Concept: 3 out of 5
Execution: 2 out of 5
Yeah, but: It's for water, officer, honest.
The Long Version: Stanley's Classic Flask (manf) is an 8oz container that will hold whatever you want, as long as it's pourable. It has a slightly triangular profile with generously rounded corners, making it easy to carry in a pocket and less conspicuous than the traditional curved hip flask. Its darker colour also helps lower its visual profile, although I doubt that anyone who sees it will be fooled. Overall the look is almost retro, and for some reason it vaguely reminds me of a miniature metal gasoline can.
My first impression when I picked up the flask is that it's slightly flimsy; I'm used to the thick metal-walled cylinder of my Kleen Kanteen bottles, which could serve as an impromptu weapon. It's not that the Stanley flask is badly built, it's just that the straight sides can flex in ways that I'm not used to. The mouth is nicely machined, and the plastic cap is chromed and held in place by a plastic arm. Not being able to lose the cap is a nice touch, and while the plastic doesn't exactly scream reliability, I'll wait until there's actually a problem before I complain about one. But the overall 'cheap' feeling isn't helped by the name badge and "Eddie Bauer" stickers - guess where I bought mine - which seem ready to peel off and weren't placed properly on one of the others in the store. Them peeling off won't be a loss when it happens, but nothing says 'poser' to me quite like an Eddie Bauer edition of something, which is actually the impression that I'm trying to cultivate.
I spent a lot of time looking for a small, slim water bottle that I could fit in the pocket of my favourite camera bag. That turned out to be far more difficult than I expected, so option 'B' was to find an innocent-looking flask. That also turned out to be nearly impossible, but the REI website showed the classic Stanley, and sometimes close enough is good enough. With an 8oz capacity - about 250ml - it's not about to replace a canteen for desert treks, but it's enough to carry in the city in case there's a shortage of water fountains. Alternatively, it can hold the rest of one of those evil plastic convenience-store bottles without needing to take up a tall round space in my camera bag.
One of the big questions about stainless steel bottles is whether or not they 'taint' the beverage with a metallic taste. For the Stanley flask, I did an experiment. I left it filled in the fridge for twenty-four hours, and then poured its contents into a glass. In an identical glass, I poured the same amount of water straight from my Brita filter. I kept track of which was which, but asked Penny to check and see if she could taste any difference between them. Then she switched their positions while I wasn't looking, and I tried to distinguish which one came from the steel flask. We both agreed: no difference at all.
The Stanley Classic flask is designed for use and economy, and light weight and a reasonable price is more important to me than any potential heirloom status. It does what I want it to, and if it lasts me a couple of years of occasional use, I'll be satisfied. I'm not going to wait until I'm the centre of attention before I take a swig from it, but I've never been fond of drawing attention to myself. I'll just sit and drink in the shadows instead.