When I get something in my head, I will NOT rest until it is done/found/completed etc. This time, it was the Travel Cooler Question. Since I travel a lot, usually on planes, I’m always bringing snacks and food, but resisted bringing an actual COOLER with me until now. For one, coolers are usually big and bulky and if I check it, well, that’s one less suitcase of clothes I can bring, or else I’ve got to pay to check it, depending on the airline (Southwest, I Heart U, just sayin…). Not to mention the handling of the cooler by airport staff (no offense) might result in unrecognizable food when I got it back, plus I wanted to eat on the plane.
This trip, I experimented with raw food delivery (heavenLY—see review of Pure To Go), but the shipment wouldn’t arrive until two days into the trip, and I wanted to bring dehydrated snacks and lettuce for smoothies etc (basically I wanted to avoid grocery shopping in Ohio as we had a busy trip planned, and I flat out hate grocery shopping, let’s face it). So I was faced with The Travel Cooler Question. I needed a cooler I could carry-on due to the plane-hunger-dilemma (sorry peanuts and Cheezits, but no thank you), so it had to be smallish, lightish, and easy to deal with. After sifting through cooler after cooler online until I didn’t have enough time to order one and have it arrive in time for my trip, I hit the local Target, and to my surprise, hit a winner right off!
Target actually stocks a pretty good variety of coolers (look in the lunchbox section, not the massive camping ice-chest section, where they sent me when I asked). I frequently find myself standing in one section of a store for an extended period of time measuring, thinking, surveying and going through scenarios in my head (is this one too boxy, too heavy, too ugly, etc), and this was by no means an exception. I decided against hard-sided coolers because of the weight, and also, when the food is gone, they’re not much lighter than when full, not a plus for travel). I ALMOST purchased a large but cute REI-looking backpack cooler with a zip section in the bottom for ice, but realized it was pretty bulky, and the top portion would probably not stay cool. Great for a picnic where you’d be taking chips etc, but not so much for my purposes. I also thought it would get crushed in the overhead compartment, and not fit under the seat in front of me. SO. Then I spotted this little beauty:
(uploader issues, TBA ASAP)
While I don’t love the fabric design, the construction is great. It’s light, and while soft-sided, does have some structure to it (sort of zips like an old-fashioned Dr.’s bag), and is fully insulated with Isotech (heat sealed, leak-proof PEVA lining). Though yes, it looks a bit like a diaper bag, I eschewed this thought (even as I stuffed baby wipes in one of the side pockets….), and just appreciated that it was easy to get into, fit under my seat, and even with two large Blue Ice containers in the sides (yes, allowed by TSA), held a ton of food. Made by Thermos, the tag describes this bag as an “18 Can Insulated Duffle Bag.” Okay. I wouldn’t actually call it a “duffle bag” (doesn’t a “duffel bag” have to have round ends, by definition? Is it just me?), and I will never put a can in it, but whatever, call it what you want to, it worked great. I think it cost me around $12.
Once I got to the hotel, I had the staff re-freeze the Blue Ice for me, and later just started using ice from the vending machine to keep it cold. Ice is easy to put in (I used either the ice bucket or just placed the cooler under the lip of the ice machine, which was even easier and didn’t require multiple trips). When my raw food delivery arrived, I used the Thermos cooler as a lunch bag, filling the bottom with ice and then putting in a raw dinner to take with me for the day. I left it in the car daily and came back to eat for lunch, and the food was cold and the ice largely unmelted.
Returning from my trip, when the bag was empty, I used it as a carry-on and stuffed light items in it. Really easy, functional and worked great!!! This is my travel friend for life!