Sea To Summit X-Bowl Review

X BowlsThe Sea To Summit X Bowl is a collapsible bowl made of food-grade silicon. It’s compact, lightweight (just 80g) and big enough to hold a healthy serving of pasta.

We needed some new plates for camping and we’d met other cyclists who were happy with their X Bowls, so we bought a couple X Bowls to try out. There are also mugs and plates (pictured) in the same range but we held off on buying those until we tested the bowls.

On price, the X Bowl certainly isn’t the cheapest option out there ($15.95 from REI) but we expected our X Bowls to last for a few years of camping. We also were happy to pay a bit extra for a couple nice features included in the bowls:

  • a hard base that doubles as a chopping board
  • measuring cup marks along the side of the bowl

Unfortunately, our experience using the X Bowls during a bike tour of Spain wasn’t as happy as we hoped it would be. While the bowls were great to eat out of (very sturdy, easy to hold and definitely big enough for cyclist-size portions), there was one problem: they retained food odours.

When we made pasta for supper, that was all we could smell the next morning. The scent of tomato sauce and garlic is not what you want when you’re trying to eat cereal and milk at 8am! This was despite the fact that we cleaned the bowls with soap and warm water directly after dinner the evening before. When we stayed in hotels, we even gave the bowls an extra scrub but the smell stuck around.

When we returned home, we wrote Sea To Summit and asked if they had any advice. They said the problem was an odd one, and suggested soaking the bowls for 15-20 minutes in hot water to get rid of the smell. This certainly did help, but it’s not a practical solution for day-to-day bike touring.

We’ve since talked with other cyclists and it seems we’re the only ones who had this problem, so are we just super sensitive, or did we get defective bowls?

If anyone has ideas we’d love to hear them, because otherwise these bowls are really great. We want to take them on our next bike tour but only if we can crack the smell problem.


  1. Emmanuel
    24th February 2011 at 11:48 pm #

    I bought two of these bowls for my wife and me and had a similar problem. I can smell the food but my wife can’t. I think it is a sensitivity issue.

    I have learned that if you clean the folds very well, rinse them and let them sit in the sun for a bit then the smell goes away.

  2. dennis
    24th February 2011 at 11:52 pm #

    I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of the product, but you might try soaking it in a baking soda solution.

    It’s amazing to me the wide variation in the ability of people to perceive certain odors (or odours :)). And, of course, the company is unlikely to say, “Yeah, our bowls tend to smell like whatever you put in them!”

  3. Neil
    25th February 2011 at 12:11 am #

    I completely agree with your review.

    I have one of these and the first time I used it I had a really spicy chili and the smell still lingers now. I also find it really hard to clean anything sticky like honey from the soft sides so don’t really use it any more and have replaced it with a Sea To Summit Delta bowl which is excellent.

  4. Becky
    25th February 2011 at 1:45 am #

    We have the silicon squishy bowls and they have the same problem. We now only use them for breakfast in the morning, and the squishy cups were not particular useful, as it was just too easy to dump hot liquid on yourself. Now, for dinner we just eat out of our pots and save the bowls for breakfast.

  5. Duncan
    25th February 2011 at 9:00 am #

    Interesting property of silicon, I guess it must apply to a lot of fancy kitchen silicon too.

    So as an alternative, I would recommend Orikaso origami tableware – have not had a problem with it. And origami is cool!

  6. Emma
    25th February 2011 at 9:29 am #

    Haven’t tied the sea to summit bowls but we’re also fans of the Orikaso origami tableware, biggest problem is red sauces which are impossible to scrub out campside and the mugs may as well be thrown out as they’re not safe for hot liquids. The pieces make solid chopping boards as well.

  7. Lysanne & Louis-P
    27th February 2011 at 8:37 am #

    Don’t worry Friedel we also have this problem. It’s pretty boring to have cereal that taste like chicken soup! So this is why we don’t use them as much as we would like…

  8. Annalisa
    27th February 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    Same problem here. Bought one of these for backpacking and hated the food/odor retention problem, so now this bowl is my dog’s travel bowl. 🙂

  9. alvaro neil, the biciclown
    3rd March 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    Orikaso could be better option. I have been using them since Southafrica 2006. They are foldable, so easy to pack, and doesn´t get that smell if you chop garlic at night using them as chopping board and next morning you take cereals.
    In this picture you can see the bowl in action in Lesotho

  10. arlen
    13th March 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    stick with stainless steel mess kits…
    they will never fail you…
    accept the weight…

  11. Rebekah
    18th March 2011 at 9:02 am #

    one tip I learned about Tupperware / plastics is actually to rinse in cold water first (perhaps the approach of many travellers, hence the inconsistent odour-reports?) I’d guess it is about the rubberyness of the silicone, the hot water opens it up to smells and stains. Worth a shot if you already invested…

  12. Rowena
    2nd May 2011 at 11:21 am #

    We used Tupperware go-flex bowls which seem to be made of a similar but slightly stiffer plastic to the Orikaso. They squash almost flat and have a lid which was handy and could be used as a plate or to seal stuff in – we didn’t try anything as strong as red-sauces in them though, just stuck to our porridge which could be microwaved if the campgrounds had those facilities which we couldn’t do with our metal Trangia bowls. It was a good alternative but they might be a bit heavier/bulkier than the sea to summit bowl.

  13. Yael
    29th August 2011 at 1:54 am #

    Got two of the x-mugs as presents, was really happy – they seemed brilliant, big enough to be used for generous cups of tea or as bowls. Partner-in-crime used one first, and said tea tasted like hot chocolate – arguably better than tomato-sauce-flavoured cereal. Unfortunately, mine broke (plastic edge, with a tear progressively growing in the silicone) before it even had a chance to get used – it was packed on top of everything in a pannier, something I think it ought to have survived. I used it anyway, carefully, but had to have half-empty cups of tea for two weeks. Boo. And it retained smells and flavours just as the other one.
    I would’ve put up with the smell, but most of my gear tends to last years, not hours.
    The Sea to Summit clothesline is genius though.

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