Friday, January 16, 2009

Product Reviews: The Almost Perfect Travel Mug and Water Bottle

I have been waiting 14 years for the world to develop a travel mug that can be sipped, then sealed securely in a backpack filled with important papers and electronics. They finally did it.

When I started high school, the bus came at some ungodly hour. 7 a.m., I think. Thankfully my bus driver let us bring our travel mugs on the bus. It always frustrated me that you could not just throw your plastic 7-11 coffee mug in your bag. Even when I thought it was empty, my homework still ended up stained in Lavazza (this was before a couple years before Starbucks arrived in Bel Air. After the weird German store closed in the ghostly wreck of a mall, you actually had to go "to the city" for whole bean Arabica.) I had a traditional Thermos with the little plastic cup that clicked on the top, but try drinking that at 7 a.m. on a school bus, especially when the usual one was in the shop and our bus driver had to remember how to clutch.

I have been crushed by false hopes before. There was the Nissan, which claimed to be leakproof, with a nifty little toggle button you clicked open or closed. It worked okay for a while, but then the button wore out and coffee went everywhere.

Now the good folks at Target, the BoBo Wal Mart, are selling the Thermos E5 Travel Mug. It is an elegantly simple solution to a problem that has vexed overthinkers for decades. Unlike other pretenders, it has no moving parts. The sippy lid screws on and off is just like a regular old thermos lid. However, it has two silicon gaskets instead of one. If you unscrew it halfway, one gasket is released and coffee can be come out of the sippy holes in the middle. The second gasket seems to keep the coffee from dribbling out the side when you sip. You can sip left handed or right handed - the sippy lid is 360 degrees of flavor. Genius! Once you close the lid tight, you can shale it, hit it, drop it or put it in a bag with your laptop with no worries.

In fact, you can keep it in the bag for hours, because this thing keep jot beverages hot. I made a mug for a drive from Philly to a suburb of DC and even with the lid in the sip position, the coffee was too hot to drink until I passed through Baltimore.

There are a few downsides: The opening to pour your coffee is too small to stick a standard ice cube to cool things down a little. The mug does not fit in a standard automotive cupholder and it looks like something you should probably not try to pass through a security checkpoint. Overall, however, the best mug ever.

Notes: The Thermos E5 line also includes a 20-oz container that is NOT a travel mug, just a traditional cup-on-top model that also happens to looks like WMD. Also, upon further research it seems the Nissan brand might be using this lid design too, and in a much less bulky product but as they say, "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice er... won't get fooled again." Of course, some Nissan mugs are co-branded with Thermos of vice versa, so I don't know who owns who or if it's just a licensing thing. But whatever is out there was not on sale at the City Line Target, so I dunno.

Frugal Factor: $20 is a lot for a mug. But you could spend more for a worse one (I have). Frugal isn't always about cheap. If you use this mug 15 times instead of hitting up the coffee shop, it pays for itself and if it keeps you from spilling coffee on something (or someone) important, it's priceless.

Thermos must be on a role, because they also have what I think is the world's best water bottle. Unlike the crude simplicity of the mug, this "Intak" bottle (the a has an accent I can't type so it's ponounced "intake") is more like an iPod - stylish and innovative in its design. The plastic one is BPA-free, and there is a stainless steel version too. One-handed uperation and no nipples to suck on. I was so impressed with this product after finding one at Goodwill (I know - eww - that's the last thing you want to buy there, but bleach and boiling water takes care of that) that I bought all my coworkers their own for Christmas.

It has this little clicker on it to count how many times you have emptied it into your thirstly gullet. I thought it was stupid, but my coworker Kristin, a military wife and a bit of a control freak, loves it. She also read the directions. Do you know anyone who reads the directions on a plastic water bottle?

1 comment:

Joe Midi said...

Hi! Have you come across perhance where to purchase Thermos E5 Vacuum Insulated Travel Mug replacement silicon gaskets?

Thanks,
D. Negrey, Calgary