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Reviews > Hydration Systems > Thermos Flasks > Avex Highland AUTOSEAL Travel Mug > Test Report by Steven M Kidd

AVEX HIGHLAND AUTOSEAL STAINLESS TRAVEL MUGS
TEST SERIES BY STEVEN M. KIDD
LONG-TERM REPORT
October 27, 2014

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Steven M. Kidd
EMAIL: ftroop94ATgmailDOTcom
AGE: 42
LOCATION: Carmel, IN
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 185 lb (83.90 kg)

Backpacking Background: I've been a backpacker on and off for over 30 years. I backpacked as a Boy Scout, and then again almost every month in my twenties, while packing an average weight of 50+ lbs (23+ kg). In the last several years I have become a hammock camping enthusiast. I generally go on one or two night outings that cover between 5 to 20 mi (8 - 32 km) distances. I try to keep the all-inclusive weight of my pack under 20 lb (9 kg) even in the winter.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

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AVEX 2O OZ BLACK MATTE HIGHLAND
IMAGE 1
AVEX 16 OZ STAINLESS HIGHLAND

Manufacturer: Avex
Year of Manufacture: 2014
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.avexsport.com
Testing: 20 oz (591 ml) Stainless Matte Travel Mug & 16 oz (473 ml) Stainless Travel Mug
MSRP: Larger Mug - US $24.99; Smaller Mug - US $22.99
Listed Weights: N/A
Measured Weights: Bottle + Lid -- Larger Mug - 13.2 oz (375 g); Smaller Mug - 12.0 oz (341 g)
Measured Weights: Bottle -- Larger Mug - 10.1 oz (285 g); Smaller Mug - 8.9 oz (251 g)
Measured Weights: Lid -- Larger Mug - 3.1 oz (90 g); Smaller Mug - 3.1 oz (90 g)
Listed Height & Widths: -- Larger Mug - 9.25 in x 3.30 in (23.5 cm x 8.4 cm); Smaller Mug - 8.8 in x 3.3 in (22.4 cm x 8.4 cm)
Measured Heights: -- Larger Mug - 9.5 in (24.1 cm); Smaller Mug - 8.625 in (21.9 cm)
Measured Lid Widths: 3.125 in x 2.625 in (7.9 cm x 6.7 cm) for Both Lids
Measured Base Widths: -- Larger Mug - 2.875 in (7.3cm); Smaller Mug - 2.625 in (6.7 cm)
Listed Capacities: -- Larger Mug - 20 fl oz (591 ml); Smaller Mug - 16 fl oz (473 ml)
Measured Capacities to Brim: -- Larger Mug - 22 fl oz (651 ml); Smaller Mug - 18 fl oz (532 ml)
Listed Hot Insulating Times: -- Larger Mug - Up to 7 hours; Smaller Mug - Up to 5 hours
Listed Cold Insulating Times: -- Larger Mug - Up to 20 hours; Smaller Mug - Up to 14 hours





The Highland AUTOSEAL Travel Mugs are stainless steel insulated bottles designed to keep liquids both hot and cold. The smaller mug with a traditional stainless finish and red accents claims to keep liquids hot for up to 5 hours and cold for up to 14 hours. The larger mug is a new model in stainless, but with black matte with black and gray accents. The larger model claims extended hot times up to 7 hours and cold for up to 20 hours. They use lids with the patented AUTOSEAL technology designed to be both spill and leak-proof. The mug spouts are opened for sipping by depressing the AUTOSEAL buttons and are sealed by releasing them. The Highland lids also offer button locks that don't allow the AUTOSEAL button to be depressed and ensuring liquids can't be spilled. The mugs are made with double walled stainless steel that is designed to both insulate the liquids within, as well as eliminating external condensation. The mug bodies are vacuum insulated.

The mugs are designed to fit into auto cup holders and they offer patent-pending, dishwasher-safe bases that are designed to grip table tops and minimize the sound of metal clanking.

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NOTE LOCKED (RED) VS. UNLOCKED POSITIONS
Both allow for one-hand operation and are made with 100% FDA-approved plastic materials. The website does not clarify if the plastics are BPA free. The FDA statement and BPA omission leads me to believe there is BPA in the lid, but I can't confirm or deny this, it is merely my opinion.

The bottles are not intended for use with pulpy beverages. They are not to be microwaved or frozen, and should not be cleaned with cleaners containing bleach, chlorine, abrasives or other harsh chemicals.

Both the lids and bodies are top rack dishwasher safe, however, they also may be cleaned by flushing the spouts with warm water or soaked in warm water for at least 10 minutes. The products should always be stored with the lid removed to ensure the parts are allowed to dry completely.

There are several warnings stated that particularly tend to lean toward hot beverage use. The warnings clearly state to always depress the AUTOSEAL button with the mug in an upright position and away from the face in order to release pressure before drinking. The body should never be overfilled and if the mug is filled with boiling water any liquid should be allowed to cool for at least three (3) minutes with the lid removed.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Avex Highland AUTOSEAL Stainless Travel Mugs appear to be a well-made products series. Upon immediately picking up the mugs I found them considerably heavier than the average hydration bag I currently use in the backcountry. I generally carry hydration bags that weigh in just around an ounce (28 g), but they offer absolutely no insulating properties.

Although the Highland series offer features like the AUTOSEAL with a button lock that suggests preventing spills in backpacks and other gear, I personally see this product designed for keeping beverages insulated during commuter travel or office work. This is merely my opinion, and I plan to test the mugs in both outdoor, exercise and the aforementioned conditions.

The design has many interesting features that intrigue me. I was immediately impressed with the base grip that both allowed the mugs to remain secure to a table top while not creating excessive noise in an office setting. I also found it interesting that the lid threaded into the base on the interior of the bottle. Nearly every bottle or mug I've ever owned thread on the exterior. In fact, I can't think of any bottle/mug I've owned that threads in such a manner.

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CUT MARKS ON BOTH LIDS
The mugs appear stylish and fit comfortably in my hand. The 16 oz (473 ml) mug fits better into my 'medium' sized hand. I generally wear a 'medium' glove. However, the larger black matte mug is more aesthetic and visually appealing in my personal opinion. I found the one-handed operation to be accurate, and I can do so with ambidextrous precision without problem. I am, however, left handed and have learned to have to do many things in life with my weaker side.

During the Initial Report phase of this test I've done no formal heat or cool testing on the mugs, and I certainly am aware that varying conditions will affect the thermal insulating capabilities of the products as I move forward into the Field Review. I did take the opportunity to fill the 16 oz (473 ml) mug with a hot cup of coffee as I embarked on a five (5) hour drive. It was early morning and I sipped on more than an estimated 3/4's of the drink before I decided to allow the remaining liquid to sit in the mug for an empiric test. After approximately 3 1/2 hours I took a sip of the coffee. If certainly did not find it to be what I would call 'hot'. It wasn't even what I'd subjectively call 'warm', but it also wasn't 'cool' or 'cold' in my subjective opinion.

Again, the volume was well over 3/4's empty before I attempted this test, and understanding basic physics I'd expect with more liquid volume in the mug I'd foresee it remaining warmer for a longer period of time than with less volume. Certainly the product is said to be sealed, but I look forward to testing the mugs more extensively to verify my theories.

During initial inspection I did notice one peculiarly odd thing about both of the mugs' lids. They both had what I presume to be a scratch created by what I could only assume would be a box cutter. At first I thought it was likely a lid feature, as both had quite similar cut marks. However, when I took a closer examination I verified the cuts/scratches were not symmetric on the lids. To clarify, one cut was closer to the drink spout at what I'd call a 10 o'clock position, and the other was at an 8 o'clock position. Please refer to the adjacent image for more clarity. I hypothesize these were made by a box cutter or similar item in opening a bulk package in which the mugs were stored. I can't be certain by any means, but I can assure the reader the mugs arrived well protected in a plastic wrap and with plenty of corrugated protection and I didn't create these cuts when initially opening the package.

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PRESSURE WARNING REMINDER
These cosmetic blemishes don't deter from product performance, but I am noting them because had I purchased these $23 - $25 products and they'd arrived in this condition I likely would have been an unsatisfied customer.

As mentioned in the Product Information Section warnings clearly state to always depress the AUTOSEAL button with the mug in an upright position and away from the face in order to release pressure before drinking and the body should never be overfilled. I'll verify this warning should be headed. The first time I filled the vessel with hot coffee and allowed it to sit for a few minutes before taking a sip, I quickly noticed a pressure expulsion when I depressed the AUTOSEAL button. This occurred with a hot beverage filled well below the maximum fill level. Based on this, I don't plan on ever testing the true brim capacity limits of the mugs.

SUMMARY

I'm quite excited to begin testing the Avex Highland Mugs over the next several months. I'm interested in seeing how long each vessel will keep liquids both hot and cold based on their respective suggested maximums.
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INSIDE VIEW OF AUTOSEAL LIDS
I'm relatively impressed with the technology and design of the travel mugs.

I truly only have one key concern with the mugs, and it pertains to the lids. They appear quite intricate with plenty of 'parts' that I think could be a breeding ground for bacteria. Notice the accompanying image to the right. The lids and the bodies of the vessels are both top-rack dishwasher safe, but in my lay opinion this is something that needs to be done regularly to avoid potential problems. How will I address this if I'm in the backcountry for 7-10 days?

The mugs are certainly heavier than most hydration vessels I currently use when backpacking, but they do offer insulating properties. The question that I hope to answer in the Field Report is whether the weight penalty I'm accepting gives me the cooling and/or heating properties I expect after a day on the trail?

I do see the mugs as an ideal asset to daily commuting and exercise life and I intend to report on performance in these areas as well.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

26 July, 2014; Eagle Creek Park, Indianapolis, Indiana. After my family finally arrived to the area, I thought it would be a great idea to spend an afternoon outside in the closest nature I've been able to find to date. I returned to the park, but chose the 2.5 mi (4 km) Orange Trail for the kids. The loop was easily manageable for my wife and the youngsters. Temperatures were around 78 F (26 C) with low humidity.

15 - 17 August, 2014; Hoosier National Forest, Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area, near Bloomington, Indiana. I finally was able to get the children out on a 3-day/2-night outing in the new state. We only hiked a total of 5.5 mi (9 km) on the trip and carried our own water. Temperatures were great for August with nightly lows around 55 F (13 C) and daily highs around 80 F (27 C) with elevations averaging 650-800 ft (198-244 m).
IMAGE 1
Hanging with my kids at Camp Gnaw Bone

5 - 7 September, 2014; Camp Gnaw Bone, Brown County, Indiana. I joined a local group of fathers that do a monthly outing with their children sans mothers. The season opens post Labor Day and ends post Memorial Day weekends with camping trips at a camp in southern Indiana. Most spent the weekend in large family sized tents in a clearing on a parade field. My seasoned rug rats and I hung our hammocks on a wooded hill adjacent to the field. Weekend temperatures started around 72 F (22 C), but after a rainy Saturday morning and early afternoon dropped significantly and we awoke to 51 F (10.5 C) on a dry Sunday morning. On Thursday, the day prior to leaving temperatures were 90 F (32 C), so the dramatic change was very noticeable. Camping was base-camp like, but we went to a lake to swim for the afternoon, had dinner, skits and a bonfire that culminated with a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) round trip to a 'ghost house' around 11 PM Saturday evening. It made bedtime oh so easy, and both my kids required use of their night lights until they dozed off.

7 - 10 October, 2014; Pine Mountain Trail, eastern Kentucky and western Virginia. This was a 4-day/3-night outing in which I met up with six hammock camping buddies at the Birch Knob Observation Tower shelter and hiked to the trailhead in Elkhorn City, Kentucky. The rest of my comrades had already been on the trail for three days encountering torrential downpours and extremely steep climbs. This caused three of the crew to call an audible and remain at the shelter for the final leg of the trip. Four of us set out on the next morning and covered 14 mi (22.5 km) over the next two days. Elevations ranged from roughly 2800 ft (853 m) to around 800 ft (244 m) just outside of town. After emerging from the trail we were shuttled back to the tower for a final night in the woods. Temperatures on the trail were as high as 75 F (24 C) and conditions were bright and sunny. On the evenings in base camp temperatures dropped to around 45 F (7 C) and poured rain on and off.

24 - 26 October, 2014; Hoosier National Forest, Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area, near Bloomington, Indiana. I returned to the area for the 2014 Hoosier Halloween Hang. This is an annual event held in the area where a group of hammock campers gather for backcountry camaraderie. I believe temperatures were mild for late October in Indiana. Temperatures rose to 73 F (23 C) during the day and dropped to around 39 F (4 C) at night. It wasn't too cool at night, but the large temperature swings did make it noticeable to me. There was no precipitation over the course of the weekend, but the dew was extremely heavy on Sunday morning.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Avex Travel Mugs have been an integral part of my daily life since receiving them. I'm very impressed with the mugs although I personally haven't found them ideal for backcountry use. For daily commuting and base camping I absolutely love them.

There are things about each of the mugs I've grown to like and things that could potentially be improved as well. When they arrived I assumed I would use the larger black matte mug more often than the stainless one. I thought this as I found it was both more aesthetically pleasing and a larger vessel. However, over the course of the test series I've found myself gravitating to the smaller of the two for several reasons.
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Cool Morning...Hot Coffee!
The primary reason was that the larger mug did not fit into the cup holder of the vehicle I was using throughout the summer months. I recently transitioned into a position at work that involved surrendering my company provided vehicle. For the first few months in my new role I was driving a 20 year old Jeep Wrangler. Much like the waistlines of Americans have grown over the decades, it appears our cup holders have also done the same. The 20 oz (591 ml) mug simply would not fit into the cup holder in my old ride. Therefore for daily commuting I tended to use the smaller one. The base diameter is only 0.25 in (0.6 cm) different in the mugs, but it made a difference. In fact, after I acquired a new vehicle (a Kia Optima) I have noticed the larger travel mug barely fits into one of the two cup holders in the front of the cabin. It rocks around in the second slightly smaller cup holder and doesn't completely seat in the base. I mention all of this primarily because the literature claimed the mugs were designed to fit into auto cup holders. The 16 oz (473 ml) certainly does so, but the larger one has challenges, even in a newer vehicle.

I also tended to gravitate to the smaller mug for daily use because the larger black mug tends to hold more coffee than I generally need for my commute to work. It also will not fit underneath my Keurig, even when I remove the drip pan. I do like to use the larger one on longer road trips, and I did quite a bit of this as I'd relocated from Tennessee to Indiana 2 1/2 months in advance of my family.

I mentioned I preferred the look of the black matte mug over the stainless one, but it began to get small scratches in it on the very first use. It has certainly accumulated more over the course of the test, and it is likely only noticeable to me, but it was the first one on the very first time I used it that got tom me.
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Scratches in the Matte Black
I do truly like the rubberized grip on the base of the mugs. They don't slide around or tend to tip over. I love the fact that they may be placed in the dishwasher. I often find insulated mugs that may not be, and the fact that they may tends to make me feel they are more sanitary. The mugs do tend to hold a coffee odor to them even after being cleaned in the dishwasher. I feel that is inherently a stainless issue, not a product issue.

The mugs both had the pressure warning on the base, and this is certainly worth noting. Really hot liquids do build such a pressure and a vapor spew is not uncommon the first time I depress the AUTOSEAL button. It has almost become a Pavlovian habit for me to open the seal with the lid facing away from my body.

I've used the mugs occasionally for cold liquids. This was primarily for testing purposes while on hikes, backpacking and base camping. The coffee odor is one reason I prefer not to use it, but I tend to think of it more naturally for hot liquids. In field tests I did still have ice in the mugs after the first night of a backpacking trip. This was a positive! As noted in the opening product specifications the mugs both suggest varying time constraints for keeping liquids hot and cold; the larger mug claims longer timeframes. I honestly can't tell much of a difference, but I truly haven't done a controlled test on them to verify this.

I will say that coffee left unattended is luke-warm after a few hours. It is not was I would refer to as 'hot'. I believe every time the AUTOSEAL is depressed it allows air to enter the chamber while sipping and thus will allow for increased cooling times. At least that is my theory. I believe this to be the case because I have put soup that was near a boiling point into the larger mug and gone back after more than four (4) hours to find it still hot. In those scenarios I was not repeatedly depressing the AUTOSEAL to sip from the mug. I merely opened it at lunchtime.

My inclination to limiting them for backcountry use is primarily due to their weight. They truly will keep liquids both hot and/or cold for extended periods of time. However, they are not as multi-functional as my other backcountry vessels. I generally have a small pot that I can boil water in for meals and use as a drinking cup. Granted that pot/cup does not insulate nearly as well as the Avex does. The rubberized base on the mug eliminates the opportunity to boil water in the cup without damaging that feature. The AUTOSEAL technology is simple to use in the woods, even when wearing gloves. The double walled feature also never really created any discomfort when holding a piping hot beverage either in our out of the woods. I've had some cups that I wish I were wearing an oven mitt while drinking my coffee. Not the case with the Highland. I could see the benefits of these mugs in the woods for the right style of outdoorsperson, I guess I'm a little too gram conscious to enjoy the luxuries these mugs provide!

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Hoosier National Forest
I again aver that I really do like the mugs and use one daily on my commute to work. I will also continue to use them for day hiking in parks with the family, base camping and attending sporting events.

SUMMARY

Overall, I'm quite impressed with the Avex mugs. I plan to continue using them in the future, though likely not for backpacking, primarily due to their weight. I will definitely use the mugs for commuting to work to keep my java hot. I'll even use them for keeping drinks both hot and cold during base/car camping, sporting events and the like. I will continue to use them for keeping soup warm as the Indiana winter ensues.

I've found both rose and thorn with the Avex Highland AUTOSEAL Travel Mugs that I shall highlight below:

Roses:

Keep liquids both hot and cold
Dishwasher Safe
Gripping Base
Adequate volume for my use

Thorns:

Retained coffee odor
Larger mug will not fit in all cup holders
Larger mug will not fit under my coffee maker
Heavy for backpacking use

I'd like to thank Avex and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Highland AUTOSEAL Stainless Travel Mugs.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of Avex Sport gear
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