Whether your poison of choice is coffee or tea, green juice or kombucha, most of us rely on some kind of rejuvenating beverage to get us through the day. And those days are often punctuated by meetings and errands, not to mention stressful commutes, which means those life-giving elixirs need to accompany us wherever we go.
That’s where travel mugs come in. Portable and generally easy to clean, they’re the perfect vessel for your daily brew. And unlike our favorite water bottles, these mugs are often built to insulate your drinks to keep them warm. After testing a variety of mugs to make sure they kept liquids hot and ensure they were spill-proof, the Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug(available at Amazon for $22.66) ended up being our top pick. Not only does it retain an ideal temperature, it’s comfortable to hold as well.
Here’s how the best travel mugs we tested ranked, in order:
Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug
Contigo Autoseal West Loop
Thermos Stainless King Travel Mug
Mighty Mug Go
Copco Acadia Travel Mug
Joco Glass Reusable Coffee Cup
In addition to these all-purpose mugs, we also tested a few specialty options. For hardcore campers, there’s the remarkably lightweight GSI Outdoors Infinity. For those who prefer a robust flavor, the Bobble Press features a built-in French press. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry. This list has something for everyone.
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When it comes to retaining temperature (which is the most essential function of a travel mug), the Zojirushi is an absolute beast. Case in point—while we were testing these, my husband filled it with coffee, forgot about it until the next morning, took a sip, and it was just as steamy/fresh as if it had just been poured. Besides retaining temperature, it can hold up to 16 ounces. The trim build also allows it to seamlessly slip into cup holders and bags.
The only drawback is that it can’t go in the dishwasher. Although it’s not dishwasher safe, the top can be disassembled, which makes cleanup a breeze. And it’s especially attractive thanks to a slim, streamlined shape and slick, steel finish, in colors such as champagne gold, lavender pink, emerald, cherry, and smoky blue.
I’m Sarah Zorn, and I’ve been a food writer and editor for almost 10 years. Like most busy professionals, I almost exclusively function on coffee, and often mainline it when scuttling back and forth on the subway, between meetings and appointments, or most consequently, hunched over my computer. As such, having a mug that keeps my coffee hot (or cold) while tapping at keys for extended periods of time is of utmost importance to me, as is the assurance my drink won’t spill over and fry my motherboard.
We alternately filled each mug with hot and then cold beverages, measuring the temperature to start, and then checking it again every 30 minutes or so. We also took each mug for a test run throughout an entire day, analyzing how comfortable they were to hold, how easy they were to drink out of, how snugly they fit into a backpack or car holder, how portable they were, how likely they were to spill, and how easy they were to clean.
Other All-Purpose Travel Mugs We Tested
Contigo Autoseal West Loop, 16 oz.
A far and away favorite on numerous “best of” lists, the sleek and sexy Contigo won us over instantly on an 8-hour car trip when it kept our coffee piping hot from start to finish. Thank the addition of double-walled vacuum insulation for that, as well as patented Autoseal technology, that renders it virtually leak and spill-proof (its impenetrability is underscored by a button lock lid).
Did we mention it’s beautiful, too? Not only does a gracefully curved shape make the Contigo especially attractive, it provides a comfy grip and allows it to easily fit into a cup holder or bag. You do have to hand wash the bottom half of the mug, but the top can be placed on the top rack of the washing machine, and its inner mechanism can be loosened (but not detached) so you can get into those hard-to-clean crevices.
After all these years, you still have to give it up to Thermos; the true OG of the travel mug market. This particular product has all of the practical functionality expected of the venerable brand, such as a durable stainless steel build and an actual handle; which seems to have largely gone the way of the Dodo when it comes to mugs.
Thanks to their patented vacuum insulation, the Thermos also passed that aforementioned car trip with flying colors, allowing my husband (the driver) to stay caffeinated with still steamy coffee for the entire 8 hours. Detractors are that it’s a bit heavy and bulky (an admitted downside to a handle), and while the locking lid is appreciably robust, it’s a two-handed effort to flip it open.
The primary selling point of the Mighty Mug is that it’s basically a Weeble — it wobbles, but it won’t fall down. When placed on a flat surface, proprietary Smartgrip technology creates an airlock, which makes it almost impossible to tip the cup over (although amusingly, included instructions caution you not to punch it). Yet, the pressure is normalized upon lifting, which means it’s perfectly easy to move around. A latching lid further safeguards against spillage, and it’s dishwasher safe, so a cinch to clean. That said, it’s a bit of an underperformer when it comes to long-term temperature retention; after an hour, our coffee was neither cold or hot.
Copco’s Acadia is designed to look like a standard, paper coffee cup (albeit one made of reusable BPA-free plastic), which, depending on your aesthetic, can be cute...or not so much. A textured, non-slip sleeve is much more effective at shielding your hands than those cardboard dealies, and the Copco is both microwave and dishwasher safe, which is more than you can say of your average bodega cup.
Yet despite boasting double-walled insulation, it’s not great at maintaining temperature. And though its quarter-turn lid sealing design (may) be enough to keep your computer safe—we wouldn’t trust it for a second in a backpack pocket, and most definitely not (in contrast to the Zojirushi and Contigo), actually placed inside of a bag.
Frankly, we’d hardly say this qualifies as a travel mug since it’s made of glass; albeit fitted with a thermal silicone sleeve, to enhance portability. It’s more like a cute alternative to your ceramic office cup. It’s dishwasher and microwave safe, both pluses for home or work, but entirely impractical for taking on the road.
We wouldn’t relish juggling it on the subway, we’d never risk depositing it in a bag, and it doesn’t fit especially well in car holders. The silicone lid drove us nuts too, to put it mildly. It was a total headache to fit and has non-lockable openings on both ends; a total red flag when it comes to spillage.
Though it also handles hot quite well, the Atlin Tumbler seems custom designed for holding massive quantities — read: 30 ounces — of cold beverages. Especially considering it comes with an accompanying stainless steel straw. (Double bonus: an adorable teeny steel cleaning brush, for making washing up easy. It’s also dishwasher safe). And boy, does it keep those bevies icy.
We sat our coffee in a closed car for the better part of the day while we went on a hike, and it was equally chilly when we returned. Yet we never could have taken that behemoth of a tumbler with us; the top doesn’t lock first of all, and a solid pound of steel isn’t ideal for toting uphill...or any distance, really, over flat terrain.
Specifically designed with backpackers and campers in mind, this cup is super lightweight at 3.5 ounces, while still holding an impressive 17 ounces of liquid. The sealable lid fits snugly and latches tightly, and a ballistic cloth covered cozy and tarpaulin handle makes it comfortable to hold while guarding the BPA-free, non-leaching polypropylene interior cannister against crawling critters and dirt. It even doubles as a measuring cup; useful for all manner of reasons, including knowing how much chlorine to add if you’re attempting to purify water.
Downsides are that it’s a bit tricky to wash because of that fabric sleeve, which also runs a risk of slipping off—and leaving your cup lost for all time on a trail. That insulation is also more for keeping your hands protected than the contents of the mug warm (or cold). So, don’t expect temps to stay stable during the length of a hike.
Made from army green medical grade silicone, the teeny, compact MoKo is definitely intended for more active purposes than sitting in a cubicle. And, to be sure, the average office drone generally requires more than 12-ounces of caffeine at a time (although we suppose it’s best if you drink the contents in one go anyway, as they quickly go lukewarm). It’s a good bet for a backpacker though, as the lightweight cup can easily fit in a bag — and be further collapsed to just 2.1” in height — and has a snugly locked top with a groove in the lid, that can be used for storing items like tea bags or pills.
A fun option for fancy pants commuters, the Bobble has a French press built right in. Simply place your preferred grounds in the bottom of the copper canister, insert a stainless steel tumbler fitted with a micro-filter, pour in some hot water, and wait three minutes or so for those babies to steep. Top with the silicone lid and you’re good to go...but be wary of spillage, as that supposedly lockable top has a bit of a funky fit. And while you can technically leave out the filter interior and just use the outer canister for cold drinks (or ready-to-pour hot ones), the press is really more of a one-trick pony.
Sarah Zorn is a food writer, cookbook author, and product tester for Reviewed, Wirecutter and the Food Network. She regularly contributes to outlets such as Saveur, Esquire, and Civil Eats, and has very much passed her food obsessions down, as her beloved rescue hound, Rowdy, regularly deglazes his kibble bowl.
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