- We put a dozen travel mugs to the test for temperature retention, leak resistance, and general ease of use.
- The Zojirushi SM-SE Travel Mug kept coffee hot and ice frozen for the longest of any mug we tested.
- Plus, its locking lid ensures its contents stay safe inside.
If you're frequently on the go, and you need your caffeine fix close at hand, a good travel mug likely features prominently in your daily routine.
Any mug with a lid that you can carry from place to place is technically a travel mug, but a poorly performing one will likely leave you with tepid coffee, spill stains on your clothes, and, in some cases, a moldy uncleanable lid that could make you sick.
With so many on the market, it can be difficult to distinguish the bad from the good. We put a dozen travel mugs to the test, evaluating each for how well it retained temperature, how easy it was to clean, and most importantly, how nice it was to drink from.
After more than five months of testing, the Zojirushi SM-SE Travel Mug stood out as the clear winner, but there were other mugs that excelled in specific areas that we think you'll like as well. For our full testing methodology and quantitative temperature test results, scroll to the bottom of this guide.
These are the best travel mugs
- Best overall: Zojirushi SM-SE Travel Mug
- Best with a carry loop: Hydro Flask Coffee with Flex Sip Lid
- Best flip-top travel mug: S'well Commuter
- Best spill-proof travel mug: Stanley Classic Trigger Action Travel Mug
- Best large-capacity travel mug: Yeti Rambler Bottle with HotShot Cap
Prices and links are current as of 12/10/20. We overhauled this guide with new testing metrics and determined all new picks based on our testing. Les Shu contributed to this story.
The best overall
The Zojirushi SM-SE Travel Mug keeps both hot and cold drinks at enjoyable temperatures for hours longer than the competition, and its lockable lid ensures it's truly leak-proof.
Pros: Best temperature retention by far, lid is easy to clean, leak-proof locking lid, one-handed operation, five-year warranty on the vacuum insulation
Cons: Not dishwasher safe, won't fit large ice cubes, will rattle around in cupholders
It's rare that we at Insider Reviews come across a product that is so head and shoulders above the competition that it's without a doubt the best overall pick; there's almost always a shortcoming or a caveat. But the Zojirushi SM-SE Travel Mug is, hands down, the best travel mug you can buy, and we've got the data to back it up.
According to our test, the Zojirushi kept coffee hot for 14 hours — five hours longer than the next-best mug — and kept ice frozen for seven hours — an hour and a half longer than second place. Les Shu, Insider Reviews senior guides editor who helped me with secondary testing, found that it kept liquids hotter far longer if you don't open the lid as often.
Its spring-loaded push-button lid flips open to reveal a sizeable drinking spout that regulates liquid well, whether you're pouring it into a cup or your mouth. When closed, it's properly leak-proof, and it's got a switch at the base of the lid that locks it shut so you can confidently toss it in your bag.
The lid disassembles into two plastic pieces and two rubber gaskets, so you can get into all the nooks and crannies as you clean it. Unfortunately, you'll have to clean all the parts by hand as it's not dishwasher safe. It's a skinny mug too, so you'll want to invest in a good bottle brush. Because it's so skinny, you may have trouble fitting large ice cubes into it. It may also rattle around in your car's cupholder. But we're being nitpicky here.
If you want the mug that's going to keep your coffee hot the longest and provide the best drinking experience, this is your pick. Zojirushi also offers a five-year warranty on the vacuum insulation, so if your mug loses its ability to retain temperature, Zojirushi will replace it.$23.99 from Amazon
The best with a carry loop
The Hydro Flask Coffee is comfortable to drink from and easy to tote around on your next adventure thanks to its strong rubber carry loop.
Pros: Rubber carry loop, comfortable to drink from, lid disassembles easily, dishwasher safe, lifetime warranty
Cons: Retained coffee smell, rubber loop may not be durable enough for attaching to packs
As much as I love the Zojirushi mug, it can get annoying to carry it around if you're roaming around bag-free or just don't have anywhere to stow it. The Hydro Flask Coffee helps mitigate this problem with the addition of a sturdy rubber carry loop. While walking around with it, I primarily held onto the loop with one or two fingers.
The Hydro Flask also provided one of the nicest drinking experiences of all the mugs we tested. The lid simply twists open, the liquid flows well, and there's no large lid mechanism to get in the way while you're drinking. When closed, the lid reveals a red square so you can quickly see that your mug is sealed. The lid disassembles into three plastic pieces and one rubber gasket, and all parts are dishwasher safe on the top rack.
In our temperature tests, it kept coffee hot for five hours and ice frozen for four and a half. We did find that the stainless steel retained some coffee smell after repeated use, so you may want to dedicate this mug to one type of beverage.
While the lid system does a good job of keeping it sealed, it's not as convenient to use as a trigger button if you primarily use your mug while driving. If you hit a bump and the lid is open, you might encounter a small spill. This was a rare occurrence, but drivers may want to keep this in mind.$24.71 from Hydro Flask
The best flip-top travel mug
With its one-piece flip-top lid, the S'well Commuter is easy to clean and leak-proof, and it manages heat retention reasonably well.
Pros: Simple lid is easy to clean, stays leak-proof even after repeated use
Cons: Too large for some cupholders, handwash only, won't keep ice frozen for very long
We disqualified more than one travel mug simply due to their exceedingly complicated lid mechanisms. A lid that's too hard to disassemble and clean will discourage you from washing it properly which can lead to mold growth. Flip-top lids are often one piece and the most simple, so mold has nowhere to hide.
The best flip-top travel mug we tried was the S'well Commuter. It kept coffee hot for five hours, though admittedly it performed the worst in our ice test, keeping ice frozen for a mere two and a half hours. But it made up for it in its ease of use. The flip-top protrudes slightly from the lid, giving your thumb something to push up against and open the lid. It also folds back and locks in place so it doesn't droop and hit you in the nose while you drink.
Its wide base does mean that it may not fit in some cupholders — it's just slightly too fat for my Toyota Corolla — so if you're a car commuter, you may need to look elsewhere. We suggest you check out the Miir Travel Tumbler — it's thinner and retains the temperature just as well as the S'well, but its flip-top was stiffer and slightly harder to open, so it just barely lost out.$35.00 from Amazon
The best spill-proof travel mug
The Stanley Classic Trigger Action Travel Mug opens with the press of a button and automatically seals itself shut so you won't have to worry about whether you remembered to close it.
Pros: Automatically seals when not in use, dishwasher-safe, lifetime warranty
Cons: Hand may get in the way while drinking, middling temperature retention
Even the most leak-proof mug is going to spill if you knock it over while the lid is open. If you know you're prone to spills or simply have too many important papers on your desk at any given time, do yourself a favor and invest in a mug that's totally klutz-proof.
The Stanley Classic Trigger Action Mug automatically seals when not in use, helping to retain temperature as well as ensure all your coffee stays where it's supposed to. To drink, you simply press and hold down the button on the lid which depresses the stopper in the spout and lets liquid flow. Upon releasing the button, the stopper raises back up to seal the spout.
The Stanley performed admirably in our temperature tests, keeping coffee hot for six hours and ice frozen for four — firmly middle of the pack. The lid mechanism is a bit complicated, with buttons and springs, so you'll want to regularly disassemble it and get into the nooks and crannies with a brush to ensure it doesn't harbor mold, especially around the metal spring. It disassembles into two pieces with a simple twist.
The main disadvantage to this mug is also its main draw — you have to press the button to drink. The button is positioned on the back of the lid, so you may find your own hand gets in the way of drinking, especially if your hand is larger. The button is also why this is one of Les Shu's favorites, who has been using it nonstop since early 2019.$18.89 from Amazon
The best large-capacity travel mug
If a single cup of coffee simply won't cut it, the Yeti Rambler 26-oz. Bottle has more than enough room to keep you fueled up, and the HotShot Cap makes it go down easy.
Pros: Offered in larger sizes than any other mug we tested, retains heat very well, dishwasher safe, very sturdy build
Cons: Retains cold poorly, HotShot lid sold separately, HotShot lid gives no visual indication that it's open, definitely won't fit in cupholders
Most of the travel mugs we recommend come in multiple sizes, but they all max out at 20 ounces. If you're used to guzzling large amounts of your beverage of choice, and you can't be bothered with a refill, you'll want a travel mug to match your habits.
The Yeti Rambler Bottle comes in smaller 12-oz. and 18-oz. offerings, but the unique 26-oz. model is what caught our eye, and it performed well in our heat-retention test putting up a second-place score of nine hours. It performed rather poorly in our cold test, keeping ice frozen for just three hours.
The Rambler Bottle comes with what Yeti calls its Chug Cap — think classic soda bottle top with a large-handled lid that twists all the way off. It's great for water, iced coffee, and other cold drinks, but if hot beverages are your main priority, you'll want to buy the HotShot Cap which is sold separately.
Senior Guides Editor Les Shu and I were split in our feelings on the HotShot. He appreciates the inner wall and the tight lock that keep spills at bay, while I was disappointed that it gave no visual indication that it was open or closed.
If by some chance, 26 ounces isn't enough coffee to get you going in the morning, Yeti also offers a huge 36-oz. Rambler Bottle.
Yeti HotShot Cap
Yeti 26-oz. Rambler Bottle$39.97 from Amazon $39.99 from Yeti
What else we recommend
These travel mugs are also terrific options and were only just edged out by our top picks.
- Miir Travel Tumbler: This flip-top mug was neck in neck with the S'well Commuter for our best flip-top pick. It was competitive in both temperature tests, and it fit nicely in cupholders which the S'well did not. But it lost out in the ease of use department. Its flip-top lies almost flush with the rest of the cap, so it's hard to get your thumb under it to open it, and it's so stiff that it requires quite a bit of force.
- Klean Kanteen Insulated TKWide: This was another tough call in our best with a carry loop category. The Klean Kanteen actually beat out the Hydro Flask in both temperature tests, albeit by small margins, and we like the metal carry loop for durability. But the Klean Kanteen lid is difficult to disassemble for proper cleaning, and the metal carry loop is uncomfortable if you're carrying it by hand. The Hydro Flask just offered a nicer drinking experience. With that said, Senior Guides Editor Les Shu has been using an older Klean Kanteen for more than 10 years and can attest to the quality of the products.
What else we considered
These containers are good products — in fact, they are made by reputable companies we like. But we encountered enough issues that stopped them from making our final list. Some didn't perform as well as our top picks, while others are a bit niche or too pricey for us to recommend to everyone. We plan to revisit these for our next update, to see if our opinion has changed since we last tested them.
- Thermos Stainless King: The Thermos name is synonymous with travel mugs, so we wanted to test one. It performed well in the heat test but rather poorly in the cold test. Senior Editor Les Shu liked how easy it was to lock and unlock the lid. I found it difficult to disassemble and reassemble, while he didn't. Ultimately, it was edged out by stronger performers.
- Contigo Luxe Autoseal: We had high hopes for the Contigo since its predecessor, the Autoseal West Loop was our previous best overall pick. But it was the only mug that grew mold during my testing period. Shu, who uses this often as an everyday mug, said extra attention is needed when cleaning the inner spring mechanism, which is difficult to reach, but this should keep mold away.
For me, the metal lid also got hot when full of coffee, which made the button on the lid uncomfortable to press to drink. Shu does not find this to be an issue, and he appreciates the easy button press to unlock. Despite our difference of opinion on the Contigo, we concurred that for most people, the difficulty in cleaning was a dealbreaker. Contigo mugs are popular and can be found in many retailers, so if you do pick one up, we recommend getting a good set of cleaning brushes, like these from the company,
- Stanley Stay-Hot Titanium Travel Mug: I received this mug from Stanley in an unsolicited press mailer, so I decided to throw it on the testing pile. It performed decently, but with a $100 price tag, it's simply out of reach for most people. Much cheaper mugs on our list can do exactly what the Stanley Stay-Hot can do. Its titanium build makes it very lightweight, but the Zojirushi actually clocks in at a few grams lighter. (Not shown in the photo above.)
- Snow Peak Kanpai Bottle: This Snow Peak mug is another that falls under the premium category. It comes with three separate lids — a freezable cold lid, a sealed hot lid, and a drink-through lid. It's a sleek-looking mug, and the Snow Peak brand is a favorite among outdoors people. But the drink-through lid wasn't leak-proof, and at $80 for the whole kit, it just didn't follow through on performance.
- Otterbox Elevation Tumbler: A tumbler isn't quite a travel mug. It's more of a cup with a lid, but Otterbox has a good reputation, so we decided to give it a shot. It performed poorly in the heat test, but it surprised us by posting a mid-range score in the cold test. If you're an iced coffee lover, you might not want to discount this one. But be aware, it's not leak-proof. Editor's note: During our first round of testing, we didn't try the Thermal Lid (shown above), an optional lid that turns the Elevation Tumbler into a proper travel mug. It's a pricey accessory, but we are putting it to the test to see if it's worth considering.
Our temperature retention test results
Our testing methodology
In order to test travel mugs, we established several criteria we hoped each of our top picks would meet. Our three testers analyzed general ease of use, how they felt to drink from, and how easy they were to clean. We also tested for more technical aspects of each mug like temperature retention and how leak-proof each mug was. Our initial testing period lasted one month, but we are still testing long-term durability in case issues arise. Below are each of our tests.
Temperature retention: To test heat retention, we filled each mug with water heated to 136 degrees Fahrenheit, the optimal temperature for hot beverages according to a study by the University of Texas. We then tested the temperature hourly and noted change. Once the temperature dropped 25 degrees, we deemed the beverage too cold to drink and ended the test. To test cold retention, we filled each mug with 45-degree water straight from the refrigerator. We added three ice cubes and timed how long the ice remained frozen.
Leak test: We filled each travel mug with water and turned it upside down and shook it for a total of 30 seconds. We performed this test once at the beginning of our testing period and again at the end to ensure each mug stayed leak-proof even after repeated use.
Ease of use and cleaning: We wanted to test how easy each mug was to drink from while on the go. We noted how easy each mug was to operate with one hand. We also noted how well the liquid flowed out of each and whether or not they fit in standard car cupholders. We took into account how easy each mug was to clean. Many of these mugs have complex lids that can harbor mold if not properly sanitized. If lids were too complicated, difficult to disassemble or reassemble, or began to show signs of mold even after what we thought was a thorough cleaning, the mug lost major points.
Long-term testing: Though our initial testing period lasted roughly five months, we acknowledge that other issues could crop up with long-term use. We are continuing to test each of our top picks and we will update this guide with any issues we encounter.
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