Making a great cup of coffee doesn’t do you much good if you can’t take it with you on-the-go. A good travel mug is one that keeps your drink warm, doesn’t leak, and doesn’t impart any weird flavors. I looked at 3 popular travel coffee mugs and evaluated them based criteria that I find the most important.
The Best Travel Mugs: Zojirushi vs. Bubba Hero vs. Yeti Rambler
For each of the mugs, we looked at different criteria:
- Heat retention
- Seal fit and leaking
- Ease of cleaning
For each mug, I added 16 oz of 210 °F water, closed the lids, and started the timer. Over the course of 16 hours, I took the temperature at various intervals for comparison.
For the leak test, I filled each mug, inverted it, and shook it for 30 seconds, making note of any leaks.
Zojirushi SM-KHE48AG – Top Pick
Of the three mugs I looked at, the Zojirushi had the best all-around performance.
Aside from requiring the most effort to clean, this mug excelled in every category. It keeps a drink hot for far longer than I’d ever need to, is built solidly, and doesn’t leak.
The Zojirushi performed perfectly in the inverted shaking leak test.
The lid is more complex than the other mugs I looked at, but the complexity seems to bring plenty of function. The seals don’t leak any liquid when the mug is tossed and turned.
Cleaning the Zojirushi is more involved than simpler mugs. The lid and mouth piece come apart into three pieces.
The travel mug is also not dishwasher safe. Zojirushi recommends using a “moist sponge or soft cloth” to clean the mug.
Wow. The Zojirushi performed leagues ahead of the other two mugs in our insulation test.
You could reasonably make a cup of tea in this mug 8 hours before you planned on drinking it.
If this mug has one outstanding feature, this is it.
Durability and Construction
The Zojirushi is well-designed and well-made. I expect mine will last a very long time.
My biggest concern is with the lid and cap area. Although I haven’t had any issues yet, it feels a bit over-engineered, and I’m hoping I don’t need to replace any of the parts within the first few years of ownership.
Bubba Hero Elite
The Bubba is my second choice of the three I tested. The TasteGuard ceramic lining keeps your drink tasting like it’s supposed to taste. The only downside to the mug was the poor insulation performance which was on par with the Yeti Rambler.
The Hero Elite has a simple, old-school lid system that didn’t leak at all during our inverted test. If it’s not broken don’t fix it right?
The Bubba is dishwasher safe. I give mine a quick rinse when I’m done drinking to prevent staining and buildup.
The mug separates into two pieces; both should go on the top rack.
I was surprised that the Bubba Hero Elite didn’t perform well here. After one hour, my hot drink had dipped from 210 °F to 172 °F — a similar performance to the Yeti.
My suspicion is that a lot of initial heat was transferred to the ceramic interior of the mug. Preheating your mug with some extra hot water will prevent this. I, for one, am picky about the material my coffee or tea come in contact with so I don’t mind the extra hassle of preheating.
The lid is the main source of heat loss. It gets warm within minutes of adding a hot drink.
Durability and Construction
The Hero Elite has a metal exterior and a ceramic interior — a feature that Bubba calls TasteGuard. There’s a soft, rubber wrapping on the outside that’s very ergonomic and comfortable to hold. I’ve also found that it makes the cup much less likely to slip out of your hand.
There’s a rubber pad on the bottom that keeps the mug from sliding around on the table. This isn’t a feature I see on a lot of other mugs, and it’s a really nice touch. As an added bonus it makes setting the mug down a lot quieter. And while that might sound like a silly thing to point out, I can assure you that my coworkers appreciate it more than I do. No more loud ‘thunks’ that break the concentration of the entire room.
The Yeti Rambler performed the worst of the mugs I looked it. In the tests I performed, it had both poor heat retention and leaked from the lid. Unless your a big fan of the Yeti brand or the large diameter of this mug, I’d stick with either the Bubba or the Zojirushi.
The lid for the Yeti Tumbler seals snugly onto the container, but it isn’t threaded. A rough fall could knock it loose — leaving you with a mess and no hot drink.
The “MagSlider” cap works as advertised in preventing splashes, but falls short in stopping leaks. If you’re looking for a travel mug that can roll around on floor of your car without losing a drop, this is not your mug.
The Yeti Rambler is easy to clean. Both the lid and container are dishwasher-safe and the 3-inch opening makes the tumbler relatively easy to wipe out with a sponge or rag–great for persistent coffee residue.
The mug is engineered to keep a hot drink hot and a cold drink cold. Our experience with the Yeti, however, was a bit disappointing.
Even though the tumbler is double-wall insulated, a lot of heat escapes through the plastic lid. After just 1 hour at room temperature, our hot drink dropped went from 210 °F to 166 °F — a 44 degree loss.
If you make your drinks very hot or drink them quickly, the Rambler might be a good option. Otherwise, I’d recommend checking out the Zojirushi.
Durability and Construction
Yeti prides itself on making durable products. The “tough enough to keep up” Rambler is no different.
The body of the tumbler is all stainless steel — except for the DuraCoat wrapping on the colored options.
The 20 fl. oz. tumbler weighs 12.7 ounces. for the 20 oz size.