The ubiquity of the Hydro Flask

“I wanted something that was well insulated that can keep for many years,” senior Jasmyn Jansen said of her water bottle. A red, sticker-covered Hydro Flask. 

A new subculture, the representation of which is known as a “VSCO girl,” has popularized the Hydro Flask water bottle. This subculture is characterized by the usage of popular photo-editing app VSCO, political liberalism, and eco-consciousness largely expressed through the products one owns. Products such as Burt’s Bees, scrunchies, and Hydro Flasks are often considered part of the VSCO identity. VSCO stands for Visual Supply Company.

“Hydro Flasks are expensive. Regardless of what you paid for it, owning one represents a certain level of affluence,” Drake psychology teacher Michael Rawlins said. “This supports sales that aren’t just about practical use, but a product that makes consumers feel like they are making a positive life choice when they purchase the product.” 

This marketing has led to a certain ubiquity in Marin, as the bottle brand is so common many people refer to them as “Hydros.” With teens and adults alike proudly toting them, the brand has a fully-fledged product line, a bottle of every size and for every beverage. 

Bottles for not only water but coffee, beer, and wine. For the true Hydro Flask enthusiast, there is even a bottle sling that can be worn while running. 

“I love them for car camping and hot summer days on the river, but would never bring one hiking. You feel that thing in your backpack no matter how short a distance you travel,” said Rawlins. 

Despite the weight, many carry around larger bottles. 

“It’s more common to see the Hydro Flask as a bigger size, that’s more like a 32 ounce,” Jansen said. “I don’t like that size because I don’t drink that much water.” 

The standard 21-ounce bottle currently retails for $33 dollars and comes with a lifetime warranty. For the true VSCO look, many teenage owners cover their bottles in stickers. 

“I think Hydro Flask uses marketing and design that make people that use them feel more ‘active’ or ‘healthy’,” said Rawlins. 

However, not all are ready to bite the insulated beverage bullet. Junior Sadie Marquit isn’t convinced the insulation is worth the price. “I don’t care that much about the temperature of my water,” Marquit said. 

While she may not care for the product, she does support the trend towards reusable food and beverage storage. “If being environmentally conscious can be trendy, I think that’s really good.” 

Between the VSCO girl cry of “save the turtles” or California’s heightened ecological awareness, the Hydro Flask has become not only a marker of environmental consciousness but of the affluence required to buy a pricier product. But how environmentally friendly is the Hydro Flask really?

While the website touts a page with links to all their news coverage and links to videos of people engaging in outdoor activities with their bottles, there was no clear link to information on how and where they are manufactured. 

The brand is focused on their environmentally friendly image, yet they do not share how and where their products are made, or the environmental impact they generate beyond the inherent benefit of a reusable bottle. 

The company also runs a charitable giving program, Parks For All. “Our goal is to support non-profit organizations focused on building, maintaining, restoring, and providing better access to parks,” the program’s website says. They have donated $838,000 to various charities, according to the website. 

Aside from the company’s lack of transparency, the trend towards throwing away less is some improvement.  “I like nice things that last and aren’t plastic crap,” said Rawlins. 

While the Hydro Flask may not be as transparent about their manufacturing practices. Their marketing department makes them out to be, the idea of owning and using something for a long time is a good one. The bottle’s ubiquity also reaffirms some owner’s choice to carry the bottle. 

“Owning a Hydro Flask could almost make you feel a part of a community. You see others with them, and you feel positively reinforced,” said Rawlins.