Andrea Wilkinson/ Nevada Sagebrush
A student drinks from a Hydro Flask water bottle. Hydro Flasks are a way of showing off personality among UNR students.

Ryan Vellinga, a freshman at the University of Nevada, Reno, holds his 32 ounce cobalt blue Hydro Flask throughout his interview, hoping that holding the water bottle will help him answer why he got it in the first place.

“Everybody had one, so I just kinda fell into the trend,” said Vellinga.

A Hydro Flask is an all insulated, canteen-style water bottle. It is marketed to keep the contents inside hot or cold for extended periods of time. The company’s stated mission is to “save the world from lukewarm.”

When Hydro Flasks first gained popularity, they were strictly seen as a tool, a container to carry water. Since then, Hydro Flasks are being seen more as a fashion accessory.

“I first heard about Hydro Flask when I came to my UNR orientation,” said Erick Herrera, a freshman. “I needed a water bottle because I was going camping [the] next week.”

Many Hydro Flask adherents — UNR students included — swear by the coldness of the water once inside the insulated bottle. A survey of 75 random UNR students revealed 66 of them owned a Hydro Flask, and all 66 of them were happy with the quality of their Hydro Flask.

“I resisted for so long, but I finally decided I wanted my water to be cold from the beginning of the day to the end,” said Alex Pereyra, also a freshman.

Blake Anderson, also a freshman, discovered the brand through his high school track team. His friend on the team let him take a sip from his Hydro Flask when Anderson accidentally left his water bottle at home.

“It was the coldest water I had ever tasted,” said Anderson.

While he also enjoys his water to be cold, Vellinga says the quality of a Hydro Flask is not why he bought one.

“I haven’t really noticed a difference in quality from water bottles similar to Hydro Flask that I’ve owned in the past,” Vellinga said. “I wanted a Hydro Flask because it was a Hydro Flask.”

And Vellinga is not alone. In the years since the bottles started gaining popularity, many students started seeing their Hydro Flasks as an accessory more than a water bottle.

“I spent weeks choosing the color,” Pereyra said. “I wanted something that matched who I am as a person, and I wanted something bright so people knew it was a Hydro Flask.”

The popularity of Hydro Flasks is due in part to their prevalence on social media. Three of the four UNR students The Nevada Sagebrush spoke to attributed seeing the bottles on social media as a main reason they bought one for themselves.

“People put their Hydro Flasks all over Instagram and Snapchat,” Vellinga said. “Having a Hydro Flask became almost like a source of pride at my school.”

Hydro Flask owners started decorating their bottles with stickers in order to personalize them even more and to outwardly show people on campus the things they like or care about.

“You can always find someone ordering stickers in class for their Hydro Flask,” Pereyra said.

According to Vellinga, his stickers not only personalize his Hydro Flask, but also help showcase his likes and interests. He called his own bottle a “travel collection.”

“I think of my Hydro Flask as a representation of myself,” Vellinga said. “All of these stickers remind me of a prominent time in my life.”

While Hydro Flasks might be trendy, they’re also expensive at $25 for a 12 ounce bottle, a price some students were reluctant to pay. It’s led at least some people to find more creative ways to get their hands on one.

“They are just so expensive,” Vellinga said. “I got mine through the lost and found at my work. “There was a constant rotation of them in the Lost & Found,” Vellinga said. “Because of that job, I have three Hydro Flasks.”

Despite Vellinga’s story, several other UNR students paid full price for their Hydro Flask. Pereyra justified spending full price on her Hydro Flask because of its environmental friendliness.

“I like knowing that my purchases make an impact,” Pereyra said. “Environmental issues are very important to me.”

Not only are Hydro Flasks BPA-free and recyclable, but the company started a charitable giving program called Parks For All in January 2017. Parks For All supports the development of public green spaces in the US.

“A lot of companies stress the environmental aspect,” Leonhardt said.

Leonhardt says that companies who subscribe to a Cause Capitalism system can charge higher prices for their products. The increased price acts as a donation to Parks For All.

“There is this idea that the more you pay, you’re making a larger commitment towards that mission.”

Parks For All has already donated $85,000 to the Pacific Crest Trail Association, the Oregon State Parks Foundation and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. On July 26, 2017, they donated another $160,000 to five other nonprofits including the National Park Foundation.

“In paying that premium, you’re essentially validating with your wallet the beliefs you hold.”

Even Leonhardt bought a Hydro Flask because it was more expensive.

“I justified the expensive price because I would be more incentivized to use it, which should positively affect my health by drinking more water,” Leonhardt said. “It’s kinda like buying an expensive gym membership. You’ve gotta use it or you feel like you’re wasting your money.”

Benjamin Engel can be reached at mpurdue@nevada.unr.edu and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.