Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mug Shots: A Quick Guide to Backpacking Mugs

camping backpacking mugs light titanium plastic

In my last post, I discussed a very affordable ultralight (8 oz.)  cookset that can be put together for only $22. In that post, I neglected to talk about mugs. Some might want to skip using a mug to save weight and space. After all, you already have some sort of vessel for drinking water, whether a bladder or bottle, and you can eat directly from your cooking pot. If, however, you care to drink hot coffee, tea, or cocoa you'll probably need a mug. It is also nice to have an additional container for your food, especially if sharing what you cook. I've only used two mugs for backpacking. One is a cheap plastic Coleman mug I bought at a big box store for a few bucks, and the other is a nice double walled titanium mug purchased on discount for just over $25. I'll talk about these as well as a couple of other options to consider below… (I have ZERO affiliation or financial arrangements with any products, retailers, or manufacturers below. I just like talking about gear.)

The Plastic Coleman Mug: $3.00, 12 ounce capacity, 4 oz. weight

coleman plastic camping mug
I bought this guy at a big box store for $3, I believe, when I was first scraping up enough money to build a backpacking kit. It performed admirably for its task. It is light (even lighter than my titanium model when factoring in the lid), and durable. It does not come with any type of lid available, so hot beverages will lose heat quickly in cold weather. Being plastic, you can't cook with it either. But, for $3, it's a good choice when building a kit.

Pros: Cheap, Light Durable
Cons: No lid, can't cook with it
Where to buy: Big box chains

Stoic Double Walled 450ml Titanium Mug with Lid: $27.00, 15 ounce capacity, 5.7 oz. weight

double walled titanium backpacking camping mug
I love this mug. I use it all the time even at home or as a to-go mug at my local coffee shop. It is not the lightest, especially with the lid. BUT, considering how well it keeps your beverage warm, even in cold temperatures, the "heavier" weight is well worth it. The folding handles are nice, too. Because of the double wall structure, I cannot cook with this mug without deforming the structure (though I might be able to boil water or cook in an emergency situation, but I would be sacrificing the mug in the process.) The Stoic name is the house brand at, but I bought from their affiliate account on discount. Unfortunately, it is no longer available anywhere as it was discontinued. Comparable products are in the range of $40-$60 it seems.

Pros: Great heat retention, foldable handles, can use for cooking, relatively low weight for performance
Cons: A tad "heavy" for gram counting weenies
Where to buy: NA, discontinued. Comparable items are Snow Peak 450 ml at $50 (currently on sale for $40 at Backcountry Edge) (plus $5 for lid) or Montbell 300ml Thermo Mug for $38 (no lid available)

Other Mug Options To Consider (I've never used these, so I'll only offer general impressions…)

The REI Sierra Cup: $12.00, 10 ounce capacity, 2.6 oz. weight

REI Sierra cup for camping and backpacking
The advantage of these is that they can be used to scoop food as well as drink or eat from given their tapered edge. Many seem to swear by them. This is made of stainless steel, so it should be very durable. I like that his model has a collapsible handle (many other Sierra cup designs have fixed handles.) At only 2.6 oz., the strength-to-weight ratio seems excellent. I'm not sure how well it would keep a cup of coffee or cocoa warm in cold temps, however.

Where to buy: REI

Sea To Summit Collapsable X-Mug, $13.00, 16 ounce capacity, 2.3 oz. weight

sea to summit backpacking camping mug
I almost bought one of these because I love the concept. These guys collapse down to a simple disc when not in use. They are super light as well. If saving space is your main concern, this is a good option. I suspect they are hard to keep clean, however, and, of course, you can't cook in plastic.

Where to buy: REI has them for $13

Toaks Single Walled Titanium Mug: $20.00, 15 ounce capacity, 2.7 oz. weight

titanium mug for camping and backpacking
You can save some weight and some money with a single wall titanium mug, but you'll be sacrificing insulation. For warmer temps, a single wall mug might be nice. They weigh just barely over half what a comparable double wall mug will weigh, as you would suspect. This model seems to get good reviews and has nice collapsable handles. I could not find a single-walled titanium mug that has a lid option (though they probably exist.)

Where to buy: Amazon for $20

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  1. It is my understanding that you cannot cook with a double walled mug....

  2. Katie, you are absolutely right! That was an oversight on my part, and I will correct above. Technically, if you were in an emergency or survival situation, you probably could, but you would ruin your mug in the process. Thanks for catching my mistake.

  3. I have long wanted to test this theory but reluctant to risk a good piece of gear. Love the title btw! Saw this on pinterest....

  4. I don't blame you; me neither! Thanks for the kind words AND the correction.