Beverage Bottle Smackdown: 9 of the Most Popular Cold/Hot Insulated Vessels, Reviewed

August 5, 2016 | By | Comments (0)

The supply lists are out and ’tis the season for back-to-school shopping. For good reason, this a popular time to upgrade food and drink containers–like lunch boxes and water bottles–for the whole family. I mean, even if you don’t have a kid, all of this cool new stuff to store and carry other stuff in is front and center along the aisles of all your favorite living-life, one-stop shops. And when you’re letting a kindergartener pick out their new lunch bag, and your middle-schooler wants a new water bottle for basketball, it’s only natural that you kind of feel like you ought to get yourself that chic, ultra-triple-insulated, “keeps hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold for the rest of your life” travel canteen at the end of the aisle… you need that to stay well-hydrated and adequately caffeinated while chauffeuring these little hell-raisers around. I hear you.

And these intensely insulated stainless steel vessels, what I like to call “super bottles,” are what’s hot in sipping-while-moving right now, but which one is right for your life? Do they actually deliver on that all-day temperature control promise? Is that even important to you? Some of the more popular brands in this category of beverage container do not come cheap, which is why I wanted to give them a road-test to get a better sense of what benefits you’re paying for and which bottles perform best.

First, I tested 9 popular brands  (Corkcicle, Zojirushi, Aladdin, S’ip by S’well, Yeti, Stanley, Thermos, Hydro Flask, and Contigo)on how well they preserved cold temperatures. Then, I tested all but one of them (Aladdin) on how well they preserved warm temperatures. Here’s the breakdown of how I tested:

-I chose what seemed to be the average size offered on most of these, they range from 15 oz. to 25 oz. They all have some sort of insulation claim promising to keep cold beverages cold and hot beverages hot for an extended amount of time. I grabbed ones that could serve both hot and cold beverages (water, juice, coffee, etc.).

-I set the 9 vessels up on a counter by a window in our office. I placed 5 ounces of ice into each bottle at the beginning of the day and measured how much melted water had been released each hour for 6 hours (these hourly measurements are not cumulative). Then, left them overnight, surveying how much frozen ice remained and ending the test at roughly 22 hours.

-After emptying, I allowed the vessels to dry out completely and return to room temperature. I then filled each vessel with 10 ounces of hot (174° F) black coffee (freshly brewed from a Keurig), closed them, and returned them to the counter where they would sit, undisturbed for 7 hours. I chose not to monitor temperature hourly on these so not to keep opening the lid and exposing them to AC. Plus, the hot claim on most vessels entailed a notably shorter hourly promise, so the hourly monitoring and overnight test didn’t seem necessary or completely fair. I just wanted to get a solid broad gauge on the warmth maintenance (because a cup of coffee doesn’t last more than 30 minutes in my presence anyway).

And here’s the thing, in terms of keeping a beverage cold or warm in a typical real-life scenario, all of these bottles are comparable. But that’s good to know! Especially considering the difference in price tags. There are some clear pros and cons on all of these bottles, depending on what you plan to use it for, which I’ll go over below. Starting with what was, to me, the clear top choice.

 

TOP PICK: Corkcicle Canteen
Size: 16 oz.  Cold Claim: 25 hours  Hot Claim: 12 hours
Price: $27.95

 

Photo: Facebook.com/Corkcicle

Photo: Facebook.com/Corkcicle

 

How it Measured Up:

COLD TEST

  • After 1 hour: 3/4 tsp. water released
  • After 2 hours: 1 tsp. water released
  • After 3 hours: 1 tsp. water released
  • After 4 hours: 1 tsp. water released
  • After 5 hours: 11/4 tsp. water released
  • After 6 hours: 1 tsp. water released

Overnight: There was quite a bit of ice left in the bottle after 22 hours, just about half of what was originally placed into it; about 2 ounces of water was released from melting. This bottle maintained the most solid ice out of all the vessels tested after 22 hours.

HOT TEST

After 7 hours: Coffee measured 134° F

The Rundown: Full disclosure–I actually own this brand of canteen bottle in my real life and love it, but I initially selected this bottle for myself on aesthetic appeal alone. So, why am I highlighting this as the front-runner? Well, beyond still having the most ice to show at the end of the test, the Corkcicle Canteen was among the most consistent in terms of the rate at which the ice melted. If you take a look at the measures above, the canteen barely deviated from releasing about 1 teaspoon of water every hour during those first 6. To me, that consistency is indicative of an incredibly well-crafted insulation system. Additionally, it kept the coffee at the warmest temperature after 7 hours. Because of the shape of the vessel, I wouldn’t necessarily store coffee in the bottle we tested if I planned to sip directly from it, but Corkcicle also has a line of tumblers that feature the same insulation technology  and would be better for that application.

The Corkcicle Canteen is made from stainless steel with triple insulation and boasts a wide (ice cube-friendly mouth), flat easy-grip, no-sweat sides, and a no-slip bottom. These canteens are available in a variety of sizes: 9-ounce, the 16-ounce we tested with, 25-ounce, and 60-ounce. I personally own a 25 ounce, which is large enough both to keep me from getting up from my desk for a water refill every 20 minutes and to hold an entire bottle of wine (very handy if you’re trying to discreetly carry a chilled white with you somewhere). Obviously, we can’t ignore the aesthetic appeal of this brand–especially considering that’s what sucked me in to begin with. The sleek tapered design comes in an array of colors and finishes–from glossy pastels, to sophisticated mattes, to mod brushed copper and steel, to Murica-themed.

This isn’t the vessel you wanna send off with your 3rd grader, but it would be a really nice pick for a college student, and makes an awesome gift from yourself to yourself to keep as your standing office water bottle. I would not recommend this bottle for gym/workout purposes–the screw-top cap is not ideal to finagle with mid-run.

 

THE OTHERS:
(These are not necessarily listed in a ranked order.)

Zojirushi Travel Mug: Another consistent contender
Size: 16 oz.  Cold Claim: 6 hours  Hot Claim: 6 hours
Price: $39.99

 

Photo: Facebook.com/ZojirushiUSA

Photo: Facebook.com/ZojirushiUSA

 

How it Measured Up:

COLD TEST

  • After 1 hour: 3/4 tsp. water released
  • After 2 hours: 2 tsp. water released
  • After 3 hours: 2 tsp. water released
  • After 4 hours: 21/4 tsp. water released
  • After 5 hours: 2 tsp. water released
  • After 6 hours: 2 tsp. water released

Overnight: There was a fair amount of ice left at the end of the test; about 3 ounces of water was released from melting. Comparatively, this vessel maintained roughly the same amount of frozen ice as the Sip bottle–just a bit less than the Yeti and the Stanley.

HOT TEST

After 7 hours: Coffee measured 114° F

The Rundown: The Zojirushi Travel Mug also earns a gold star for consistency on the rate of ice melting. Again, to me, this is signature of an intentionally designed, high-quality product. The leak-proof, stainless steel Travel Mug features vacuum insulation, a safety lock on the lid to prevent accidental spills, and the combination of a wide mouth and a patented stain-proof SlickSteel interior coating that makes for super easy cleaning. Additionally,Zojirushi offers a 5-year warranty on this BPA-free vessel. The Travel Mug (available in 4 colors) is designed for on-the-go sipping, so if you’re getting your necessary beverages in while taking kiddos to school and/or commuting to the office, I’d say this particular brand and model is a great choice. The temperature integrity of your iced or hot coffee will be maintained even if you end up leaving it in the car for a while and it’s not about to splatter everywhere if you go over a drop-off line speed bump a little too aggressively. The same insulation is applied to Zojirushi’s other models of stainless steel vacuum bottles and mugs, major difference being with the “travel” designated lid.

 

Aladdin Twist and Sip Vacuum Water BottleMost practical
Size: 16 oz. Cold Claim: 20+ hours Hot Claim: 4+ hours
Price: $19.99

 

Photo: Target.com

Photo: Target.com

 

How it Measured Up:

COLD TEST

  • After 1 hour: 11/4 tsp. water released
  • After 2 hours: 11/4 tsp. water released
  • After 3 hours: 11/2 tsp. water released
  • After 4 hours: 2 tsp. water released
  • After 5 hours: 11/4 tsp. water released
  • After 6 hours: 2 tsp. water released

Overnight: A fair amount of ice was left in the bottle after 22 hours; about 21/2 ounces of water was released from melting. Comparatively, this vessel maintained roughly the same amount of frozen ice as the Yeti and the Stanley.

HOT TEST

As noted above, I skipped testing this bottle for warm beverages because its promise for hot beverage maintenance was notably low, plus the bottle/lid shape does not seem to best lend itself to hot sips.

The Rundown: So in terms of practicality, this bottle is an excellent pick. While it’s performance is comparable to the other big names in fancy portable drinkware, it comes in at a significantly lower price point (less tears shed if your kid forgets it at soccer practice), it’s dishwasher safe, the removable spout cap is attached to the lid so you don’t lose it, and it’s available at Target. This one is large for a lunchbox, but if you’re picking out a bottle for your kid in athletic extracurriculars (or if you’re grabbing a bottle for “yourself,” but really it’ll end up living in the tween’s gym bag), this is a reasonably-priced, high-performance choice.

 

S’ip by S’well: Cute and Practical
Size: 15 oz.  Cold Claim: unspecified  Hot Claim: unspecified
Price: $24.99

 

Photo: Target

Photo: Target.com

 

How it Measured Up:

COLD TEST

  • After 1 hour: 11/4 tsp. water released
  • After 2 hours: 11/4 tsp. water released
  • After 3 hours: 11/2 tsp. water released
  • After 4 hours: 2 tsp. water released
  • After 5 hours: 11/4 tsp. water released
  • After 6 hours: 2 tsp. water released

Overnight: As far as maintaining the ice overnight, the S’ip by S’well bottle came in right behind the Aladdin mentioned above; about 3 ounces of water was released from melting.

HOT TEST

After 7 hours: Coffee measured 119° F

The Rundown: This stainless steel bottle costs about 5 bucks more than the bottle above and I suspect that’s largely due to its aesthetic cool/cute factor. Also available at Target, this brand does not make specific hour promises about how long it will keep cold things cold and hot things hot (leaving it at the “vessel will keep beverages cold or hot longer than your average bottle), but instead places emphasis on how personality-driven their designs are. And hey, that’s real… I think these bottles have huge tween and teen appeal, and I know (based on reactions in the office) that young adults dig the style. Again, this lower-cost, BPA-free option definitely holds its own against the other vessels we tested, but it also has a super playful charm to it.

 

Yeti Rambler: Totally functional, but a little overrated
Size: 18 oz.  Cold Claim: unspecified  Hot Claim: unspecified
Price: $39.99

 

Facebook.com/Yeti

Facebook.com/Yeti

 

How it Measured Up:

COLD TEST

  • After 1 hour: 11/4 tsp. water released
  • After 2 hours: 2 tsp. water released
  • After 3 hours: 11/2 tsp. water released
  • After 4 hours: 11/2 tsp. water released
  • After 5 hours: 11/4 tsp. water released
  • After 6 hours: 2 tsp. water released

Overnight: A good bit of ice was left in the vessel after 22 hours; about 2 ounces of water was released from melting.

HOT TEST

After 7 hours: Coffee measured 122° F

The Rundown: Yes, the Yeti performs well, no doubt… but it is not miraculously superior to any of the other brands tested. The Yeti Rambler is tied with the Zojirushi Travel Mug for being the most expensive products here, and I will reiterate that what impressed me about the Zojirushi was its spot-on consistency with internal cool temperature maintenance and its especially user-friendly design features (i.e. the details in the lid, easy to clean interior, etc.). The Yeti’s price tag is assumedly justified by its unmatchable performance, but as we have seen–it’s a solid performer (the second highest in terms of keeping a beverage warm), but not a clear leader of the pack. Now, I may admittedly have some weird beef about this Yeti situation, but I feel like (a big) part of the appeal to buying a Yeti brand anything is the bro-tastic street cred that accompanies it. And the sticker, you also get a very nice Yeti sticker. That said, even if it does have an annoying brand loyalist following, this double wall vacuum-insulated stainless steel vessel is reliable. Marketed as a ruggedly tough bottle for outdoor activities, the Rambler is sweat-proof and puncture/rust-resistant. But in terms of retaining coolness, it performed at about the same level as the two designated “practical” options above. And for maintaining warmness, the Thermos brand (with is about $20 cheaper) is only 2 degrees behind. Point being, if you’re just in need of a new day-to-day insulated beverage vessel for around the house or office, or sharing with your kid at the pool on the weekend, my personal advice would be that a Yeti might not be worth the expense being that some less expensive (and more attractive) options will serve you just as well. If you are a dedicated brand-follower with no wallet restrictions when it comes to your outdoor gear, don’t let me rain on your parade–the Yeti is a solid enough choice. The 18-ounce Rambler bottle we tested with is the smallest option available, with 36-ounce and 64-ounce bottles being the next sizes up. I opted to test out the bottle over the tumbler simply for the fact that the bottle has a screw-on lid and the tumbler is just a metal cup that you have to buy a separate plastic sippy lid for.

 

Stanley Classic One-Hand Vacuum Mug: A slightly less expensive Yeti 
Size: 16 oz.  Cold Claim: 7 hours  Hot Claim: 7 hours
Price: $28.00

 

Photo: Facebook.com/Stanley

Photo: Facebook.com/Stanley

 

How it Measured Up:

COLD TEST

  • After 1 hour: 3/4 tsp. water released
  • After 2 hours: 21/4 tsp. water released
  • After 3 hours: 11/4 tsp. water released
  • After 4 hours: 11/4 tsp. water released
  • After 5 hours: 2 tsp. water released
  • After 6 hours: 2 tsp. water released

Overnight: A good bit of ice was left in the vessel after 22 hours; about 2 ounces of water was released from melting.

HOT TEST

After 7 hours: Coffee measured 115° F

The Rundown: Also a go-to name when it comes to high-performance beverage vessels, especially for outdoor activities. The Stanley Vacuum Mug is very much on the same playing field as the Yeti in terms of performance and rugged personality, but one obvious benefit of the Stanley is in the leak-proof lid that does not require you to remove it in order to sip from it. The well-designed lid locks in the internal temp of the container and simply requires only a thumb push of a button to open the valve for drinking (easily done with one hand–thus, the title). This lid disassembles and is dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning. BPA-free and rust resistant, the Stanley Classic comes in 3 outdoorsy as f*ck colors.

 

Thermos Stainless Steel Compact Beverage Bottle: A serious bargain
Size: 25 oz.  Cold Claim: 24 hours  Hot Claim: 18 hours
Price: $21. 99

Photo: Thermos.com

Photo: Thermos.com

How it Measured Up:

COLD TEST

  • After 1 hour: 1 tsp. water released
  • After 2 hours: 2 tsp. water released
  • After 3 hours: 1 tsp. water released
  • After 4 hours: 13/4 tsp. water released
  • After 5 hours: 11/4 tsp. water released
  • After 6 hours: 11/2 tsp. water released

Overnight: Quite a bit of ice left after 22 hours; about 2 ounces of water was released from melting. Comparatively, this vessel maintained just a bit less frozen ice than the Corkcicle Canteen and a little more than the Yeti and the Stanley.

HOT TEST

After 7 hours: Coffee measured 120° F

The Rundown: I probably should have mentioned this guy sooner, because I would call the Thermos the all-around best bargain of the bunch in this test. I went with the 25-ounce bottle as it was the only size left when I went by Target (there is also a 16-ounce, a 34-ounce, and a 61-ounce version of this bottle), but even being the largest and one of the top-performing vessels I looked at, it bears the third cheapest price tag of the group. In terms of maintaining cool internal temperature, the Thermos came in right under my top pick (which also had consistency and aesthetics on its side). Super lightweight and equipped with a built-in stainless steel cup for pouring our you beverage (I’d assume this is more pertinent for piping hot beverages) this is definitely a good pick to accommodate any sort of outdoor activity–from camping trips to an entire day sitting out at the ball park for little league games. I’d say for an active individual or family, this is definitely a worthwhile all-purpose bottle to add to your home arsenal. It’s not exactly the most stylish or easy sipping option if you’re just going for an office beverage container.

 

Hydro Flask Coffee Mouth: Meh
Size: 20 oz. Cold Claim: up to 24 hours  Hot Claim: up to 6 hours
Price: $27.95

 

Photo: Facebook.com/HydroFlask

Photo: Facebook.com/HydroFlask

 

How it Measured Up:

COLD TEST

  • After 1 hour: ¼ tsp. water released
  • After 2 hours: 2 ¾ tsp. water released
  • After 3 hours: 1 tsp. water released
  • After 4 hours: 21/4 tsp. water released
  • After 5 hours: 3 tsp. water released
  • After 6 hours: 2 tsp. water released

Overnight: There was about 2 small soft and drippy pieces of ice left after 22 hours; about 4 ounces of water was released from melting.

HOT TEST

After 7 hours: Coffee measured 104° F

The Rundown: For the price and the reputation, I expected this bottle to do better. But compared to its competition, the Hydro Flask did pretty piss poor. That said, it’s fine for typical use… as in it will keep your water cold, your coffee warm enough, and if you don’t take 22 hours to drink an iced coffee, you’re probably gonna be OK. I’d just say this vessel does not necessarily feature the greatest insulation design. The Hydro Flask offers a lifetime warranty and comes in a variety of sizes, mouth sizes, and “Life is Good“-compatible colors.

 

Contigo Snapseal ByronYou get what you paid for
Size: 20 oz.  Cold Claim: 18 hours  Hot Claim: 7 hours
Price: $12.99

 

Photo: Target.com

Photo: Target.com

 

How it Measured Up:

COLD TEST

  • After 1 hour: ¼ tsp. water released
  • After 2 hours: 2 tsp. water released
  • After 3 hours: 3 ¼ tsp. water released
  • After 4 hours: 3 tsp. water released
  • After 5 hours: 2 tsp. water released
  • After 6 hours: 1 tsp. water released

Overnight: No ice left after 24 hours; a little over 4 ounces of water was released from melting.

HOT TEST

After 7 hours: Coffee measured 100° F

The Rundown: OK, so this one only left us with water in the morning… but, it was very cold water, at least. And yes, it had the lowest final coffee temp (but only by 4 degrees under the Hydro Flask). To be completely fair, I put this option in with competition that was a little out of its league. The stainless steel travel mug does not feature vacuum insulation like the other options, but still held its own. And the Contigo does have a good leak-proof lid situation (clearly, I’m all about a good lid situation) that’s dishwasher safe. It’s stylish, has a nice rubber grip band, offers a lifetime satisfaction guarantee…and again, it’s only 13 bucks. It’s a solid to-go cup for your beverages if you’re just trying to grab something basic without overthinking it on a Target run. With chic brushed copper-colored finish, the one we picked up for testing really is an attractive vessel.

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