What makes a mug a Travel Mug? The defining features are insulating walls; a lid; and a design that fits a vehicle cup holder. The key attributes are temperature control, portability and durability.
Unlike a ceramic mug, a travel mug is intended to maintain the temperature of a beverage, hot or cold, over a prolonged period; during the ride to work or on a desk at the office. Insulation is achieved by a double wall that inhibits the transmission of heat in or out of the mug. In cheaper mugs, the space between the two walls is not sealed but the thin air-gap does reduce heat loss by slowing conduction and limiting convection. In better travel mugs, the space between the two walls is sealed and partially or totally evacuated, as in a traditional vacuum flask, which significantly increases the insulating properties of the design. A basic travel mug may keep your coffee warm for half an hour but a mug with vacuum-walls will keep it hot for half a day.
The lid is an important element. In a conventional mug, most heat-loss occurs by evaporation from the surface of the drink. Whether or not the lid itself is insulated, it will help keep heat within the mug. The lid prevents spillage too: A travel mug is used on the move, in situations where it might otherwise be easy to splash or lose its contents. The lid should be tight-fitting and easy to open with one hand. Nobody wants tea or coffee to drip down their blouse or shirt from beneath a leaky lid and, if used while driving, you need one hand free for the steering wheel.
Finally, a travel mug will be able to fit in a vehicle’s cup holders. This means a round-bottomed design, probably without a handle (that would prevent it sitting in the holder).
Beyond these basic features, you should consider some other aspects of a travel mug’s design: A travel mug needs to be portable and durable. Obviously you need a mug with a large enough capacity, say 400 mL or approximately 14 fl.oz., to accommodate a large coffee. Most travel mugs are made of plastic or thin stainless steel to minimise weight but they should also be able to resist the knocks and dings of everyday use on-the-move. Plastic can be friable; stainless steel can be dented. BPA may be a concern to some buyers and they will choose a stainless steel mug rather than plastic. For others, dishwasher-safe will be a selling point. And, don’t forget style. A travel mug can be a fashion accessory and a personal statement. They come in an endless variety of colours and patterns and can let the world know you’re a person on the go!
Best Travel Mugs
Thermos Everyday 430 Travel Mug
The Thermos brand is synonymous with ‘vacuum flask’ so they should be able to make a decent insulated mug. In this case, the Everyday 430 is double-wall insulated and the space between the walls is filled with polystyrene foam for added insulation. The exterior is stainless steel but the lid and inner liner are black plastic. For sipping, the lid has a slider-covered opening that some reviewers suggest will leak if the mug is not kept upright. It has a 450 mL capacity and 9.4 cm base. This is a basic, practical model at an everyday price.
Mighty Mug Go
The Mighty Mug is chosen because it ‘won’t knock over’. Manufactured from BPA-free plastic, inside and out, the mug has a suction-style “Smartgrip” base that anchors it to any smooth surface but releases its hold when the mug is lifted vertically. It is double-wall insulated, only. The mug has a capacity of 470 ml and an easy flip top. The base is 9cm (3 5/8”) in diameter which should fit in most car cup-holders. The distributor says it is top-of-dishwasher safe and it comes in several bright colours; it receives generally favourable reviews. We like this mug for office-use, in particular, because Smartgrip might save a keyboard from a spill.
Kooyi Vacuum Insulated 450 mL Travel Mug
The Kooyi travel mug is manufactured from stainless steel inside and out and is vacuum-insulated. It has a slender modern look with a 7cm (2 3/4”) diameter base that will easily fit into a vehicle cup-holder. The top screws down onto the container and is fitted with a leak-proof flip-lid. The mug is very well-reviewed with many users noting that it can keep drinks hot or cold for several hours, making this a good value-for-money choice. Kooyi travel mugs are available in a range of colours and different sizes.
Tresutopia Hekla Leakproof Travel Mug
The Tresutopia vacuum travel mug is made of stainless steel inside and out, and fitted with polypropylene lid, with a thickened spout for easy one-handed sipping. It has a 400mL capacity and a narrow 6.9mm base that is fitted with a silicone pad for anti-slip protection. The manufacturer claims it will maintain ice for up to one day and keep fluids hot for six hours. The lid screws on the inside of the mug and a sealing gasket ensures that no leakage takes place. A hinged cover in the lid opens a shaped mouthpiece and air vent to allow for sipping. This is a highly-rated, durable travel mug with excellent reviews that is available in three colours: black; silver, and coffee brown.
Thermos Stainless King Tumbler
The King tumbler is a full-sized 470ml insulated mug that uses Thermos vacuum technology. It has stainless steel construction inside and out and Thermos indicates it will keep fluids hot for 5 hours, or cold for 9 hours. The lid screws into the inner liner and a cover within the lid rotates to open the mug for sipping. The base has an 8cm diameter. This Thermos travel mug is durable and of good quality, enjoying generally positive reviews. It is offered in four colours: midnight blue; cranberry red; raspberry, and matt black.
Zojirushi Stainless Steel Non-Stick 480ml Travel Mug
This large-capacity Zojirushi mug features stainless steel construction with vacuum insulation. The interior is electro-polished which gives it a non-stick surface and makes it easier to rinse clean. It is tall (23 cm) but has a narrow base (6.7 cm) that will fit all car cup-holders. The lid assembly screws over the mug base and the top of the lid, with a stopper on its underside, flips open to allow drinking. The lid is leak-proof and a slider-lock on the lid prevents the top from opening accidentally. It will keep drinks hot or cold for several hours. Zojirushi supplies the mug in three available colours: champagne gold; smokey blue, and black. This is a highly-recommended, ‘first-choice’ travel mug with excellent reviews.