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?
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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.
Holds 350ml and comes in black or silver. Promises spill and leakproofness.
Use a reusable cup and ditch the single-use takeaway 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.
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!
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.
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!
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.