What We Like
Effective autolock and anti-spill lid
Can be locked and unlocked with one hand
Keeps drinks hot/cold for hours
What We Don't Like
A little wide for smaller hands
Plastic lid seems prone to breakage
Bottle isn’t dishwasher safe (the lid is, though)
If you like to sip coffee or tea on your way to work—and you’re all too familiar with the horror of spilling a hot drink all over your desk or (ack!) your laptop—you’ve probably looked into travel mugs. Specialty travel mugs, like the Contigo Autoseal West Loop Stainless Steel Travel Mug, have lids to prevent drips and spills and are usually designed to keep liquids hot for much longer than a standard mug. To see if the Contigo delivered on its promise of being leak-free and temperature-maintaining, we put it to the test for a few weeks. Read on for everything we discovered.
Design: Pretty sophisticated, actually
While the Contigo’s outward appearance is pretty standard for a travel mug, there are a handful of welcome features hidden within. The mug is vacuum insulated, meaning that it’s comprised of two layers of stainless steel and the space between the layers has been voided of air, leaving an empty channel that doesn’t conduct heat well. This technology is what allows the mug to keep drinks hot (or cold) for so long, and explains why the mug doesn’t burn your hand when filled with hot liquids. Contigo calls this their Thermalock system, and claims the mug can keep drinks hot for seven hours.
In our testing, the Contigo performed even better than promised. When filled with hot coffee, the mug maintained high heat for roughly three hours. Though the coffee slightly cooled after that, it was still warm enough to drink for another three to four hours. When filled with ice water, the Contigo kept it cool enough to maintain the ice cubes for 12 hours. Even 20 hours later, when we checked back in, the water was still very cold.
The Contigo performed even better than promised.
The mug’s most sophisticated features are hidden in the lid, though. Rather than having a flip top, there’s a small hole with auto-seal technology. This means the hole stays closed unless the user presses and holds the lid’s button. This technology worked extremely well in our testing. To add even more assurance against spills, the lid has a second lock that can be depressed. This lock prevents the spout button from accidentally being engaged. With this lock engaged, we were able to fill the mug with coffee and carry it around in a bag all day without any leakage.
In terms of downsides, there are only a few minor issues. Firstly, the 20-ounce size is a bit wide for smaller hands to hold comfortably. Secondly, the lid’s complex construction is made of plastic pieces and springs, which has us wondering how long it’ll be able to withstand heavy use—especially if tossed in a backpack or backseat. Finally, we found that the sipping spout would occasionally splash a few droplets of our drink when unlocked—but this almost always happened if it had been bumped around beforehand.
Material: Stainless steel and BPA-free plastics
The Contigo Autoseal Stainless Steel Travel Mug is designed with two layers of stainless steel and a BPA-free plastic lid. A few Amazon reviewers reported issues with the exterior paint chipping or flaking, but we chose the stainless steel version, so weren’t able to test that particular issue.
Cleaning: A bit complicated for a mug
Unless you’ve chosen the non-painted stainless steel version of the mug, it’s not dishwasher safe. However, the lid can be washed in the dishwasher, provided you put it on the top rack.
If you’re washing the Contigo by hand, be prepared for a bit of an inconvenience as it comes with very specific washing instructions. To wash the lid in the sink, it’s advised that you submerge it completely in hot, soapy water for around 10 minutes before washing and rinsing it by hand. Contigo suggests that you should give the mug a thorough washing immediately after each use, but if buyers are anything like us, that won’t always happen; it may be simply run under water in an office sink during the weekdays. We found that a thorough daily rinse was enough to remove any stains or coffee grounds, but it’s worth noting that Contigo does not advise this as it could lead to build-up or mildew.
If you’re washing the Contigo by hand, be prepared for a bit of an inconvenience.
The locking mechanism built into the lid is somewhat complex, but fortunately, Contigo deisgned the parts for easy cleaning. There’s a small tab on the underside of the lid that pulls up, providing easier access to the parts inside the lid.
Price: Very affordable
The Contigo travel mug is available in 16, 20, and 24 ounce sizes. Each will run you just a little more or less than $20. Making a small investment in one of these mugs and making coffee at home is a financially savvy move for those trying to avoid the cost of daily Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts runs.
Contigo Autoseal West Look Stainless Steel Travel Mug vs. Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug
The Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug is pretty comparable to the Contigo and just $5 more expensive. It retains heat for just as long as its competitor, and is cooler to the touch than the Contigo when filled with a hot beverage. Though it does have a flip top, unlike Contigo’s auto-seal technology, the Zojirushi is just as leak-proof. It’s also available in a variety of colors, from smoky blue and lavendar pink to champagne gold and stainless steel. It comes in 12- and 16-ounce options, so if you’re looking for capacity, you may want to go with the Contigo.
- Product Name Autoseal West Loop Stainless Steel Travel Mug
- Product Brand Contigo
- MPN 70121-AMZ
- Price $19.99
- Weight 8.6 oz.
- Product Dimensions 2.8 x 3.5 x 10.4 in.
- Color Biscay Bay, black, bright lavendar, chard, dark plum, deep blue, earl grey, jade, latte, Monaco, passion fruit, polar white, violet, stormy weather, stainless steel, radiant orchid
- Material Stainless steel and BPA-free plastic
- Warranty Limited lifetime guarantee (excludes regular wear and tear)