CamelBak Forge 16oz Travel Mug

This review pits the CamelBak Forge 16oz against the Contigo AUTOSEAL West Loop and Zojirushi SM-YAE48RA. I think it's superior to both its competitors. Find out why.
CamelBak Forge 16oz

I bought a 16 oz CamelBak Forge to see if it could beat two other travel mugs I’ve tested before (Contigo AUTOSEAL West Loop and Zojirushi SM-YAE48RA).

Out of the CamelBak’s competition, the Zojirushi holds heat the best, but the Contigo is easier to use and clean.

The CamelBak is at least as good as the Zojirushi at retaining heat. I consider the CamelBak superior to both the Zojirushi and Contigo.


The competition for this mug is stiff. The Zojirushi is a competent heat retainer while the Contigo is easy to use and clean.

The initial base for all of these tests is a cheap plastic travel mug my wife bought me some years back, against which I tested the Zojirushi and Contigo.

So it’s only fair to use the plastic mug as a base for testing the CamelBak against.

In the end, the CamelBak Forge doesn’t just beat the plastic mug, which is to be expected, but also the Zojirushi and the Contigo.

Read on to see why.

The cheap plastic travel mug, a gift from my wife a few years back. This formed the basis for my travel mug tests
The cheap plastic travel mug, a gift from my wife a few years back. This formed the basis for my travel mug tests.
The three mugs I put through their paces. From left to right, Zojirushi, Contigo, CamelBak
The three mugs I put through their paces. From left to right, Zojirushi, Contigo, CamelBak.

TL;DR

For those who don’t want to read the whole post, here are my findings, abbreviated.

Heat retention

I ran two heat retention tests for each mug (the cheap plastic mug, the Zojirushi, the Contigo and the CamelBak).

In the first test I poured coffee into each mug, took the temperature, closed the mug for 6 hours and 26 minutes, opened the mug and took the temperature.

In the second test I poured coffee into the mug, took the temperature, closed the mug and opened it every half an hour to take the temperature.

The CamelBak beat the Contigo easily and drew with the Zojirushi in this department.

Toughness

The CamelBak’s as tough as a metal mug will be.

Its body will bend under strain or dent when knocked and the lid won’t bear a beating either, so handle it with care.

This is not unique to the CamelBak though. They design travel mugs to hit the sweet spot in a number of areas; it’s impossible to create a product that’s indestructible, retains heat well, is easy to clean and use AND doesn’t weigh a ton.

Spilling and leaking

The CamelBak is leakproof.

I filled it with coffee, turned it upside down and shook it. Nothing spilled.

So I turned it right side up and opened it. It released some air and splattered a few drops of coffee.

Then I turned it upside down again and nothing leaked from it.

The splattering of coffee got me curious.

Would this mug splatter drops of coffee every time I pressed the button to open the lid for a sip?

So I went through the motions of drinking from it, paying attention to what happens whenever I open it.

It did NOT sputter coffee when I opened it.

The only reason it did so when I tested it for leakage, was because I shook it while holding it upside down, which caused pressure buildup in the mug.

But it won’t leak. So don’t worry about coffee seeping out of it if ever the CamelBak finds itself on its side in your car.

The CamelBak Forge is leak proof, as this picture of it dangling upside down from my hand shows
The CamelBak Forge is leak proof, as this picture of it dangling upside down shows.

Lockable

This is one area where the CamelBak loses to the competition.

It does not come with a lid lock, which means inquisitive young hands might pick up the mug, press the wrong button and spill something.

However, the button you press to open the drinking spout is solid. A baby won’t be able to open it easily.

Besides, with enough fiddling, even a mug with a lock could end up being opened.

Warranty

CamelBak’s warranty is far too involved to post here.

They offer what they call the Got Your Bak lifetime guarantee.

You can read more about it at camelbak.com/en/customer-service/warranty.

It’s probably the most comprehensive warranty I’ve ever come across.

In the box

The CamelBak didn’t come in fancy packaging. It arrived with tags attached to it, in a box, but it wasn’t wrapped.

No dents, unlike the Contigo

when I tested the Contigo, one thing that miffed me was that both the Contigos (I bought two) came with dents.

They weren’t big dents, and it’s not a big deal, but my money had no dents. One expects a new product you pay for to not have even the slightest defect.

The CamelBak Forge came nickfree, despite the lack of fancy packaging.

Before using it

Take these steps before using the CamelBak Forge:

  1. Unscrew the lid from the body.
  2. Remove papers from the mug (if there are any).
  3. Wash the lid & tumbler.
    1. See cleaning instructions below.
  4. Dry with a cloth, or place on a rack to dry.

Maximum beverage temperature

You don’t want to use your travel mug to melt gold in; you want to drink coffee or tea from it.

Provided you use it with common sense, you should be able to fill the CamelBak Forge with a piping hot beverage often and not damage it.

Heat retention tests

I ran two heat retention tests with the CamelBak.

For both tests I made coffee in the AeroPress coffee maker, poured the coffee into a metal jug and transferred it to the CamelBak.

For both tests the starting temperature was 66 degrees Celsius.

I made a cup of AeroPress coffee to test in the CamelBak Forge
I made a cup of AeroPress coffee to test in the CamelBak Forge.

First test

In the first heat retention test I poured coffee into the CamelBak and measured the temperature at 66 degrees Celsius (150,8 degrees Fahrenheit).

Then, for the next five hours, I opened the CamelBak every half an hour to measure the temperature.

The coffee’s temperature dropped a total of 32 degrees Celsius (57.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over a period of five hours.

Below is a table showing the difference in temperature over a five hour period.

This table shows the drop in temperature of coffee in a CamelBak Forge and a cheap plastic travel mug, measured every half an hour, for five hours.
TimeframeCamelBak Forge (Celsius)Cheap plastic travel mug (Celsius)CamelBak Forge (Fahrenheit)Cheap plastic travel mug (Fahrenheit)
Initial temperature6666150.8150.8
30 minutes later5451129,2123.8
60 minutes later5240125.6104
90 minutes later4931120.287.8
120 minutes later453011386
150 minutes later4329109.484.2
180 minutes later402510477
210 minutes later3923102.273.4
240 minutes later372398.673.4
270 minutes later342193.269.8
300 minutes later342193.269.8

These pics display the drop in temperature of coffee in the CamelBak Forge

…and these pics display the drop in temperature of coffee in the cheap plastic travel mug I tested the CamelBak Forge against…

Second test

In the second heat retention test I poured coffee into the CamelBak and measured the temperature at 66 degrees Celsius.

After 6 hours and 26 minutes, I unscrewed the CamelBak’s lid and measured the temperature again. It measured 33 degrees Celsius.

That’s a drop of 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit), which turns out to be similar to the first heat retention test.

Note: These tests weren’t done in a lab, but in a room in a normal home.

Ideal coffee temperature

The Coffee Detective says that the ideal temperature range for coffee is between 155°F to 175°F (70°C to 80°C).

Driftaway Coffee‘s Scott says coffee should be between 120°F and 140°F (48.88°C to 60°C).

It’s down to personal preference.

And then there’s the growing interest in cold brew coffee, which is a different, and dare I say, superior beast, to traditional coffee.

How to use it

Unscrew the CamelBak’s lid, pour your beverage of choice into the tumbler and screw the lid back on.

You could screw the lid back on immediately, especially if you want to keep your beverage scorching for a long time.

But if you’re like me, who uses a travel mug more for the convenience of having coffee securely on the go, rather than for having it as hot as possible for as long as possible, you might want to allow the contents in the tumbler to cool down before you screw on the lid.

Before you screw the lid on

When you wash your CamelBak, you remove the lid set from the tumbler, flip open what CamelBak calls the arms of the lid set and clean it, either with a brush or in a dishwasher.

But before you screw the lid back onto the tumbler after you’ve washed it and want to use it again, make sure the arms are in the correct position. If they’re in the wrong position and you try to put them in place after you’re screwed the lid on, you won’t be able to do so.

How to drink from it

Drinking from the CamelBak is similar to drinking from the Contigo.

To drink from the CamelBak:

  1. Press the button at the back of the lid.
    1. This releases the spout lock (which extends from what CamelBak calls the arms of the lid).
    2. Make sure you hold the mug away from your face when you press the button, because it can build up pressure while standing.
  2. Put your lips to the Forge’s spout.
  3. Tilt back your head and sip.

Lock it in the open position

If you want to keep your CamelBak’s spout open permanently, simply press the button to open the spout, as you would when you take a sip, then press the little button on top of the arms down to lock the arms in place, thereby leaving the spout unblocked.

How not to use it

Although the CamelBak doesn’t come with a manual, you should use it with care.

Do that by following these guidelines:

  1. Don’t let babies or kids use it.
  2. Ensure that no parts (like the rubber seal) are missing before using it.
  3. Make sure the lid’s arms close after you’ve taken a sip.
  4. If it stops retaining heat, stop using the CamelBak.
  5. Hold the mug away from your face when you press the button to take a sip.
  6. Don’t put your CamelBak in a microwave oven.
  7. Don’t drink and drive.
  8. Don’t drink from it too quickly. Take it easy.
  9. Don’t shake the mug while it’s filled with something.
  10. Don’t fill it with dry ice.

Can you use it for soup?

I don’t know if the CamelBak Forge is supposed to be used for drinking soup from, but I was going to find out in any case, since I tested the Zojirushi and Contigo in a similar fashion.

I used a creamy tomato soup, the same one I used for testing the other mugs.

I prepared the soup according to instructions, then strained it into a jug to remove lumps.

From the jug I poured the soup into the CamelBak.

It worked.

I could drink soup from the CamelBak easily.

But you use it for this kind of thing at your own risk. I suspect they make the CamelBak for use with coffee and tea, not soup.

How to clean it

Follow these steps to clean your CamelBak Forge:

  1. Fill a sink with warm water and add detergent.
  2. Place the CamelBak in the water.
  3. Remove the lid set from the tumbler.
  4. Clean the lid set.
    1. Open the arms by pressing the open button.
      1. This flips open the arms and keeps them open, since the lid set is not connected to the tumbler.
    2. Soak in warm water.
    3. Use a small, soft brush to get to hard-to-reach places.
  5. Remove the lid set from the soapy water and rinse in clean water.
    1. Shake a few times to assist in drying.
  6. Wash the tumbler.
    1. Use a soft sponge.
  7. Remove the tumbler from the soapy water and rinse in clean water.
    1. Shake a few times to assist in drying.
  8. Place the lid set and the tumbler on a drying rack and leave to dry.

The CamelBak is easier to clean than both the Zojirushi and the Contigo.

It’s not hard to beat the Zojirushi in this department, since the Zojirushi requires you to remove parts from it when you clean it.

The Contigo, however, is easy to clean.

So the fact that the CamelBak is even easier to clean than the Contigo is a big deal.

Dishwasher safe?

The CamelBak Forge’s lid SHOULD be dishwasher safe, but don’t quote me on that. It’s hard to find info on this mug, and since I promised to gift mine to a friend after the test, I didn’t want to sacrifice it for the sake of a test.

The tumbler is NOT dishwasher safe.

Technical details

Tech specs for the CamelBak Forge. Metric and Imperial.
 MetricImperial
Body materialFood-grade stainless steel
Lid materialPolypropylene
Height (assembled)219mm8.62 inches
Height (lid set)61mm2.4 inches
Height (main body / tumbler)183mm7.2 inches
Maximum width (lid)106.5mm4.19 inches
Maximum diameter (main body / tumbler)72.5mm2.85 inches
Weight (assembled, dry)330g11,64 oz
Weight (assembled, filled with water)750g26.45 oz
Weight (lid)84g2.96 oz
Weight (main body / tumbler)246g8.67 oz

Construction

The CamelBak Forge is made from a variety of materials, including BPA-free polypropylene (the lid) and stainless steel (the tumbler).

Sizes

The CamelBak Forge comes in two sizes:

  • 12 oz
  • 16 oz

I only bought the 16 oz for this test. I can’t see how anybody would be happy with only 12 ounces of coffee. It just does not compute.

Does it fit inside a cup holder?

This obviously depends on the diameter of your automobile’s cup holder.

The CamelBak Forge tapers up from ~70mm.

Our Mitsubishi Pajero’s cup holders have a diameter of ~76mm, which means the CamelBak Forge fits fine.

My wife owns a 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9, the cup holder of which the CamelBak fits into.

Does the AeroPress fit?

Like with the Contigo, the AeroPress does NOT fit into the CamelBak, which means the Zojirushi wins this round, since the AeroPress fits snugly into it.

If you make AeroPress coffee for the CamelBak you’ll have to make it in another container, like a stainless steel jug, and pour it into the CamelBak.

Tip: when you press AeroPress into a metal container, preheat the container so it doesn’t cause the coffee to lose too much heat.

The AeroPress does NOT fit into the CamelBak
The AeroPress does NOT fit into the CamelBak.

Colors

The Zojirushi comes in ten colors:

  • Aubergine
  • Black Smoke
  • Blaze
  • Blue Street
  • Bronze
  • Deep Sea
  • Ghost
  • Ghost Berry
  • Olive Sky
  • Slate

Price

I bought the CamelBak Forge for under $30.

However, you’ll need to check the current price on Amazon. I think it’s gone up.

The CamelBak Forge’s price is also affected by size and color.

Final thoughts

The CamelBak is a great travel mug, the best out of the three stainless steel travel mugs I’ve tested.

It’s leak- and spill proof. Although it doesn’t come with the locking system you’ll find on the Zojirushi and Contigo, the CamelBak won’t spill liquid easily.

It keeps your drink hot. The CamelBak keeps up with the Zojirushi and beats the Contigo in heat retention tests.

It’s easy to clean and use. The CamelBak is as easy to use and clean as the Contigo, which is much easier to clean and use than than the Zojirushi.

The Contigo AUTOSEAL is a GREAT mug, but if you want a travel mug that’s as easy to use, easier to clean, won’t spill and keeps your drink hotter, the CamelBak Forge is for you.

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2 thoughts on “CamelBak Forge 16oz Travel Mug”

  1. Brilliant article on a VERY relevant topic, thanks!

    Any S.A. sellers for the Camelbak or Amazon only?

    Please consider giving us the metric capacities higher up in the article though?

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