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Depending on how it is constructed and its size, any collapsible bowl might be better suited for one need than another. Most commonly, heavy hard-walled plastic bowls are sold mostly with the needs of a small kitchen in mind, while softer-sided bowls that compress almost completely flat usually are designed for travel or camping. Some bowls are heat- and cold-resistant and can be used in microwaves or freezers, while others are designed just to hold liquids when using a normal bowl would be impractical. In some instances, a collapsible bowl can serve many purposes, doubling as a plate, cutting board or lid. The volume of a collapsible bowl can be important, because it is not always obvious how much, or how little, a bowl will be able to hold when it is flattened.
In general, a collapsible bowl can be made from plastic, silicon or metal. Plastic bowls tend to be designed for use as a mixing or serving bowl in a kitchen and might not be safe in a microwave or dishwasher. Silicon bowls usually are very durable and can be used in a microwave, freezer and dishwasher, although the silicon might wear down or the stiff folding areas might break or stop locking over time. A metal bowl is durable but often heavy, and the sides might not be encased in another material, meaning the watertight aspect of the bowl could rely solely on how tightly the individual rings that make up the walls press together. Less common for cooking, some bowls are made from woven plastics and look more like bags, although they can be useful for holding water or mixing ingredients when camping.
If saving space is very important, then it might be good to select a collapsible bowl that is both compact and serves more than one purpose. Some bowls have a very hard bottom made from a thick material that can be used as a cutting board when flat. The same type of design could allow a flattened collapsible bowl to serve as a shallow plate. In some instances, sets of bowls can be manufactured in a way so one flat bowl can double as a lid for another. Metal bowls sometimes have hinged handles that flip outward so they can be used as a cooking dish.
It also is important to look at the overall construction of the collapsible bowl. If the walls of the bowl feel thin or the mechanism used to expand and contract the walls seems to be flimsy or works inconsistently, then there might be another, better option available. The weight of the bowl and the amount that the bowl can hold also are important, especially when using the bowl for travel. One last thing to look for in a collapsible bowl is how the manufacturer intended for it to be used, because a bowl for eating might not serve very well as a mixing bowl.