Nalgene: Born from Science, Made in America

By Matt Heller
Oct 01 2021 |
This Nalgene bottle remains unbroken, despite having been tossed to the ground several times by two small children. Photo by Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Nalgene water bottles have defined an industry. They’ve also been Made in America since the beginning.

Chances are, if you’ve ever been on a backpacking trip, gone mountain biking, or any other intense outdoors experience, you’ve probably heard of Nalgene water bottles. Known for their durability — there’s a long-running urban legend that they’ll send you a free T-shirt if you manage to break one — Nalgene products are known for being exceptionally well made.

Most importantly, they’re also Made in America.

Nalgene Outdoor is a company “born from science.” It is a subsidiary of Thermo Fisher Scientific, and originated in the 1940s when that company manufactured plastic laboratory equipment. Everything changed in the 1960s when lab scientists realized that they had inadvertently made a leak-proof, lightweight bottle perfect for use on outdoor trips.

Soon, Nalgene Outdoor as we know it was born.

Since the decades since, lots of plastic water bottles have hit the market. But the one thing that sets Nalgene Outdoor apart from their competition is that almost all of their products are made in Rochester, N.Y., with materials sourced in Tennessee.

“Our Made in USA manufacturing is a huge advantage, both from a supply chain perspective and for our impact on the environment,” Nalgene Outdoor told AAM in a statement. “Our competitors need to transport [a plastic component] to China, manufacture the bottles and then ship them back to the U.S., which is nearly 9X Nalgene Outdoor’s carbon footprint. In addition, our Nalgene bottles are manufactured in an FDA compliant facility with ISO certification. Many of our competitors cannot claim the same high standards.”

Nalgene Outdoor has also benefited from the simplicity of their supply chain. Since everything comes from the United States, the company has largely avoided many of the supply chain bottlenecks that have affected global industries. This demonstrates the fact that manufacturing in America makes it easier for businesses to get their products to their customers, rather than having to rely on easily ruptured global shipping networks.

As Nalgene Outdoor explained, “we source nearly everything right here in the USA and thus experience few to any challenges in getting the inputs we need. This is another huge advantage… especially during Covid.”

Nalgene Outdoor also is a first-hand example of how using an American workforce in manufacturing helps to make a better product with a more cohesive team.

“There is a strong workforce [in the US] that is experienced and knowledgeable in the technical aspects of molding due to the large number of plastic molding companies in the area,” the company explained. “A high majority of the existing workforce has grown with the company so there is a pride and dedication to the company and the products we make.”

Nalgene demonstrated a great deal of creativity in coming up with their water bottle line. Before Nalgene started making water bottles, most bottles were made of glass, but Nalgene worked tirelessly to pioneer a market for plastic bottles. Nalgene Outdoor also recently had to meet the challenge of ensuring that their water bottles lived up to their sustainability standards.

And, with American-manufactured ingenuity, they were able to meet this goal.

In 2020, they released Nalgene Sustain, a reusable bottle made from Tritan Renew, a plastic resin made from 50% recycled waste that performs just as durably and functionally as the original bottle. The new product was so successful that Nalgene Outdoor pledged to use Tritan Renew in all their bottles by 2022, which will significantly decrease Nalgene Outdoor’s carbon footprint.

Overall, Nalgene Outdoor is another case study of how an industry-defining company can succeed without ever offshoring production to the United States. Nalgene is successful not in spite of being Made in the USA, but because of it.

As Nalgene Outdoor told us, “manufacturing in the USA allows for access to highly skilled labor while at the same time providing well-paying jobs in the local community.” We couldn’t agree more.

Check out all of Naglene’s products online here.