06 March 2009

Travel cup/mug comparison

When we travel we often eat in our room, for convenience when kids are tired at the end of the day, and would be too grumpy to eat out. Because of this we take a "picnic set" of sorts with us, consisting of 4 bowls, 4 plates, 4 mugs, disposable cutlery and a chopping mat.

While what we took last time worked ok, we are always interested to know if we can do better: either lighter or take up less space.

Whatever we consider, it has to be suitable for adults to eat off with it sitting on their laps, and unlikely to be easily knocked over by young children. You know how they get distracted, turn around, and - OOPS! - there goes the dinner/drink onto the floor!

Today I'm going to do a cup/mug comparison. Our criteria are as follows:
  • can take hot liquids, for John's cups of tea and my hot chocolates
  • are stable enough not to be easily knocked over
  • are as light as possible
  • are as compact as possible
  • can be successfully picked up by the kids
  • can be moved across the room from where the food is served to where it will be consumed, without squashing and spilling
Last time we took a set of 4 plastic mugs from Kathmandu with us (see below). Having taken our scales with us all around our local shops, these were the lightest that we could find. They weighed only 31g each but don't stack very compactly, measuring 15 x 8 x 10cm when stacked. They came in a plastic carry case, but we did not take them in it - unnecessary extra weight! We just put them in a long tube plastic bag (one that the newspaper was delivered in, actually!) to keep them together.
The stats: weight: 31g/1.1oz | dimensions: 10 x 8 x 6cm/4 x 3 x 2.5" | capacity: 150ml/5 fl oz | plastic

Since then, in my online travels, I have found the following options:
  • Fold a cup: These cups are apparently standard issue to the Swedish and Norwegian armies. They are sturdy, solid looking and unbreakable. Reviews from people who have had them for years and years say that they last and last really well. They look to be extremely stable.
    The stats: weight: 28g/1oz | dimensions: (closed) 2.5 x 9cm/1 x 3.5" | capacity: 200ml/7 fl oz | crush-proof plastic

  • Flatterware collapsible cup: I'm sorry, but I've never though that these sound like a very successful idea. I just think surely they must leak? They look reasonably stable, because of their base, but I'd be almost sure that kiddie fingers would experiment with collapsing them with their drink still in it... Too much of a temptation, I'd say! However, if you were just using them to take your daily medication with, they'd probably be fine - because you're not likely to keep it full for very long, so they wouldn't have much time to leak.
    The stats: weight: 85g/3oz | dimensions: (closed) 3 x 9cm/1.25 x 3.5" | capacity: 350ml/12 fl oz | material: plastic

  • Light My Fire spill-free cup: These cups have a lid that you can use to make the cup spill proof. The lid, which has a sip spout, is attached by a cord, so you won't lose it. It has lines marking 100, 200 and 300ml. Because they are quite squat, they look very stable. They are microwave safe - a plus if you happen to encounter a microwave when you are travelling! I do wonder about the usefulness of the "handle" for holding it, though I suppose big hands could hold it around its body - little hands might not be able to.
    The stats: weight: 65g/2.4oz | dimensions: 15 x 11 x 5cm/5.75 x 4.5 x 1.9" | capacity: 300ml/10 fl oz | material: polypropylene

  • Guyot Designs squishy bowl & cup set: These come in a set with bowl and cup - you can't buy them separately. They're squishy, so they're obviously not going to break, and you can fit them in the spaces in your luggage. They look like they'd be reasonably stable on the table. As for little hands picking them up, I would hope that they are not too squishy - hopefully the kids wouldn't just pick them up and accidentally squeeze everything out all over themselves! They're made from silicone, so they're heat resistant. (Picture from www.guyotdesigns.com)
    The stats (cup only): weight: 48g/1.7oz | dimensions: 6 x 9cm/2.45 x 3.45" | capacity: 200ml/6 fl oz | material: food grade silicone

  • Orikaso mug: These are just the most amazing idea! A piece of plastic that folds up into a mug. Wow - that's origami for you! They are very lightweight, and when unconstructed can be completely flat (though I'd say the plastic would have a bit of memory along the folds). I'd be concerned about a couple of things: that they would conduct heat too well, making them difficult to hold comfortably despite the handle, and that they're so lightweight that they'd be easy to knock off the table if only partly full.
    The stats: weight: 85g/1.9oz | dimensions: 11.5 x 10.5 x 9.5cm/4.5 x 4.25 x 3.75" (constructed), 25 x 24.5cm/10 x 9.75" (flat)| capacity: 200ml/6 fl oz | material: polypropylene

  • Sea to Summit X mug: These mugs are made of silicone and collapse concertina-style to form a flattish disc. The mug has a hard plastic ring so that it maintains its shape, especially when you pick it up. The ring is the part you hold if it contains hot drinks, though being silicone it would be pretty heat resistant anyway. The base is reasonably wide, so should be fairly stable. It would be interesting to see if these have too large a diameter for the kids to pick up easily. These cups could possibly double as a breakfast bowl, having by far the largest capacity of all the cups compared here.
    The stats: weight: 60g/2.1oz | dimensions: 11 x 11 x 7.5cm/4.5 x 4.5 x 3" (expanded), 11 x 11 x 1.5cm/4.5 x 4.5 x 0.6" (flat)| capacity: 480ml/0.5 quarts | material: silicone
Well, that's my list. Please feel free to add your suggestions for other cup/mugs and any reviews of any of these products in the comments section.

I'm still really undecided about which is our best option. I think perhaps my ideal solution doesn't exist yet. All of the above cups and mugs have their good points and bad points. I think I'll have to get back to you.

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