Friday, March 20, 2009

Thinking of Traveling?

May I suggest the Equinox Springs? Delightful place!
(Did I mention there are snow flurries this morning?!)

Speaking of traveling—I am slightly obsessed with travel mugs.A travel mug is a simple thing—a thermos like vessel for transporting liquids.
It should have a few basic characteristics:
It should open and close relatively easily.
When open, the liquids should be able to flow freely
When closed, it shouldn’t leak.
Handles are nice, but comfortable grip is a must (handles may provide!) 
It should do a reasonable job keeping hot liquids hot, and cold ones cold.
It should be break resistant.
It should carry a good amount of liquid—16 oz at a minimum, 20 oz better.
It should be easy to clean.
(It should readily fit into car/other cup holders—not really a requirement of mine, but let’s be reasonable most of US does not travel by subway!)

I ask you-- are any of those characteristics unreasonable? 
But go try and find a travel mug that has all of them.

I’ve been looking (and purchasing , and returning) mugs now for a month-searching for the perfect mug.
First –and to me-- the most important characteristic, is, IT SHOULDN’T LEAK.
Really!Is this surprise? Travel mugs have lids, and the
 idea of lid is to prevent leaks.
One common design for a lid is the Slide and Lock (or rather the slide and leak!)Lid. (the blue sample to the right)
This-- from a  Farberware labeled coffee mug -- is fine example of the slide and leak lid.
It’s easy to slide open and closed, but closed doesn’t make  much of  a differance.
Put it in a cup holder, stop short, and if it tips, it drips. 
(if it falls out of the cup holder, a good deal can leak before you can pick it up again.  Oh just what i yearn for--a car with --not a new car smell, but a stale coffee one!)

Carelessly toss it in a tote bag, and everything in the bag will get soggy.
Why bother with a travel mug if doesn’t travel well?

Are there designs that don’t leak? YES.
This was, for years, my travel mug –somehow, last month, somewhere, I lost the screw on lid.
It was made by Trudeau and it worked.
Foolishly, I didn’t immediately buy a back up! 

It held about 20 oz, it had an easy to clean and screw on lid that sealed tight.
It did require 2 hands to open/close the lid, and it was a single side sip –(designed for a right hand hold) –but it was easy to grab with the left hand (the handle was open enough not to bang your knuckles ) and the cup itself was comfortable in hand.

It's dented, (it's about 10 years old!) but its held up.
So when I lost the lid, I went searching for the same mug—and of course, couldn’t find it!

I did find another Trudeau mug, the “DriveTime” and it looks good. (it comes in several colors, but locally I could only find red.)
It had a totally different seal than my original mug.It was easier to open, and easier to close (and it didn’t leak!) It has 2 lips (for right or left handed drinking.
But it is smaller --it only holds about 16 ounces.
And the Lid? Well it doesn’t leak, but it also doesn’t open well.

When fully open, it lets liquid dribble out (just slightly faster then slide and leak does closed!) –Want a slug of coffee? Forget it.  Tip it to your mouth, and it will slowly dribble out a mouthful.

So—while it didn’t leak, it wasn’t perfect.

Next the Oxo design—the LiquiSeal Travel mug. 
This mug is near perfect.
First it doesn’t leak.
Second, it opens fully and drinking from it is like drinking from a cup. 
Third, it has single handed open/close mechanism.
Its handleless design makes it good for righthanded or left handed use.
--but its small—it holds just 13 ounces.

And it’s all plastic--and lets face it, drop it a few times, and the plastic will crack--and plastic cups are just not as effective at keeping hot beverage hot, and cold ones cold—the Oxo home page shows this mug in stainless steel as well as the plastic design, but it too, is only 13 ounces.. and well.. too much money for too few ounces.

So when I saw this Michael Graves design in Target, that was bigger, and metal, and sported a very similar design on the lid as the OXO. -I thought—I’ve hit the jack pot.
The inside of the lid has this dome like cover (making a bit harder to clean) but that didn’t matter—what mattered was –the parts didn’t make a tight seal!

Unlike the similar looking OXO design, It leaks!
The flow of liquid is only slightly less when the lid is ‘closed’ than when its open!–it’s a good design done poorly! 
(a waste of money (it’s being returned!))
(Checking on line, it makes no claims about being leak proof—I just presumed it would be.)
and the coffee maker by the same designer seems to have problems too..

The search was still on.

Another contender is the Copco cup. Copco make several styles of travel mugs--including ones with a slide and leak lids.

But this Copco lid caught my eye--it has a hinged flap that can be flipped open or closed (it’s easy to open single handed, but a bit harder to close (completely –that is-- leak proof-ly!) single handed. But --it leaks less than any other design when not fully sealed—and with a two handed close to the lid, is perfectly leak proof.

The lid can be screwed on for a left handed or right handed hold with a bit of planning and practice.   It holds a 16 ounces (not ideal, but better than most)
It has a comfortable grip, and insulates well—the stainless steel interior and exterior is easy to clean, and while they might dent, they are durable.

The design has one flaw. The small air hole is too close to the drink opening.
Tilt the cup too much, and it’s covered with liquid, and fails at its job –which is to allow air into the cup, as you drink.  (and it slowly drips coffee onto your nose. Not much.. but..) 

These examples pretty much exhaust the local selection—none are perfect, though a few are acceptable. Most of these designs are available on line from various sources. Often the on line descriptions and detail are sparse. 

(Some sites are better than others, and beware –if it doesn’t say leak proof, chances are it’s a slide and leak lid.)


Anonymous said...

Good luck with your search. The only criteria mine doesn't meet is the size. Mine is only around 14 - 15oz but that is ok for me. I was lucky I was given it when I completed a project for a chainsaw company. It is stainless steel with a plastic insert, doesn't leak and keeps coffee hot.
Unfortunately there is no brand name on it.

sulu-design said...

Helen, when we lived in Queens, Barry bought me a coffee travel mug for my subway rides that I raved about for years. To this day I love it, but now I let him carry it as I've got a short commute to work and coffee available there when I need it. It's a Thermos (as in the brand) that meets all of your criteria, I think, except that it doesn't have a handle or a grip ring, but it is slender enough that my ridiculously little hands can comfortably grasp it. He picked it up on a coffee shop near Hunter School of Social work on Lexington and 80th when he was a student there. I really never push particular products, but I honestly love this container so much that I've gone on and on about it to countless people. I may have to e-mail you a photo. Happy coffee drinking!