ZEFAL ARCTICA INSULATED BOTTLES
Arctica Pro 136g 750ml (as tested) €14.95 (£13.72 at time of writing). Also available in 550ml#13.95 (£12.81 at time of writing). Arctica 100g 550ml (as tested) £8.99. Also available in 750ml (£9.99).
The Zefal Arctica and Arctica Pro Bottles are fundamentally the same, with just one or two minor differences. Insulated bottles like these are not intended to work as well as a Thermos flask – or similar. However, keeping a drink warm on a short winter ride or cool on a summer ride is a nice little luxury.
Pros: choice of sizes for different frame and cage sizes.
Cons: two and a half hours has its limitations.
These three-layered, insulated, polypropylene bottles are designed to keep a drink at the “right” temperature for two and a half hours. I take “right” to mean hot, or warm, on cold days, and cold on hot days. Inner materials are odourless, so shouldn’t taint drinks. The inner is made of metallic PET and polyethylene foam and, right inside, “White PE.” BPA has been banned in France since 2015: these bottles are BPA free.
There are two types of bottle; the Arctica Pro and the Arctica. Both come in 750ml and 550ml versions, and both work to the same standards. Both have screw caps, too. So, to the differences. The Arctica is a straight-forward valve of the bite and pull variety; the Pro has an over-moulded cap, and the valve is softer, has a double closure system, and is designed to offer easier control of flow. The latter should also ensure no leakage.
The 550ml version is 215mm tall; 750ml is 259ml. this should cover most frame sizes, especially with side entry cages. Both are available in a range of colours – perfect for the co-ordinated cyclist. However, the Arctica has more options than its Pro sibling.
Note the 80C max temperature.
Filled with blackcurrant squash made with recently boiled water – allowed to cool - I got hot drink after forty-five minutes, warm after an hour and a quarter, and cold at 2.5 hours. Matches the blurb, but don’t expect things to stay piping hot. Worth noting that the ambient temperature was around 4C, but the bottle was exposed to wind-chill, too. Keeping the bottle in the pannier on a similarly chilly day kept things warmer for around an hour longer. When things turned much milder – around 12C – the two and a half hours seemed to be pretty accurate.
Even in the mild UK winter temperatures don’t get up into the twenties, but put it in the freezer for a couple of hours about three-quarters full, it’s stood for five hours at room temperature before gaining ambient temperature.
Soft to the touch, bottles like these are easily to grip. By the same chalk, they squeeze snugly into bottle cages and have not been ejected over gravel or roughly surfaced country lanes.
I’ve bunged in blackcurrant, lemon, orange flavoured potions, and there’s no taint to the flavour. Mind you, I have tried to observe a sensible hygiene regime (washing out the bottle and cleaning the cap and valve.
On the subject of valves, the Pro may be softer and more complex, but it may not be everyone’s first choice. I like it, but Mrs. Tester found it less amenable that the simple Arctica; especially at speed. I’ve had no such concerns. Personally, I’d say that the Pro has better flow control and is easier to manipulate – but, frankly, such things are marginal for many riders
Needless to say, the smaller size is a better fit for smaller frame or certain frame geometries, for example Mrs. Testers Whyte hybrid. I’ve used a variety of cages; Zefal’s Z2 Pulse Bottle Cage, for example, and the full side entry VEL Bottle Cage.
OK, both of these are pricier than Zefal’s Sense Bottle (650ml), but only by a pound sterling or two in the case of the Arctica, and four or five in the case of the Pro. How valuable is having a warm or cold drink?
Closest comparator in my experience is the Passport Frostbright Bottle. I’ve been using these off and on for over two years, and two of the three are still going strong; one split its inner. Holding 550ml they come in at pretty much the same mark as the Arctica Pro, but pricier than the Arctica, of the same size. Performance is similar, in my experience. On the other hand, I remarked in my report on the Passport Frostbright that I’d have liked a larger option; in that sense, the Arctica 750ml would be a good choice.
The Elite Deboyo is a cage-specific 550ml thermal design reckoned to retain temperatures for up to 12hours. However, it's £24.99.
Decent bottles with potential for keeping your drink warm for most of a half-day ride – or cold. This makes them ideal for the half-day blast or, quite possibly the club run, time trial, or sprightly gravel or off-road jaunt. Longer rides on cold days and you may well resort to a thermos, such as the one above, and, maybe, an adjustable cage (although those can have their own issues with frame geometries etc.).