Gear Review: Stanley Vacuum Bottle
Overview: Durable gear has always appealed to sportsmen – especially if that equipment conveys some history. Take Grandpa’s battered old tackle box, for example; or Dad’s woods-worn deer rifle; or that first grouse gun; or a custom cane fly rod… the list goes on and on. These accoutrements have the potential to transcend mere tools and become legendary.
Certain brands stand out among others in this space. There are reasons products like Coleman, Marble’s, and Lodge have endured the ages. The same mantra applies to Stanley, the company that created the iconic Vacuum Bottle. For over a century, they’ve represented the gold standard for keeping beverages hot in duck blinds, goose pits, fishing boats, and deer stands.
Founder, William Stanley Jr., was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1858. After graduating from Yale, the precocious lad became a successful engineer with a whopping 129 patents to his name. He modernized incandescent lamp bulbs and electrical transformers, but among outdoorsmen, his most memorable invention was the stainless-steel vacuum bottle.
Around the turn of the 20th Century, Thermos bottles used fragile glass liners to keep liquids warm, but welded stainless steel proved far more durable. William Stanley established the Stanley Bottle Company in 1913, and revolutionized thermos designs of the day, making them lighter, stronger, and better insulated. The U.S. Army Air Corp. agreed, issuing the bomb-proof bottles to B17 air crews during World-War II, and sportsmen have depended on them ever since. Today, Stanley has earned the coveted maxim, “Built for Life,” and remains the preferred brand among outdoor enthusiasts.
What I Like:
I own several Stanley products, but among my favorites is the Classic 1.1-quart Legendary Vacuum Bottle, finished in old-school Hammer-tone green.
Nothing takes the chill away like a hot beverage, and the Legendary Vacuum Bottle is my constant companion in the field. Normally, I fill it with tea, knowing it will stay steaming hot, hours later. Over the years, that bottle has accompanied me into sleet-ridden duck blinds, along drizzly steelhead streams, and on snowy, all-day deer sits. I’ve even drafted it into service during some freezing cold sniper deployments that made those hunting and fishing scenarios feel like a walk in the park.
One of the most memorable incidents, however, occurred on a frigid December duck hunt. A friend and I were paddling a river in hopes of jump-shooting some late-season mallards. About halfway through the seven-hour float, the canoe got wedged between some beaver cuttings. My buddy in the bow attempted to free us up by using the paddle as a push pole. Everything was going along fine until the paddle slipped and he lurched hard to port. Before we could even yell, we were floundering in waist-deep river water.
Wearing soaking-wet waders, our core temperatures began dropping quickly. We pulled up on a bank as the shivering began in earnest, assembled a hasty fire, and stripped down, in hopes of drying our soggy clothes. The hot tea from that vacuum bottle never tasted so good. Even if it didn’t save our lives, it felt that way. Later that day, we shot a limit of plump December mallards, reinforcing the fact that hard-won wild game makes a fine meal, indeed.
Back in the early eighties, a glass-lined Thermos accompanied our family on cross-country skiing adventures and ice-fishing forays. It wasn’t a Stanley, but it worked well for keeping our hot chocolate piping hot – until one of us got careless and broke it. A frugal sentimentalist to the core, Dad was less than overjoyed. He’d owned that Thermos for decades, and it was expensive. To put the cost into perspective, the price for a glass-lined Thermos back in 1913 was $150 - $200! That’s no joke, and no laughing matter for a spendthrift guy like my dad.
Original Stanley Vacuum Bottles incorporated double stainless-steel walls filled with charcoal dust, which offered great insulation, although they were heavy. The design was revamped in 2009, when Stanley rolled out their “Classic Series.” The new version sported thicker, double stainless-steel walls, sans charcoal dust, offering a lighter, albeit more fragile, product. A decade later, Stanley introduced their “Master Series” for folks who demand an extra measure of lightweight strength. Fortunately, for ham-fisted, accident-prone sportsmen like yours-truly, Stanley touts their products as “unbreakable” these days and backs up the claim with a 100% lifetime guarantee – no matter the age or abuse.
How well does the Stanley Vacuum Bottle keep beverages hot? The easy answer is, “A really long time,” but that’s ambiguous data. So, on a recent trout fishing trip, Allen and I vowed to investigate the matter further while floating a long stretch of chilly river in early May, slinging streamers for trophy brown trout.
The experiment began at 7:00 AM, when I preheated the Vacuum Bottle with boiling water in preparation for the outing ahead. Shortly thereafter, I added more boiling water, along with three tea bags, then stowed the vessel in the bed of my pickup truck for the trek north.
We arrived at the river at 12:30 PM and it wasn’t long before Allen landed a chunky brown trout on a streamer. Things were off to a solid start. A few hours later, he landed another – this time a massive, kype-jawed carnivore. It was around 3:00 PM when we pulled off to the side for photographs and high-fives. During the lull, I opened the Vacuum Bottle and found the tea scalding – as in, blister-your-tongue hot.
To our surprise, the tea was still too hot to drink when 5:30 PM rolled around. I poured a cup and allowed it to cool enough to be tolerable. The fact that it had retained all that heat was especially surprising because the bottle had spent a good portion of the afternoon floating in cold swill water on the floor of the canoe.
When we finally reached the takeout at 9:30 PM, the contents were still hot – drinkable, but only by taking tentative sips. By then, over 14 hours had elapsed.
Believe it or not, there’s even more to love about Stanley. In this era of throw-away plastic bottles and single-use coffee cups, Stanley is the benchmark for sustainability. Consider this: buying coffee five times per week translates into a whopping 240 disposable cups in the trash each year. A reusable Stanley vacuum bottle absolves all that waste. What’s more, the company’s long-term goal is to incorporate recycled stainless steel into 50% of their products and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030.
What I Don’t Like:
While the Hammer-tone green finish offers a classy, vintage look, sunlight reflecting off the polished stainless-steel cap will alarm wildlife quicker than you can cuss. What’s more, the metal base clanks against duck-boat hulls and canoe floors. To remedy these issues, I repurposed some camouflaged neoprene duck waders into slip-on covers. No more shine, no more clink. Problem solved. That said, it’s high time Stanley offered camouflage covers for hunters.
Hunters, anglers, campers, construction workers, rode scholars, or anyone in need of hot (or cold) liquids on-demand.
Stars: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Learn More Here.
For extra-long lasting heat retention, preheat your Stanley vessel by boiling water in a teapot and carefully adding it to the thermos or travel mug, allowing five minutes or so to heat up. Discard boiling water just before adding beverage.
To clean the narrow confines of a vacuum bottle, mix-up a solution of 50% white vinegar and 50% warm water. Allow it to sit for several hours and then rinse and wipe out with a paper towel. The acidity will remove stubborn stains left behind by coffee and tea.