long you don’t need to carry a carbonated beverage.

Rated: 7 out of 10 Mullets

 

Avex ReCharge 20 ounceTravel Mug:

http://www.avexsport.com/thermal-products/20-oz-ReCharge-autoseal-stainless-steel-tumbler.html

Colors: metallic black, orange, bronze, blue, green

Price: 29.99

 

Fifty/Fifty 40 ounce bottle:

http://www.fiftyfiftybottles.com/40oz-bottles/

Colors: Stainless Silver, Crater Blue,Solar Orange, Matte Black, Cherry Red, Winter White, Olive Green, Lipstick Pink

Price: $29.99