Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Product Review: The Tugo, A Cup Holder For Your Luggage

If you’ve ever tried to walk quickly from your favorite airport coffee shop to your gate while balancing your carry-on luggage and your hot coffee, then you know how challenging it can be to avoid spilling hot coffee all over yourself.

In a misguided attempt to avoid this balancing act, I once tried putting my nearly full cup of coffee in the water bottle pouch on the side of my backpack. When I reached my gate a few minutes later, I realized that a fair amount of my coffee had spilt onto my backpack and some had gotten onto my clothes.

After that experience I resigned myself to live with this limitation. Fortunately, I would not suffer forever as someone with more ingenuity than I noticed this problem and decided that the lack of cup holders on luggage needed to be remedied. Behold the fruit of that ingenuity: the tugo.

Photograph by Nicole Holt

The tugo is a flexible cup holder that can easily attach between the handle posts of most rolling luggage. The tugo holds all standard disposable coffee cups, some reusable coffee mugs and most 16-20 oz fountain drink cups. The design lets the cup hang freely between to anchor points and tries to use gravity to keep the cup upright, which should free up a generally make life easier. We’ll get to the “tries” part in a moment.

I first heard about this product on Twitter and the tugo sounded like the product for which I had been looking for some time. A few twitter and e-mail exchanges later with the makers of the tugo resulted in the generous offer to send me one for review; I gracefully accepted this offer.

Upon receiving my tugo, I noticed that the packaging was slick and well thought out. The side had an opening so that you could see the color of your tugo before purchase. The tugo is currently only available in black, but the tugo website,, pictures a red model which appears to be the prototype. The only flaw with the packaging that I found was that the images used to illustrate the operation of the tugo were backwards as if they had been flipped 180 degrees. Regardless of this error, the images are clear enough to facilitate the operation of the tugo.

The red prototype is used in the video located at tugo video and clearly shows a coffee cup swinging freely in the tugo when in the luggage is in use.

I opened the package and removed the tugo. While it is made of a rugged rubber-like material, it didn’t have the same stretch as rubber. Its material and build reminded me of a fan belt. That may sound strange, but, like a fan belt, the tugo is built tough and built to last; I was very impressed.

I was ready to put the tugo to the test. Not long after I found myself in an airport and in need of coffee. I purchased a12 oz decaf and attached the tugo onto the rolling carry-on that I borrowed from my wife just for this purpose.

Once I tightened the straps, I placed my coffee in the tugo and tilted the carry on forward. The coffee immediately began to slosh out of the opening, so I stopped to examine the setup. Due to the angle at which the handle sat and the lack of flexibility caused by the robust material used in the tugo, the cup was permanently angled forward. With the cup opening in the direction of movement, it didn’t take much tilt to have coffee spilling out and onto the floor.

Ah, but this lack of flexibility works both ways. By turning the cup around so that the opening faced the bag, the coffee would always be tilted back slightly, which would prevent spills. With this detail sorted out the tugo got the job done, even though it didn’t do it as intended.

Please note that if your bag isn’t well balanced and prone to tipping over, use of the tugo will result in coffee going everywhere.

Despite the fact that the tugo doesn’t flex as much as the red prototype, it still works and would make an excellent travel accessory for the right type of traveler.

If you travel frequently with a rolling case and love coffee (or know someone who does) then the tugo is well worth considering. Business travelers are a natural for the tugo, and flight attendants and pilots may find this useful as well.

The tugo can be purchased for $10 from select retailers as well as directly from

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  1. Graham, thank you for a great post! We're glad you enjoyed your tugo.

    We do always suggest to have the cup opening face the side to prevent just what you noticed, that the motion of the liquid can be front to back, so aiming the opening at the arrow marked on the side of the tugo will really limit that problem.
    We are also a fan of those Starbucks splash sticks if they are available just to really make sure you save every drop of your drink :)

    Cheers! Megan

    Just for your readers, save 10% in the shopping cart by entering grahamstravelblog

  2. Megan: Chock it up to user error then. Now I have to find out what a Starbucks' splash stick is. Starbucks could just make it easier and start selling the Tugo in their airport shops I suppose.

    Yesterday I did notice that, in my hot apartment, the tugo softened somewhat and worked much better. Does having a really hot drink help with the flexibility?

    Thanks for the 10% offer for my readers, that's very generous of you.