The best insulated travel mugs and zero-waste reusable cups

Never buy a throwaway cup again! That’s what we’re aiming for. We now take our own reusable cups to coffee shops and staff are happy to fill them.

But you probably don’t want a porcelain mug in your bag, so what are the best reusable coffee cups? And is an insulated travel mug the answer?

 
Latest update: December 2019

And while you’re thinking green, don’t forget to have a look at our BIG green guide to being environmentally friendly when camping.

What a sad statistic

In the UK, 2.5bn disposable cups are thrown away every year. Only 0.25% are recycled (according to an environmental audit committee report). 

 

We campers care about the countryside, so we ought to make a stand…or at least not add to the problem ourselves.

So, let’s find a cup we can keep handy. Maybe folding? Maybe insulated? Definitely nice to drink from. For me, the optimum size is 12oz or 350ml – big enough for a decent size coffee, but not too big to hold or carry.

And while you’re thinking about cutting waste, have a look at our article on plastic-free tableware like plates and bowls, and ditch the disposable barbecue in favour of one you can use over and over again.

Meanwhile, here are our recommended insulated travel mugs and reusable coffee cups.

Leakproof and insulated travel mugs

Chris Miller, the reader who won our Tentsile competition a while back, got in touch to ask us to help him find the perfect travel mug.

 

“I’ve always hated waste and don’t like single use cups or anything disposable,” says Chris. “Also, while my work sold Costa coffee, I could make a nicer cup myself and save a few pennies too.

“I have no issue buying expensive if it performs and lasts and my ideal would be a single container that’s usable from Ben Nevis to boardroom. The ideal would work as a car cup, flask, reusable coffee cup, travel mug and even occasionally a wine glass around the campfire.”

Tall order? Here’s what we came up with.

Hot but spills
3.8/5

Thermos ThermoCafe

Chris says: “Starting with some cheap free-giveaway insulated mugs, I was frustrated that they didn’t keep drinks warm for long and moved to the 450ml Thermos Thermocafe (£9) for several years which was fantastic at keeping stuff hot.

There’s a neat double thread on the lid so the hole can face towards lefties as well as righties and has a nice handle. Even after a few years and dents it works as well as when brand new.

The cover is easy to slide open and close while holding and the lid goes in the dishwasher. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit well in every car’s cupholders and the lid hole isn’t leakproof.”

Open one-handed
4.3/5

Contigo Westloop

We had a recommendation from Wendy (one of our readers) for the Contigo range of insulated mugs. Wendy says they’re leakproof, drinks stay hot for five hours, one-handed push-button opening and they look rather sleek.

A wide range of colours and a couple of sizes from around £20.

Simple and works
4.8/5

Tefal trustworthiness

Utterly leakproof (providing you close the lid properly!) and in an easy-to-hold and stash shape. This Tefal insulated travel mug will keep drinks hot for around four hours in our experience.

Simple, elegant and not a bad price at around £16.

No leaks at all
4.5/5

Camelbak

Chris graduated to the Camelbak Forge (two sizes from £18).

He says is keeps drinks hot all day, is the exact diameter to fit in a bike’s water bottle holder, seems to fit all car’s cupholders, works with one hand, can hang on a karabiner, comes in a few colours and has a clever lid that goes in the dishwasher.

“Critically, I have no qualms about chucking this in a bag with my laptop,” says Chris. “The main downside is durability of the lid – the spring loaded opening mechanism presses against a thin plastic moulding which cracks over time, in my experience after 9 months of daily use. Camelbak’s warranty department has been superb. Finally, it’s about 1mm too tall to comfortably fit under the free coffee machines at Waitrose which for a few people could be a deal breaker!”

We prefer the Camelbak Hot Cap because it’s a neater shape when you don’t need a carabiner loop.

Popular option
3.7/5

Bodum insulated mugs

Bodum’s well-known for their tea and coffee gear, so it’s no surprise that they’ve designed a rather good insulated travel mug.

People do love them. They look good, are nice to hold and keep drinks warm. They aren’t leakproof, however.

From around £15, lots of colours and a choice of sizes.

My favourite is this stainless steel one with the cork band. Pretty!

Top choice
4.7/5

S’well

12 hours of heat and a thing of beauty, S’well’s water flasks are everywhere these days and these wide-mouth versions are just as well-designed.

These insulated travel mugs have three layers and the outside won’t get condensation on it, which is a big bonus. Screw-off rather than flip lid won’t suit some, however.

Three sizes and a big range of colours and patterns. Love this wood one, though! From around £30.

Shape and price
3.9/5

Insulated cup from Artlive

It’s the cup-like shape of this insulated mug that attracted us. Plus it’s under £15.

Holds 350ml and comes in black or silver. Promises spill and leakproofness.

Eyecatching choice
3.7/5

Chilly’s Vacuum Cup

An eyecatching travel mug in a proper cup shape, though not as leakproof as the more sporty options. 

Good for heat retention, but won’t fit in all car-holders, sadly. Holds 340ml and comes in a range of colours and designs. Around £20.

Use a reusable cup and ditch the single-use takeaway cups

Joco glass cups 

The Joco has been my cup for using at home (without the lid) and for taking camping for a year now.

I like that it feels like a real cup to drink out of and it makes a generous wine glass in the evenings! Its only downside is that the lid isn’t sealable, so it needs to be kept upright when full. Around £20.

A reusable cup made from throwaway coffee cups

Funny this. If we all stop using disposable cups, presumably Cornwall-based Ashortwalk will have to find another material for their travel mugs. At the moment, though, there’s no shortage!

Their rCup is leak-proof and has a push open/close lid. Nice designs and a price of around £12. The company also makes tide clocks, plant pots, house signs and more, all out of recycled materials.

KeepCup

Another glass range with plenty of choice. Glass doesn’t taint your water and it feels nicer to drink from.

Most of the KeepCup mugs are made of toughened glass, which will stand up to a lot, but does take a bit of care. Don’t bother with the Longplay, though. It supposedly insulates your drink, but it basically adds a plastic cup around the glass one and it doesn’t work. If you need an insulated mug, see our recommendations below.

KeepCups are spill- and splash-proof, but not absolutely leakproof, so you need to keep them upright. We especially like the cork range, with a cork rather than silicone band. From £19.

Help Surfers against Sewage

This campaign group is fighting for cleaner seas, and that includes getting rid of all that plastic waste. They sell bamboo reusable cups (400ml) for around £12. You’ll be spreading the word while you sip!

A bamboo cup for your coffee

When I first researched and wrote this round-up, bamboo cups were fairly rare. They’re everywhere now, but not all can stand up to our tests!

Ecoffee make fantastic-looking coffee cups out of bamboo. They have a silicone band for holding, a lid and a detachable lid section so your coffee can cool without having to take off the lid. Dishwasher-safe, but not microwaveable. 340ml or 400ml capacity.

Choose a gorgeous William Morris print or the gothic Dark Matter. From around £9.

Folding silicone travel mug

Personally, I haven’t found a folding or collapsible cup that I like. The feel of the silicone isn’t pleasant and they can be hard to clean.

Best of the bunch so far is this Stojo foldable coffee cup. Available in lots of colours and in three sizes, from £10.

Let’s not add to this…

Nip over to the Campers Against Litter FB group and join us. We can share ideas, have a good moan and maybe take some action together. We’ll report back here at Campfire Magazine too.

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2 Comments

  1. I have the Contigo westloop and I love it. The winning points for me was that it doesn’t leak due to its double action needed to open and the opening mechanism within the lid folds out so it can be washed properly.

    For drinking water I use an Ion8, stainless steel bottle which I also love, it closes in two twists, doesn’t leak and keeps my water fresh and cold even on got days. The only negative is that it doesn’t for in all car drinking holders.

    Why do I have two? I find that no matter how much you clean them if I’ve had tea or chocolate in them (I don’t drink coffee) it always slightly taints the water.

  2. Amy Rowan-Buckley

    I’ve got a plastic reusable Costa cup and I’ve been using it regularly for a couple of years now. They don’t seem to sell them any more. It was £3! I know it’s plastic, but it’s got years of use in it. The lid screws on very tightly, and the flip bit that covers the drinking hole clicks shut. I’ve put it in my bag full of coffee and it has never leaked. It doesn’t keep my coffee hot for hours, it’s not a thermos, but it does keep it hot for a good while. I use it to make bulletproof coffee when I get to work mostly – I put cream, butter and coconut oil in it at home then add hot coffee when I get to the office and give it a really good shake to make it frothy. Works perfectly! ED: Wow! That sounds delicious. Bet you look forward to work just for the coffee treat!

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