Coffee on the Go: The Best Travel Mugs

Gear Guide — By Alexi Ueltzen on September 10, 2009 at 11:10 am

Coffee, when you think about it, is the perfect travel companion:

It’s warm.

It gets you going in the morning.

It’ll help you stay up all night, if need be.

It’s easily adaptable to variable climates and it’s pretty dang international (who else do you know that hails from Hawaii, South America, Africa and Indonesia?).

While we’re not suggesting that you book it an extra seat on your next vacation, consider taking coffee with you. How, you ask? In one of these awesome travel mugs. Whether you’re a spiller, a tree-hugger or a hiker, we’ve got the perfect vehicle for your liquid friend.

For the eco-friendly trickster: DCI’s I Am Not a Paper Cup

This ceramic coffee cup looks just like your average Starbuck’s throw-away…but it’s not. Made of white porcelain with a silicone lid, it’s heftier, better insulated and won’t make Mother Nature cringe. The lid is leak-proof and tight, and the double-chambered walls of the cup mean you’ll never need a sleeve for this beverage container; for those of you who like things spelled out, it keeps the drink hot and your hands cool. And don’t worry – flavors don’t get trapped in the porcelain, so you can be all “green tea with a squeeze of lemon” one day and then all “caramel macchiato” the next.

For the indecisive traditionalist: Nissan’s Stainless-Steel Briefcase Bottle

Coffee? Sure. Tea? Yes. Soup? Mhmm. Whether you like its simple shape, its quality construction or its plain old versatility, Nissan’s thermos can pretty much do it all (when it comes to transporting hot liquids, that is). She* comes in three sizes: a 16 oz, 26 oz and 34 oz, so whether you’re a sipper or a chugger, you’re sure to find something that fits your needs. The cup itself is designed with two stainless steel walls surrounding an airless pocket that makes for some seriously long-lasting insulation (Nissan promises 12 hours of temperature retention for hot liquids and 24 hours for cold). She’s made to travel in suitcases and carry-ons, and is therefore compact, leak-proof and sports a screw-and-pour top.

*Boats are referred to as “she,” and when they are designed with this attention to detail and craftsmanship, so are thermoses.

For the one-handed stumbler: Oxo Good Grips LiquiSeal Travel Mug

If you’ve ever spent a day trying to hide that coffee stain on your button-up, we have the mug for you. Not one, not two, but three silicone seals mean it takes some serious effort to make this baby spill. It’s also perfect for someone who always has one hand occupied by a mouse, a blackberry, their tension ball…with a rubber-grip band right where you hold the cup and a button that opens up the drinking seal, even Aron Ralston could handle this Oxo travel mug with ease. Other reasons to consider it? How about its internal “max line” to prevent over-filling, its slick, stainless steel exterior and Oxo’s satisfaction warranty.

Yeah, we thought those were pretty cool too.

For the hardcore-but-I-still-need-a-handle outdoorsman: Thermos’ Leak-Proof Travel Mug

If you haven’t heard the word “thermos,” you clearly never went to elementary school. This company wrote the book on keeping liquids hot and cold, so of course a Thermos-brand mug needs to round out our list. Their travel mug straddles the line between something you take to your cubicle and something you take to Yosemite. With a “rubberized, shock absorbing” base and a “wide stance,” you’ll never have to worry about knocking your drink across your keyboard (or your camp stove). It’s got a steel travel loop and carabiner, so you can clip it to a backpack, a belt loop or the handle of a file cabinet. This rugged cup also boasts vacuum insulation and unbreakable stainless steel sides. Lastly, their leak proof lid is drinkable from any direction. Men, get your compasses out.

Did we leave an awesome mug off the list? Do you prefer to drink your coffee directly out of your cupped hands? Leave a comment and let us know.

[Photo: Al-Hayat/Creative Commons]

Tags: coffee, commute, grip, liquid, Oxo, spill, temperature, thermos, travel mug


  • Albert says:

    I’m just wondering, how strong the ‘I am not a paper cup’ mug really is. I mean, if you’re traveling, it can get all bumpy, especially in airports. The last mug however – it looks like you can survive apocalypse with it.

  • Alexi Ueltzen says:

    Hi Albert – I would recommend the last three mugs over the “I am not a paper cup” mug for the serious traveler. While it’s great for around-town use, it lacks the versatility (and the leakproof-ed-ness) of the others. It’s pretty solid construction, and you could certainly take it on a trip or two, but a long fall onto a hard surface might be the end of it.

  • Matthias says:

    Out of curiosity, does anyone know where those fantastic screw-top carabiner-handled mugs that are super popular in the seattle come from?
    My girlfriend picked one up for me while at friday harbor marine labs and I want more!
    If a simple google search turned up the results I’d go for it but so far no luck.

  • Alexi says:

    Hi Matthias,

    Is the below mugs the one you’re looking for?

  • Ari says:

    Hi, I’ve used the Oxo Grips and was very satisfied with it. It does what it’s claimed to do. However, I’m looking around for something else.

    These mugs are fantastic, but have a tendency to retain odor of what you drink. I’ve tried drinking hot tea the day after I drank coffee out of it (after washing it, of course), but it retained the odor of coffee. In addition to that, when I had tea in the mug, it had a strange plastic-y taste and smell to it.

    Overall, it’s a pretty good mug – if you drink only coffee in it.


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