The word “Thermos” has become the pop-culture moniker for any and all vacuum insulated food and beverage container, but it is actually the name of a company founded in Germany in 1904 that developed the world’s first stainless steel vacuum bottle in 1978. Today, the company operates in Japan, U.K., Canada, and Australia under the name Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corporation. “Thermos” is now a generic trademark, which gave them free advertising and established the word as a staple in modern U.S. English.
I had a real Thermos and matching lunchbox growing up. It was so cool that the top became a mug that I could eat Campbell’s chicken noodle soup out of. Now there are so many vacuum flasks to choose from, and I feel in danger of becoming a compulsive consumer of all sorts of sizes, shapes, and colors. As such, I put my travel mugs and containers through some strenuous paces. There aren’t many that can withstand the rigors of owning an outdoor mobile coffee business, or keep out the dirt and keep in the ice during long days in a market garden.
One of the most classic insulated flasks born and made famous in the U.S. is the Stanley all-steel vacuum bottle, invented in 1913. This and the Thermos are still reliable, go-to bottles to this day. The modern upstarts include Yeti, notable for its coolers but making waves with its food containers, Hydro Flask, Klean Kanteen, Zojirushi, and CamelBak, the company that revolutionized how we drink water on the trail. How you recreate will probably determine what you buy; for me, durability is paramount. My 32-ounce Wide Mouth Hydro Flask bottle has more dents and scratches than any other mug I own, and yet it just continues to do what I ask it to—it keeps my smoothies cold and my coffee hot.
In recent years, many of these companies have also added sleek and effective “food flasks” (Hydro Flask), insulated “jars” (Thermos), and “vacuum tumblers” (Yeti) to their lineups. Crafted specifically for foods, these designs keep your grandmother’s chicken soup warm until lunchtime.
Coffee, too, has certainly brought a wealth of thermal mugs and cups to the market. My favorite company at the moment is Miir. Not only do they have outstanding design and durability, but every product they sell also funds a giving project, like the Boise Bicycle Project; a water project in Kalkata, India; and the implementation of 40 water, toilet, and hygiene education projects in Demra, Bangladesh. Now that’s a company that I can raise a mug to. //