There are many different varieties of travel mug, and some people– including some manufacturers–consider insulated tumblers to be the same as travel mugs. In many cases, there is practically no difference between a travel mug and an insulated tumbler, and it often seems like manufacturers of insulated tumblers are calling their product travel mugs more and more often.

Senja Desktop Mug - Stainless Steel coffee mug

Senja Desktop Mug - Stainless Steel coffee mug


A steel travel mug is virtually indestructible, and generally has both an inner and outer liner of metal. Food or medical grade steel has become the preferred material for travel mugs because it is non-reactive to most foods. Unlike plastic mugs which can leach BPA or other potentially toxic chemicals into the food or drink stored inside, food-grade steel will not leach chemicals, absorb odors, or change the taste of food or drinks.

Picking a mug

When shopping for a new mug, it is wise to consider the type of insulation system. Many mugs incorporate an inner and outer wall, with the outer wall made of brushed steel. Often the exteriors will sport a plastic handle for a comfortable grip and may have some plastic, polycarbonate or rubberized trim or grip rings. The mug’s inner liner is usually made of polished steel for ease of cleaning. Between these two liners is a pocket where the insulation lies and there are several different methods of insulating travel mugs.

Some manufacturers pack this pocket area with an insulating material such as foam, while others may leave the pocket empty, and still others may seal the mug liners together and draw a vacuum in the space between the liners. Generally, mugs with a vacuum sealing system hold both hot and cold temperatures much longer than either of the other methods mentioned. This is because heat relies on air or other materials as an avenue of movement, sort of like a car relies on a road as an avenue. Since a vacuum contains no air or other material, there is no “road” for the heat to take when it tries to enter or leave the container. Any real heat loss then must go out the top, or work its way around the seal of the two liners.

Look for a spill proof lid

Another thing to consider when looking at a travel mug is the type of lid. Some mugs have truly spill-proof lids and others merely have closing lids. Some of the spill-proof mugs are difficult to open and close, while others are truly “one button” operation. Timolino, JOEmo and Senja all offer mugs with spill proof lids and some have 360 degree drink rings which allow the user to sip from anywhere around the edge of the cap without spilling. A travel mug equipped with this type of lid can make using the mug while driving a lot easier since there is no distraction while trying to figure out which side of the mug is the side with the hole in it.

The Roadpro 12 volt stainless steel travel mug

The Roadpro 12 volt stainless steel travel mug

Select an appropriate size

There are many different sizes of mugs available. Some hold only a few ounces and others range up to 30 ounces and more. When shopping for a mug consider the size of drink that normally purchased and consumed, or if you primarily drink beverages from home, consider the size of the typical mug or glass that you use and find a travel mug of a similar size. If you have a 12 ounce travel mug and while you are out you purchase a 16 ounce foam cup of coffee, you can’t put all of the coffee into your travel mug. You either have to waste part of it, or drink it from the foam mug.