Gray’s Best 2017

(River Travelers, by Chet Reneson)

ACCESSORIES & APPAREL: Avex FreeFlow AutoSeal 25

avexfreeflowOf all the traits that define a Gray’s Best, there may be none more significant than the product that “tries a little harder, does something a little better.” But what more can one say about a simple water bottle other than that it doesn’t leak? Turns out, a lot. The Axev AutoSeal FreeFlow 25 water bottle ($16) incorporates a number of design touches that simply go beyond what a water bottle needs to be. In addition to the standard hard-plastic, BPA-free body, the over-engineered top really sets it apart. The central feature is the push-button style “trigger” that is ergonomically second nature to operate. At the business end, the mouthpiece offers a generous, thirst-quenching draft that draws easily. And what is a trigger without a safety? That’s right, a safety—complete with traditional red scribe—blocks the trigger from accidental deployment when in your pack. The lid is finished off with a stowable D-ring and a snap cap to cover the mouthpiece should the bottle mix with non-potable water in, say, the bottom of a boat. This is not expedition gear, where you are better off with a standard water bladder in a pack. Instead, it’s a day-tripper’s delight that rides unnoticed and leak free anywhere from the side pocket of a backpack to inside a hunting vest. The complexity of the lid makes it less than ideal to clean, but I can’t remember the last time I actually cleaned a water bottle anyway. And whether by design or on purpose, I was pleased to find that the bottle mouth perfectly matches the cap of my MSR water filter, making for an endless supply of fresh water anywhere there is a raw source.