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Gear Guy

The Best Campground-Friendly Coffee Mugs, Tested

Because you shouldn't have to go without your morning kick in the pants, no matter where you are

Outside’s Gear Guy put these mugs through the ringer. (Photo: Sarah Jackson)
coffee

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One of my old raft-guiding mentors once told me that there are two things you cannot pack too much of on a trip: bacon and coffee. That advice still rings true 20 years later. And it’s just as important to have the right mug to hold your life-giving java. After several weeks of testing, here’s my ranking of the best.

The Test

I drank at least one cup of coffee out of each of these vessels and took notes. Then, to get other peoples’ impressions, I took the mugs on a two-day family camping trip and made four other adults drink at least two cups of coffee from each. (We also used them for cocktails and wine to see if they’d held on to the coffee taste from the morning.) To gauge heat retention, I placed boiling water in each, took the temperature, let them sit in my 73-degree kitchen for 12 hours, then took their temperature again. And to determine how leakproof each was, I filled the cups to the brim, weighed them, closed the lids, placed them on their side (mouth opening down when applicable), and let them sit for 30 minutes. I then weighed them again to see how much water they’d lost. Finally, I dropped each mug from shoulder height on its lid, base, and side ten times each to test durability.

The Results

Winner: Yeti Rambler 12 with HotShot Cap ($30)

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(Photo: Sarah Jackson)

Usability: 5
Heat Retention: 5
Leakproof Capability: 5
Durability: 4.5

Yeti’s done it again. Other than losing out to the cheaper ORCA in the durability test, the Rambler took the cake for best—or tied for best—in all categories. The HotShot cap opened and closed with a satisfying twist of the thick rectangular handle (which could easily have been used with thick gloves if this test had taken place in the winter). That cap not only helped this heavily insulated hoss hold heat the best, but it sustained very little damage during the drop test. And its opening was just the right size to allow only the perfect amount of liquid through.

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2. CamelBak 12-Ounce Hot Cap ($16)

coffee
(Photo: Sarah Jackson)

Usability: 5
Heat Retention: 4
Leakproof Capability: 5
Durability: 3.5

The Hot Cap tied with the Rambler for usability, the result of a deep curve in the lid that conformed nicely to testers’ lower lips. The closure on the lid is reminiscent of the spigot on a hose, and we found it one of the easiest to open and close with one hand. It was very close to the Yeti in the heat-retention test, dropping only four more degrees in the 12-hour period. And the Hot Cap would have been a strong contender for first had the lid not fared so poorly in the drop test: while it was still usable, it looked like a German shepherd had claimed it as a chew toy and was uncomfortable to drink from thereafter.

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3. ORCA 20-Ounce Chaser Cafe ($25)

coffee
(Photo: Sarah Jackson)

Usability: 4
Heat Retention: 3
Leakproof Capability: 5
Durability: 5

The Chaser Cafe was the sleeper of the test, putting up solid numbers in both the heat-retention and leak tests and winning the durability portion outright. So why was it a sleeper? The lid has a lot of clear plastic that looked like it would dump heat and break easily. (And sorry ORCA, but the whale-tail-shaped opening was tacky.) Our fears were unfounded, however. In fact, the lid did scratch but was otherwise barely scathed after all 30 drops. Testers appreciated the handle while drinking around the campfire, and the tapered bottom meant that the Chaser could still fit in a car cupholder.

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4. Purist 10-Ounce Maker ($40 or $60 with Union Top)

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Usability: 3.5
Heat Retention: 2
Leakproof Capability: 5
Durability: 1

By far the best-looking mug of the bunch, the Purist also didn’t impart any coffee taste into our booze. But its Union Top was plagued with issues. The opening was too wide, letting scalding coffee pour too quickly into our mouth. And the lid completely broke on the second drop of the durability test. It’s our hunch that the lid is also responsible for a significant temperature drop over 12 hours, earning the Purist second-to-last place in the heat-retention category.

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5. DrinkTanks 10-Ounce Vacuum Insulated Cup ($20)

coffee
(Photo: Sarah Jackson)

Usability: 4
Heat Retention: 1
Leakproof Capability: 1
Durability: 4.5

This DrinkTanks is a great, simple, little mug—it just happened to be outgunned in this stacked test. The lid didn’t fully close (and it’s not built to), so it dumped water when laid on its side, and it left the liquid lukewarm at the end of the heat-retention test. That simple lid did help it kick ass during the durability test, however, getting slightly scratched but proving completely usable after the 30 drops.

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Filed To: InsulatedCampingToolsCar CampingFood and Drink
Lead Photo: Sarah Jackson
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