After a long day of hiking, there’s nothing better than sitting down to enjoy the view with a nice glass of wine. I’m a sucker for Cabs and Merlots myself, so that’s usually what I bring along. Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of different containers and brands, some that are designed specifically for outdoor activities, and some that are just well-suited.
So, without further ado, here’s my go-to list for backpack wines (from best to worst):
1. Platypus PlatyPreserve
It’s not a wine, but it’s a great device for carrying your wine. You can put whatever wine you like in it, which is a definite bonus. Since it’s flexible, you can squeeze out any air as you use it, so the wine doesn’t go bad (and it also get’s smaller each glass you have). Plus it’s super lightweight and packs down to nothing after your done enjoying your vino. This thing is way better than a standard Nalgene bottle.
Pros: Lightweight, keeps wine fresh, packs flat when you’re done, durable, fill it with whatever wine you like (endless variety)
2. Outdoor Vino
It’s looks like a traditional bottle of wine, but it’s actually made of a recyclable, BPA free plastic. And it’s a screw-top, so no need to bring along that pesky corkscrew. Being in a bottle does have some advantages. I find that it’s much easier to pour and handle than a floppy bag. Also, the screw cap seems to stay tight; I’ve never had a problem with one leaking in my pack.
Because it allows air in though, the wine starts to go bitter after a day or two. The wine itself is pretty decent. It’s just a table red, so it’s not going to win any awards for great taste or complexity, but it tastes good.
The bottle is practically indestructible. I dropped one on some rocks once, and it bounced around but didn’t crack or break. Unfortunately, it doesn’t flatten, so when you’re done with the wine, it still takes up space in your pack. It does—however—become useful as a water container, so that’s a bonus.
Pros: Acts like a bottle (easier to handle), decent wine, doubles as a water bottle
Cons: Doesn’t pack flat, lets air in, expensive
3. Black Box
Black Box wines come in Melot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, enough variety for most tastes. Black Box wines are packaged in a cardboard box, but the wine is actually stored in a bladder that’s sealed and airtight. You can remove it from the box, and just carry the bladder. The seal keeps the air out, so the wine doesn’t go bad, plus it gets smaller and smaller as you imbibe the wine.
I’ve tried all of the different varieties, and they are actually surprisingly good. Not just good for boxed wine, but just plain good. So much so, that I now use Black Box for my casual wine around the house. It’s also a great value, at $22 to $26 a box, with each box being equivalent to 4 bottles of wine.
The major drawback to Black Box is the initial size. Unless you’re going with a group, you’re going to be packing a lot of extra weight and bulk. I have taken half- or mostly-empty bags with me, and that works fine.
Pros: Assortment of good wines, packs flat when you’re done, keeps wine fresh
Cons: Lots of extra weight and bulk for shorter trips or single-person trips
4. Bandit Wines
Bandit sells a complete line of wines packed in cardboard containers. They come in two convenient sizes for backpacking—a 500mL and a 1L—so you can take just what you need. The wine itself is so-so. Not bad, but not great either. I find that the Merlot is particularly acidic, and it can give me heartburn when I crawl into bed. I also found that the cap has a tendency to leak once it’s been opened for the first time.
Pros: Compact, two sizes, assortment of wines, flattens when you’re done
Cons: Not great wine, cap leaks once opened