Gear Review: Generic coffee mug from Krogers

When I am out on extended thru-hikes, I pack minimally.

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.

In Canyonlands , November 2009.

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.

With Cafe’ Bustelo. At 16.5 cents ea, when purchased in bulk, a fine compromise between price and convenience.

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.

Yes, I’ve been using this photo for many articles lately.

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.

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4 years ago

i have the gsi mug. the nylon cozy does a fair job of insulation and it’s a nice shape for slurping ramen.

4 years ago

Got mine for about 50 cents at Goodwill.

Vic Hanson
Vic Hanson
4 years ago

I got one that looks just like that at a Dollar store for a buck, works great.

Jeremy Werlin
Jeremy Werlin
3 years ago

In the spirit of sawing off my toothbrush handle and tying helium balloons to the pack, I tried lightening my mug by drilling two dozen holes or so with a 9/64″ high speed bit on a Delta 18-900L drill press. Not recommended.