“It’s like, you don’t even call a water bottle a water bottle here,” said Becca Stine ’19 from Bali, Indonesia as she sat across the room looking like I had just said the dumbest thing anyone could possibly say. “Call it a water bottle. You just call it a Nalgene and assume everyone owns one. It’s like the equivalent of an iPhone here.”
In 2012, a TIME Magazine Poll revealed that 84 percent of Americans could not go a day without their cellphones in hand. Here at Colorado College, it is safe to say that roughly the same number is probably true of students and their Nalgenes. They line the desks of every classroom, are lost and scattered throughout Worner, and tell the life stories of nearly every student on campus.
Without a doubt, the Nalgene is the Colorado College staple accessory (yes, it merits that label), and serves as the ultimate hydrator, planet-saver, keychain, paperweight, and conversation-starter, all in one.
“Your car climbed Mt. Washington? Mine too!”
“You’re a Ravens fan? Where are you from?”
“You ski? Where are you going this weekend?”
Nalgenes are a strange yet honest look into their owners, and they are much more of a personal extension than just water bottles.
“No one carries water bottles around anywhere else that I have lived,” Becca continued. “People treat it as if it’s almost as valuable as their computers or something.” And to a certain extent, she’s probably right.
“I’m very passionate about my Nalgene,” Morgan Garbe ’19 said to me, completely straight-faced, going on to recount a time she lost her Nalgene somewhere around Colorado Springs and proceeded to call every museum she visited that day and get back on the bus twice in an attempt to recover not just her water bottle, but her entire collection of stickers. “I may or may not have shed a tear over that one,” she laughed, “it had my favorite Overland sticker on it, but I’ve just started my new one,” as she pulls a half-stickered bottle out of her backpack.
Nalgenes, as normalized as they are here, are a unique part of CC culture, and a pretty comical one if you take a step back. On the colored surface of a majority of plastic cylinders on campus reads a student’s entire life story: that backpacking trip she took last summer, or his favorite café in Denver.
“It’s definitely pretty weird,” said Becca, a fresh observer to the sometimes odd idiosyncrasies of an American college campus. “I feel this strange pressure to get one, like my stupid Smart Water bottle is looked down upon.”
This weekend, start noticing the swinging piece of plastic that bumps peoples’ knees as they walk by—or a lack thereof—and there just might be something familiar you recognize from a stranger just taking a sip of water.