– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

The search for a perfect mug

Inspired by Hendrik’s post about the quest for the one rucksack to rule them all, I thought I might share my quest for perfect gear.

It seems that I’m obsessed about the idea of finding the perfect piece of equipment of each job. It is not an easy job as there are at least three factors that should be taken into account: weight, durability and function. The latter likely including also the aesthetics and style. Unfortunately, or luckily, I have only limited financial resources to accomplish this quest so I mainly settle with desk top research and get to extensive comparative field studies only with cheap stuff, like mugs!

Some of the findings along the quest for the perfect mug.

I have used and tried likely over dozen of different mugs and cups in the search for the ultimate drinking vessel. I use my mug mainly for drinking hot drinks but also for occasional cold drink, as a bowl for eating breakfast or desserts, as a bowl for mixing some special things (like the filling for my birthday cake in Svalbard) and as a vessel if i pick berries en route. So, a good mug should shine in many things in addition of being light and durable.

My requirements for the perfect mug would be about the following:
– durable enough (for not needing to worry about it)
– big enough for occasional morning oat meal (i.e over 400ml)
– shaped like a mug (i.e. taller than it’s diameter)

As I said, I’ve tried a bunch of mugs and found few of them good and many of them lacking in some of the requirements. For example in winter a thermos bottle cap would be good in durability, in weight (I carry it any way) and it’s also slightly insulated but it’s way too small even for a proper hot drink. The cap from a food thermos is better size-wise but the shape isn’t optimal (drinks cool too quickly) and I don’t usually carry a food thermos any more. Many of the cups I’ve tried are otherwise good but too small. For example I’ve had a traditional Finnish wooden kuksa but I lost it some 7 or 8 years ago and haven’t bothered getting a new one. I’ve also tried the much buzzed Kupilka which has its advatages over wooden cup but it’s still too small. Then some of the lightest cups, like an empty yoghurt cup, are too fragile in addition to being too small. An empty 500g coffee bag makes an interesting and easily packable mug but it’s very flimsy to use. The green army surplus cup was close to perfection but shape was wrong. To give you a good idea I made a comparison chart of the mugs in the picture above. In addition the chart includes my old MYOG mug.

Assortment of mugs, bowls and pots doing what they are made for: helping to make kayakers happy after a long day of paddling.

The best cups I’ve tried this far are my old MYOG mug and its a close commercial counterpart the Sea to Summit Delta Insulmug. The first one was a light MYOG mug made of cheese cube cup. The plastic cup itself was a bit too flimsy when filled with hot water so I added an insulating sheath made of CCF pad with help of some tape. The cup had also a lid and the entire thing was waterproof as I didn’t make a sipping hole in the lid. The volume was 410ml and weight about 40 grams. It was also durable enough but for some reason the plastic seemed to absorb all the tastes and smells it encountered, resulting in very interesting experiences when using it! After the taste and smell got bad enough I ditched it…

The near perfect MYOG mug absorbing Jäger tea aromas...

… and bought a Sea to Summit Delta Insulmug as a replacement. It’s quite similar to my MYOG mug. It consists of three-part: 68 gram cup with volume of 480ml, insulating sleeve weighting about 31 gram and lid with sipping hole weighting about 18 gram. 116 gram all together so it is a bit on the heavy side but otherwise it’s perfect. It has also internal volume markings (something that would have been easy to do also in the MYOG mug). On warm summer trips I usually leave the lid ans insulating sleeve home and take only the cup. So in addition to full filling about all my requirements it’s also modular. The only problem is that the insulation sleeve seems to shrink in use.

But as I told before, I’m plagued with eternal quest for even better gear and the cup is already waiting for field tests. That one is GSI Cascadian mug. It will be mainly for summer use as the handle would interfere with an insulating sleeve.

I’d also like to test a proper titanium mug, maybe a monstrous size like 750ml version as it could double as a cooking pot on solo trips and would be about as light as my Sea to Summit mug with all the parts. Or maybe I should change my attitude and settle with the stuff that works and spend the time and energy into doing something useful instead?

So, what is your mug of choise?


3 responses to “The search for a perfect mug

  1. Outsider/Yeti 21/05/2011 at 13:13

    “Paras ratkaisu on jokaisen hyvän ratkaisun pahin vihollinen”, the best solution is the worst enemy of every good solution. This probably relates more to cost effectiveness and such things, though.

    I’ve tried to use a alu cooking pot as a mug, but is it not optimal: It burns the lips, but titanium should of course work better for this.

    I’m currently fairly satisfied with the Kupilka 21 mug. It fits an Eloveena porridge portion and is good for coffeeas well. But it could be a little bigger still, maybe around 4 dl would be optimal.

  2. korpijaakko 21/05/2011 at 14:32

    I agree the 4dl range is somewhat optimal size and it can fit a double Elovena oat meal.

    And the old wisdom about best solutions ruining all the good solutions is true. I think that in the end it’s a matter of attitude. Some people seem to be very satisfied with their clearly sub-optimal gear. That’s a gift I don’t have…

  3. Slimms 17/03/2012 at 06:16

    Thanks for checking out my blog, I am a bit of a gear junkie myself, although I usually find myself on more of a junky gear budget LOL. I will for sure be keeping an eye out on my Delta, I knew I did not like something about the removable insulator.

    I will be posting some info on a new knife I recently got that you may like so check back in soon.

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