Gear Guy

Q:

What's the Best Insulated Travel Mug?

We tested five of the best. Here's how they stacked up.

What's the Best Insulated Travel Mug?

Finding the best travel mugs for those who like their coffee hot all day long. Photo: subman/iStock

A:

Whether you're going on an early morning ski tour or boarding a plane, an insulated mug to keep your coffee hot is an invaluable companion. Here are our favorites. 

The Test

First, I tested how well the following five mugs kept drinks hot. I filled the vessels with 200-degree water, sealed them, left them on my kitchen counter, and waited four hours before measuring the water temperature.  

joe jackson gear guy insulated travel mug outside outside magazine
  Photo: Joe Jackson

But I also wanted to test thermoregulation in a real-world situation (you know, one where you're drinking from the mug), so I determined how quickly I tend to drink coffee (about a quarter of a cup every five minutes). Then I filled each mug with 200-degree water and set an alarm for five minutes. After the time was up, I poured out a quarter cup of liquid. I repeated this process three times before taking the temperature of the remaining water.


Zojirushi SM-KHE48 16-Ounce Stainless Steel Mug

Zojirushi travel mug insulated travel mug insulated mug joe jackson outside outside magazine outside online gear guy gear shed gear test
  Photo: Courtesy of Zojirushi

Temperature Loss After Four Hours: 25 degrees
Temperature Loss After 15-Minute Drinking Test: 7 degrees

Verdict: Thermally, the Zojirushi SM-KHE48AG kicked ass. It performed nearly twice as well as any other mug on this list. This might be thanks in part to its overbuilt lid, which has a button to fling back the top and uncover the spout. The lid also features a locking mechanism to keep it closed in the event of a fall.

For Your Commute: The Zojirushi SM-KHE48AG was the skinniest travel coffee container of the group, which made it unwieldy in the cup holder of my 2000 Toyota Camry.


Stanley 16-Ounce One Hand Vacuum Mug

Stanley PMI travel mug insulated travel mug insulated mug joe jackson outside outside magazine outside online gear guy gear shed gear test
  Photo: Courtesy of Stanley

Temperature Loss After Four Hours: 43 degrees
Temperature Loss After 15-Minute Drinking Test: 13 degrees

Verdict: The Stanley took second in the four-hour thermoregulation test. The lid operates by a simple one-finger push system (like the Avex, below), which lets you drink by simply pressing down a button on the front of the lid. It also automatically seals the mug when the button's not depressed.

For Your CommuteThis mug fit perfectly in my cup holder thanks to its robust build. Bonus: The textured retro-looking exterior makes the Stanley the most stylish vessel on this list.


Hydroflask 18-Ounce Insulated Coffee, Tea, and Water Bottle

Hydro Flask travel mug insulated travel mug insulated mug joe jackson outside outside magazine outside online gear guy gear shed gear test
  Photo: Courtesy of Hydro Flask

Temperature Loss After Four Hours: 56 degrees
Temperature Loss After 15-Minute Drinking Test: 12 degrees

Verdict: While the Hydroflask has the least high-tech lid of the bunch, it held its own when it came to temperature regulation. Credit that to Hydroflask's sterling reputation for making double-walled, stainless steel, vacuum-sealed water bottles. The Hydroflask is your best bet if you prefer a simple mug: to use it as a water bottle, all you have to do is change the lid.

For Your CommuteThe Hydroflask is thick (although not as thick as the Stanley) and short, which means it fit nicely in my cup holder.


Avex 20-Ounce Highland Autoseal Stainless Travel Mug

Avex travel mug insulated travel mug insulated mug joe jackson outside outside magazine outside online gear guy gear shed gear test
  Photo: Courtesy of Avex

Temperature Loss After Four Hours: 55 degrees
Temperature Loss After 15-Minute Drinking Test: 12 degrees

Verdict: I've used the Avex Highland as my daily mug since I brought one rafting down the Grand Canyon in May. I absolutely love the design. I found the lid to work very well, with a single easy-to-use button that kept coffee from spilling when I tossed the mug into a raft.

It has the largest volume of any other mug I tested—great for a caffeine addict like me—but it's not cumbersome thanks to a slim shape. My only complaint: the interior of the lid is difficult to scrub clean, and I found I had to soak it in soapy water to get coffee residue off it.

For Your CommuteThe Highland is skinny and tall, and it didn't fit in the cup holder well. It was especially top-heavy when full.


Oxo Stainless Steel LiquiSeal Travel Mug

Oxo travel mug insulated travel mug insulated mug joe jackson outside outside magazine outside online gear guy gear shed gear test
  Photo: Courtesy of Oxo

Temperature Loss After Four Hours: 71 degrees
Temperature Loss After 15-Minute Drinking Test: 18 degrees

Verdict: The Oxo Liquiseal didn't keep the liquid nearly as warm as the other mugs on this list. But it's still a pleasure to drink from. The Liquiseal has an inch-wide curved silicone strip between the main body and the lid, which gives drinkers a solid grip on the mug.

The Liquiseal has a robust lid that features three layers of silicone seals to prevent spills and a sturdy button that snaps the spout closed. The lid also has the largest lip to drink from, which meant my nose didn't squish into the top during a long sip.

For Your CommuteThe already wide base of the Liquiseal tapers out to a wider middle, which made it sit the most firmly in my car's cup holder of all the mugs I tested. 

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