I’m an excitable dude. I believe my childish sense of wonder about the outdoors and the ridiculously cool gear that helps get me there is the reason the kind folks at Outside have let me write Gear Guy for over half a decade. While I will literally jump up and down while telling my editor about the setup on my new skis, I have a hard time getting worked up over a drinking vessel or koozie. However, Hydro Flask’s Cooler Cup ($25)—a stainless-steel love child of both—has changed me.
When a piece of gear is designed for multiple tasks, it usually sacrifices how well it performs at least one (if not all) of the things it’s designed to do, watering down the end value. This is not the case with the Cooler Cup—it would sit near the top of the list on its own as either a koozie or a drinking vessel; it just happens to be both in a single space-saving package.
The secret? Its simplicity. The perfectly straight 12-ounce cylinder has the powder-coated exterior and brushed stainless-steel lip that I’ve learned to expect and love from Hydro Flask cups. A TPU sleeve acts as a super grippy coaster when wrapped around the bottom; when placed at the top, it secures bottles or cans of different sizes.
My wife and I each used one over the summer on camping trips—her drink of choice is wine and mine is beer. When holding wine, the grippiness of the sticky sleeve allowed us to put it on uneven surfaces, like the hood of our parked car, without fearing it would slip off. When the sleeve was holding beers up top, it looked classier and insulated better than the cloth koozies I’m accustomed to.
An even better endorsement is that two of these vessels migrated from our camp box into our kitchen cupboard as summer wound down. Now we also drink water and hot tea out of Cooler Cups at home, because the TPU ring doesn’t leave water marks on tables. It’s also an excellent size, not taking up too much space at our desks or committing us to a massive cup of tea.
To find out how Hydro Flask came up with the Cooler Cup, I spoke to John Cupit, its director of design. Turns out the company was originally planning to just build a koozie. “We think a lot about clarity of purpose,” Cupit said. “We don’t want to design overly complex objects. We simply started to hack one of our drinking vessels to see if a beer bottle would fit. We started building prototypes. The idea naturally progressed from there.”
Regardless of what came first, Hydro Flask nailed it. As ski season ramps up and the days of lazily drinking a beer in a hammock by a river feel further away, I still have the Cooler Cup by my computer to keep me hydrated until it is ready to move back into my camp box.