Vacuum Food Bottle Showdown – Stanley vs. Thermos

Vacuum Bottle Tops and Lids

Vacuum Bottle Tops and Lids

I feel like you should be reading this and thinking monster truck announcer voice for this epic showdown between the two leading brands in vacuum bottle technology battling it out to see which is the champion of the lunch box!  The reality is slightly less epic.

My guess is that for many folks the value of a vacuum food bottle has diminished as microwaves have become pervasive in many workpalce kitchens.  But that isn’t the case for all workplaces, nor is it true for many kids – including mine.

For them especially this is relevant because food restrictions due to allergies can really cut down on what you can put in a kid’s lunch box – no nuts or nut butters is pretty standard, but last year there was even a prohibition against bringing fish to school because someone had an allergy or at least one that was close enough that the administration didn’t want to trouble themselves with deciding what was in or out.

In anycase, a vacuum bottle allows you to pack a warm lunch that can not only diversify the regular fare, but at least in my home is a very economical means of packing lunch.  We’re talking here things like leftover butter chicken, Thai curries, and hearty soups with a chunk of homemade bread or a wholesome whole wheat biscuit.

Vacuum Bottle Heat Loss Chart

Vacuum Bottle Heat Loss Chart

All those things do best nice and warm, and I’ve found that cheap vacuum bottle just don’t cut it given I reheat lunches shortly after 6am.  So this fall  when shopping for a few quality vacuum bottles I found those made by – Stanley and Thermos brands came with a variety of competing claims on how long they would keep contents warm or cold.  With them priced reasonably closely I decided to pick up a few and trial them to see which ended up being better.

Well, the end result is that all claims aside they all perform equally well and seem to loose heat at comparable rates – the biggest determining factor being the starting volume of the contents you load rather than which brand or model you choose as can be seen in the chart.

So knowing that which ones win out.  Well, for adults I like the 17oz Stanley – it’s a nice size and had the much better designed top.  Thermos tops should really be redesigned to give better grip.  As the contents cool there can be a pretty substantial vacuum pulled which fights against easy opening of the top.  But all things considered for the kids the 16oz Thermos brand ones win – particularly based on size to volume.  They are a nice meal size for kids and they are only 2/3rds the size of the Stanley which makes a difference in a jammed backpack.   The folding spoon originally struck me as gimicky, and likely to get lost in short order – but somewhat surprisingly we’re about five month into their frequent use by the kids – at least once a week – and those spoons are still around.

Slightly more worrying is the silicon gasket.  I worry every time I wash them that the gasket will go missing – but so far so good.  I will probably end up contacting Stanley and Thermos and asking to order a few replacement gaskets to have in the spare parts drawer.  Apart from that I can see both of these living up to their claims of a lifetime of use, and both have already paid their cost back in lunch savings (roughly $25 to $30).

These definitely trump the cheap thermoses that will end up disappointing and being chucked time and again.  Buy something that will deliver and keep you happy.