Gear Guy

What Are the Best Insulated Travel Mugs?

Not all travel mugs are created equal. Pick the wrong one and your coffee will be cold before you reach the ski hill.

What Are the Best Insulated Travel Mugs?

From left: GSI Glacier Stainless Commuter Mug, Yeti Rambler Tumbler, Stanley Classic One-Hand Vacuum Mug, Avex Recharge Autoseal, Hydro Flask Wide Mouth, and Kleen Kanteen Vacuum Insulated Wide. Photo: Joe Jackson

There are more insulated travel mugs in 2015 than ever before. And that’s a good thing. We love any tool that will keep our coffee hot or our whiskey cold during a day in the backcountry. But not all mugs are created equal. To find the best, I put six top models—all sized between 16 and 20 ounces—to the test. Here’s how they stacked up. 

The Test

First, I assessed drinkability: Is the lid easy to open? Can you open it with one hand? Then I tested the mugs for leaks: I filled each with water and dropped it into my sink from a height of two feet. For the heat test, I filled the mugs with 196-degree water, let them sit in my 70-degree kitchen for two hours, and then measured the water temperature in the mug. Afterwards, I dumped that water out, re-filled them with 196-degree water, let them sit for eight hours, and measured the temperature again. (Two and eight hours are the windows most brands reference when talking about their products’ thermoregulation abilities.) The results are ranked below, starting with the sixth-place finisher.


#6: GSI Glacier Stainless Commuter Mug 17-Ounce ($27)

gsi-glacier-stainless-commuter-mug_0.jpg
  Photo: Joe Jackson

Capacity: 17 ounces

Usability: The lid on the Glacier screws down into and rests under the lip of the cup. This makes it tricky to remove, but the lid itself is easy to clean. A tab slides back and forth to open and close the lid. While more low-tech than some of the other lids in this test, it was still easy to operate with one hand. Note: When open, the tab bumped testers’ noses while they drank, which, though not a deal breaker, was annoying.

Spillage: Zero 

Keeps Liquids Hot for (Claimed): 2 hours
Temperature Loss After 2 hours: 48 degrees 
Temperature Loss After 8 hours: 97 degrees 

Bottom Line: This mug was our sixth-place pick because of  low heat retention. But we liked the rubberized bottom, which helps keep the mug from sliding off car hoods or rocks when you’re camping.


#5: Avex Recharge Autoseal 20-Ounce ($30)

avex-recharge-autoseal-20oz_0.jpg
  Photo: Joe Jackson

Capacity: 20 ounces

Usability: Before opening the Avex lid, you first have to press the safety. It sounds complicated, but it’s easy to do with one hand and prevents any leakage. Like the GSI Glacier below, this mug has a texturized-rubber bottom.

Spillage: Zero. Thanks to this mug’s well-designed lid, I would feel comfortable throwing this thing, full of coffee, into my camera bag. 

Keeps Liquids Hot for (Claimed): 8 hours
Temperature Loss After 2 Hours: 50 degrees
Temperature Loss After 8 Hours: 95 degrees 

Bottom Line: The Avex retained the least amount of heat after two hours, but we’re willing to forgive that flaw because of the truly bomber lid. If you can’t afford spills, this is your mug. 


#4: Yeti Rambler Tumbler 20-Ounce ($30)

yeti-20oz-rambler-tumbler_0.jpg
  Photo: Joe Jackson

Capacity: 20 ounces

Usability: The hearty Rambler Tumbler feels great in your hand, and the clear plastic lid is by far the easiest to clean of any we tested. That said, the lid isn’t as beefy as what you’d find on a normal coffee mug and doesn’t seal completely since Yeti designed the Tumbler for both hot and cold drinks. 

Spillage: Considerable, but it’s not supposed to be leakproof since it doesn’t close all the way. 

Keeps Liquids Hot for (Claimed): Yeti doesn’t specify
Temperature Loss After 2 Hours: 48 degrees
Temperature Loss After Eight Hours: 83 degrees 

Bottom Line: I was blown away by how well it kept my coffee warm, even without a lid that seals fully. Credit the thick sides of this double-walled stainless-steel container. The Rambler Tumbler also feels the best in your hand—substantial and secure. I’d suggest it for people who want a device that pulls double duty: Drink your coffee from it in the morning and your beer at night. 


#3: Hydro Flask Wide Mouth 16-Ounce ($25)

hydroflask-16oz-wide-mouth.jpg
  Photo: Joe Jackson

Capacity: 16 ounces

Usability: The lid has a latch-like cover that snaps into a hole to seal shut. It was easy to open and close with one hand, and the lightly textured powder coating made the mug a pleasure to hold. 

Spillage: Zero

Keeps Liquids Hot for (Claimed): 6 hours
Temperature Loss After 2 Hours: 36 degrees
Temperature Loss After 8 Hours: 81 degrees 

Bottom Line: This mug is a great all-arounder, even though it didn’t stand out in one particular category. It will keep your coffee just hot enough, we like the hand feel of the powder-coated exterior, and the lid was durable and easy to use. 


#2: Kleen Kanteen Vacuum-Insulated Wide 16-Ounce ($33 with a Cafe Cap and Stainless Loop Cap Combo)

klean-kanteen-insulated-mug_0.jpg
  Photo: Joe Jackson

Capacity: 16 ounces

Usability: We like that the drinking lid twists open and closed with a reassuring click. The twist is hard to do with one hand, however, so it’s not ideal if you’re driving. In terms of hand feel, we liked the svelte design, which was easy to grip.

Spillage: The Cafe Lid leaked a lot—about half of a cup of water in 30 seconds. To be fair, Kleen Kanteen says the lid isn’t leakproof. The Loop Cap, however, is. 

Keeps Liquids Hot for (Claimed): 6 hours
Temperature Loss After 2 Hours: 29 degrees 
Temperature Loss After 8 Hours: 69 degrees 

Bottom Line: The Kleen Kanteen came in second behind the Stanley (below) for overall heat retention. This is your cup if you like your coffee hot but don’t want the beefy Stanley.


#1: Stanley Classic One-Hand Vacuum Mug 20-Ounce ($30)

stanley-classic-one-hand-vacuum-mug_0.jpg
  Photo: Joe Jackson

Capacity: 20 ounces

Usability: This burly mug has the easiest-to-use lid, thanks to its ergonomic, trigger-like opener. It’s big, and as such won’t fit in a car’s cup holders, but I found that this was my go-to for bringing to work. 

Spillage: Zero 

Keeps Liquids Hot for (Claimed): 8 hours
Temperature Loss After 2 Hours: 24 degrees
Temperature Loss After 8 Hours: 60 degrees

Bottom Line: The Stanley was the big winner in terms of short- and long-term heat retention. If you like your coffee hot, this is your mug. We also loved the trigger-style lid that never spilled but was easy to use, even one-handed. 


More on Insulated Drink Holders:

Filed To: Food and Drink, Gear Guy

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