I have been buying this brand and basic style/model/size for almost 6 years for use as a lunch kit 5 days a week by my brother who has special needs. We absolutely loved these bags. However, I have watched as the price rose while the quality inched its way down. I think we have had every color it ever came in. When I first started buying these coolers back in 2009, each bag had an extremely generous, full-width, amply expandable front pocket with two velcro tab closures. The zippers always worked well (very important for someone with limited dexterity), the top collapsible compartments and mesh side pockets proved to be highly useful, and overall, they truly were great little bags. About once a year, I'd replace it because the interior hard liner would develop a crack in the bottom, totally understandable under daily use, and besides that, he'd just want to switch it up to a new color. I would still hold onto the older ones for uses where the liner was not necessarily required, or as a back-up, just switching the newer liner to the old bag, for use on bad-weather days to keep the newer bag looking as fresh and new for as long as possible. THAT model, I would have -- and DID -- recommend to friends on many occasions. They were great and held everything we needed. Into the main "box", I would put a 4"x7"x1" blue cryo-pac block in the bottom, a 500 ml stainless steel water bottle (laying down), a 6 oz. container of yogurt, a generously sized sandwich, a bag with about 1/3 - 1/2 cup snack crackers, and a banana or container of fruit. In the extra top level, he usually kept a toothbrush, a small tube of toothpaste, and a travel size mouth wash. On days when I'd give him a hot dinner leftover, or a container of hot spaghetti-os, I'd put a slab of styrofoam insulation into that compartment, put the container of hot food on top, then a pot holder or something similar on top of that. It would work out great, with the hot food staying hot, and the cold stuff, in the main liner, staying cold, until his lunch time, some 5-6 hours later. (His usual tooth paste, etc., would get moved to the mesh side pocket on those days.) The other side mesh pocket nicely held a few pieces of candy for his afternoon break treat. The front velcro pocket easily held two folded paper towels (place mat), a full-sized spoon wrapped in two napkins, a handi-wipe, and a folded-up grocery store bag for him to use as a trash receptacle. As I said, the bag was used daily, the outside scrubbed periodically, the interior of all pockets and the liner cleaned daily, and aside from the liner usually cracking after a year or so of use (I'd just cover the crack on the bottom with duct tape), the rest of the bag remained thoroughly intact. (I STILL use all of these older bags, both in the house and in the car, for multiple purposes.
Simply loved this bag! Now, as to this newer model: YIKES! I truly hate to post a negative review, and usually follow the old "if you can't say something nice...." rule. However, I am really stunned by how this once-terrific item has changed, and wish someone had warned me before I purchased it. As I said, it has the same general look -- the collapsible feature, the extra top level, the hard liner, the two side mesh pockets. But that's where the similarity ends. They clearly are now skimping on the materials used in production of this bag. The first thing most noticeable was that the old, generous front pocket had been replaced by a somewhat tight, limited access, NON-expanding front zippered pocket, with a tiny, very tight (4-finger width, also non-expanding) smaller zippered "pocket" on top of that somewhat larger one. The hard liner is definitely thinner/less substantial than the liners in the old ones. I also noticed that the material was cut much tighter to the seams, material barely meeting at the zippers. I checked several of the bags, and the composition -- thinner liner, skimpy material, etc. -- of all of them was the same. However, although I did think twice before making the purchase, since the layout was basically the same as the earlier model with which my brother was very comfortable, I decided to buy it, despite the changes and higher price. Although I bought this early last fall, I waited till after the bad winter weather had passed (mid-March) before starting to use this bag.... didn't want to subject a pretty, brand new bag to the snow, slush, etc. What a disappointment! The liner started cracking literally within weeks of initial use, first around the edges, then in the body. (With all of the earlier bags, I'd NEVER encountered any pieces cracking off the rim of the liner -- this was a first.) Then, as I had feared, the stitching became an issue. First, because they did not leave an adequate amount of material to fold over before stitching it to the zipper, the gray material started to fray. Every day, while handling it, more and more of the gray material frayed away. Now, the material has completely frayed away from the zipper, leaving one whole side, continuing around halfway to the middle of the front of the main compartment, completely open. You have no need to unzip the bag to get to the food -- just put your hand in the side and help yourself -- or better yet, just tilt the bag as you bend over and the food will fall at your feet!! Ugh! So, rather than retiring this bag to use for other purposes, this bag is headed to the trash bin. Please remember, all of these problems arose over less than two months of use. If my receipt was not over 90 days old, I would definitely be returning it to the store. Why, oh why, do they have to ruin a good thing? I wouldn't have minded the higher price if only they'd have kept the quality of material and workmanship inherent in the earlier model. So now, we're back to using his older bags (thank heaven I held onto them) and I'm online, researching a whole new make and model bag! Bottom line: BUYER BEWARE!! Despite its low price, think twice before buying this, unless you plan to replace the bag often or use it very, very little.
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