I like hiking. I like wine. Sometimes, I like hiking with wine, and of course, this being hiking, I have a bunch of gear for just such occasions. Which containers and glasses are better? Let’s compare.
Containers for Carrying Wine
I have two purpose-built containers for wine: a stainless steel, vacuum-sealed bottle and a synthetic bota bag.
Of course, there’s always the option of using the bottle it came in.
Steel Vacuum-Sealed Flask
The steel flask is just shy of 750mL – in other words, it’s the perfect size for holding an entire bottle (almost – there’s a sip or two left over). It is great for keeping wine the correct temperature. If you’re carrying white wine, this is the way I would go. It’s also great for beer – it’ll keep a 22oz. bottle pretty well carbonated and cold (and 22oz. is 650mL, so room to spare). There is a weight penalty, although it’s pretty minimal – 12oz., more or less the same as a wine bottle (unless you’re drinking something fancy with the thick-walled glass, in which case this is lighter).
Recommended Use: day hikes, when you want to keep wine (or beer) the proper temperature. Especially useful when weather is hot.
The bota bag weighs next to nothing. It’s also slimmer in profile, which makes it convenient when space is at a premium, like an overnight trek or long day hike. Like the flask, it doesn’t quite hold a full bottle, and filling it is a bit of a pain as you near the top. You have to get the thing to expand just right to accept the maximum amount of wine wine. Pouring from it is kind of a pain, because it has a spigot on it. If you turn the thing upright, it’ll shoot wine all over the place, so you have to kind of tilt the glass as you turn it horizontal.
Recommended Use: backpacking and long day hikes.
Of course, the simplest and cheapest method is to use the bottle it came in. I mean, it’s right there.
Recommended Use: anytime you don’t feel like going to REI and buying…one…more…thing.
Trail Wine Glasses
I have no less than four different types of wine glasses specifically designed for hiking and backpacking. Yes, four.
Steel Wine Cup
Neither my wife nor I was prepared to like the steel wine cup. It smells metallic, and I figured that would affect the taste of the wine. In the great outdoors, though, I didn’t notice the smell, and the shape of the goblet did a nice job of concentrating the aroma of the wine at the mouth of the glass. To me, the wine tasted best in it, but my wife didn’t like the feel of the metal rim against her mouth. I think they’ve since come out with a plastic version, which might be worth checking out. The metal version is of course not very forgiving in a pack, so it’s not space-friendly at all. It could also bend.
Summary: good flavor enhancement, strange mouth feel, small size. OK if you’re doing a day hike. Not recommended for backpacking.
This was the sentimental favorite heading into the taste test. It’s a cute design, and some friends gave these to us as a host/hostess gift. It’s flexible, so it would really be the perfect thing for backpacking (if – you know – you couldn’t live without wine). The mouth of the glass turned out to be narrower than I thought, although you can solve this by deforming the goblet into an oval shape. The silicone also has a more noticeable odor. All in all, this is a great glass for backpacking, since it’s basically indestructible and very malleable, but may diminish the flavor of the wine a bit.
Summary: best choice for backpacking.
Small Plastic Goblet
The small plastic goblet is the one we’ve had longest. They’re pretty indestructible – they bend, but don’t permanently deform (except in the dishwasher – something we learned the hard way). In theory, the wine should taste as good as if you were drinking it from a Reidel O – I mean, it’s basically the same deep bowl tapering to the mouth, where aromas should be concentrated, but when I’ve drunk really good wines out of it (we’ve occasionally hauled a Quilceda or two up a trail), it doesn’t taste the same. I don’t know why. Not a bad choice, though, overall – I’d rate the flavor enhancement a little bit ahead of the silicone.
Summary: great option for backpacking, as long as you use the inside of it to store something else.
Larger Plastic Goblet
My wife felt this one showcased the wine best. It has a deeper, wider bowl, which lets you swirl the wine more fully. It has the classic ‘O’ shape, but with a finger grip (I guess in case you’re drinking on the edge of a mountain and need a really firm hold), same as the smaller plastic goblet. Obviously, it takes up more space than the smaller goblet, but not a big deal if you can stuff something inside.
Summary: Best for day hikes when you want a true wine drinking experience with minimal weight.
Any of these will work. For backpacking, the bota bag + silicone glasses would be the best bet for making use of tight space. For pure luxury, I’d go vacuum-sealed flask and large plastic goblet. Hand wash all of them – I think the metal and silicone would survive the dishwasher, but after partially melting the hard plastic, I won’t take the risk again.
Lastly, I tasted this wine back home (I might or might not be drinking some right now), and I have to say: it tasted better outdoors. Admittedly, it was less oxidized at the time, but I’m going to say the great outdoors makes wine taste even better.
That conclusion comes despite the fact that when I was drinking outdoors, I was getting devoured by bugs. Hiking, after all, is still hiking, no matter what you bring with you.