Carrying water -- the cool way

When Dirk Nowitzki leaves the court after an intense first period, or Alex Rodriguez steps into the dugout after tearing up the basepaths, what's the first thing they do (post-congratulatory butt slap)? Grab that agua. They're no fools. They know that without hydration, their performance circles the drain. Which is why arguably the most important piece of sports equipment you can own is your water vessel, be it a bottle, a pack or a fancy belt. To help you find the best option for your sport, we tracked down six of the top new, athlete-approved canteens out there. Find the best one for you, and stay cool when the heat is on.

For the do-it-all athlete ...

Dominate from Thermos/Under Armour ($29.99, thermos.com)

The brainchild of the sports whizzes at Under Armour and the stay-cool geeks at Thermos, this high-tech bottle uses vacuum insulation to keep your water or sports drink cold for up to 12 hours. The BPA-free, leak-proof lineup includes insulated, unbreakable stainless steel, Tritan plastic, and squeezable bottles, all of which have a handy flip-up carrying loop. There are 20 bottles in all with different colors and graphics, and with interchangeable lids. Sizes range from 18 to 32 ounces. We love the inspiring names of the bottles, too, like Dominate, Undeniable, Elevate and Beyond.

For the gym-goer ...

Alex Bottle ($29.95, Alexbottle.com Alexbottle.com)

Sick of the frustration and futility of trying to clean the typical tall, narrow water bottle, professional snowboarder, Olympic silver medalist, ESPY recipient, and environmentalist Gretchen Bleiler (talk about creds!) helped design the Alex Bottle. This clever canteen separates into two pieces for easy cleaning and space-saving storage. Another bonus: The 20- to 32-ounce Alex bottles are wide enough to easily accept ice cubes and, by the way, are also a great way to tote your smoothies, oatmeal, or powder drink.

For the hiker ...

CamelBak Day Star ($65, camelbak.comcamelback.com)

Perfect for either a laid-back or more intense day hike, this hydration pack was made to fit a woman's curves and distribute weight evenly, eliminating backaches and hot spots. The pack, which has a breathable mesh back (alleluia!), also has plenty of room for stashing your extra layers, compass and trail maps. An extra-large opening makes the 70-ounce reservoir easy to fill and clean. Oh and, of course, it's BPA-free.

For the endurance runner or tri-athlete ...

Fuelbelt Revenge R20 ($41.95, fuelbelt.com fuelbelt.com)

World Ironman champ and triathlete Chrissie Wellington set an Ironman world distance record using the FuelBelt, so clearly this H2O vessel is the real deal. It's super lightweight and designed so you can easily grab a bottle (and put it back into the belt) with one hand, no slowing down necessary. The two-bottle design also gives you the option to put water in one and an electrolyte replacement in the other. Need more space? Add on one of seven pockets to store keys, cash or gels.

For the cyclist ...

CamelBak Charm ($39, camelbak.com camelback.com)

The last thing you want on your back is a heavy hydration pack. This streamlined pack -- with S-shaped shoulder straps and a lightweight mesh harness -- is designed to feel as light as possible over a one-and-a-half hour ride. The bite-and-slurp valve makes hands-free hydration a snap, and the 50-ounce reservoir is accessible and easy to clean post-workout. Store cash, keys, or multi-tool (you never know when you'll get a flat!) in the zipper pockets.

Specialized Purist Watergate ($11, specialized.com specialized.com)

If you're more about the old-fashioned water bottle than fancy packs, this simple sipper -- which works in conjunction with a $10 Zee cage is for you. The BPA-free, 100 percent recyclable water bottle contains a special non-toxic coating that eliminates any nasty plastic taste (blech!). And because it has a one-way valve (spill-proof even on off-road extravaganzas), you don't need to worry about pushing or pulling the top every time you feel parched. Available in 22- and 26-ounce sizes.