On our very first charter trip, we learned the necessity of having an insulated mug if you wanted coffee that stayed hot while you drank it in the cockpit. Even in tropical climates, a bit of breeze would cool the coffee before I drank it all.
Our second charter to the BVIs, we were prepared with our insulated mugs from home — that’s Jan and her husband David in the photo. And while they were sufficient on nice warm mornings, they weren’t that great on subsequent trips where we encountered cooler weather while on friends’ boats.
Dave and I just sort of put up with the situation, as it never really dawned on me that there was much difference in insulated mugs. And of the ones that I bought, there probably wasn’t — I had always simply bought the cheapest ones I could find that had some sort of lid.
You see, I’d basically thought that the primary thing was to cover the top, both to prevent spills and to keep some warmth in. Then, on a very early morning hike with some other cruisers, I discovered that their coffee was still hot when mine was stone cold. And that was when I learned that there are good insulated mugs. That’s the good news.
Now for the bad news. They’re not cheap — about $20 to $25 per mug. Frankly, I thought that was outrageous — but I did keep eying them. Then I was given a $20 Amazon gift card as a thank you for filling out a survey and decided to splurge with my “found money” and buy a good insulated mug.
After using it for just a week, I was convinced — and bought a second one for Dave.
Thermos makes several that are similar and all are good choices depending on your individual preferences. What I like about these in particular:
- Coffee stays hot. I’ve drunk coffee that was over 5 hours old and it was still acceptably hot — admittedly, not quite as hot as when I’d poured it in, but definitely hot and not lukewarm.
- Leak-proof lids. Great for taking along in the dinghy or tossing in a day pack. When you close the drink opening, it does not leak. And since the lid screws on tight (with a gasket), it won’t pop off either.
- Sized for drink holders. I want to be able to put the mug in one of the drink holders in the cockpit. These are all sized to fit (okay, they’re sized for car drink holders . . . but that works!).
- Tea bag hook. I don’t drink tea, but for those who do, there’s a nifty hook in the lid to hang your tea bag.
They’re easy to clean (you can take the lid totally apart periodically for cleaning), seem impossible to break (I’m sure someone has found a way to break one, but you get the idea), and I love them.
I’ve recently done a bunch of research on what makes a good Thermos. The answer is that the best ones are double wall stainless with a vacuum between. Air or foam insulation, while cheaper, just don’t do nearly as good a job. And the same is true for mugs. It needs to be a vacuum mug, not just a generic “insulated” mug.
All of the following are made by Thermos with their TherMax technology (links are to Amazon). The differences are in the color (a few people have complained about the paint flaking off; I haven’t had the problem and neither have the majority of reviewers) and whether there is a handle. If you’re buying more than one, I’d suggest getting different colors to make it easy to tell whose is whose. For some strange reason, the price varies by color and it’s never consistent as to which is most expensive:
- 16-ounce Thermos Stainless King mug — blue or red (this is the style I have — takes up the least room)
- Same as above, but with a handle — blue or red
Thermos also makes a similar mug that is just stainless on the outside (no color) — it has a push-button mechanism for opening the drink hole and a few people have had a problem with it not closing completely. I haven’t used one of this style, so I don’t know if it’s really a problem or just something to be careful of.