Last Man Standing — Vacuum Bottle Comparo


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | December 11, 2014      

UPDATED WITH PART TWO — ZOJIRUSHI

Thermos brand 450 ml to left, Stanley 500 ML to right.

Thermos brand 450 ml to left, Stanley 500 ML to right.

Vacuum bottles die. You drop or dent one, next thing you know your coffee is lukewarm when you need it hitting your tongue like a Baja sunrise. The other day I went through our bottle stash, tested our smaller thermoses, and not one of them worked (due to getting beat up and damaged over months and years). Figured that made for a possible review of some new acquisitions. Rather than search far and wide for bottles, I donned my everyman shopper hat and simply bought two of the easiest to find at my favorite etailers. My shopathon had simple criteria. The vacuum bottles needed a cup-cap, good reputation, and be around half a liter in capacity.

Testing these things is easy. Just pre-heat equally, fill, and measure temps a few times over a long enough span to see some differences. While both bottles held heat enough to remain pleasantly hot over your basic 4 to 7 hour ski tour, I was surprised to find the Stanley falling behind by several degrees after 4 hours, and coming in about 7 degrees behind after 10 hours. Strange because the larger the thermos bottle the less surface area per unit volume, and it’s thus potentially more efficient. The difference could be because the Stanley has a larger-longer neck under the cap (that area is relatively uninsulated in both units), or it lacks good reflective coatings on the internals to prevent radiant heat loss.

The Stanley weighs 410 grams, 14.42 ounces, and the Thermos brand bottle weights 332 grams, 11.6 ounces while holding just 2 fluid ounces 50 ml) less tea. To me the case is clear, I’ll favor the Thermos brand bottle: a few ounces less weight and a few degrees warmer tea. (I measured capacity with a measuring cup; published specifications may be slightly different.)

Shopping for vacuum bottles is tricky. Every factory in China must be making them — with quality all over the map. More, many of them appear to be sold under different brand marks. I could be wrong, but I’m thinking by purchasing the branded Thermos option you get better odds of it lasting and holding heat. I got mine on Amazon (same item as link to right), please comment on other sources, models and brands if you’ve found something that works well.

Other thoughts: The Stanley appears to be less prone to damage (reason for some of the added weight). Both might have warranties that would be useful if they stop working correctly, you never know till you try.

Part 2: Zojirushi

Zojirushi 500 ml vacuum bottle, right, paired with Thermos brand 500 ml to left.

Zojirushi, right, paired with Thermos brand to left.

Thanks to our terrific WildSnow commenters, I got my attention directed to the Zojirushi vacuum bottles. So I ordered up the the 500 ml and the 350 ml little guy off Amazon (see links below). The 500 is noticeably lighter than the Thermos brand of same volume (apparently there are two models/weights of the 500, I got the lighter one). Metrics: Zojirushi 500 ml masses at 278 gr (9.8 ounces), that’s nearly two ounces less than the Thermos brand bottle of the same volume. Surprising. Zoji is also shorter, with virtually the same diameter (differences in vacuum spaces and such probably allow smaller dimensions.) I’m not sure I’m convinced on the Zojurushi mechanical pour stopper-cap. It’s kinda’ techie cool, but probably not the thing you want on an expedition when small gear failures create big consequences. For day ski-tours, however, the mechanical cap is convenient and holds in heat as opposed to removing a screw plug-cap. Note the Zoji bottle does not have internal cap threads, so you can’t swap on another stopper.

Zojirushi pour cap in sealed configuration. I've not had any leaks in testing.

Zojirushi pour cap in sealed configuration. No leaks so far. Push the red button and the small flap-cap pops open. Impress your friends with your techno bottle.

Zojirushi ready to pour, to close  press the tab protruding to right.

Zojirushi ready to pour, to close press the tab protruding to right.

Heat comparo between Zojirushi and Thermos was interesting.

Heat comparo between Zojirushi and Thermos was interesting. I preheated both bottles, then filled with tea water at same temperature. After overnighting outside the Zoji was 134 degrees F while the Thermos held 138 degrees. During a normal day of ski touring that would make the bottles virtually the same, while over longer periods the Thermos brand would win.

Zojirushi Tuff Slim 17-Ounce Stainless-Steel Vacuum Bottle

Zojirushi SVGG35XA Tuff Slim Stainless Vacuum Bottle, 12-Ounce MINI SIZE, Stainless Steel



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Comments

49 Responses to “Last Man Standing — Vacuum Bottle Comparo”

  1. Ralph December 5th, 2014 9:40 am

    I’ve had a 1 liter REI aluminum vacuum bottle for many years. Still working great. A year back I decided to purchase a second one for before/after tour.

    So I purchased the current REI model- which unfortunately had a thinner, longer shape. Having more surface area, I assumed it would cool off faster, and indeed it did. My old one holds heat well for up to 24 hours (depending on outside temp) while the newer one was around 10 degrees colder (don’t quite recall) by the end of my test.

    I returned that bottle and am (not actively) looking for a new one- now I have an infrared thermometer to test with..

    -RL

  2. See December 5th, 2014 10:43 am

    I did a quick search and it appears that the rare titanium Thermos is back in production. So if any one wants to spend 10 times as much to save 2 ounces (and ship from Japan), have at it. After all, “Thermos titanium bottle is a perfect gear for a real mountaineers.” It says so right on the bottle.

  3. Ben December 5th, 2014 10:55 am

    I’m in love with my Primus vacuum bottle, it does a great job keeping the temps up and it comes with 2 different kinds of caps, one that is easy to drink out of directly and a 2nd for pouring into the lid. It also has a black textured coating that makes it easy to grip with gloves.

  4. RandoSwede December 5th, 2014 12:04 pm

    Black Diamond used to sell a Zojirushi thermos. Mine is way over 10 years old, beat to heck and still works great. It looks like a bullet and I see on Amazon it’s called Tough Slim or something like that. Not sure of the current quality but I couldn’t be happier with that old one.

  5. Clyde December 5th, 2014 12:23 pm

    Zojirushi has far better lids than Thermos (one-handed operation, easy with gloves) and the wide mouth makes cleaning easier. Snowpeak makes a titanium bottle but it appears to be a poor design for heat retention.

  6. TimZ December 5th, 2014 12:35 pm

    I second the Zojirushi. I’m surprised at the lack of coverage by many, but I’ve had nothing but amazing experiences with their tuff slim bottles. They are very compact and lightweight for their volume and keep contents hot longer than other vacuum bottles as well.
    The stopper can get a bit gunky and hard to clean, but it has a great pour. The lid is essential since contents are always too hot to drink directly from the bottle.

  7. Lou Dawson 2 December 5th, 2014 12:40 pm

    Amazon links for Zojirushi please.

  8. TimZ December 5th, 2014 12:49 pm

    http://www.amazon.com/Zojirushi-SVGG50AH-Stainless-17-Ounce-Metallic/dp/B0030KX2VG/ref=sr_1_9?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1417808937&sr=1-9&keywords=zojirushi+bottle

    I have both the 12 and 17oz bottles. 17 is generally more useful, but for a small amount of coffee, etc the 12 is convenient.

  9. Kyle December 5th, 2014 2:38 pm

    I love the Hydroflask bottles – slightly more expensive and no cup lid, but they work. They seem to be much lower profile per volume than others, they have very thin walls and lid but it doesn’t seem to compromise insulation. I’ve filled it with coffee in the early AM and it was still too hot to drink at lunchtime. Also filled one with beer once at 6PM, and after sitting in the tent overnight and in the hot car all day while mountain biking it was still pleasantly cold at 1PM the next day. They also come in tons of shapes/sizes/colors

    http://www.hydroflask.com/products/hydro-flask-insulated-water-bottle-18oz-wide-medium

  10. UltraDave December 5th, 2014 3:48 pm

    I’m fully on the Zojirushi bandwagon. There is no substitute. I have two, and they’ve been through every manner of abuse in the several years of adventures of all kinds. One huge benefit is the way in which the lid opens – yes one handed for ease and gloves is good — but more importantly, you do not need to open the lid to dispense, but rather activate the little trapdoor, and pour. The retention of heat for the second swig of tea is what really makes this thing a difference maker.

    Get one!

  11. Lou Dawson 2 December 5th, 2014 5:00 pm

    Is it possible the Zoji and Thermos are the same? I’ll order up a Zoji for comparo. Lou

  12. skis_the_trees December 5th, 2014 7:24 pm

    I picked up a Kleen Kanteen 16oz. It has a screw cap w/o a cup. Works quite well, seems to be higher quality in the hand than some of the generic bullet thermos’ I’ve used in the past.

  13. Louie III December 5th, 2014 7:39 pm

    Second the vote on the Hydroflask. The smallest 1 liter thermos I’ve found, and keeps stuff hot for an impressive amount of time as well. Only thing is it would be nice if it had a integrated cup.

  14. Paddy December 5th, 2014 7:56 pm

    Count me in for the Hydroflask. Mine has been amazing at keeping my tea HOT. Based on what I’ve heard here, I’d be psyched to try the Zoji.

  15. George December 5th, 2014 9:25 pm

    Lou:
    I have the 16 oz. Thermos Stainless King 16-Ounce Compact Bottle, which seems to work great for day trips. Let me know when you get the Zoji and you can add it to the comparison.
    http://www.amazon.com/Thermos-Stainless-16-Ounce-Compact-Midnight/dp/B0017IHRNC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417839612&sr=8-1&keywords=thermos+16

  16. Jack December 5th, 2014 9:31 pm

    Thermos bottle comparison, really? Wow, what a thrill.

  17. George December 5th, 2014 10:01 pm

    Sarcastic people are a buzz kill, especially on a Friday night.

  18. magic pots December 5th, 2014 11:11 pm

    Another for the fantastic Zojirushi brand.

    I have this small model. One handed locking flip-lid is easy in gloves, plus easy-drinking mouthpiece.Weighs about 5oz. Small, but enough for two small but very nice hot drinks over the day at trivial weight and space cost. I view it as disposable over a season.

    http://www.rakuten.com/prod/12-oz-stainless-mug-in-smoky-blue/229890138.html

    They have a wide range of durability and sizes and features. The Japanese take their thermoses very seriously. From handbags to workman models.

  19. Clyde December 6th, 2014 9:42 am

    Zojirushi and Thermos are totally different companies. Zoji has been making vacuum bottles for nearly 100 years. They also make the best rice cooker and breadmaker on the market. FYI Ramer used to sell a Tiger vacuum bottle, another Japanese brand.

  20. Lou Dawson 2 December 6th, 2014 9:46 am

    Clyde, but is it possible that Zoji is making the Thermos brand vacuum bottles, or pretty much not possible? Thanks, Lou

  21. Zoran December 6th, 2014 10:19 am

    I have my Zojirushi bottles since my Denali expedition, Two of them. Small an large 1 quart size. Nothing can be compared to this vacuum bottles.

    On Denali I put large into 40Below bottle boot.

    One thing I will never part off. Great combo.

    Zoran

  22. Fraser December 6th, 2014 12:15 pm

    I wish Zojirushi made a 750 ml bottle with a cup lid; for me that is the ideal size for a full day of touring. I mix the hot tea with snow and end up having more than a litre of hydration.

  23. Martin December 6th, 2014 2:50 pm

    If you want a 750ml bottle here’s an option: http://www.montbell.us/products/disp.php?cat_id=1204&p_id=1124496. Only 290g (10.2 oz).

  24. Greg Louie December 7th, 2014 10:01 am

    The Thermos looks suspiciously like the one I use, which came from Starbucks. The only difference is the molding of the plastic at the lip of the cup. No distinguishing marks except “Made in Thailand” stamped on the bottom.

  25. Lou Dawson 2 December 7th, 2014 11:49 am

    Greg, this one has “Thermos” reverse stamped on the bottom and sticker says made in China. Of course that’s all open to interpretation. My understanding is depending on how/where parts are made assembled and shipped from the “made in” sticker really doesn’t mean much. Lou

  26. Zoran December 7th, 2014 12:30 pm

    Zojirushi makes 750 mil with lid kup to drink tea Fraser. I have it.

    It is my ski touring bottle.
    Z

  27. Zoran December 7th, 2014 12:33 pm

    I apologize, just checked. It is 500mil.

  28. Clyde Soles December 7th, 2014 4:24 pm

    Direct competitors in the insulated bottle market, both based in Japan though Thermos started in the US. Tiger is yet another Japanese brand that Ramer used to distribute. It’s possible they sub out to the same factories but unlikely one is making for the other..

    http://www.kitchenkapers.com/hisofthercom.html
    http://www.zojirushi.com/zojirushi/about.html

  29. Lou Dawson 2 December 7th, 2014 5:35 pm

    Thanks Clyde.

  30. derek December 8th, 2014 1:03 pm

    Here’s a Thermos brand bottle that’s similar to the Zojirushi.

    http://www.amazon.com/Thermos-16-Ounce-Stainless-Steel-Backpack-Bottle/dp/B000K604P0

    One handed operation, locking push-button lever, no separate cups or lids to lose, drop, or unscrew while covered in slippery snow. Those “cup top” thermoses are as antiquated as external frame pack with a dangling clinky sierra cup. Or is that considered timeless…..

  31. Mark Worley December 8th, 2014 10:37 pm

    I have a Nissan/ Thermos bottle with “Ski Uphill” WildSnow sticker affixed. Mostly it is quite good, but if I fill it to the stated 16 ounces, capillary action causes coffee to dribble. The Thermos warranty is lifetime, apparently uncontitional. Yes this is the Backpack Bottle Derek mentioned.

  32. TK Eagle December 9th, 2014 8:08 am

    Lou, I have a 22 year old Outdoor Research stainless steel thermos (I believe GSI makes them now?) that is without question the top dog for longevity, cleaning, and retaining heat. Wonder if anyone else out there has a similar experience – I’ve tried countless others, and this thing cannot be replaced easily !

  33. Lou Dawson 2 December 9th, 2014 8:24 am

    Wow!

  34. Lou Dawson 2 December 9th, 2014 7:30 pm

    I got the Zojirushi bottles, they do look excellent. Got the 500 ml and the 350 ml little guy. The 500 is noticeably lighter than the Thermos brand of same volume (apparently there are two models/weights of the 500, I got the lighter one). I’ll test heat retention tonight. It’s cold outside. The cap on the Zoji is a bit weird but I can see getting used to it. Thermos brand bottle has a regular cap. I wonder if the Thermos has slightly thicker steel. I’d prefer to save a few ounces and be more careful with the bottle, but one bad dent ruins these things and they’re not cheap. Lou

  35. JohnJ December 10th, 2014 5:44 pm

    Shopping for a thermos has turned out to be much more complex than I figured. This thread is helping a lot.

    Lou, you say you got the lighter version of the 500 ml Zogi? I noticed that Amazon listed two of them with the same capacity and appearance but slightly different price. Which one is the heavy one? I am not concerned about weight: I currently use a Thermos which has been dropped uncounted dozens of times.

  36. Lou Dawson 2 December 10th, 2014 6:07 pm

    Hi John, the lighter one is linked to at bottom of the blog post. I’m getting ready to update the post. Interestingly, the Thermos brand bottle did better in the heat test, after about 12 hours overnight outside it was 4 degrees warmer than the Zojirushi. But not enough different to be a deal breaker. I’m not planning on being out for 12 hours that often. I’m not convinced about the Zojirushi cap either, it’s pretty mechanical and could be prone to failure.

  37. Jim Milstein December 10th, 2014 8:10 pm

    Has anyone used the (not available right now, but linked by Martin above) 0.75 L Montbell? It is my preferred size, ~24 oz, and very light. I favor light.

    For a year I’ve been using a 24 oz PET applesauce jar which fits a fabric zip-closure box with foam insulation I happened to have. The arrangement weighs 5 oz, and keeps tea hot for three or four hours until I open it. Once opened, it cools much faster, but after seven or eight hours the last of the tea is “not cold”. (The scare quotes seem appropriate, don’t know why.) This kit is apparently unbreakable, and the PET jar tolerates 200ºF tea without wilting. (200ºF is the boiling point of water where I live. Guess the elevation!)

  38. Lou Dawson 2 December 11th, 2014 10:51 am

    Updated this post with the Zojirushi camparo. Yeah, I know: thermos bottle review?! But really, this is one of the most ubiquitous items you see in ski touring — nearly everyone uses one. So we truly need to stay on the case and figure out what gives the best power to weight ratio. So check out the new details above.

    I’d add that while the mini Zoji we got is super useful, at 35 ml volume it doesn’t provide direct comparo to the half-liter options so I didn’t focus on it in the review. It’s 244 gr, (8.6 ounces), thus only saving an ounce from the 500 ml Zoji. I find it more useful due to its smaller size (fits in my volume compromised airbag pack!), rather than any weight savings.

  39. Mike Marolt December 11th, 2014 11:58 am

    I have been using the Alex bottle for years. It’s a metal bottle that comes apart in the middle for easy cleaning. Seals up totally and is same size/ weight as a Nalgene liter bottle. But what is amazing is how it keeps hot fluid not hot when I wrap it in a coat. Very durable and easy to hold and open with gloves because the seam is rubber and the lid is thick plastic. I bought a couple 5 years ago and they are nice. They are tubular so they fit in a pack very easily. I really like them fwiw….

  40. See December 11th, 2014 7:15 pm

    I’m curious about where the weight difference is between the Thermos and the Zoji— is it the cup, the cap, the bottle, or all three. If it’s the bottle and the volume/dimensions are basically the same, then maybe the weight savings are achieved by using thinner/lighter material which could have an effect on durability.

  41. Northern Chris December 11th, 2014 8:55 pm

    I’ve been using an Innate Tea Culture vacuum flask for a couple years (found here: http://www.innate-gear.com/product-info/tea-culture/tea-culture-vacuum-flask). It holds 350ml, which is all I’ve ever needed for a day tour, and has a claimed weight of 240 grams (mine is 260 grams on my cheap kitchen scale). It’s compact and very simple in design. I haven’t used the tea basket.

    It keeps liquids hotter than my partner’s Stanley (I almost always burn my mouth at lunch), has never leaked, and has been abused heavily and only has one tiny dent to show for it. Best of all, it was about $20 (Canadian).

    I should also mention that I’m a long time lurker and fan of the blog and this is my first comment. Why on the vacuum bottles? I dunno.

  42. Matus December 12th, 2014 12:07 am

    Apologies for repeating myself – have you tried 1L Nalgene or GSI bottle insulated in DIY foam tube insulation? For a day tour this is the proven concept. The tea is rather cold in the afternoon but not frozen. Light is right 🙂

  43. Lou Dawson 2 December 12th, 2014 5:45 am

    Matus, over the years I’ve tried foam insulated bottles many many times. I’ve always ended up preferring to go big or go home. In other words, I’ll either carry a real vacuum bottle for piping hot tea all day, or just simplify and carry a plastic water bottle wrapped in some clothing inside my pack, or during warm days I’ll just drop the water bottle in an exterior pocket (if the pack has such.) My take, anyhow. Lou

  44. Matus December 12th, 2014 5:54 am

    Maybe the US conditions are different compared to EU. Here in Slovakia there is always some mountain hut with hot tea and food. And the parking lot is usually within 1 hour of skiing/skinning so the tea in the backpack is mostly for emergency use.

  45. Lou Dawson 2 December 12th, 2014 6:05 am

    Matus, in Europe when the huts are many and the tea is hot, I often just carry the plastic bottle. You are correct about touring in US, our mountain huts are very sparse and immature. If a hut does exist, it rarely will have meal or tea service. Canada is the North American leader in “catered” huts, but the European model of having many huts, often quite affordable and welcoming of drop-in business, is still a dream for us in most areas. Lou

  46. Dave December 12th, 2014 7:12 am

    I wanted to reach Lou Dawson concerning his story on an app he recommended that enables one to identify peaks will hiking, skiing, etc… Thanks for cool story. I bought app and will test soon. My new Co READYACTION LLC PGH, Pa make smartphone holders and I hoping to send one out to you guys to check out as I believe it would be cool and useful Let me know if interested. Thanks for the good stories. Dave

  47. Lou Dawson 2 December 12th, 2014 7:24 am

    Dave, sure, we’ll be in touch. Everyone, what Dave is talking about is Peak Finder.

    https://www.wildsnow.com/10512/smartphone-apps-backcountry-skiing-climbing/

    Lou

  48. Andy January 22nd, 2015 9:10 pm

    Any one try out the Esbit vacuum flasks or food jugs? The food jugs seem interesting for hot easy lunches and the 750ml flask looks to be a decent size and weight. Experience any one? I also need to chime in on the Zoji stuff, best damn 12 oz mug I have ever owned. It will keep tea hot for 10 hours easy. Hot, hot. As in burn your lip hot. Anyhow just my .02¢

  49. Maarten November 15th, 2016 12:13 pm

    Just saw some interesting vacuum bottles come by: the Mont Bell Alpine Thermo in 0.5L and 0.9L, 265g and 380g respectively. Haven’t tested these myself, but they look like a fool-proof design and very light.

    I’ve used the Esbit products and they are great, unfortunately heavy compared to the other offerings out there.

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