Monday, July 17, 2017

Insulated Lunch Packs at Costco

It seems like every year Costco carries Ultra by Arctic Zone reusable lunch coolers by California Innovations and every year the lunch packs seem to change ever so slightly. Are the new features on this year’s model worth buying a new lunch pack? To find out I compared this year’s expandable lunch pack (item #1030996) to the 2015 model I purchased from Costco two years ago.

The Similarities:
  • Both the 2015 model and 2017 model have the same basic shape and size
    • Approximately 8.25” x 6.25” x 10.75”
  • Both models have an exterior zip pocket and two exterior handles:

  • Both include a detachable shoulder strap that can be configured in multiple ways
  • Both come with a bento box style plastic container
  • Both models come with icepacks

  • Both versions zip to expand to double their capacity

  • Both have the same antimicrobial, easy clean interior

The Differences:
  • While still a soft lunch pack, this year’s model is noticeable more rigid than the 2015 model, making it less squishy and less packable when empty
  • The 2015 model has 2 zippers to open the main compartment that could be pulled around in 2 different directions, but the new 2017 model only has one zipper to open and close the main compartment
  • The ice packs themselves fit into the lunch packs differently:
    • The 2015 model came with one large ice pack, which fits inside a mesh pocket on the underside of the lid and stayed in place with a Velcro closure
    • The 2017 model has two ice packs, but they are slightly smaller, and each ice pack zips into a separate exterior pocket – one in the top lid and one in the bottom

  • The 2015 model has an exterior zip pocket on the top of the lid outside of the insulation which allows you to store small items without worrying about condensation from the ice packs
    • While this year’s 2017 model does have a similar exterior zip pocket – it is intended to hold one of the two ice packs. And even if you chose not to put the icepack there, the pocket itself is under the insulation so that anything you put in there will be susceptible to the cold and condensation from your icepack.
  • The 2017 model is heavier than the 2015 model
    • By itself, empty the 2017 weighs 9.30 oz., while the 2015 model weighs 7.55 oz.
    • With the bento container and ice packs the 2017 model weighs 37.80 oz., while the 2015 model weighs 29.20 oz.
  • The handles on this year’s model seem to be more heavy duty than the handles on the 2015 model lunch packs. The blue 2017 model even has heavy duty rubber encompassing each handle!
  • The design of the bento boxes have changed:
    • The 2015 model has two colored interior containers that fit into the larger clear container: there is a medium blue container and a smaller, but divided blue container which gives you a total of 3 compartments
    • The 2017 model also has two colored interior containers that fit into the larger clear container: there is a medium grey container, and a smaller grey container – BUT the smaller container is NOT divided so you only get a total of 2 compartments. However, the two interior containers now come with their own matching raised lids that fit snuggly and the clear top fits over these raised lids

Overall I’m not sure how I feel about the changes to the 2017 model. While I like the idea of this year’s model being more durable, I worry about the bag itself being heavier – especially because I use glass containers more often which are much heavier than the included plastic bento container. And I travel frequently and I like to pack an insulated lunch box, especially on longer trips, but I’m concerned this more rigid lunch pack will be less packable than my squishier 2015 lunch pack. However, I do really like how the new bento container has interior snug fitting lids, which when enclosed within the larger clear container makes the whole setup virtually waterproof, but it frustrates me that they replaced the small divided container with a small single compartment container. I’m also a little bummed that they took away use of the exterior zip pocket (which is where one of the ice packs now goes on the new 2017 version) because I like to keep extra little things in that pocket on my old lunch pack. Little things like paper packets of salt and pepper, packets of grey poupon mustard, honey packets, extra napkins, etc. - those are all things that I don’t want to be kept cold or get wet from condensation from the icepack. I suppose I could keep those things inside the main compartment of the new lunch pack, but I hate for them to just be loose. Or I guess I could keep putting my little extras in the exterior zipper pouch, and place the top ice pack so it sits loose on top of my food in the main compartment. The addition of the second icepack for the bottom isn’t a big plus for me. The single ice pack from the 2015 version of the lunch box continues to do a superb job of keeping my food & beverages cold for many hours, so the added weight of a second icepack just isn’t necessary for me.

All in all you can’t beat the quality and the price of the California Innovation lunch boxes that Costco sells. Especially when they are on coupon and you save even more money! (Like right now through 23 July 2017 you can save $4.) The bottom line is if you are in need of a new lunch pack for yourself, a child or your spouse this year’s newer model is a great buy. However, if you already have a similar lunch pack that you purchased within the last few years that is still in good condition my recommendation is to hang on to it – at least until we see what changes come about next year.

I hope you found this helpful and thanks for reading!

Until next time,
the Costco Connoisseur


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1 comment:

  1. I bought this lunch bag for my husband about 6 months ago immediately after purchase the sewn on loop that hold the strap ripped so i sewed it and now the side under the zipper and that loop are both ripped. Very disappointed!!