I went on a long walk recently and, while resting at a point three hours into the walk, I suddenly remembered that I had a pain au chocolat and a hot cup of coffee in my bag. There’s no greater feeling. The only thing better than a good coffee is a surprise good coffee.
That’s exactly why I bought the Hydro Flask coffee mug (Is it a cup? A mug? A flask? I’m going to stick with mug for consistency). To meet the single goal of keeping a single serving of coffee hot in a container that I could happily throw in a backpack next to my camera equipment.
Vessel technology has come a long way since the heavy metal flask (to keep things hot) and the plastic bottle (to keep things… not very cool). Today you have light weight double-wall containers that – in the event of Hydro Flask – can keep cold liquids cold for up to 24 hours, and hot liquids hot up to 6 hours. All while the outside remains at regular temperature (the guy in the store told me “If it feels warm when you pick it up, it means your insulation isn’t working”).
Hydro Flask’s latest edition of this mug saw the lid completely change from a flip-open sipper (which some reviewers said could accidentally flip open when the mug moves around in a bag) to a new twist-and-lock ‘Flex Sip’ lid. The lid opens with a firm quarter turn, and displays a red mark when closed so you a quick visual check reminds you whether you’ve closed it properly just before you put it back in your pack. It’s a more complicated setup than the former lid, requiring three pieces to be taken apart for cleaning, but having a secure lid as a result is worth any extra hassle.
Another benefit of the new lid is that it now comes with a pretty solid loop. You can place the mug in your pack’s side pocket and clip a karabiner to it for extra peace of mind. It also makes the mug easy to handle when wet, plus you can hook it to a tree or a… hook.
12oz Coffee Flask
Retail Price: $59.99
I paid: $59.99
North Beach, NZ
Purchased July 2020
“We are so convinced that Hydro Flask is the best available that we guarantee every bottle with a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects.”
How well does it work?
It works great! I haven’t used it for cool liquids (I have a very good S’well bottle for that, and this lid and size doesn’t make sense for water), but on the occasions where I’ve used it for hot coffee I’ve been very pleased with results.
In fact, the first time I used it I put a long black in there and waited the usual 5 or 10 minutes before taking a sip to give it a chance to cool. It was still so hot that it made me realise I’d have to take the lid off to let it cool before I could drink it!
On another occasion I had a café put an (almond milk) mocha in there. It was good, but I felt more inclined to give it a clean shortly after drinking as there’d be milky, chocolatey residue within the layers of the lid and that can’t be good. It was at this point that I decided I may as well stick to a regular KeepCup or SolCup for café visits as I didn’t need the hours of insulation and cleaning is simpler (check out the diagram).
Where it shone was on the walk that I’d bought it for. Three hours since I’d first poured my long black into it from our espresso machine at home, the coffee was still at a good enough temperature to be enjoyable. Having said that, I can’t imagine that it would still be ‘hot’ after a full 6 hours, but I’ll put that to the test properly before I say anything more on it.
Aside from that:
I love the design
It’s light weight (289g)
It fits securely into my pack’s side pocket but can also be through in the main area without fear of leaking
It has a powdercoated finish that feels nice to touch and like it wouldn’t slip (although like any metal container its susceptible to scuffs and dents – I’m looking forward to getting a boot add-on)
I keep mentioning the cleaning, but to be honest it’s pretty straightforward. Just more involved than a regular lid… but then it’s more insulating and secure than a regular lid.
Overall, I’m really glad I bought it, and I particularly like its size. It’s just perfect for a single coffee when on a walk without taking up lots of space and weighing your pack down.
Can you get replacement parts? Other accessories?
You can buy a replacement Flex Sip lid on the Hydro Flask website for NZ$24,99 . You can also replace this with a Wide Mouth Flex Cap which looks similar except that it’s just a cap without the rotating closure and sipping hole. This could be great for soups or if you want to fully open your lid to save having to wash the inside of the sipper.
The Hydro Flask 12oz Coffee Mug is compatible with their Wide Mouth Straw Lid, which features a flip-open spout and a rubber straw. However, they state that it’s not leakproof and isn’t designed for hot liquids. Handy for cool drinks when storing in an upright holder like a car’s cupholder or a bike’s bottle cage.
You can also purchase a rubber boot that the mug sits in. This makes for a nicer feel when placing the metal mug down on hard surfaces (and also makes it very quiet – imagine placing a hard metal mug down on a glass-surface tabletop) and helps to prevent any dents, scuffs, and scratches. Especially if your mug is going to be used by kids, or if your mug is going to be in a pack alongside other hard items that could get damaged.
You’d never need a coaster, and I imagine it would be nice on walks when you want to place the cup down on a rocky surface – it would probably also help the mug from sliding away – but it could be a hassle if you put your cup into a tight side pocket on your pack as it could make it more difficult to pull the mug out.
If you go down this route for this 12oz mug, make sure you get the small instead of the regular. There are a number of colours to choose from on the US website, or just black and ‘watermelon pink’ on the New Zealand website.
What’s Hydro Flask Like as a Company?
If you read my post on the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L, you’ll know that I’m making an effort to purchase from ethical and sustainable businesses.
As a company that makes reusable bottles, it’s too much of an easy win for Hydro Flask to take the angle of ‘reduce and reuse’ as their only mantra. Making and selling bottles is their business, so obviously they’re going to say this shows they care about the environment. But Hydro Flask have taken this to the next level with their lifetime warranty, showing that they’re interested in making products that last.
On top of this, they’ve established a chartiable program called ‘Parks for All’. This program has so far supported more than 92 non-profits with donations amounting to US$1.5 million and counting. Nice.
Other than that, the only thing lacking from their website was information about the manufacturing process and the materials used. I couldn’t find info on where the products are made, whether the people making the products are paid a reasonable wage, and no reference to where the materials come from. That’s not to say this is because there are areas for concern here, but it’d be great to see Hydro Flask show some more transparency here.
More than any design award we’ve won, we’re the most proud of Parks For All —a charitable program we created to benefit public green spaces and promote happier, healthier lives outdoors for all. To date, we’ve been able to support more than 92 non-profits and donate over $1.5 million+ and counting! – Hydro Flask
Any other products to consider?
As usual, I did a lot (probably too much) research before I chose the Hydro Flask. Primarily, I was comparing the Hydro Flask with the Yeti and the Camelbak… but just found another option by Patagonia that I’ll include below.
The Yeti Rambler
Yeti’s product looked great. I like the brand, it looked super sturdy, I liked the colours, and Yeti itself appears to be a very successful company with a lot of fans. Their equivalent to the Hydro Flask was the Yeti Rambler 12oz Bottle (on the Macpac website here) which, at $44.99, was $15 cheaper than the Hydro Flask.
Rather than just buying online, I always go to a physical store so I can take a proper look at the product. I’m glad I did as I found that the Rambler was quite a lot bigger than the Hydro Flask, and also a lot heavier (454g versus 289g). To me, it was worth paying $15 more for the lighter weight and more compact size (yet same capacity).
Camelbak Stainless Steel Travel Mug
At $49.99 currently on Mighty Ape, the Camelbak is priced between the Yeti and the Hydro Flask. It has a nifty design where you loosen the cap and can then drink from any side, allowing you to easily drink from the mug without needing to look down at it to see where the sipper is. Also handy in the dark. That’s pretty cool and made the Camelbak a worthy option.
It’s stainless steel with a polypropylene lid; BPA, BPS, and BPF free. Camelbak themselves are a pretty great company and I have plans to buy a couple of kid’s water bottles from them (more on those soon!).
If you want to see them ‘in person’, Bivouac Outdoors stock them last time I checked.
Patagonia MiiR Travel Tumbler 12oz
At $54.99, Patagonia’s MiiR Travel Tumbler takes second place in price. I didn’t come across this mug in my initial research, but if I had it would be a pretty good contender. I like the simplicity, but perhaps more than that I’m a big fan of Patagonia themselves. For this mug they’ve partnered with MiiR; another company that cares about how they make their products.
The 12-oz Campfire Travel Tumbler keeps your coffee or tea hot (or cold) longer with a leak-proof lid and double-wall vacuum insulated design. Fits into both your cup holder and your daily routine. BPA free.
It looks to have a flip-top lid so I’m not sure how well that would stay closed if it was bouncing around in a pack. This one’s probably best for the side pocket or for your office. I’m considering keeping my Hydro Flask for hiking and getting a ‘MiiR’ for my commute and the workplace.
Where to buy…
Hydro Flask is a US company buy does have a New Zealand website that you can buy from. If you’d rather see the mug up close before buying (definitely recommended) you can also buy from North Beach, Torpedo 7, Backdoor, Amazon Surf, and some others. The Hydro Flask website says that Hunting & Fishing are a stockist but as far as I can tell this is no longer correct and they now focus almost exclusively on Stanley and Roman.
For what it’s worth, I bought mine from North Beach in central Christchurch. They only stock two colours (I leaned towards the white one because of this) but the service was great and the staff seemed pretty knowledgeable, offering some extra advice that I hadn’t considered.
Note: Hydro Flask themselves have cleared out of their mug that had the flip-lid cap that I mentioned. The stockists appear to still have this version but are selling it for less. Just make sure you’re aware of the differences before you buy.
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