Look, we don’t ask much from a budget travel mug — just a vessel that’s reliable and leak-proof, with enough insulating power to keep drinks at a stable temperature for a couple of hours, or however long it takes you to get to work. Easy enough, right? Wellllll…many options in the low-end price range can’t even do that.
But after many a caffeine-fueled debate, we believe the Contigo SnapSeal Byron Travel Mug offers all those important features, not to mention a nifty lid design atypical of its modest price. Granted, a few testers noted the mug looks “generic,” but what the SnapSeal may lack in style, it makes up for in performance and value.
A great travel mug should be able to go the distance, and the first thing we learned is if you’re looking to spend less, you don’t have to settle for something made of plastic (see: Bodum and Oxo). While low-priced travel mugs with plastic bodies may be tempting, they simply won’t last. Plus, they retain flavors and odors, which makes ’em a bit trickier to clean. What you want instead is stainless steel, and luckily that’s what you get with the SnapSeal Byron. Another big advantage of stainless steel: It’ll keep your liquids hotter longer than anything else.
To test how long each mug would keep liquids piping hot, we filled each travel mug with hot water and kept track of the temperature throughout the day. The SnapSeal Byron, which fared the best out of the budget range, began with a temp of 170ºF that, after an hour, dropped to 137º before going down to 113º after three hours, and 100º at the five-hour mark.
The SnapSeal takes its name from the lid, which features a seemingly simple but surprisingly useful design that requires drinkers to “snap” a tab to open the sipping hole. When thirst is quenched, the tab snaps back into place with an audible click, thus sealing the mug back to its leak-proof state. The action takes some effort depending on your hand strength, but we were able to pop the seal with a swift flick of the index finger. Let’s just say it’s easy to operate, but not so easy that we were afraid it might accidentally open when thrown into a bag.
Once you’re accustomed to how the lid works, you’ll be able to manage the mug one-handed, which is a blessing if you drive to work or commute through crowded spaces. For the most part, the sipping hole, which features a curved design to match the contour of one’s lips, provides a pleasant drinking experience. While most testers approved of the design, some sensitive drinkers wished for a more room around the brim so their lips didn’t press up against the plastic, citing the lid nearly burned their top lip.
So if you’re ultra sensitive to hot (or cold), or if you prefer an option with a traditional lid, we recommend our $ runner-up, the Mira Stainless Steel Travel Mug. This travel mug, affectionately described by our testers as “the gas station mug, perfected,” offers more room for your lips while you drink, and a simpler lid means fewer moving parts, which decreases the chance of the sealing mechanism breaking or malfunctioning. For what it’s worth, the Mira came in just behind Contigo in our heat retention test, but the decision ultimately came down to the fact that the SnapSeal offers a better overall travel mug at a lower price.
Chalk up the win to the SnapSeal Byron’s wide, streamlined silhouette that feels substantial in hand. A rubber grip makes it easy to hold, while adding a shot of texture around the glossy body, which is available in several colors (depending on what’s in stock at the moment). More notable features include a wide mouth, which makes it easier to fill and clean, and a top-rack dishwasher-safe lid. The SnapSeal also fits under a Keurig single-use coffee maker and snugly in most, if not all, car cup holders.
Between its tolerable heat retention abilities, wide mouth, and functional lid design, we’d recommend this travel mug even if it were double the price. Luckily for everyone, it’s not. When it comes to the best price and value, there’s no better deal than the Contigo SnapSeal Byron.