The range of travel humidors is at least as extensive as that of tubes and cases and their suitability for storing and transporting cigars is a as varied as the concepts behind them. A travel humidor should do what its name suggests, namely maintain the cigars in the best possible condition whilst you are away from home. Unfortunately very few products achieve this.
The main problem is humidification. Because of the limited dimensions there is only a low volume of air in a travel humidor. The humidifier doesn’t humidify the cigars, but rather the air, which then dispenses the moisture to the cigars. If the humidor is full of cigars, then there are only a few cubic centimetres of air left. The limited dimensions mean that the humidifier with its evaporation vent is usually positioned very close to the cigars. Added to all of this are changes in temperature, which have a direct effect on the relative air humidity. The result is unevenly humidified cigars – from soggy and soft to dry, anything is possible.
At this point I would like to give you some advice on how to tell a well-designed humidor from a badly-designed one. We will use the following criteria to judge:
• maintenance of the relative air humidity in the humidor at as constant a level as possible
• protection of the cigars against damage
• suitability for transporting a range of formats
• convenience, handling and serviceability
Standard Travel Humidors
In principle this is a mini humidor, which can be made of a range of materials. The interior is usually clad with Spanish cedar, the exterior of the box can be made of metal, wood, leather or plastic. The cigars either lie loose next to each other in the humidor, or in the best case there is a divider which can be inserted between the front and back walls. It is clear that this form of construction does not hold the cigars stable in the humidor. If the humidor is packed in a suitcase, the cigars fly around it, so this is obviously not a sensible option for a travel humidor.
If we ignore the problem of the cigars flying around the case, the most important thing is the position of the humidification system. In many mini humidors the humidifier is located in the lid with the evaporation surface directed towards the cigars. Given the lack of height, the space between the cigars and the lid of the humidor when closed is so small that those cigars directly beneath the humidifier get completely macerated.
In this case, stick humidifiers are more sensible. These are placed next to the cigars and the evaporation surface points towards the lid. This increases the distance between the evaporation surface of the humidifier and the cigars. It is also sensible to store a cigar in an aluminium tube to the right and left of the humidifier in order to increase further the distance to the “naked” cigars. If you fit the humidor out in this way, then you significantly reduce the risk of partial overhumidification. However, if the cigars are flying around the humidor because they are not restrained, then the advice given above is just a waste of paper.
The lack of width in these humidors means that long cigars can only be stored crossways, with the result that the remaining cigars can now only be stored crossways since they no longer fit into the humidor lengthways. Thus what was intended to be the length of the humidor, courtesy of which you anticipated a storage capacity of 10 cigars, can quickly become the width, significantly reducing the storage volume.
There are some very beautiful and also expensive humidors in this category, but let’s be honest – would you pack an amboina burl-veneered and highly polished lacquered humidor in your suitcase, where you must expect at least to get a few scratches in the lacquer if you don’t wrap the humidor itself carefully? In my opinion this kind of container cannot be tolerated as a travel humidor, because the low volume of air and the position of the humidifier mean that proper storage of the cigars is not possible, the risk of damage to the humidor is inevitable when travelling and the cigars are not prevented from sliding around.
Travel Humidors with Cradles
A much more sensible construction is seen in those travel humidors in which the cigars lie in concave grooves (cradles). Provided that the humidor is not made too deep, so that the cigars cannot slide out of their cradles, this construction is extremely well-suited for travelling. If the cradles are long enough, even very large formats can be transported. In order to prevent short cigars from sliding up and down in the cradle, one can insert small pieces of foam. Thus every cigar is perfectly restrained and remains undamaged, even in the event of heavy impact.
However, the positioning of the humidifier continues to be problematic. In this case the same recommendations apply as for a standard travel humidor: keep the distance between humidifier and cigars as great as possible, store cigars next to the humidifier in tubes or insert a piece of cedar veneer between the humidifier and the cigars.
Proper Travel Humidors
Admittedly the aluminium or ABS plastic boxes are not the most attractive, and when you look at the foam interior, you might well ask how boxes like this can be called travel humidors, but if you can see past the impression of poor quality it is precisely these containers that deserve to be called travel humidors.
The odourless foam cradles provide the best possible protection for every cigar; the boxes are so robust that you can drop them from the first floor without the cigars incurring even the slightest damage (readers in America please don’t try this; I don’t want to get sued if anything does go wrong); and the lid and body seal so well that you can even immerse them in water. The only deficiency is once again the humidification system.
No matter how good the construction of a box of this type, the positioning of the humidifier in the lid is just as dumb, because once again the top layer of cigars is turned into soggy stumps. I recommend something else to our customers: leave the humidifier in the lid alone. Depending upon the size of the humidor we cut 1 to 3 pieces of Spanish cedarwood exactly to size. These are then moistened with water and put into a cradle and voilà.
The pieces of wood give your plastic box the aroma of Spanish cedar, the little bit of water in the wood evaporates and thanks to the perfect seal of the box it is only when you open the lid that there is any loss of humidity, which can quickly be restored by moistening the wood slightly. I use this solution myself, and after three weeks on holiday the cigars in the box (if there are any left) still feel absolutely perfect. Since it makes no sense to install a hygrometer in a travel humidor and you will experience greater swings in the relative air humidity I consider this rather rustic- sounding course of action to be the best option. And since the plastic boxes are so ugly, it really won’t matter if they get scratched in your suitcase or by the sand on the beach.
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Winter Edition 2011. Read more