Best Insulated Travel Mugs From Consumer Reports' Tests
Top cups that keep coffee hot, won’t leak or spill, and are easy to clean
An insulated travel mug lets you take your favorite drink, hot or cold, anywhere you go. And a good one feels like it was designed with your routine, and even you, in mind. It slips effortlessly into a cup holder and opens easily so that you can sip safely while keeping your eyes on the road. You arrive with a drink that’s still hot and appealing.
Unless you don’t. An insulated travel mug can also feel like a piece of over-engineered junk that leaks tepid coffee onto your lap and clutters your cupboards, collecting dust.
We run our tests to give you data-based comparisons. And with something like an insulated travel mug—which will live in your grip day after day—we realize that only you can decide what makes it great, whether that’s a leakproof design or one that fits in the slimmest of cup holders. Know that every mug here keeps drinks hot for at least a few hours; we sincerely hope that’s plenty long enough for your commute.
Read on for ratings and reviews of the 10 mugs we tested from Bubba, Contigo, Ello, Starbucks, S’well, Takeya, Thermos, Yeti, and Zojirushi. They’re listed below in order of their temperature retention score—how long they keep liquids hot.
You’ll also find details on how CR tests insulated travel mugs.
CR’s take: This slim mug is in a league of its own in terms of pure performance. It keeps drinks hot for an astonishing 13½ hours—6 hours longer than the closest competitor, earning a top rating of Excellent for temperature retention. The screw-on cap is easy to clean, with two removable gaskets. Our testers found the mug easy to open with one hand: Simply press a button on the side and the lid pops up so that you can drink out of the plastic spout. You can also lock the lid, a nice feature if you have young kids who are the type to tinker with a mug filled with scalding hot coffee. The slender design of the mug means it fits in cup holders in a variety of cars.
Specs: 16-ounce capacity, leakproof, cup holder-friendly, plastic interior, smooth lip, replaceable lid and gaskets, one-handed opening.
CR's take: Just behind the top-rated Zojirushi, above, this stellar mug from Thermos is a bit cheaper and, practically speaking, probably all anyone would need. (It keeps drinks hot for an impressive 7½ hours.) It also has an easy-to-clean lid, which earned a rating of Very Good. One of the three lid gaskets cannot be removed or replaced, so when it goes, so goes your mug. The tapered design means the mug will fit in the cup holder of most cars. Bonus: It has a handy tea hook on the underside of the lid, so you can suspend a tea bag in water without losing it inside.
Specs: 16-ounce capacity, leakproof, cup holder-friendly, stainless steel interior, replaceable lid and gaskets, one-handed opening.
CR’s take: This handsome mug offers styling similar to the Zojirushi, but it has an extra ounce of capacity and costs about a third less. Like the Zojirushi, you press a single button to pop the top and drink from this mug. It also excels at keeping drinks hot—for 6½ hours in our test—which helped it earn a rating of Excellent for temperature retention. The lid is easy to remove and clean, and there’s a silicone pad on the bottom of the mug, which protects your desk and keeps the mug from sliding.
Specs: 17-ounce capacity, leakproof, cup holder-friendly, stainless steel interior, smooth lip on cup, replaceable lid and gaskets, one-handed opening.
CR’s take: The S’well Commuter is a beautiful mug that feels great in your hand, thanks in part to a flared shape that gets wider at its base. But that also means it might not fully fit into even large cup holders. It’s a strong performer, earning a rating of Very Good for temperature retention—it kept water hot for 6 hours in our test. The top is easy to clean, but it’s impossible to replace the gasket in the lid, so you’ll need to buy a new lid if it starts to get rank (S’well sells them for $8 to $10). This mug is not as easy to open one-handed as some others here.
Specs: 16-ounce capacity, leakproof, not cup holder-friendly, stainless steel interior, replaceable lid, one-handed opening.
CR’s take: With one of the largest capacities of the group, the Bubba Hero is a tall and slender option with decent, if not quite heroic, performance. It earns a rating of Very Good for temperature retention. It kept water hot for 5½ hours in our test. The top isn’t as easy to clean as some other models’ lids—it has some intricate grooves where coffee or other liquids can linger if you’re not thorough. The one gasket in the lid is easy to remove for cleaning, but Bubba doesn’t sell replacement gaskets or lids, so if either breaks, you’ll need a new mug.
Specs: 20-ounce capacity, leakproof, cup holder-friendly, stainless steel interior, one-handed opening.
CR’s take: Starbucks’ Traveler is a handsome, slender mug that keeps drinks hot for an extended stretch, but it’s hardly worth the trouble, given how tough it is to clean. It earns a rating of Very Good for keeping water hot for 5½ hours in our test. But it earns a rating of only Fair for the ease of cleaning the lid—it’s loaded with nooks and crannies where coffee and other liquids can camp out, causing lingering odors. It has two gaskets, one of which is easy to remove or replace; the second can’t be taken off, so you’ll need to buy a new mug if it gets too gross. It’s slender enough to fit in most cup holders.
Specs: 16-ounce capacity, leakproof, cup holder-friendly, stainless steel interior, smooth lip on cup, one-handed opening.
CR’s take: The Contigo Byron mug is a strong performer wrapped with silicone across the middle, which makes it both easy and satisfying to grip. It’s also among the least expensive of the mugs we tested. It kept water hot for 5½ hours in our test, helping it earn a rating of Very Good for temperature retention. However, we found it exceptionally hard to open, requiring both hands to pop open the sipping mechanism. The top is tough to clean, too, because it has a lot of crevices. So it’s definitely the wrong choice if you’re the type to leave your mug in the cup holder of your car over the weekend before cleaning it out.
Specs: 20-ounce capacity, leakproof, cup holder-friendly, stainless steel interior.
CR’s take: This adorable mug is reminiscent of enamel splatterware you’d take on a camping trip, and it has plenty-good performance to go with its good looks. It kept water hot for 5 hours in our temperature retention test, earning a Very Good rating. It also has a top that’s exceptionally easy to clean, with few crevices. The mug has two gaskets, both of which are easy to remove and replace. The spring-loaded sipping mechanism is easy to slide open with a single hand, but this mug isn’t tapered and may be too wide to fit in many cup holders.
Specs: 16-ounce capacity, leakproof, requires large cup holder, stainless steel interior, smooth lip on cup, one-handed opening.
CR’s take: The Yeti Rambler may be the cool kid in the mug aisle, but it’s not so super at its main job—keeping drinks hot. It lasted “just” 4½ hours in our test—long enough to earn a rating of Very Good but a far cry from the best. The simple plastic lid certainly doesn’t improve the thermal seal. On the flip side, the magnetic slider is a cool mechanism (great for fidgeters!). And both lid and mug are a cinch to clean—no bottle brush required. You might not care, though, because it’s also dishwasher-safe. The one lid gasket is easy to remove and replace, but it won’t keep the cup from leaking. Call it splashproof. The silhouette is wider at the top and tapers toward the base; it fit in the cup holders of four cars we tried. The powder-coated finish provides a bit of grip.
Specs: 20-ounce capacity, cup holder-friendly, stainless steel interior, smooth lip on cup, replaceable lid and gaskets, one-handed opening.
CR's take: If you’re the type to drink a lot of coffee—and/or you go by the name Bubba—this statement piece might be your best bet. With its borderline-comical capacity of 52 ounces, it’s as big as a full carafe from some of the coffee makers in our ratings. But it’s the worst at keeping all that coffee hot, so you’ll want to drink the whole 52 ounces within 4 hours. Not that that’s something CR would recommend doing. As for the specifics from our labs, the Bubba earns a rating of Good for temperature retention. The lid is easy to clean, and it’s easy to remove the one gasket inside. Needless to say, this mug doesn’t fit in any car cup holder we’ve seen. It’s one of only two models we tested that can be hand-washed with a sponge instead of a bottle brush. And it has a built-in bottle opener, in case you need to crack a beer and relax after all that caffeine.
Specs: 52-ounce capacity, plastic interior.
How CR Tests Insulated Travel Mugs
We test how well insulated travel mugs keep drinks hot or cold, whether they resist spilling and leaking, and how easy they are to clean. We also grade mugs on convenience, including whether they fit in cup holders in a variety of cars and whether you can open the sipping mechanism with just one hand, which is crucial when you’re driving.
For the temperature retention test, we filled each mug with boiling water (212° F) and immediately screwed or pressed each lid back on. Then our testers opened each mug at set intervals to take the temperature of the water inside until it dropped to 140° F—better known as lukewarm.
We also tested each mug to see whether it could keep cold drinks cold as well as hot drinks hot. “We found that mugs that were well-insulated did a great job with keeping liquids either hot or cold,” Deitrick says.
For our leakproof test, we filled each with water and shook each mug from multiple angles, noting whether any liquid escaped.
To rate how easy mugs are to clean, we filled each mug with a mixture of hot coffee and creamer, and sloshed the contents to saturate the inside of the lid. We drained and opened the mugs, and then let them dry overnight. Then we cleaned each one as directed, assigning points to those that were easy to clean and subtracting from those that had hard-to-clean nooks or gaskets in their lids that retained soils even after a thorough scrubbing. All except the Yeti Rambler and Bubba Classic required using a bottle brush.
Each mug in our test had at least one silicone gasket, and some had as many as three. Over time, they can wear out, and many harbor foul odors. So we removed each gasket that could be removed—some can’t—to see how easy it would be to clean beneath it, and then replaced it. We also noted whether a manufacturer offered replacement gaskets or lids, which will, on occasion, spare you the need to replace an entire mug. After all, our aim is to help you find a product that lasts, and that keeps you happy.