A primary goal of the trip is to cover the distance at a set period between supplies.
As my thru-hikes tend to be solo affairs, my mornings aren’t leisurely, I often “cold turkey” in getting off caffeine in addition to doing all my meals cold. I’ll do a hot drink at night if the nights are longer and getting cooler such as later fall. But I won’t take a mug; I’ll just sip from my water bottle or even a cook pot.
However, I’ve quite probably spent more time in the backcountry on shorter trips in aggregate that all the “thru-hikes” combined.
And on these trips, they can range from quick overnighters where I just want to get out for a night, or at a pace similar to my extended walks.
And as part of these trips? I often do my morning coffee or a hot drink at night, usually with a dollop of “something, something” to bring in the evening.
And though I can go minimalist, the goals on these trips are different. So I take a mug. But which mug to bring?
I could go high end and bring a $45 mug, or perhaps my trusty Contigo mug, but with a significant weight penalty. Another option is an extreme dirtbag option and take a non-insulated empty yogurt cup or similar. But when the weather is colder, and I take these types of trips, the dirt bagger option does not make sense.
So I split the difference.
And what mug do I take? A generic plastic coffee mug found at any gas station, convenience store, or grocery store.
My favorite one for many years ended up being a Shell mug I bought during some late-night jaunt after work trying to get to a trailhead.
Light, held coffee, kept my coffee hot enough for the thirty-minutes or less I’d be drinking a beverage, and if I ever backpacked the Camino, the shell symbol would fit right in, of course.
Alas, I lost it at some point during a move.
So what to get? What mug will fit backpacking trips that are more about nights spent in the backcountry than hours hiked?
Simple: I went to King Soopers, bought a 16 oz mug, and I’ve enjoyed caffeinated and more-than-occasional cider whiskey bliss since sometime in 2010. I forget what I paid for it, but I suspect similar in price to this equally generic mug for $8 from Amazon.
But I did not write this review to extol the virtues of my cheap mug. Well, OK, maybe a little bit…
Instead, I continue to find it surprising how “real” backpacking gear ends up not necessarily being the correct choice for all circumstances.
For grins, I weighed this Kroger mug the other day. The 16 oz mug that I paid $10 or less about a decade ago weighs all of 4.5 oz.
Trolling the REI website, I see a Snow Peak Titanium Double Wall 450 Mug with no lid for $35, slightly smaller capacity, and 4.25 oz. But, perhaps you want to be hip? You could purchase a Hydroflask mug for $30 weighing 11 oz. There is a similarly sized mug from GSI for only $11 and 3.5 oz, but it not an actual insulated mug. My hot coffee becomes lukewarm too quickly during the heart of winter.
So, I’ll stick with my sub-$10, 4.5 ounces, an insulated mug that is now a decade old. Want to save more weight? Per our scale, you can shave .5 oz without the silicone holder to make a 4 oz mug or an additional .5 oz sans the lid if you wish to get to 3.5 oz.
It keeps my drinks hot for cold-weather trips, it fits in my pack, and if I lose it, I know I can go to my local grocery store, gas station, or convenience store and find one just like it. No special stop at a gear store needed.