Last Updated on 11/30/2019 by Mark Beckenbach
When you’re a photographer who travels or is always between places, a thermos is standard.
In all my years of traveling for work as a journalist, I’ve encountered a number of pretty awful and pretty great beverages, and sometimes all I want is a massive amount of it in my own thermos. I’m part of two tea clubs and collect teas of different varieties. I trade with friends, gift it, etc. When I’m out and about in the summer, nothing is better than some freshly made iced tea that I make at home that is still nice and cold within my thermos. The same goes for my favorite blend of chai. So over the past few months, I decided to spend more money than a sane man should on thermoses to figure out which ones are best for photographers. And most importantly, which ones won’t leak all over your camera bag.
This testing means that, yes, there were some thermoses that leaked all over my bags, my hands, my coat, etc. I bought these thermoses after obsessively researching for functional yet fashionable thermoses that can also withstand the abuses that are often thrown at camera gear. And in my travels, these were my favorites.
S’Well Stainless Steel Travel Mug
Standout Feature: The shape and built in coaster which prevent it from tipping over.
The S’Well stainless steel travel mug honestly surprised me. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but after reading a ton of reviews and seeing many different colors and patterns offered, I sprung for it. I was pleasantly surprised and I still am to this day. What I found about the S’well is that it has this pretty unique shape that makes it ergonomically friendly to hold and perfectly suited to being slipped into the side pocket of a backpack. Lots of backpack-style camera bags have straps on the sides along with the pockets. The neck fits perfectly into the straps and so the S’Well will sit nice and snug on the side.
And of course, it will keep your coffee really hot for hours. The longest I’ve had something in there is seven hours and even then it was still warm. Best of all, it never leaked.
Buy Now $30: Amazon
Stanley Master Series Vacuum Bottle
Standout Feature: Well, everything.
The Stanley Master Vacuum Bottle is my favorite of the bunch simply because it has it all:
- Solid build quality
- Keeps liquids warm for over 24 hours
- Keeps liquids cold for over 24 hours
- A built in cup
- Holds around 25 ounces of liquid
- Slim enough and tall enough to be sufficiently hugged by a side pocket
The contents of the Stanley Master Vacuum Bottle can last me all day if I really want it to: that’s one of my favorite features about it. I’ve filled it up with coffee from my local bagel shop for a few bucks and taken it with me to the Bronx Zoo to test a lens. On other occasions, I’ve filled it up with Harney and Sons Peppermint Green tea. Most amazingly, after I’ve made tea I can transfer it into this and it will stay warm for a very long time. As I want it throughout the day, I just pour some into a cup. The Stanley Master Vacuum Bottle is honestly the ultimate pick on this list, and you’re arguably paying for it. But in my mind, $45 is well worth a bit of peace of mind for me to stay hydrated in the long run.
The Stanley has never leaked on my camera bag. If you fill it above where the black part of the thermos ends, it has a chance of running over when you close it up. That’s user error more than anything else. Otherwise, it’s perfect for a long editing session on a laptop while on-location.
Buy Now $45: Amazon
Zoku Stainless Steel Water Bottle
Standout Feature: The looks and the design of the cap which promotes a zero chance of leakage.
The Zoku Stainless Steel Water bottles are pretty special. For the more eccentric and stylish among us, you’ll be elated to know there are a ton of patterns, such as this pretty nice floral pattern you see above. Of any on this list, it’s also the thinnest, plus it has a little thick rope on the end that lets you hang it on a hook or secure the bottle to something. Because it also arguably holds the least liquid, you might be on the search of constant refills.
If you’re a photographer who rolls around with a messenger bag or a smaller camera bag to begin with, the Zoku is perfect for you.
Buy Now $30: Amazon
The Tea Spot Voyager Tumbler
Standout Feature: The lid that allows you to drink with the press of a button.
The Tea Spot Voyager is probably my most used of all the thermoses on this list. It combines portability with security and the ability to make the drinking experience really simple. The Voyager keeps liquids hot for maybe around eight hours if you need, and also has a tea steeper if you need one on the go. The best thing about it is the ingenious design of the lid. On top of the lid is a little button that you press to let the liquid flow through the spout and into your mouth. Providing that you don’t fill the liquid all the way to the top and instead to just below the indents for the female part of the screw on lid, the Voyager won’t spill a drop. However, when you first press the button down, there will be a lot of air pressure if there is hot liquid inside, so some will come out with a bit of a splash.
The nice thing about the Voyager is that the spout ensures you don’t drink too fast. This helps you keep the liquid around for a pretty long time while out on location.
Buy Now $33.95: Amazon