For lovers of beverages hot and cold of all varieties, the travel mug is a time tested classic tool for toting your beverage on the go. Travel mugs tend to have a few distinguishing features which make them particularly well suited to their role as the container of choice for travelers of all sorts: leak-proof design is essential, along with easy access to the contents, and of course high quality insulation. Below, we’ll explore 5 travel mug reviews which select some of our favorite options.
In this article we’ll highlight selections from 5 different companies. Each product has been selected for its quality design, durability, and functionality. To wrap it all up, we’ll take a look at some alternatives to travel mugs which include some of the most essential features while still veering away from the classic travel mug design.
Reviews of Our Top 5 Best Travel Mug Picks
The first travel mug I had the opportunity to review was this neat offering from Contigo, which we’ve mentioned before in our round up of Contigo products.
The stainless steel design of the Contigo Autoseal is stylish and modern looking, but the quality design is not limited purely to the mug’s aesthetics. Featuring high quality double-wall vacuum insulation, the Autoseal advertises its ability to keep drinks hot for up to 5 hours or cold for up to 12. While I haven’t actually busted out a stopwatch to test it, through casual usage I feel like the 5 hour estimate on keeping drinks hot is actually a modest appraisal of the Auotseal’s abilities. I’ve put coffee into the travel mug and left it for an entire work day only to come back and find it piping hot.
Contigo’s innovative Autoseal feature makes using the travel mug easy even if you’re on the go with only one hand. Simply press the button to open the lid and let it flow. It will automatically seal once you release pressure and the quality leak-proof seal ensures you won’t wind up with a mess. If you’re not actively using the mug, you can enable the lock button to make sure the button which opens the lid won’t come open accidentally. One of my early concerns was that the Auotseal lid would eventually wear out and break, but after several years of use I haven’t run into any problems.
I use the Contigo Autoseal a lot. It looks cool, fits into any cup holder, is easy to use and clean, and has great insulation. All for about $20.
Next up we have this offering from CamelBak: the Forge 12oz Vacuum-Insulated Travel Mug. In a lot of ways, the CamelBak Forge is very similar to our #5 pick, the Contigo Autoseal.
Much like the Autoseal, the Forge is made of high quality food grade 18/8 stainless steel and makes use of double-walled vacuum insulation to keep its contents hot for 4+ hours. Plastic components are made of a durable BPA-free solution.
But even more like the Autoseal is the design of the Forge’s lid, which incorporates a similar mechanism to automatically seal the lid when not in use. The lid can be opened easily with a one-handed press on the button. When the button is released, the lid automatically snaps back into its closed, leak-proof position to prevent spills. In my opinion, from testing them side-by-side, I prefer the feel of the Forge’s lid mechanism. The operation seems smoother than the Autoseal’s, and overall better executed by CamelBak.
Some neat features which are little more exclusive to the Forge include its handy finger-loop for carrying and impact resistant design which features a shock absorber on the bottom of the mug. We slid it into the #4 slot above its competitor the Contigo Autoseal largely thanks to these additional features and better overall execution of a similar design. But to really sweeten the deal, CamelBak offers their “Got Your Bak” lifetime warranty. So if you purchase a new CamelBak Forge, you’ll be covered by their lifetime warranty in the event of any damages or faulty units.
So far the options on this list have been big names: #5 being Contigo, and #4 being the giant CamelBak. Yet above those two excellent selections from massively famous and time-tested companies we’ve placed the product of a more or less unknown company called STAK. Why? Simple: quality.
Once again we find ourselves with an 18/8 food grade stainless steel construction, double-walled vacuum insulation and a push-button, automatically sealing lid mechanism. Designed to be as ergonomic as possible while still fitting in cup holders and under coffee machines, the STAK is elegantly crafted and feels natural to hold and drink from. It manages to replicate and in some cases surpass the design feats of our #4 and #5 selections, and does it at a cheaper price. One particularly exceptional area is the STAK’s leak proofing, which I’ve never managed to make it leak, even when inverting the bottle completely and jostling it.
What originally attracted me to the STAK was its bargain price. For less than $20, the STAK does everything similar options offer for less money. It even includes more storage capacity than the more expensive 12-ounce CamelBak which we selected for #4.
Having used it side-by-side with the CamelBak and the Contigo, I feel like these three options are so close to one another it is difficult to call. If you have trouble picking between the three, rest assured that each is a good option with a more or less identical set of features. Don’t feel bad basing your decision on price or aesthetics alone! Among the three, the STAK undeniably offers the most bang for your buck.
The innovative Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug straddles the line somewhere between conventional insulated travel mug and a more modern insulated water bottle design. Unlike all of the options we’ve selected so far, the Zojirushi does not include a press-button lid. Instead it has a flip-top lid which seals with a tight gasket and includes a safety lock. This design substantially bolsters the insulating capabilities of the Zojirushi, giving it far better insulation than the previous items on this list.
Though it makes use of more or less the same 18/8 food grade stainless steel and a very similar double-walled vacuum insulation technique, the Zojirushi travel mug offers some of the best insulation anywhere on the market. Perfect for those who require something to keep their beverages hot (or cold!) all day long. This is partially due to the flip-lid design which is geared towards achieving maximum heat retention while also providing an easy-to-use mechanism which can be operated with one hand.
Extremely versatile, the Zojirushi is the only item on this list I’ve used for more than just a travel mug, but also as a water bottle and even to hold a few smoothies before hitting the gym! The lid mechanism on the Zojirushi can be detached for easy cleaning, but it also allows access to the wide-mouth opening of the bottle, meaning you can easily add full sized ice cubes to the bottle. This is handy if you end up using the Zojirushi as an occasional water bottle as I have. However, a slight word of warning: some of the rubber pieces inside the bottle can trap odors and tastes from particularly pungent contents like strong coffee. It doesn’t really alter the taste of the contents, but it can lead to something of a smell if it is not washed out thoroughly.
Definitely worth checking out! The Zojirushi is also available in a 20 ounce variety (~$31 on Amazon.com) or even with a built in tea strainer (~$29 on Amazon.com).
In the realm of vacuum insulation, Thermos truly is the original article. Well, commercially anyway! Thermos’s are sometimes referred to as Dewar Flasks, to recognize the original inventor of double-walled vacuum insulation, a man named James Dewar. Though Mr. Dewar invented the original vacuum insulated design in 1892, he failed to patent it, and would later lose a court case against Thermos when he sued them for using his design. Unfortunately for Dewar, Thermos had secured the patent which he had failed to.
These days Thermos is not the only player in the game using vacuum insulation techniques. But their early supremacy in the field was great enough that the term “Thermos” is liberally used to describe any type of insulated bottle, not just the companies products. But enough with the history lesson. Why is the Thermos Stainless Steel King Travel Mug claiming the coveted number one spot on our list?
Owing to their long history in making insulated containers, you would expect the Thermos travel mug to have some of the best insulation around, and it does not disappoint. According to Thermos, the Stainless Steel King keeps beverage hot for 5 hours or cold for 9. Yet in actually using my Thermos, I have found these to be wildly conservative estimates. Entire days in the hot car weren’t enough to warm some ice water, and even after being utterly forgotten for an entire on the counter top my coffee remained too hot to drink.
The construction of the Stainless Steel King is incredibly durable, making the mug virtually unbreakable. Completely BPA-free and primarily constructed with quality 18/8 food grade stainless steel, there is little you can do to harm the King. I have yet to even put a dent in mine, although a few drops have rendered the finish a little chipped. However, the handle itself is constructed from a relatively weak hollow plastic. So while the mug might be neigh-indestructable, you’ll have to employ at least a little caution to keep the handle in tact.
Even if the handle on my Stainless Steel King were to break off completely, it wouldn’t really impair the function of it. One of the greatest things about the type of double-walled vacuum insulation used by the Thermos is that it does not transfer heat or cold to the outside of the mug, allowing you to hold piping hot contents inside with no threat of burning yourself. This also means that even if filled with icy cold contents, the outside of the mug will never “sweat” with the effects of condensation.
One thing the Thermos never does is leak. Though it does away with some of the convenience of the lids employed by the other options on this list, the Thermos’s DrinkLock lid technology won’t spill a drop even when I try my hardest to coax a leak from it. To open or close the lid you have to move a small piece of plastic 45 degrees to the left or right, but this provides a perfectly leak proof seal which lets you have the peace of mind your Thermos will never leak no matter how mistreated.
Rounding off the package with a neat extra is the inclusion of a tea-hook perfect for attaching a strainer or tea infuser to make brewing tea an easy job with the Stainless Steel King.
A Tumbler version (~$23 on Amazon.com) of the travel mug is also available, which does away with the handle entirely.
Since I’ve owned it, the Thermos Stainless Steel King Travel Mug has been my primary solution for traveling with coffee or tea.
To wrap up our 5 travel mug mini-reviews I’d like to turn your attention to some alternatives. Modern, high quality insulated water bottles like Klean Kanteen or Hydro Flask now make use of insulating technology comparable to anything on this list. You may already own a high quality travel mug disguised as a water bottle! (Need some help deciding between Klean Kanteen and Hydro Flask? We’ve got you covered.)
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This in-depth guide helps you find the perfect travel mug by pitting five of our top picks against one another to find the best travel mug.
Jacob Hatch is the author and founder of Hydration Anywhere. He has been actively writing about drinking water since 2013. These days Jacob spends most of his time investigating water related news, studying environmental issues, reading health studies, and reviewing products like water bottles and water filters.